The Minnesota Twins have started the shortened MLB season 8-2. While the offense has started slowly, the pitching staff has absolutely dominated under the watchful eye of pitching coach Wes Johnson. The starting rotation is still working on stretching out, which means the bullpen has been shouldering a larger load. No problem.
One of the biggest keys to creating this absolute monster bullpen has been pitching coach Wes Johnson. Johnson has taken this unit and transformed it from a liability a few years ago to a total lockdown unit in 2020. So what sort of changes has Johnson implemented and what is leading to so much success from? Let’s find out.
THE JOHNSON FACTOR
Johnson had his work cut out for him when he was named pitching coach in 2018. The Twins went 78-84 that season, and had a team ERA of 4.50. Johnson was able to trim that to 4.18 in his first season as pitching coach. So far this year? The Twins boast a 2.70 ERA as a staff (through Monday night’s game), which is 4th best in all of Major League Baseball.
Johnson came to the Twins with a goal of trying to embrace analytics. Wes has long been revered for his ability to help pitchers add to their velocity. On top of that, Johnson has the Twins pitchers focusing on their secondary stuff, and throwing fewer fastballs.
Is this type of success sustainable? The answer is a resounding yes. But how are the top Twins bullpen arms so dominant? The answer is in a variety of ways.
Clippard, who the Twins signed in the offseason, has brought experience and versatility to the Twins bullpen. He has experience as an opener, and a closer, and has thrown almost every inning in between. At 35, he may not possess what he once did in terms of stuff, but Clippard has excelled so far this year with his offspeed stuff. He seemingly generates weak popups with every out he records.
Tyler Clippard since his last Save on July 22, 2018:— Jim Passon 🇵🇷 (@PassonJim) August 2, 2020
Wes Johnson has turned Tyler Duffey into one of the most dominant relievers in baseball in just over 2 years. As a converted starter, Duffey came to the bullpen with a full arsenal of pitches. After removing a few from his repertoire, Duffey has relied on his fastball and lethal slider. He has become adept at missing bats, I mean good luck trying to hit that slider.
— parker hageman (@HagemanParker) August 1, 2020
Trevor is another converted starter, but just seems much better suited for a late inning role. May has benefited from an uptick in velocity since joining the bullpen, and has the bulldog mentality required to handle high stress innings. May has dominated hitters with his explosive fastball and can lean on his offspeed pitches when necessary. But my favorite part about what he brings to this bullpen is the hunger to keep trying new things.
What is the next thing for Trevor May? How can he take another step forward in his career? https://t.co/55w35V1rMQ— Twins Daily (@twinsdaily) August 1, 2020
Stashak is the youngest member of this core Twins bullpen group. But make no mistake, Stashak definitely deserves the innings he’s getting. After setting a Major League Record most strikeouts before his second career walk, Stashak is fearless. If you step into the box with Stashak on the mound, be ready. He is going to come right after you.
With so many options in the Twins bullpen that feature serious fastballs, it makes sense that there would be one or two options to slow things down. Romo has been around forever, and like Clippard, has a ton of valuable experience in many roles. An at-bat against Romo is going to feature nasty sliders and a frustrating lack of speed. Romo doesn’t need a blazing fastball to get you out. He can do that with movement and location.
— Michael Augustine (@AugustineMLB) August 3, 2020
All of these bullpen arms give way to the guy who finishes off most Twins wins. Rodgers has become one of the best closers in baseball. His explosive fastball is accented perfectly by his devastating slider. As previous Twins closers like to make the ninth inning eventful, Rogers usually wastes no time shutting the door. He has no fear and is the perfect leader for this group.
All of this has led to the best and deepest bullpen in Major League Baseball. Some of the adjustments made by this group have been mechanical, but others have been mentality changes. And all of them have turned this group into an absolute monster. We owe all of the success to Wes Johnson. Now hopefully Wes can fix the starting rotation.
Seth Toupal | Minnesota Sports Fan