Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010 Twins Preview: Bullpen

Jon Rauch, Closer
The biggest man in the majors has big shoes to fill: Joe Nathan has been one of the top 2 relievers in all of baseball since he became the Twins' closer in 2004. A lot of people think that strikeout stuff is crucial for a closer. That's great for someone who comes into a lot of runners-on situations. But for a closer, starting the 9th inning clean, give me a guy who doesn't give away first base and keeps the ball in the yard. Rauch has given up fewer than 3 BB/9 in each of the last three seasons, and, except for his initial stint in Arizona, has done a good job of avoiding HR. He'll be fine.
Expected line: 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 0.9 HR/9, 3.0 BB/9, 7.4 K/9

Matt Guerrier, RHP
Guerrier's late-season collapse in 2008 was as big a reason as any that the Twins came up just short that year. It was great to see him totally rebound last year, matching his outstanding ERA from 2007 and setting a career-best 0.97 WHIP. There were fewer K and more HR, however, so it's unlikely that he'll be that good in 2010. On the other hand, it's been more of the same in spring training...
Expected line: 3.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 1.2 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 6.0 K/9

Jose Mijares, LHP
He seemed to be in trouble a lot last year (on and off the field), but he always seemed to find his way out of it. If he keeps it up, he's going to get burned. I don't think he'll be able to match last year's tremendous numbers. Then again, he's likely to face a disproportionate amount of lefties, and he does pretty well against them.
Expected line: 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1.0 HR/9, 3.4 BB/9, 8.0 K/9

Jesse Crain, RHP
In his second year back from shoulder surgery, Crain was as brutal in the 1st half as he was sparkling in the 2nd. His stuff looks pretty good - it's mostly a matter of consistently hitting his spots. When he returned from his midseason demotion, he cut his walk rate nearly in half and didn't allow a HR in 34 IP. That's great, but if he could get back into the 2.1 BB/9 territory he was in back in 2006, he would become my 2nd choice for closer after Rauch.
Expected line: 3.90 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 0.8 HR/9, 3.3 BB/9, 7.2 K/9

Pat Neshek, RHP
His elbow injury in early May of 2008 cast the die for the Twins' failure that September. As good as Neshek had been in the setup role up to that point, there's no way the Twins would have come up short had he been around for the whole year. Now he's back, but how much? How rusty is he? He looked great all spring until his Target Field debut yesterday. Is he going to have days like that? How often? He was way better than this before the injury, but joint reconstruction is tough to come back from, so I'm going to cut him some slack.
Expected line: 4.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 1.1 HR/9, 3.3 BB/9, 9.5 K/9

Clay Condrey, RHP
A reliable sinkerball pitcher is a great asset to have in the bullpen - the guy who can come in and get the double play. Condrey was getting grounders about 55% of the time his last two years in Philadelphia. He'll give up some hits that way, but he was able to limit HR allowed despite pitching in a hitters park. A good pickup if the sinker's working, which it most certainly wasn't in spring training (4 HR in 9 IP). If he doesn't get that fixed, he won't be long for the Twins' bullpen.
Expected line: 4.20 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 0.9 HR/9, 2.9 BB/9, 5.1 K/9

Brian Duensing, LHP
Duensing was one of the biggest difference makers late last season, a fringe player who had no business performing as well as he did. He's not talented enough to chase anyone out of a rotation spot, but he should be able to do good work in long relief, and gives Gardy another LHP to use in certain match-ups if he's already spent Mijares.
Expected line: 4.60 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 1.0 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 5.7 K/9

Remember, these are not projections. I don't represent that anybody will achieve these particular numbers in 2010. But they all have achieved something like them more than once in their careers, and so we know that they are capable of achieving (or surpassing) these numbers. I'm just setting the curve - the point above which I'll be delighted, and below which I'll be disappointed. It turns out that I have high expectations for the starters and the rotation, but not as much for the bench and bullpen. I guess that means that as long as the Twins aren't making a lot of substitutions, everything should go great!

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