Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Twins Bullpen - 2009

There is a lot of angst about the Twins bullpen. It has now reached a point that one of the local Minnesota sports writers is suggesting the Twins should be dealing for "two or three" new relievers next year. That seems like a huge over-reaction to an overworked bullpen.

The reality is that the Twins relief corps has more appearances and faced more batters than it did last year. And last year it was not underworked either. In 2008, with six games remaining, the relievers have made 460 appearances and faced 2032 batters. In 2007, they made 438 appearances and faced 2001 batters. In 2006, it was 421 appearances and 2066 batters and in 2005 it was 396 appearances and 1841 batters. This year's bullpen will have made the most appearances of the Gardenhire era and it will come close or surpass the largest number of batters faced.

That is hardly a surprise. The Twins rotation has been filled with young pitchers who have rarely pitched deep into games. In fact, Slowey and Baker are the only current members of the rotation who have averaged over 6 innings per start, and then only barely. Even "innings eater" Livan Hernandez ended up with only slighty over 6 innings per start after all his early exits at the end of his stint with the Twins.

So where are things for next year? Its likely that, with a year's experience behind them, the young starters will give the Twins more innings and a rested bullpen will be more productive. Aside from that, the Twins also have a lot of possible young pitchers who could step up and make the bullpen that much stronger. Here is what the bullpen looks like for next year:


Free Agents:


Guerrier, Crain and Bonser all have the experience and talent to be late inning setup guys. As does Neshek if he recovers. Mijares and Humber have the talent but they need experience. The rumor is that Humber is out of options, so they will have to find a place for him either in the bullpen or the rotation. My guess is that the Twins will try to resign Reyes. They might bring Guardado to spring training if he can't find anyone willing to give him a guaranteed contract.

In any case, it does not really look like the Twins have room for one, much less two or three, relievers. If they can find one dependable veteran who can bridge the 8th inning that doesn't cost and arm and leg in prospects or salary then they should make a move. But they are not really desperate for more options in the bullpen. What they really need is less work.

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