The Minnesota Twins have made it to the midseason point and are riding high with an AL best 20-10 record. We grade the bullpen that helped get them there.
The Minnesota Twins finished off the first half of their season with a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians yesterday, putting them at a record of 20-10. That record ties them with the Oakland A’s for the best record in the American League and the second best record in all of baseball.
We’ve already handed out grades for the starters, so now it’s time to move into the other half of the Twins’ pitching: their bullpen. The shutdown bullpen has been one of the driving reasons behind the Twins success, as the team would not have nearly as good of a record without them.
With that in mind, it’s time to give out grades to the relief pitchers who have made it all happen. In order to be graded, a reliever need to have pitched at least 5 innings for the Twins this season, which unfortunately cuts out Sean Poppen, Cory Gearrin, Danny Coulumbe, and Ehire Adrianza.
With those four out of the mix, that leaves ten relievers to get grades. We’ll break it down into two groups: the five high-leverage relievers and the five other guys. Both groups have done a great job, as only one reliever earned below a C. Let’s get started.
Minnesota Twins High-Leverage Relievers
*similar to the starters, the order is decided by how they show up in Baseball Reference’s Stat Sheet, not by the grade received*
2020 Stats: 12 G, 11.1 IP, 1-2,7 SV, 4.76 ERA (2.07 FIP), 1.412 WHIP, 14-1 K-BB, -0.3 WAR
With first glance at Taylor Rogers‘ stats and watching him perform recently, it’s easy to say he’s had a bad year, but in all reality, he’s having one of the best statistical years that he’s had in his major league career.
In a 162 game season, Rogers would be on pace for a career-high 35 saves with the lowest FIP of his career (This means he’s been pretty unlucky). On top of that, he’s posting his second best K/9 rate (11.1 strikeouts per nine innings) and his lowest walk rate (0.8 walks per nine innings) ever.
I know he’s blown two saves, and allowed six earned runs, so he doesn’t get a great grade, but If he just could get a little luck, his numbers would show how good he’s been. Rogers is having a better-than-it-seems year. Grade: B.
2020 Stats: 12 G, 2 GS, 12.2 IP, 1-0, 1.42 ERA, 0.789 WHIP, 13-2 K-BB, 0.5 WAR
Tyler Clippard‘s one year deal has turned into an absolute steal for the Minnesota Twins, as he has pitched like one of the best set-up men in the league in 2020. His 1.42 ERA and 0.789 are two of the best numbers from any reliever, and his numbers are some of the best of his career.
If he can keep this up all season, the Twins will have found a fifth reliable bullpen guy who limits walks and strikes out a lot of guys. That’s a great build for a October Bullpen, and the Twins should feel very good about that. Grade: A.
2020 Stats: 12 G, 12 IP, 1-0, 1 SV, 3.00 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 17-3 K-BB, 0.2 WAR
This might be the last season of Trevor May in a Minnesota Twins uniform, as he has been an ace reliever for the team and is almost guaranteed a big payday in the offseason. May has been great again in 2020, with the second best K/9 rate (12.8) on the team.
He also has a very strong 3.00 ERA and just three walks, as he has shown this year he’s really good at working out of jams. That will be really useful come October, and Twins fans should enjoy May while we have him. Grade: A-.
2020 Stats: 11 G, 11 IP, 1-0, 0.82 ERA, 0.455 WHIP, 14-1 K-BB, 0.5 WAR
I’m only giving out one A+ to all of the Twins pitchers, because one Twins pitcher has been THAT much better than everyone else. Tyler Duffey is the best reliever in baseball right now, and he clearly deserves the best grade possible.
Duffey has allowed just five hits, one walk, and one run in his eleven outings for the Twins this season. His 0.455 WHIP is the best on the Twins staff by .319 walks/hits, an insane number, and his 0.82 ERA is easily the best on the team. No one else has been close to this good, which is why he is the only A+ on the team. Grade: A+.
2020 Stats: 11 G, 10.1 IP, 0-0, 3 SV, 1.74 ERA, 0.774 WHIP, 14-3 K-BB, 0.3 WAR
The last high-leverage pitcher listed may be the most important, as the influence of Sergio Romo on the club is so important. He makes Twins baseball fun to watch, helps his teammates enjoy it, and adds on some pretty great numbers.
Romo’s 1.74 ERA is excellent, and 0.774 WHIP is dominant. He’s striking out hitters at the third highest rate on the team and has been an excellent second closer when the Twins have needed one. The only thing keeping him from an A+ is that he hasn’t been completely perfect, but another A grade is still fantastic. Grade: A.
Minnesota Twins Low-Leverage Relievers
2020 Stats: 8 G, 2 GS, 14 IP, 0-1, 1.29 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 16-7 K-BB, 0.5 WAR
Matt Wisler is a player the Minnesota Twins picked off of the garbage pile that has turned into a very useful bullpen piece. His FIP of 4.42 suggests that he’s been very lucky and his 4.5 BB/9 is the highest of any pitcher on the team outside of Rich Hill. But let’s look at his other stats.
His 1.29 ERA is phenomenal and his 1.000 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 rate are really, really good. He’s been a good reliever even if his underlying stats suggest there’s been a lot of luck, and for a guy the Twins just took a flier on, that’s good enough for a high grade. Grade: A-.
2020 Stats: 6 G, 12 IP, 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 15-4 K-BB, 0.4 WAR
The No. 21 prospect in our Top 30 Prospect list, Jorge Alcala is one of the only true rookies on this Twins team, but he hasn’t pitched like it in 2020. He has a high-90s fastball and a dirty slider, and he uses them both really well.
He has only given up two earned runs over his season and his 11.3 K/9 rate has been awesome. The Minnesota Twins expect him to take over as the closer of the future at some point, and he has pitched like a future closer this year. Grade: A.
2020 Stats: 7 G, 7.2 IP, 0-0, 2.35 ERA (1.96 FIP), 1.435 WHIP, 9-3 K-BB, 0.2 WAR
What started out as a feel good story has turned into a truly excellent bullpen asset. Caleb Thielbar currently has a 10.6 K/9 rate and his FIP suggests his ERA should be even lower than the stellar 2.35 number it’s already at.
After four seasons out of the majors, Thielbar has come right back in and looks better than he did before. He has the potential to be a valuable asset for the Twins going forward, as the Minnesota boy is a key asset going forward.
2020 Stats: 6 G, 7 IP, 0-0, 3.86 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 10-3 K-BB, 0.1 WAR
Cody Stashak is one of the Twins’ top young relievers who has been bit by the injury bug this season, and that’s caused him to not be as effective as he was last year. His ERA is 0.62 points higher and his FIP is all the way up to 4.85.
That being said, his actual ERA is a respectable 3.86 and his 10 strikeouts have helped him to a 12.9 K/9 mark, the best on the team. Again, injuries have taken a toll, but Stashak is still having an overall good year. Grade: B.
2020 Stats: 6 G, 6.1 IP, 0-0, 9.95 ERA, 2.368 WHIP, 3-3 K-BB, -0.3 WAR
Last season, Zack Littell had a 2.68 ERA, 1.162 WHIP, and a 32-9 K-BB ratio. This year, he hasn’t been healthy, and when he has been, it’s been a disaster. Littell has an awful ERA and his FIP of 14.34 suggests it’s way worse.
Hopefully he gets healthy and gets his head right, but until then, judging his first half is pretty easy. He’s been beyond bad, and he will have to turn it all around in the second half of the season to avoid grading out as the worst player on the team in the offseason. Grade: F.