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The Overuse of The Twins Bullpen

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The bullpen has been pretty solid this season, but are they being used too often?

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

We've been over this before. The Twins are surprisingly good due to a multitude of factors, one of which being the bullpen. In high leverage situations, the 'pen has gone into lockdown and have stifled many offenses. It's nowhere like the Kansas City trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland, but Aaron Thompson, Blaine Boyer, and Glen Perkins have done a solid job this year.

How long is it going to last? Well, with the secondary numbers of Thompson and Boyer, it seems that regression is due at some point. Thompson himself has already been moved into a lesser role as his effectiveness has waned, but just yesterday we did see Boyer enter in a 1-0 deficit, only to give up a solo homer to Salvador Perez. The homer itself didn't concern me too much as Boyer has limited them for his entire career, but how much longer can the Twins trot out the decade later reboot of 2005 Jesse Crain in high leverage situations?

But overall, it's not regression that I'm most worried about with the Twins 'pen. Rather, it's the potential for overuse. Hopefully the Twins will lean on Casey Fien more now that he's healthy. Hopefully Brian Duensing returns to form as a decent lefty reliever, or the Twins figure out that Caleb Thielbar would be a better option. As of right now, however, the Twins are working Perkins, Thompson, and Boyer to the bone.

If you sort all MLB relievers by appearances, here is what you find:

T1: Luis Avilan, 31

T1: Jeremy Jeffress, 31

3: Jared Hughes, 30

T4: Dellin Betances, 29

T4: Tony Watson, 29

T4: Seth Maness, 29

T4: Pedro Strop, 29

T4: Jim Johnson, 29

T4: Aaron Thompson. 29

T4: Blaine Boyer, 29

T11: Glen Perkins, 28

11 others with 28 appearances

The Twins have played 58 ballgames thus far. Your Minnesota math should then tell you that Thompson and Boyer have pitched in exactly half of all games this year, while Perkins is not far behind. I did some digging and found that it's been several years since a relief pitcher appeared in at least half of his team's games, which was 2011 when then-Braves LHP Jonny Venters appeared in 85 games. Every other season between then and now, a coincidental barrier was set up. Perhaps managers were conscious of the 50% usage and capped their relievers at exactly one game under, as the past three seasons have seen Matt Belisle, Boone Logan, and Shawn Camp (2012), Joel Peralta (2013), and Bryan Shaw (2014) all lead the majors in their respective season with 80 games pitched.

It should be noted that of the pitchers I just noted, only Venters has had any lasting problems since his season of 80 or more appearances. Still, I wonder if the constant usage wouldn't burn out Perkins, Boyer, and Thompson as the season wears on. As I said before, there are some factors that will lead to their decreased roles, plus if we play the pessimism card and acknowledge once again that this team is theoretically playing over their heads, there won't be as many high leverage situations in the future. Although I cannot say for certain, I would not be surprised if come September, we're talking about the ineffectiveness of any combination of these three relievers which was possibly caused by all the overtime they logged earlier this season.