WHEW, at least they gained a split. Special mention and thanks to the catwalk at Tropicana Field. I thought it was an impressive series for the Twins starters, an average series for the Twins offense and a poor series for the Twins bullpen. Nevertheless, a split on the road against one of the better teams in all of baseball is a win. I do want to address the bullpen though, and question a few of Gardenhire's decision, particularly in the first two games of the series.
For illustrative purposes, let's break down the Twins bullpen ERA by months of the season:
Twins had the 6th best team ERA in all of baseball for the month, a good K/BB ratio, a low number of HRs given up and most importantly, 3 wins and 7 saves. (3.16 FIP, 4.22 xFIP)
In May they dropped a little bit, to 7th best in the Majors, with only 7 wins or saves against 6 losses or blown saves. The ERA was still serviceable at 3.38, but relievers gave up 8 HRs in 72 innings of work. (4.02 FIP, 4.15 xFIP)
Easily the Twins best month of the year as far as the relief goes. 9 HRs in 78 innings is a bit concerning, but an overall 2.31 ERA was fantastic. Too bad the starting pitching wasn't a little better in June otherwise the Twins might have staved off the hard-charging White Sox. (4.22 FIP, 4.66 xFIP)
During the month of July, the Twins bullpen ranked 21st in ERA in the Majors. I don't recall any injuries in July, and it would be tough to argue that this team's relievers have been overused so it's tough to come up with a reason for this sudden decline, especially after such a good month of June. A 4.18 ERA isn't terrible, but it's not gonna help you win the close games. Despite the bullpen struggles, the Twins managed a 15-11 record in July. (3.65 FIP, 4.50 xFIP)
So far, this month, the Twins bullpen has been even worse than July, currently 19th in the Majors this month. The reason for the mediocre ERA this month is somewhat obvious when you look at the stats. 16 strikeouts to 12 walks. The Twins relievers have walked more batters than any other team this month. (5.55 FIP, 4.21 xFIP)
During the last two games of the recently concluded Rays series, I held my breath when the ball was handed to the pen and beat my poor couch senseless when the relievers coughed up the leads. When Capps blew the save on Wednesday I became even more enraged about the trade they made to get him. And how do you give up a grand-slam to JASON BARTLETT?? (Mahay, I'm looking at you)
The ERA from month-to-month tells you one thing, and then depending on how much stock you put in the advanced sabermetrics, you get a completely different story from FIP and xFIP. ERA tells you that the Twins bullpen started out the season well and has declined over the past month or so. FIP and xFIP tell you that the Twins bullpen was incredibly 'lucky' for 2 months and now that is catching up with them (though their xFIP in a small August sample-size is the lowest it's been since May). The bottomline is that right now the Twins have a fairly mediocre bullpen, and in close games it's costing them. It makes a little more sense why they went after a reliever near the trade deadline, but acquiring Matt Capps doesn't really do much to change the bullpen as a whole. If I'm going by the numbers, my advice to Gardy would be less Ron Mahay, more Jose Mijares, oh, and when Baker has thrown 8 innings of SHUTOUT baseball and has only thrown 105 pitches, don't take him out. Please.
Pitching matchups for this weekend's series against Cleveland:
(8/6) Francisco Liriano vs. Jeanmar Gomez
(8/7) Carl Pavano vs. Fausto Carmona
(8/8) Brian Duensing vs. David Huff