Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year, new pitchers

Since I last posted, the Twins have announced the signings of three veteran free-agent pitchers. While none of them are stars, they each meet an important team need.

Tyler Clippard is a right-handed reliever who turns 35 next month. He's bounced around the majors for 13 years; he hasn't stuck in one place for more than a season since 2014. The Twins will be his 10th major league team.

The intriguing thing about Clippard is that he has backward platoon splits -- he's more effective against left-handed hitters than against righties. Last year, for example, lefties slashed .123/.210/.255 against him, rights .227/.292/.455. This is not a one-time fluke; Clippard's career numbers are better against lefties than against righties.

This is an intriguing skill set to add to a bullpen that has depth but also has just one lefty, Taylor Rogers. Most second lefties in major league bullpens are specialists, guys managers don't let face right-handed hitters in game situations. The new restrictions on bullpen moves -- a pitcher must either face three hitters or finish the inning -- severely dampens the value of LOOGYs (Left-handed One-Out GuYs). Clippard can handle the LOOGY role, and be a bit more than that.

Homer Bailey is a right-handed starter who figures to raise the floor of the end of the rotation. He turns 34 in May and he, like Clippard, has 13 years in the majors. He threw no-hitters in 2013 and 2013, at a time when he appeared to be an emerging star with Cincinnati.

Then the injuries hit soon after he signed a lucrative multi-year deal with the Reds. Last season, split between Kansas City and Oakland, was his first full season in a rotation since 2013.  He's not a front-of-the-rotation guy, but he figures to give the Twins starts and innings, and they needed a veteran to fill the rotation between the front end (Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi) and the unchosen prospect at the end. The goal with Bailey is quantity of innings and starts.

Rich Hill is kinda the opposite: the goal is quality innings, and specifically in October. The southpaw will be 40 before he throws a pitch for the Twins, and he won't throw that first pitch until sometime in July at best; he's recovering from October elbow surgery. His contract is said to be very incentive-heavy; low base, but once he actually starts pitching, the rewards mount quickly.

Hill has over the past five years or so established that he has two modes: He's either extremely effective, or he can't pitch at all. The Dodgers, for whom he was toiled the past three-plus seasons, seldom let him pitch more than five innings in a start or get much beyond two turns through the batting order. Expect similar usage with the Twins, but not until mid-summer.

1 comment:

  1. Good commentary. Though that makes 5 veteran pitchers, only 3 are available to start the year. Hill is almost like a $3 Mill loto ticket. His Age plus surgery makes his availability and eventual effectiveness, uncertain.

    I am hoping that the FO will acquire 1 more veteran starter with more upside than Bailey. There are promising young starters in the Twins system, but it may be wishful thinking for any of them to make huge impact this coming year. It would seem them should have resources to at least procure 1 more good starter