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  • Twins Still Have Room For Pitching

    The major priority of the Minnesota Twins' General Manager, Terry Ryan, has been to re-build a starting rotation that has been at the bottom of the major leagues in pretty much every statistical category in 2013. There is general agreement that the rotation was pretty much a mess in 2013 and needed fixing. There is also the general impression that the Twins' pen was the strength of the team and it is better left alone. However, in 2013 the Twins' pen ranked:

    17th out of 30 MLB teams as far as ERA goes
    17th out of 30 MLB teams as far as FIP goes
    17th out of 30 MLB teams as far as SIERA goes
    8th out of 30 MLB teams as far as WHIP goes
    19th out of 30 MLB teams as far as K% goes

    In other words, the Twins' pen which, compared to the Twins' rotation, seemed great, when compared to the rest of the major league pens is average in a lot of ways.

    Busted myth number one: The Twins' pen was not great in 2013 and, while it might have been a bright point in 2013 compared to the rest of the team, it does not cut the mustard compared to the rest of league.

    There is a lot of room for improvement and I suspect Terry Ryan will address it before spring training, likely helping the Twins be competitive in 2014.

    Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch

    After the recent additions of new and returning starting pitchers there have been arguments that the Twins have too many starting pitchers and there is a logjam of pitchers on the Twins' roster.

    I thought it might be a good time to take a breath and look at what the Twins have on their 40-man roster as far as pitching goes and see whether this argument is true or not.

    Here is the Twins' forty man roster broken down in to, groups alphabetically (players in bold are out of options):

    Group A: Starting pitchers with no options signed to sizeable contracts the last two seasons.

    Kevin Correia (RHSP)
    Phil Hughes (RHSP)
    Rick Nolasco (RHSP)
    Mike Pelfrey (RHSP)



    Group B: Relief pitchers with no options signed to sizeable contracts the last two seasons or offered arbitration.

    Jared Burton (RHRP)
    Brian Duensing (LHSP/RP)
    Glen Perkins (LHRP)
    Anthony Swarzak (RHSP/RP)



    Group C: Starting pitchers with no options and small contracts who have played in the majors for more than three seasons.

    Sam Deduno (RHSP)
    Scott Diamond (LHSP)
    Vance Worley (RHSP)


    Group D: Starting and relief pitchers with options and small contracts who have played in the majors for at least one season.

    Andrew Albers (LHSP)
    Casey Fien (RHRP)
    Kyle Gibson (RHSP)
    Kris Johnson (LHSP)
    Ryan Pressly (RHRP)
    Caleb Thielbar (LHRP)
    Michael Tonkin (RHRP)


    Group E: Starting and relief pitchers with options and small contracts who have never played in the majors.

    Logan Darnell (LHSP)
    Edgar Ibarra (LHRP)
    Trevor May (RHSP)


    Broken down this way, the perceived logjam of Twins' staring pitchers becomes less of a logjam:

    The Twins usually have a 12 man pitching staff. They currently have 4 starters and 4 relievers (groups A and B) who are pretty much guaranteed a job. This opens 4 more positions, one in the rotation and three in the pen. If you assume the Twins value all pitchers in Group C who are out of options, they have the space to find them all a major league job, as well as allow another pitcher, likely from Group D or potentially outside the organization, to gain a rotation or bullpen position. The others will provide depth in AAA and be available in case of emergency or potentially be offered in trades to fill additional Twins' needs, like position players.

    Busted myth number two: There is no pitching logjam on the Twins' roster.

    In other words, the Twins do have a lot of pitching depth in their 40-man roster, but they are not in a logjam situation where they cannot accommodate all their pitchers without options on the 25 man roster. And this assumes Samuel Deduno who is recuperating from double (labrum and rotation cuff) shoulder surgery is available to start the season.

    While it is too early to name names to complete the rotation and the pen, this early assessment shows the Twins do not have any sort of a pitching logjam and also have plenty of options.


    This article was originally published in blog: By the numbers: a body count of the Twins' pitching depth for 2014 and myth busting started by Thrylos
    Comments 44 Comments
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Quote Originally Posted by IronMike View Post
      When I check ERA for Twins on MLB.com I come up with an ERA of 3.50 which is 14 of 30. That also places them 5 of 15 in the AL. WHIP 1.22 which shows 6 of 30 (3 of 15 in AL). I think when you finish in the top 3rd of the AL you have a pretty decent bullpen.

