Minnesota Twins: Paul Molitor’s New Year’s Resolutions
In the modern game, teams have 12-13 player pitching staffs. With a 5-man starting rotation, that leaves 7-8 pitcher bullpens. With that many arms in the bullpen, certainly no arm should get tired or over-used.
Of the pitchers to pitch most of their innings out of the bullpen in 2017 for the Minnesota Twins, only one threw 70 or more innings on the season. However of the 18 pitchers who threw at least 5 times in the bullpen in 2017, only 2 did not pitch on back-to-back days, which is an odd occurrence, based on the number of available arms for the Twins.
One of the most concerning parts was the overload that many pitchers faced. Brandon Kintzler was traded at the end of July, and he had already thrown 45 games and 45 1/3 innings. In 18 of those games, he was pitching without a day’s rest, including one point where he threw three days in a row.
The most obvious example of this was lefty Taylor Rogers. He made 69 appearances on the season, 19 of them on back-to-back days. However, early in the season, Molitor drastically overused his left arm, using him for three days in a row 3 times and five days in a row once all before the All-Star break.
Predictably, Rogers had a rough time coming out of the All Star break, making 6 appearances between July 22nd and August 5th, throwing 4 innings, with a 22.50 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, and allowing 3 home runs (he allowed only 6 on the ENTIRE season).
Unsurprisingly, Rogers got back in line by giving him more days off between appearances and then intentionally ensuring he had a day or two off after a back-to-back. From that August 5th game until the end of the season, he threw in 21 games, tossing 14 1/3 innings, with a 0.63 ERA.
This season, the Twins will be leaning on the (by opening day) 41 year-old arm of Fernando Rodney and 34 (35 soon after opening day) year-old left arm (recently surgically repaired) of Zach Duke in their bullpen as key members. Being more intentional about dolling out innings in the bullpen throughout the various bullpen arms will be quite important, and with multiple bullpen arms on the 40-man roster that can be brought up in the case that the team runs into a number of long games in a row, there should be no need to overuse any one guy on the season.