This isn’t meant to be particularly controversial. No matter who you are, your plan for the Twins bullpen this season was silly. I include myself, Twins writers, fans, and the Twins front office. No matter what your plan was, it just wasn’t going to hold up when the season began.
There was an overwhelming wave of fan revulsion at the Twins’ seeming refusal to invest heavily in the free agent or trade market for relievers, but in retrospect, two of the best bullpen guys signed this year were Adam Ottavino, who went to the Yankees, and Blake Parker, a bargain signing in Minnesota.
The also figured some players would be stabilizing forces in the bullpen, either this year or last. Trevor Hildenberger has been calamitous, while Addison Reed was jettisoned, unable to find his old form. On the other hand, do you think the Twins really expected Ryne Harper to be as effective as he has been this year?
There is so much volatility over short sample sizes out of the bullpen, it’s easy for a couple things to go wrong and sink a pitcher’s entire season, or conversely, to make another pitcher look much better than they’d ever been before. And then, their performance is further dictated by usage, which reflects on the performance of the rotation.
There really isn’t a part of a baseball team that fails to abide by strategic planning like a bullpen. All the wringing of hands this offseason seems for naught. There isn’t really a single big move that the Twins could have made that would have clearly made the pen better, in hindsight. Still, it’s clear that the bullpen could be better.
The answer is to be more vague with bullpen plans. This won’t sell with writers who want to have solutions to propose, or front offices who want to seem like they are confident, or fans who want to make a splash. The vague plan is to have depth and options. Get a lot of players that are at or near major league ready, and you might get a brilliant year out of Fernando Abad or Ryne Harper. The phenoms and stalwarts are more often grown from within, like Taylor Rogers, or Joe Nathan who came over early in his career via trade. getting more specific with a wish list will only make you feel foolish in retrospect.