      I agree, too. It seems some guys had a few bad outings and many ahd very good outings. And then you had Duensing pitching like a short-lefty relief guy this year. You also were using Perkins in non-save situations, in which he stunk whenever he did that, but he needed to get an inning in or so some times.

      The joy is, you have 6 or so strong guys in the bullpen and the other (or two) spots you can rotate guys out of. You don't do that in the rotation where how many pitchers were the #4 and #5 spot in the rotation?
    1. Trevor0333's Avatar
      Trevor0333 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      I answered a similar question in the original blog. People say that the pen was "overworked" because it logged the most innings in the majors (by a hair btw). However this is deceptive. Here is why:

      Actually the correct measurement for overworking a pen is not total innings, but IP/appearance because if a pen has used 10 different pitchers to pitch 400 innings would result to more tired pitchers than if used 15 different pitchers to pitch 420 innings, correct?

      As far as IP/Appearance goes, if you round down to one decimal (more decimals does not make sense), you will see that pretty much the whole league is at the same place:

      Astros 1.2
      Pirates 1.2
      Athletics 1.1
      Blue Jays 1.1
      Mariners 1.1
      Marlins 1.1
      Nationals 1.1
      Padres 1.1
      Rockies 1.1
      Royals 1.1
      Twins 1.1
      Yankees 1.1
      Angels 1.0
      Braves 1.0
      Brewers 1.0
      Cardinals 1.0
      Cubs 1.0
      Diamondbacks 1.0
      Dodgers 1.0
      Giants 1.0
      Indians 1.0
      Mets 1.0
      Philies 1.0
      Rangers 1.0
      Rays 1.0
      Reds 1.0
      Tigers 1.0
      White Sox 1.0

      I think that the difference of 0.2 innings in spread (less than a batter faced) is insignificant for the amount of innings pitched...

      There goes another myth about "tired pens..."
      The problem is this also assumes that these rates are consistent throughout the season which obviously doesn't happen. With stretches of 2-3 straight weeks of starters crapping out early and Gardy going to the pen excessively.

      When that is followed by the pen getting crushed on flat pitches with depressed speeds. It can be obvious the pen is overworked even if it adds up to league average usage rates over the course of a season.
    1. Trevor0333's Avatar
      Trevor0333 -
      I still would like to see if TR can get the Phillies to bite on an offer of Corriea, Burton, & May for Dominic Brown & Papelbon's contract opening a roster spot for Garza.

      They are desperate for cheap young SP & payroll space to sign a #5 & replacemetn closer.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Trevor0333 View Post
      The problem is this also assumes that these rates are consistent throughout the season which obviously doesn't happen. With stretches of 2-3 straight weeks of starters crapping out early and Gardy going to the pen excessively.

      When that is followed by the pen getting crushed on flat pitches with depressed speeds. It can be obvious the pen is overworked even if it adds up to league average usage rates over the course of a season.

      Every other ball club has the same considerations as well... Those are average rates and it happened throughout baseball
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      One reason we thought we had a superior bullpen: The starting pitching was sooo bad. Un-watchably bad.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I'm going to voice some more concerns about these statistics:

      - MLB.com is showing the Twins as having the 14th best bullpen ERA.

      - Comparing NL teams to AL teams in pitching statistics only slants things against the AL team. When isolated to league, the Twins had the 5th best bullpen ERA.

      - The Twins bullpen pitched a full 118 innings more than the best bullpen ERA in the AL, the Royals. That's basically two full seasons of relievers the Twins had to account for that the Royals did not. Surprisingly, the Jays had the fourth best bullpen ERA, despite being right behind the Twins in bullpen innings (552 for Jays, 579 for Twins). Nonetheless, the 1, 2, and 3 spots in bullpen ERA went to teams whose starters allowed their pens to pitch 461, 491, and 475 innings (again, the Twins had to throw 579 innings).
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I'm going to voice some more concerns about these statistics:

      - MLB.com is showing the Twins as having the 14th best bullpen ERA.

      - Comparing NL teams to AL teams in pitching statistics only slants things against the AL team. When isolated to league, the Twins had the 5th best bullpen ERA.
      .
      mea culpa. Double-checked 14th ERA indeed. I would agree about AL and NL as far as starters go, but by the time the pen is in, usually the other starter is out of the game and pinch hitters are hitting for him. Not that much difference here.

