2018 Bullpen Usage and Roles

(photo credit: Brian Curski, Cumulus Media)

The Twins are two games into the season and after the first game, Twitter was already up in arms about Molitor’s bullpen decisions.  Our very own Brandon Warne did a good job of rationalizing Molitor’s thinking in his game wrap up.

Not knowing this bullpen very well got me to wondering about the strengths and weaknesses of each guy in our bullpen and what their roles will look like in 2018.

  • RHP Fernando Rodney – Closer

Rodney was brought in to do one job — close out games. Many, including myself, are calling this the “Fernando Rodney Experience” as it will be a bumpy, yet electric ride throughout the year.

Fernando has a career 81.9 percent save rate, which is pretty poor, but on the bright side he finished last year completing 18 of 19 opportunities from July 7 to the end of the season. Realistically, it doesn’t matter what batters are up in a save situation. He will be the guy on the mound.

  • RHP Addison Reed – Set up/Closer-in-Waiting

Reed is another guy who was brought in with a clear role, and that is to bridge the gap to Rodney. Reed is also a good insurance policy if the aforementioned “Fernando Rodney Experience” is more bumpy than electric or if he just needs a day off.

Reed actually has fairly equal splits against lefties and righties and is the most reliable strikeout guy despite a slightly lower K/9 than Rodney, because he strikes out both sides at about the same rate. He will also be the best option in the scenario where the Twins need someone to come in mid-inning to get out of a jam.

  • LHP Zach Duke – Seventh inning v. LHH
  • RHP Trevor Hildenberger – Seventh inning v. RHH

The seventh inning will be a combination of Duke and Hildenberger depending on the hitters. Both guys are serviceable against lefties and righties, but each pitcher definitely follows the traditional splits.

Duke is stronger against lefties and Hildenberger against righties, but the Twins will use Duke more often than not simply because he has more experience and he was another offseason acquisition that was brought in for specific purpose. He is also the better option to rely on when needing to get out of a jam.

  • RHP Ryan Pressly – Sixth or earlier
  • LHP Taylor Rogers – Sixth or earlier
  • LHP Gabriel Moya – Sixth or earlier
  • RHP Tyler Kinley – Sixth or earlier

As of right now, these are the options for the Twins to piece together when the starters exit the game prior to the sixth inning.

Pressly and Rogers will be mainstays throughout the season, but Moya and Kinley will mostly likely see demotions once some combination of Hughes, May and/or Duffey get to the big league club.

I would give Rogers the slight edge over Pressly as he has a better track record of getting out of jams, but both pitchers have their question marks.

Rogers lowered his K/9 and raised his BB/9 in 2017 while Pressly gave up more homeruns than his career numbers suggest.

If Moya or Kinley find success early the Twins could opt to keep one of them in Minneapolis while sending Pressly or Rogers to Rochester to workout the kinks, although I don’t think that is likely. Moya has the slight edge here as he would give the Twins another lefty arm.

  • RHP Phil Hughes
  • RHP Trevor May
  • RHP Tyler Duffey
  • RHP Alan Busenitz
  • RHP John Curtiss

This list is guys whose roles are in question as they are currently on the DL (Hughes and May) or in the minor league system (Duffey, Busenitz, and Curtiss).

Both May and Hughes have track records as starters but will most likely end up in the bullpen as long reliever or middle relievers when a starter exits the game early. Duffey transferred to a relief role last year and fared pretty well returning from injury, especially if you consider 43.5 percent of his earned runs came from just 4.4 percent of his innings pitched.

He will need to work on his consistency while he is down in Rochester. Busenitz and Curtiss will have a hard time making it up before September, since Hughes, May and Duffey are all ahead of them in the pecking order.

That’s a lot to digest especially with the fluidity of the bullpen after Rodney, Reed, Hilldenberger and Duke. The teacher in me has created a “cheat sheet” for you to use when you start managing the game from your seat, so I will leave you with that.

This cheat sheet is a working document as the bullpen will change throughout the year, so expect updates as the season goes on. Also, the “strengths” and “weaknesses” are relative to our bullpen and not the rest of the league.


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(photo credit: Brian Curski, Cumulus Media)

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