Minnesota Twins: Handing out Grades for the Bullpen

The 2020 Minnesota Twins season is now complete, so it’s time to pass out grades to a bullpen that had its ups and downs this season.

Right after midseason, I passed out grades to the Minnesota Twins, starting with their rotation and going through every single position group. After another crushing playoff loss in the playoffs, it’s time to regrade those groups. We started last week with the rotation, and we continue with the bullpen.

The bullpen was a really deep group as a whole in 2020 with some strong individual performances and some not so strong as well. Similar to our midseason bullpen grades, we start with the high-leverage and continue from there.

We also won’t include relievers with less than 5 appearances, so Danny Coulombe, Ehire Adrianza, Cory Gearrin, and Edwar Colina all escape judgement. With that being said, let’s get started.

 

Minnesota Twins

Sergio Romo of the Minnesota Twins reacts after hitting Roberto Perez. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)

Minnesota Twins High-Leverage Relievers

Taylor Rogers

Midseason Grade: B

Final 2020 Stats: 21 G, 20 IP, 2-4, 9 SV, 4.05 ERA (2.84 FIP), 1.500 WHIP, 24-4 K-BB, -0.7 WAR

Similar to at the midseason mark, Taylor Rogers has had a significantly better season than his stats would suggest. He’s striking out 10.8 batters per nine innings (second-best rate of his career), has allowed 0.9 homers per nine innings (second-best), and has walked 1.8 batters per nine innings (second-best).

On top of all this, his 2.84 FIP is better than it was last year, and that’s one of the biggest shows of pitcher success. Yes, his WHIP is below average, his ERA is meh at best, and he struggled in Game 2 of the Wild Card series.

That wasn’t his fault though (he never should have been pitching in a back-to-back) and he was really good in game one. Rogers had an overall solid season, and Twins fans should not be so hard on him. His grade remains the same. Grade: B.

Tyler Clippard

Midseason Grade: A

Final 2020 Stats: 26 G, 26 IP, 2-1, 2.77 ERA (2.65 FIP), 0.885 WHIP, 26-4 K-BB, 0.4 WAR

This was one of the best signings the Twins made this offseason, as bringing Tyler Clippard aboard for just $2.75 million was a steal. Clippard dominated in 2020, earning some of the lowest ERA, WHIP, and FIP numbers on the team by limiting baserunners. His ERA may have gone up since midseason, preventing him from getting an A+, but the grade doesn’t change. Grade: A.

Trevor May

Midseason Grade: A-

Final 2020 Stats: 24 G, 23.1 IP, 1-0, 2 SV, 3.86 ERA (3.62 FIP), 1.157 WHIP, 38-7 K-BB, 0.1 WAR

The Twins will miss Trevor May if he opts to chase the money elsewhere. He is one of the only Twins with a truly dominant fastball and an ability to blow by batters. His 14.7 strikeouts/9 innings led the team by over two full strikeouts.

May also did a good job of limiting hits, as his 1.157 WHIP is good, but his real issues came with homers. May allowed 1.9 HR/9, the third highest mark on the team between Jake Odorizzi and Zack Littell. That’s what you get with a high-speed guy though. Just ask Aroldis Chapman. May’s grade drops with an ERA rise. Grade: B+

Tyler Duffey

Midseason Grade: A+

Final 2020 Stats: 22 G, 24 IP, 1-1, 1.88 ERA (2.57 FIP), 0.792 WHIP, 31-6 K-BB, 0.7 WAR

Wow, Tyler Duffey was incredible in 2020. He had some of the best numbers on the team, and while they did inflate a little after an incredible first half, Duffey still grades out as the best on the team. On top of all that, Duffey pitched two innings in the playoffs, and while one led to a blown lead in game one, he was excellent in game two. Grade: A+

Sergio Romo

Midseason Grade: A

Final 2020 Stats: 24 G, 20 IP, 1-2, 5 SV, 4.05 ERA (4.34 FIP), 1.150 WHIP, 23-7 K-BB, 0.0 WAR

Yeah, so everyone complaining about Rogers should be more mad at Sergio Romo. Romo and Rogers pitched the same number of innings and had the same ERA, but Rogers had a better FIP, more saves, more strikeouts, less walks, and Rogers was WAY better in the playoffs:

  • Rogers in the playoffs: 1 Scoreless IP in Game One, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 R in Game Two
  • Romo in the playoffs: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 R in Game One

That’s an awful appearance for the experienced playoff performer. He got shelled by the Astros and ultimately put the team out of the game (though all three runs were technically unearned). He must get better in year two. On top of that, he fell apart after having a 1.74 ERA in the first half. Grade: C+.

