Friday, April 20, 2012

Notes on the bullpen

Brian Duensing pitches on Opening Day in Baltimore.

For the second straight season, the Twins have a drastically reworked — and significantly cheaper — bullpen than in the season before.

A few observations:

* The Twins have a lousy record, but that's not really the bullpen's fault. There is one loss that can clearly be pinned to poor relief work, that being last Sunday, when Glen Perkins — the brightest light in the 2011 'pen — got lit up by Texas.

* I was struck Monday evening by the radar-gun readings when Brian Duensing pitched in the bottom of the eighth. The ESPN broadcast showed several readings of 95 mph, which seemed a bit high for Duensing.

So I checked the readings as provided by MLB via its iPad app, and it too gave numbers in the mid 90s. Some were 94, some were 95, but the idea is the same: Duesning was throwing with markedly more velocity than we're accustomed to seeing.

He had a longer stint on Wednesday (one day of rest) and the velocity readings on his fastball topped out at 93— a bit lower than on Monday, but still higher than as a starter.

This is not unusual for starters-turned-relievers; Glen Perkins at times last season, when given multiple days off, came out throwing 97. Duensing, so far as I know, isn't reaching those levels.

* Duensing, of course, lost his spot in the starting rotation in large part because he was so ineffective against right-handed hitters. Through Thursday night he had faced 24 hitters in 2012, 16 right and eight left; that's hardly sufficient evidence to judge if he's fixed that problem. But so far, right-handers are hitting .286/.375/.286 against him, lefties .250/.250/.250.

When he was effective as a starter, it was because he was keeping the ball in the park. That nobody's gotten an extra-base hit off him so far is an encouraging sign.

*Alex Burnett had two shutout innings Thursday and has now worked 8.1 innings without being charged with a run. More striking is that he hasn't walked a hitter yet; control was always an issue for him in 2010-11.

*Jeff Gray and Duensing are the men brought in most often with runners on base. Duensing has stranded four of his five inherited runners; Gray six of his eight. Jared Burton has stranded all three of his inherited runners.

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