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What’s gone wrong with Addison Reed and the Minnesota Twins?

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The righty reliever was one of the top setup men in baseball the last couple of years, but has been struggling now in 2018.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins
Let’s try to avoid the cement mixers from here on out, thanks Addison
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

When the Twins signed Addison Reed before the season, they likely planned to slot in the veteran right-hander as the top setup man for the season. They probably expected him to be a reliever that would post a sub-3.00 ERA and lock down the opposing team in high leverage situations. After all, Reed had proven himself so be one of the best setup men in the game the last couple years. In 2016, Reed posted a outstanding 1.97 ERA and featured an impressive WHIP of .940. He also had a 7.0 strikeout to walk ratio, an elite number for a pitcher who didn’t have a high 90s fastball or wipe-out breaking pitch. Reed followed up that season with a a quality campaign in 2017, registering a 2.84 ERA with a 1.053 WHIP and 5.07 strikeout to walk ratio.

So where has that Addison Reed been this year for the Twins? In April, Reed pitched in a similar fashion to his two previous seasons, sporting a 2.57 ERA with a 3.25 K/BB and a .208 opponent batting average. About halfway through May, things got a bit rockier for Reed, as he ended the month with .296 opponent batting average, despite a 3.07 ERA. In five outings in June, Reed is sporting a 9.64 ERA with a .381 opponent batting average and a strikeout to walk rate of exactly one.

While Reed has given up some heart-breaking home runs within the last few weeks, he also may be experiencing some tough bounces. His BAbip against is .364 in the last 28 days, significantly higher than the .300 league average and his .298 career mark. Batters aren’t hitting the ball significantly harder against him this season, as his average exit velocity is only 0.3 miles per hour higher than last season, and is actually lower than it was in his best season in 2016.

However, there are a couple main difference from those seasons to his year this year with the Twins.

The average launch angle against Reed has risen significantly this season, going from 12.7 degrees in 2016, to 15.4 degrees in 2017, and all the way to 20.3 degrees in 2018. As expected, his flyball percentage has skyrocketed and his groundball percentage has dropped significantly. The data below comes from Baseball Savant.

As previously mentioned, Reed has struggled with the long ball, as he has given up six home runs (four coming in the last month). Reed gave up just four home runs in 2016 and 11 in 2017. He has also struggled a bit with his command comparatively, as his 11 walks this season have nearly reached the totals of 13 and 15 he put up in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Though Reed recently referred to a slider that he threw as a “little cement mixer” (resulting in a home run to Francisco Lindor), it has been his fastball that has been the biggest problem. Batters are slugging .495 against his heater this season, compared to .377 in 2017 and a paltry .296 in 2016. One possible explication is his lessened control in this year’s campaign, as he likely has fallen behind in counts more often, allowing hitters to gear up to hit the fastball. Another reason — which may be more concerning — is that his fastball velocity has also dipped this season. After averaging 93.1 MPH on his fastball in 2016, and 92.3 in 2017, Reed’s average fastball velocity is down to 91.1 MPH with the Twins.

Another reason for Reed’s struggles this year has been how he has started innings. In 30 appearances where the veteran righty has begun an inning this season, opponents have a .367 batting average and .424 on-base percentage. According Fangraph’s run expectancy chart, an average of .831 runs are scored when there is someone on first and nobody out. Comparatively, an average of .243 runs are scored with nobody on and one out. Doing some quick math … uh, well it’s not good that Reed is allowing quite a few base runners to start innings. However, there may be a legitimate luck factor involved, as batters leading off the inning have a ridiculously high and unsustainable .500 BAbip.

After signing a two year, 16.75 million dollar contract in the offseason, the Twins need Reed to rediscover what made him the highest-paid free agent relief pitcher in Twins history. Specifically, cutting down on home runs and walks will be key for Reed, which both will hinge on the veteran righty’s ability to locate a fastball that is not quite as quick as it has been in past years. However, there is some statistical evidence that Reed may turn it around as the season goes on. Reed’s worst month in his career has traditionally been June, as he sports a 4.82 ERA then, compared to 2.52 ERA in July and a 2.59 ERA in August. Let’s hope that Reed soon ends his mid-season swoon and returns to form as one of the better setup men in baseball.