      And bullpen ERA is kind of a bogus stat because if a reliever gives up an inherited bases loaded triple with two outs that empties the bases and get the next guy out, he looks like he had a clean appearance and has a zero ERA for the game.

      That's why xFIP is a better measure here and the Twins' pen was 24th in the majors... Actually David Appelman's Clutch measurement might be an even better measure for pen effectiveness because it combines win probability added with leverage. The Twins' pen ranks 20th in the majors with 0.08...
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      In the course of doing some research for this thread, I came across an incredible stat line on Anthony Swarzak: Last year he threw as many innings (96) as in 2012 while starting in five fewer games (0). His ERA was 2.91. His ERA+ was 139. He had his best year in terms of k/9 (6.4), BB/9 (2.1) and WHIP (1.15). I think it's safe to say he has found his niche. And he is way more valuable in that role than his trade value (long relievers are some of the most underrated players on a team).
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      mea culpa. Double-checked 14th ERA indeed. I would agree about AL and NL as far as starters go, but by the time the pen is in, usually the other starter is out of the game and pinch hitters are hitting for him. Not that much difference here.

      And bullpen ERA is kind of a bogus stat because if a reliever gives up an inherited bases loaded triple with two outs that empties the bases and get the next guy out, he looks like he had a clean appearance and has a zero ERA for the game.

      That's why xFIP is a better measure here and the Twins' pen was 24th in the majors... Actually David Appelman's Clutch measurement might be an even better measure for pen effectiveness because it combines win probability added with leverage. The Twins' pen ranks 20th in the majors with 0.08...
      I agree that ERA is not the best statistic for a bullpen but given the 580 innings pitched by the Twins' bullpen, those things tend to equalize in time. If the bullpen is bad at allowing inherited runners to score, they're going to be bad at preventing runs at all over a nearly 600 inning sample size.

      While the NL/AL split isn't as dramatic for the bullpen, it still exists. After all, there were only four AL teams in front of the Twins while there were nine NL teams.

      In the past few years, here are the NL/AL team counts for the top 15 bullpen ERAs:

      2013 - NL: 9, AL: 6
      2012 - NL: 8, AL: 7
      2011 - NL: 10, AL: 5
      2010 - NL: 7, AL: 8
      2009 - NL: 9, AL: 6

      Even though the bullpen doesn't get to face the pitcher as often in the NL, they still get to face a lot of really bad pinch hitters. The NL doesn't stack up against the AL offensively no matter what inning you're in.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      In the course of doing some research for this thread, I came across an incredible stat line on Anthony Swarzak: Last year he threw as many innings (96) as in 2012 while starting in five fewer games (0). His ERA was 2.91. His ERA+ was 139. He had his best year in terms of k/9 (6.4), BB/9 (2.1) and WHIP (1.15). I think it's safe to say he has found his niche. And he is way more valuable in that role than his trade value (long relievers are some of the most underrated players on a team).
      I'm glad you did this digging. To me, Swarzak looked pretty darn good this past year, but given his past struggles as a starter and his not exactly sterling reputation for stuff, I had no idea that his season was so good. The stats are very telling.

      I've seen some around here who are willing to literally toss Swarzak out before the season even starts, and it's never seemed like a good idea to me, especially when a few bullpen pieces have options. I just hope he can continue.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      mea culpa. Double-checked 14th ERA indeed. I would agree about AL and NL as far as starters go, but by the time the pen is in, usually the other starter is out of the game and pinch hitters are hitting for him. Not that much difference here.

      And bullpen ERA is kind of a bogus stat because if a reliever gives up an inherited bases loaded triple with two outs that empties the bases and get the next guy out, he looks like he had a clean appearance and has a zero ERA for the game.

      That's why xFIP is a better measure here and the Twins' pen was 24th in the majors... Actually David Appelman's Clutch measurement might be an even better measure for pen effectiveness because it combines win probability added with leverage. The Twins' pen ranks 20th in the majors with 0.08...
      It depends on how you look at it. If that same reliever came into a game with the bases empty, gave up a triple and then retired the next hitter, his ERA for that appearance would also be zero. Since he wasn't responsible for the runners on base in your example I'm not sure why you think his ERA should reflect them.

