Tyler Duffey is like a high school sweetheart,
He captured the hearts of many after transitioning to a reliever, peaking as a high-leverage buzzsaw for a few seasons. Since that time, the team’s success has steadily climbed for the most part, and he is a major contributor to that improvement. He’s a good teammate, he’s accountable, and he is a good person.
That’s what makes this next part so hard.
It might be time for a break.
The thing is, he is such a likable person that if he is going to be sent off, it needs to be a heartfelt goodbye. Like the many runs he’s allowed in recent weeks, he has earned that.
Obviously, what we had was special. We genuinely had some really good times together, and we wouldn’t trade these memories for anything. Remember when we first met? We were so young. So carefree. Just kids spending their summers at the ballpark, waiting in anticipation for the next time we could see each other.
Our first impression of you was something so different than the real Tyler. In 2015, you were just a young gun, trying to make your way as a starting pitcher for a fringe playoff team. We watched your 10 starts with starry eyes, and while your wild side scared us at first (3.1 BB/9), you made up for it with your ability to avoid damage when things got heated (3.10 ERA).
Our second year together was messy, but what was life in 2016 besides one enormous mess? We did a lot of growing that year. You got your wild side under control (all the way down to 2.1 BB/9). You had a career-high with 133 innings pitched, but maybe we got a little tired of seeing so much of each other. It was at that point that we realized our fling had to be better quality even if it meant less quantity.
The next year, the team made its way back into the postseason. Your surface numbers didn’t look particularly spectacular in your first year out of the bullpen (4.94 ERA), but we knew there was more to you under the hood (3.72 FIP, career-high 3.72 K/BB). We believed in you. We knew your strong character and work ethic would one day prevail, and the world would see just how special you are.
And then, a couple of years later, it happened. You blossomed into a durable, high-octane relief ace. In 2019, you had a career year with a 2.50 ERA and 12.8 K/9. You were everything we dreamed you would be, and much more. Our friends in the division laughed at us, saying there was no way our relationship could be sustainable. They remembered how you stumbled as a starter and the initial difficulties you had in transitioning to a reliever. They judged you on the sins of your past, not the potential of your future. But we didn’t, Tyler.
Through thick and thin, we were there for you because we saw your present value and potential for your future. We held a roadmap for your success (that being an uptick in fastball velocity and pairing it with your hammer of a curveball), and you were able to follow that plan for the most part. When the world was turned upside down in 2020, we were lost in unpredictability. But you were a shining beacon of hope. You cruised through that season with a glowing 1.88 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP. That’s the stuff of legend, and you should be celebrated for your performance. Our mutual friend and then-closer, Taylor Rogers, had trouble living up to expectations that year, but you were a knight in shining armor for a beleaguered bullpen.
Yes, Tyler, we had some incredible peaks together. But just like all young romances, we had our rough patches too.
Last year, we started getting this eerie notion in the back of our minds. A notion that our connection wouldn’t be everlasting, but we were a supernova. We were burning bright, and our bond was on the cusp of dying young. Granted, it was a successful year for you, and we don’t want to take anything away from that. But maybe it was the drastic drop in your strikeout rate (11.6 K/9 in 2020, 8.8 in 2021) or the relapse in your wild tendencies (4.0 BB/9), but we started to fear that this wasn’t going to work out in the long-term.
Let’s be honest, Tyler. This year confirmed that suspicion.
While we still appreciate your clubhouse leadership, your personal accountability by speaking honestly about your struggles, and your fiery personality, this year just hasn’t felt the same.
You seem distracted. It’s like you get ahead of your opponents and then lack the wherewithal to put them away. We need a partner that we can rely on in the big moments, and we’ve been burned too many times in that regard in recent weeks. We’ve counted on you to be the relief-ace you used to be in your late twenties. Maybe that’s unfair of us, but I guess it’s true what they say: you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
And in that sense, it feels like you’ve been gone for a while now.
You’ve allowed earned runs in five of your last nine appearances, and it’s hurt our trust in each other. Without that trust, it’s getting hard to remember what we once had. And that’s the true shame in all of this. We know how good we can be together.
But maybe now it’s time we find out how good we can be apart.
In one of the many years when the Twins aren’t firmly in the postseason picture, we would love to work through our struggles again. But that’s not the case this time. We’re getting ready to explore bigger and better opportunities in the playoffs, and we need to focus on our work. And maybe you need to do some growing without us, too.
When we figure out how good we can be apart from one another, maybe our paths will cross again. But we’ve reached a fork in the road for now, and it feels like it’s time to let go and let fate do the rest.
We’ll always have the good times, Tyler. You’re a special person and a hell of a ball player. You were what our bullpen needed for a long time. Now we need a break so that we can push ourselves to the next level.
It’s not you, Tyler. It’s us.