Taylor Rogers hasn’t looked as good in 2020 as he did last year, and the Minnesota Twins need him to step up the rest of the way.
In 2019, Taylor Rogers was arguably the best reliever the Minnesota Twins had, saving 30 games and looking like one of the best relievers in baseball. In the first half of 2020, he just hasn’t looked the same. That needs to change.
The Minnesota Twins need Taylor Rogers to step up in the second half of the 2020 season. As the team’s only logical choice to close out games, especially with nothing coming at the trade deadline, the Twins are in a sink or swim situation with Taylor. As he goes, the team goes. So what’s causing him to continue to struggle?
Let’s go back to the beginning, and go from there. Rogers started his Twins career in April of 2016 after being called up from Triple-A Rochester. With Glen Perkins on the disabled list, the Twins used Rogers as a setup man and he started himself off very well in the league.
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During that season, Rogers was second on the team in holds (9) and third in games pitched (57), while pitching particularly well against left-handed hitters that year, holding them to a .202 batting average.
He was again deployed by the Minnesota Twins as a setup man in 2017, leading major league pitchers in holds that season and holding left-handed hitters to just a .173 batting average.
Taylor had a rough first half of his 2018 season, where he saw his ERA balloon to 5.13, but he recovered well in the second half. He was lights out in the second half of the season pitching 26 scoreless innings from late July until the end of the season.
On top of that, he held left-handed hitters to a .180 batting average that year and posted career highs in games pitched (72), innings pitched (68.1), strikeouts (75), and ERA (2.63). With the results of this season, Rogers had established himself as one of the premier set-up pitchers in Major League Baseball.
Rocco Baldelli named Rogers the closer in early June of 2019, after the Blake Parker, Trevor May, and Trevor Hildenberger experiment was deemed a failure. Rogers went on to convert 26 of 30 save opportunities during this period, ending with 30 saves for the season.
He once again dominated left-handed hitters in 2020, who posted only a .208 batting average against Rogers for the season. The Minnesota Twins were confident that they had one of the best closers in the game entering the 2020 season.
Taylor started the 2020 season in fine shape going 1-0 with 3 saves in his first 4 appearances, but after that, the wheels started coming off. He’s been battered to the tune of a 0-3 record, with 3 saves, 2 blown saves, and a 6.48 ERA in his last nine appearances. He does have a career-best FIP (2.00), but that doesn’t really help his numbers.
He’s given up several save opportunities, including to Sergio Romo and even Matt Wisler, who pitched a superb 9th inning while earning the save against the White Sox on Wednesday night. That was Wisler’s first save since 2016.
There are several theories as to why Rogers has struggled this season. Even though he still has commanding control of his pitches, he has been going deeper into his pitch count forcing him to throw more fastballs. This has led to a reduction in the use of his highly effective curveball. Back-to-back appearances haven’t helped with that.
There is also strong evidence that the release point of his sinker has changed, causing it to stay higher in the zone. When pitches land here, it’s usually not a good sign for pitchers, even ones as good as Rogers.
Can Taylor Rogers resolve his mechanics issues? Of course he can. But he does need to turn it around quickly in order to salvage his season, especially to help the chances for the Minnesota Twins to make a deep playoff run.