Caleb Thielbar

Midseason Grade: A

Final 2020 Stats: 17 G, 20 IP, 2-1, 2.25 ERA (2.34 FIP), 1.150 WHIP, 22-9 K-BB, 0.5 WAR

Out of nowhere, Caleb Thielbar went from end of the roster pitcher to a medium-leverage guy, then to high-leverage enough to pitch in the ninth inning of a playoff game. After hosting the second-best FIP on the team with a sparkling 2.25 ERA, Thielbar has earned some respect. He earns top marks for his incredible comeback. Grade: A+.

 

Minnesota Twins

Jorge Alcala of the Minnesota Twins celebrates against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Minnesota Twins Low-Leverage Relievers

Matt Wisler

Midseason Grade: A-

Final 2020 Stats: 18 G, 25.1 IP, 0-1, 1.07 ERA (3.35 FIP), 1.145 WHIP, 35-14 K-BB, 1.0 WAR

I was harsh on Matt Wisler at the midseason grading because he had a below average FIP to go with his really great ERA in his first eight games. Since then, he dropped his ERA and FIP even further.

He also moved into more and more high-leverage situations as Rocco began to trust him more and he responded by throwing his breaking ball (his nasty slider) more than any other pitcher in the league (84.7%). He had a really good season, and the waiver claim was stunningly one of the team’s best stories. Grade: A.

Jorge Alcala

Midseason Grade: A

Final 2020 Stats: 16 G, 24 IP, 2-1, 2.57 ERA (3.57 FIP), 1.208 WHIP, 27-8 K-BB, 0.4 WAR

A former top prospect, Jorge Alcala has used his dominant fastball and slider combo to strike out 27 batters and work through a lot of medium-leverage situations. A possible future closer, Alcala showed a lot of promise in his first full year in the bullpen. I’m excited for what he can continue to become. This was a great rookie season. Grade: A.

Cody Stashak

Midseason Grade: B

Final 2020 Stats: 11 G, 15 IP, 1-0, 3.00 ERA (3.26 FIP), 0.933 WHIP, 17-3 K-BB, 0.2 WAR

Cody Stashak missed a chunk of the season due to injury, but when he was healthy, he was on. His ERA, FIP, K/BB marks all were very good, and his WHIP was elite. He also was entrusted with two innings in game two of the playoffs.

Playing in 18 percent of your team’s games isn’t ideal for a reliever like Stashak, and he did give up a run and take the loss in that playoff game. That being said, Stashak had a very productive second year in the league, and for that he earns a big bump in his grade. Grade: A-.

Zack Littell

Midseason Grade: F

Final 2020 Stats: 6 G, 6.1 IP, 0-0, 9.95 ERA (14.40 FIP), 2.368 WHIP, 3-3 K-BB, -0.3 WAR

No Twins pitcher had a worse season than Zack Littell. Between injuries, ineffectiveness, and a demotion shortly after midseason, Littell couldn’t get anything in 2020. His breakout 2019 seems very far in the past, so hopefully a full 2021 season gets him back on track. Grade: F.

Sean Poppen

Midseason Grade: N/A

Final 2020 Stats: 6 G, 7.2 IP, 0-0, 4.70 ERA (2.15 FIP), 1.696 WHIP, 10-4 K-BB, 0.0 WAR

Sean Poppen was ineffective in the short period of time he was healthy and with the Twins in 2020. He walked too many batters, had a sky-high WHIP, and his ERA wasn’t great either. His 2.15 FIP is really nice though, and he did strikeout batters at a 11.7/9 innings clip. That shows the talent is there, and a larger sample size will sort things out. Grade: C+.