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5 reasons NOT to panic about the Twins bullpen

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If you are a Minnesota Twins fan, you most likely hate the bullpen you get to watch every night and just wish the Twins would go get Craig Kimbrel (even though he wouldn’t even play until mid-May). Well, I am here to give you an article full of unpopular opinions facts and reasons that show you it is too early to panic about the bullpen. Enjoy!

Reason #1: They aren’t even at full strength yet.

Remember when Adalberto Mejia came in for the 8th inning in a two run game against the Blue Jays, only to give up a three run moonshot and break all of our hearts? Yeah that sucked, but it was only because our four late inning relievers were taxed from the night before. Luckily, the Twins have a couple more of those late inning guys coming off the injured list very soon with Matt Magill and Addison Reed.

Both Reed and Magill have the ability to come into games late and get the job done. Magill showed that last year in his first real major league season, finishing with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.429 WHIP. Most of his success came in high leverage situations or just when the team was tied or ahead. He actually had his most struggles when the team was behind or in extremely low leverage situations. Weird.

For Addison Reed, a bounce back season is certainly possible. He was one of the most effective relievers in the MLB just two years ago so getting him back to form is certainly possible. From 2015-2017, Addison Reed had a 2.66 ERA, 1.097 WHIP in 209.2 innings. It would be a huge boost if pitching coach Wes Johnson can find that version again.

Overall, getting these two back makes it possible to have someone other than former starter Mejia in high leverage situations.

Reason #2: It’s still only April, calm down.

As I am writing this, the Twins are only fifteen games into the season (and they’re doing really well) so why should we be trying to reassemble the bullpen by adding and subtracting players before they even grow together and show us what they can really do. I decided to take a look at team bullpen ERAs through April 2018 compared to the end of the 2018 season

Top 10 2018 bullpen ERAs (full season)

  1. Astros.
  2. Cubs
  3. Athletics
  4. Yankees
  5. Brewers
  6. Padres
  7. Diamondbacks
  8. Dodgers
  9. Red Sox
  10. Mariners

Top 10 2018 bullpen ERAs (March/April)

  1. Diamondbacks
  2. Blue Jays
  3. Brewers
  4. Cubs
  5. Astros
  6. Angels
  7. Phillies
  8. Mets
  9. Yankees
  10. Padres

So looking at this, there were four teams who finished with a top ten bullpen without having a great start to the season. The Twins currently rank 20th in bullpen ERA (better than the Athletics in April 2018). Don’t take the results that we are seeing in cold weather at the beginning of the season too seriously yet. I’m not saying that we will definitely have an improved bullpen, I’m saying it’s too early to get worked up.

Reason #3: They rarely give up home runs

The bullpen has certainly done one thing well so far, and that is keeping the ball in the ballpark. They are currently tied for first with the fewest home runs given up (4). Here are their ranks in the key home run stats for the bullpen:

  • HR: T-1st (4)
  • HR/FB: 2nd (7.1%)
  • HT/9: 3rd (0.68)
  • FB%: 16th (38.1%)
  • Hard hit%: 2nd (27.5%)

This is a really good sign and the one that strikes me as the best is the hard hit percentage. The bullpen is inducing softer contact than most but they have just been unlucky with walks and base hits. That can be cleaned up, and hopefully it is very soon. Luckily, Addison Reed is good at throwing strikes (6.2% walk percentage in 2018).

Reason #4: There are 3-4 studs in the Twins pen.

Taylor Rogers, Blake Parker, Trevor Hildenberger and Trevor May. Those are four guys that the Twins can rely on whenever they are ready to go and aside from Trevor May, they have all gotten off to great starts in 2019.

  • Taylor Rogers: 1.04 ERA, 1.385 WHIP, 9.3 K/9
  • Blake Parker: 1.42 ERA, 1.105 WHIP, 8.5 K/9
  • Trevor Hildenberger: 0.00 ERA, 1.059 WHIP, 14.3 K/9
  • Trevor May: 5.14 ERA, 1.571 WHIP, 6.4 K/9

Three of the Twins big four are off to great starts and it’s not hard to see Trevor May picking it up very soon. Rogers is an elite reliever now and he was one of the top five relievers in all of baseball in 2018’s second half (0.94 ERA and .120 OPP BA). Hildenberger and Parker were both great in 2017 and Parker was definitely good in 2018 but he took a step back. Hildy struggled last year but was often thrown into roles he wasn’t comfortable with (6.30 ERA and .290 OPP BA in the 8th/9th inning). I like him much more as a situational guy who can get you out of a jam. If the Twins keep winning, it is very likely they will add another good arm to the pen to join these four.

Reason #5: The Twins made the 2017 playoffs with a worse bullpen.

Remember when the Twins made the 2017 wild card just a couple years ago? Well do you remember who the closer was down the second half stretch? That’s right, it was Matt Belisle. I think we’re doing a bit better in that spot now. Here is who pitched the most bullpen innings for the 2017 playoff Twins:

  1. Tyler Duffey, 71 IP (4.94 ERA)
  2. Ryan Pressly before he was good, 61.1 IP (4.70 ERA)
  3. Matt Belisle, 60.1 IP (4.03 ERA)
  4. Taylor Rogers, 55.2 (3.07 ERA)
  5. Brandon Kintzler before trade, 45.1 IP (2.78 ERA)
  6. Trevor Hildenberger, 42.0 IP (3.21 ERA)
  7. Buddy Boshers, 35.0 IP (4.89 ERA)
  8. Alan Busenitz, 31.2 IP (1.99 ERA)
  9. Craig Breslow, 31.0 IP (5.23 ERA)
  10. Michael Tonkin, 21.0 IP (5.14 ERA)

The Twins made the playoffs with this bullpen. This bullpen had Tyler Duffey throw the most innings. This team traded Brandon Kintzler and had to have Matt Belisle close. This bullpen had a worse Rogers and Hildy than the 2019 Twins. This team really gave Boshers and Breslow over 30 innings. The bottom line here is that the Twins have a better bullpen than that playoff team. The lineup and rotation are also better but that’s a different story. Well actually, the lineup and rotation make the bullpen better. A better overall team means the less impact a bad bullpen can make. Go Twins!

Alright so of course this entire thing could blow up in my face and the Twins could have the worst bullpen ever, but I like the chances of them being good a lot better. Players returning from injury, it’s still early, the Twins have four key relievers, the 2017 playoff bullpen was worse and they don’t give up home runs. Don’t panic yet Twins fans.