Minnesota Twins: How Rich Hill and Homer Bailey help improve the Twins’ rotation
By Chris Schad
What makes Rich Hill successful?
While Bailey projects more as a back-end rotation filler, Hill has the upside to give the Twins a high-end pitcher they desperately needed toward the end of 2019.
Hill’s game has the look of an analytics god as he was in the 95th percentile in curveball spin, 98th percentile in exit velocity and 91st percentile in fastball spin last season. While those numbers are from a smaller sample size with Hill only pitching 58 2/3 innings with elbow issues, they should be enough to make the analytics-crazy duo of President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine slobber over their calculators.
For a majority of Hill’s career, he was used as a long reliever as a member of the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. Outside of an 11-8 campaign in 2017, Hill wasn’t effective when given the chance to start, but got a full-time opportunity in 2016 with the Oakland Athletics. When he was shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he found another gear and has posted a 39-19 record with a 3.00 ERA over the past four seasons.
Much like Bailey’s improvement, Hill’s was centered on a reliance of his four-seam fastball and curveball. The curve has been Hill’s best pitch, holding hitters to a .211 average and a .269 WOBA last season according to Baseball Savant. The key for Hill has been his movement on the pitch which has elite movement both vertically (4.1 inches above average was 23rd in MLB among pitchers with 250 pitches) and horizontally (7.4 inches above average, fourth in MLB).
Equally as effective has been his fastball, which only checks in at 90.3 MPH, but also generated a 29.3% whiff rate. The effectiveness of both the fastball and changeup has made his lesser-used secondary pitches even more effective.
It’s that kind of effectiveness that made other teams such as the Boston Red Sox interested in Hill’s services, but he doesn’t come without risk. After undergoing “primary revision surgery” on his pitching elbow, Hill won’t be available to pitch until late-June or early-July. If all goes well, he could give the Twins an upper-level starter at the trade deadline without the Twins having to give anything up.