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Tyler Duffey might be the Twins’ Chris Devenski Lite

As organizations start treating their bullpens in a different manner, Tyler Duffey might be able to mimic one of the most dominant (and unknown) relievers in the major leagues.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports


Trust me, I wouldn’t blame you if you read the headline and instantly started wondering why in the world I would be talking about some unknown player that goes by the name of Chris Devenski. He can’t be that good if we don’t know about him, right?

Well, that’s partially true. You see, you may not know Chris Devenski yet, but you need to get to know him. Devenski is a second-year swingman pitcher for the Houston Astros who has made 56 career appearances, five of them starts. He features a fastball, changeup, slider, and occasional knuckle-curve.

Last postseason, we saw a bit of a renaissance with how bullpens were used. Andrew Miller, one of the most dominant relievers on the planet, was not closing games for the Cleveland Indians but rather was used between the 6th and 8th innings to put out fires whenever necessary. It was a highly effective strategy that helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series. However, one issue with Miller is that he was almost strictly a one-inning pitcher, as he threw 74 13 innings over 70 appearances.

Devenski was not Andrew Miller last year, but he was close.

Andrew Miller (2016)

74 13 innings, 1.45 ERA, 1.68 FIP, .159 AVG, 44.7 K%, 3.3 BB%

Chris Devenski (2016)

108 13 innings, 2.16 ERA, 2.34 FIP, .205 AVG, 25.5 K%, 4.9 BB%

Clearly Miller was the superior pitcher, but Devenski was very good nonetheless. Oh, I should probably add that Devenski did all of that as a long reliever.

Yeah, that’s right. Devenski’s 100+ innings weren’t thrown in the 8th inning. He made 48 appearances last year and averaged over 2 innings per outing, so although he wasn’t as good as Miller, he still was able to throw about 33% more innings than the possible best relief pitcher in MLB. As if that wasn’t enough, Devenski has taken another step forward this year.

Chris Devenski (2017)

18 13 innings, 1.96 ERA, 1.74 FIP, .125 AVG, 51.5 K%, 3 BB%

You read that right. Devenski has struck out over half of the batters he’s faced this year. Compare that to Miller who has struck out “just” 34% of his opponents in 2017.

All of this brings me to the Twins and Tyler Duffey. Right now, Duffey is filling a similar role as Devenski with the Astros, in that he’s not truly a mop-up reliever that’s designated to pitch only in blowouts and to save the arms of the rest of the staff. He hasn’t been treated as a setup man either, but after a solid appearance last night, here’s how Duffey has looked this season.

Tyler Duffey (2017)

13 13 innings, 1.35 ERA, 1.87 FIP, .240 AVG, 22 K%, 3.6 BB%

No, the numbers aren’t as mind-numbingly dominant as Devenski, but it’s also really, really difficult to be better than the best. Regardless, Duffey has made a smooth transition to the bullpen and appears that he could be used as a two-inning reliever several times a week, just like he was yesterday. He can use his two-seam fastball to generate ground balls, the curveball can rack up the strikeouts, and perhaps it’s time for the Twins to read the writing on the wall that Duffey is possibly where he can succeed the most. As a reliever, his lack of a decent changeup is nullified and he can lean on his curveball even more than he did as a starter. (Ironically, Duffey is actually throwing the curve less as a reliever than he did the past two years as a starting pitcher.)

In the past, if a starter was knocked out early with a lead, the team would likely turn to an inferior reliever to fill the 6th and 7th innings leading up to the setup man and closer. However, Andrew Miller paved the way for dominant relievers to be used elsewhere than just the late innings, and I think Tyler Duffey could follow in Chris Devenski’s footsteps of becoming the middle reliever that actually is a good weapon in the bullpen.