Note: Shortly after this story was published, the Twins designated Tyler Duffey for assignment. His future with the team is to be determined.
Would anyone on planet Earth experience anything other than nausea if Emilio Pagan, Tyler Duffey, Trevor McGill or Griffin Jax were asked to pitch in the playoffs?
If a pitcher has a track record of imploding, they can't be trusted. That's especially true in the postseason, and unfortunately the Twins have a bullpen stocked with rotten product.
Pagan started the season as Minnesota's de facto closer, which was alarming considering his brutal time with the Twins has made him Major League Baseball's most crushable reliever. According to Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic, Pagan has served up 29 homers since 2020, giving him the worst home run rate of every reliever in the majors over the past three seasons.
Duffey deserves respect for all the time he's spent with the Twins, and let's not forget his recent streak of 13 scoreless appearances. But the violent crack of the bat is an unmistakable noise when he's on the mound.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. nearly split a ball in half when he unloaded on Duffey with a 115 mph, three-run homer Thursday night. Manny Machado smoked Duffey for a three-run shot last weekend, and Duffey was a dud in Milwaukee the appearance before that.
Baldelli would be brazen to bring Duffey into a meaningful game again.
McGill? Love the 99 mph fastball and sharp breaking ball, but Baldelli must've gone to the bathroom and missed the near-homer he served up to George Springer and the stinging double by Guerrero, because the skipper brought McGill out for another inning he immediately gave up three hits, setting the stage for the Duffey disaster.
Jax? He's made 39 appearances and it can be argued that he was average to awful in nine of them. Do you really want a guy who gets lit up 25% of the time on the mound in the sixth or seventh inning of a close game?
That leaves four trustworthy relievers: Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Michael Fulmer and Caleb Thielbar.
Thielbar has been awesome outside of three blowup games where 11 of the 19 runs he's allowed this season were scored. The blowup thing is nerve-wracking, but he leads the majors with an average exit velocity of 83.1 mph and his 23.6% hard hit rate ranks second.
Duffey's hard hit rate, oh by the way, is 43.1%.
There's no denying that Lopez – an All-Star with the Orioles before getting traded to Minnesota – coupled with the rocket-armed Jhoan Duran are an intimidating 1-2 punch to finish games. Fulmer isn't on the level of Lopez or Duran, but the former AL Rookie of the Year has been outstanding.
Want the greatest stat ever? According to Baseball Savant, of 109 batted balls against Fulmer this season, only ONE was barreled. He's tied with Milwaukee's Devin Williams (All-Star) and New York's Edwin Diaz (All-Star) for the best barrel rate in the majors.
Fulmer is in the 100th percentile for barrel rate. That's a trustworthy arm.
Thursday night's bullpen disaster featuring Pagan, McGill and Duffey against the Blue Jays is the perfect example of why Baldelli and the Twins only have a chance to make a run this season if they lean hard on Duran, Lopez, Fulmer and Thielbar.
Bringing anyone else into a close game would be like jumping from a plane without a parachute and hoping to survive.
Of course, all of this is rendered pointless unless Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan, Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer and whomever else the Twins dig up from the grave can give them at least five innings against the best lineups in baseball. Gulp.