Minnesota Twins Bullpen Dominate but Due for Regression

And the unit will rise above their oppressors and conquer a solid BABIP!

On the day that we celebrate the birth of comrade Joseph Patrick Mauer (30), let us also celebrate the efforts on the Minnesota Twins bullpen.

“WHAT’S THAT?” you say? Celebrating Twins pitchers? BLASPHEMY! Nay, countrymen… this unit has risen above… found new heights… and has the third lowest bullpen ERA in the majors. That, comrades, is what levitates a staff from beneath the oppression of the bourgeoisie that wish to keep the 2013 Minnesota Twins down!

(Honestly, I have been reading the Manifesto of the Communist Party for a class this entire week – proper brain function is not happening.)

So, the Twins pen has had success this year, as they did last year – but is that success sustainable? After looking at the numbers, I can’t say definitively that it is.

Right now the bullpen has the seventh-lowest BABIP against at .254. The Diamondbacks, by comparison, have a higher ERA (2.32 to the Twins’ 2.23), but their BABIP is .290. This is part of the reason the Diamondbacks’ composite bullpen WAR is 1.0 (first) compared to the Twins, who sit 11th at 0.4. Another stat that indicates the Twins may regress (slightly) to the mean is Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). Minnesota currently sits 11th in this category at 3.41.

The Twins’ HR/FB ratio is extremely low right now (5.1 percent compared to a league average of around 10 percent). This is partly because Target Field is an abyss where flyballs go to die, but it’s hard to see this number not rising. I’m not saying that the Twins are complete frauds as a pitching staff – I’m merely saying that people should not expect them to maintain an elite status throughout the entire season.

All of this said, there are some spectacular components to this bullpen that should make Twins fans excited about the year.

Jared Burton is backing up last year’s solid season (2.18 ERA and 0.92 WHIP) by starting 2013 with six scoreless appearances and a 0.94 WHIP. Burton is also efficient, throwing more than 14 pitches in only one of his outings this year, when he threw 22 but still only allowed one base-runner.

Josh Roenicke and Anthony Swarzak have served their roles well, combining for a 1.10 ERA over 16.1 IP. The only run Roenicke has allowed is a solo shot by Jeff Francoeur. Swarzak’s control has been the key for him – only one walk compared to seven strikeouts in 8.2 innings.

I can’t help falling in love with Ryan Pressly, a Rule-5 pick-up for the Twins this off-season. He got all shook up in his last outing (four unearned runs), but still owns a 0.00 ERA. Suspicious minds will wonder if his control will be an issue (four BB’s in 5.2 IP), but I think he’s just a hunk-a hunk-a burnin’ love.

And, finally, my favorite of them all – Mr. Glen Perkins. I’m not a huge fan of having Perkins close merely because it means Gardenhire can’t bring him in during a tight jam with runners on in the seventh, but he didn’t have much choice. Perkins got beat around a bit when he allowed a couple of runs to the Mets last week, but the Twins gave up 16 runs in that game, so he was just going with the flow, man. Outside of that outing, Perk has allowed only one hit. It doesn’t hurt that the dude throws 95 mph cheese. Luscious.

While the Twins pen has been phenomenal to start the year, it might be unrealistic to expect their dominance to continue. That said, the bullpen is the strength of this team. Giving Burton and Perkins a lead heading into the eighth is basically conceding. It will be fun to see what this unit can do as the year progresses.