      No single statistic in isolation properly captures everything you need to know about a bullpen. There is nothing wrong with ERA being part of the evaluation.
    1. EGFTShaw's Avatar
      EGFTShaw -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      I'd agree with one letter change:

      I wouldn't want to ad more pitching at this point, unless it is a huge bargain or a clear upgrade.
      Well I would rather ADD than AD...

      That is where I though you were going with the one letter change.

      Tanaka would be steal...unlikely but you could try to sell him on the upside of the Twins when Sano, Buxton, Meyer and Rosario join the Bigs...with Stewart and others on the way.

      That said, I would take a flyer on Johan as either as starter or a reliever...he started in the pen...and with his knowledge he could be a good addition.

      Cheers everyone...in January there is ALWAYS hope in the air...at least TR and team are doing something...
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      No single statistic in isolation properly captures everything you need to know about a bullpen.
      Amen to that. (Sometimes one gets tired of saying "concur".) On one hand, giving up that triple has different ramifications due to the on-base status when the guy comes in, and ideally you want your stat to reflect that. On the other hand, any pitcher worth his salt is going to *pitch* differently if he comes in with the bases loaded than if empty; one example that comes to mind is that he may stay away from his best breaking pitch in the dirt so as to not put that much pressure on his catcher to corral it if it gets away. "No single statistic" is going to capture that very easily.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      Amen to that. (Sometimes one gets tired of saying "concur".) On one hand, giving up that triple has different ramifications due to the on-base status when the guy comes in, and ideally you want your stat to reflect that. On the other hand, any pitcher worth his salt is going to *pitch* differently if he comes in with the bases loaded than if empty; one example that comes to mind is that he may stay away from his best breaking pitch in the dirt so as to not put that much pressure on his catcher to corral it if it gets away. "No single statistic" is going to capture that very easily.
      Or it's more likely that over 600 IP, the numbers wash out. It would seem pretty freakish that 10 full reliever seasons could sway much in one direction or the other.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by EGFTShaw View Post
      Well I would rather ADD than AD...

      That is where I though you were going with the one letter change.

      Tanaka would be steal...unlikely but you could try to sell him on the upside of the Twins when Sano, Buxton, Meyer and Rosario join the Bigs...with Stewart and others on the way.

      That said, I would take a flyer on Johan as either as starter or a reliever...he started in the pen...and with his knowledge he could be a good addition.

      Cheers everyone...in January there is ALWAYS hope in the air...at least TR and team are doing something...
      I think Johan is an extreme long shot at this point. Not that they won't sign him. But, if they sign him, it's to spend at least a half a season getting back into a groove and the rest of the year in the bullpen. He was the first to come back and have success with that surgery. Then the Mets let him throw 138 pitches in his no-hit bid and he was effectively done.

      Now he has to come back from that surgery again. It would be a great story, but he's less likely than Rich harden was last year. And we all know how that turned out,
    1. orangevening's Avatar
      orangevening -
      Quote Originally Posted by Trevor0333 View Post
      I still would like to see if TR can get the Phillies to bite on an offer of Corriea, Burton, & May for Dominic Brown & Papelbon's contract opening a roster spot for Garza.

      They are desperate for cheap young SP & payroll space to sign a #5 & replacemetn closer.

      No way does Philly do this deal. Yes it saves $, but it looks horrible from a production standpoint.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      What was the Twins bullpen ERA last September? as I recall it was pretty high and that was attributed to a tired bullpen. That would have increased the team bullpen era enough to go from say 8th in the leagues to 14th....
    1. bertrecords's Avatar
      bertrecords -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      The log jam moves from myth to reality when mediocre pitchers are chosen for the short term over giving consistent innings to a younger (likely to be struggling) starter of the future.
      The Twins best option is Pelfrey and Hughes in the bullpen if it turns out they are not providing an upgrade and/or if there are young (high upside) starting pitchers who are ready for MLB innings.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by orangevening View Post
      Ahhh.... The regular amateur GM post. Thought we might get though this thread w/o one.

      We're all amateur GM's here (assuming that TR isn't lurking somewhere), let's try to avoid the unnecessary potshots please.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      I just want to add agreement that there is a disconnect between busting both myths, even if the the conclusions are technically true. Moving two or three pitchers to the pen who aren't proven relievers is a long shot to make the pen better

      So, solving one problem with the other, in this case, doesn't make sense.
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