Quite simply put, the Twins bullpen was he worst in baseball in 2011. While this came as a shock to many Twins fans that were used to a consistent level of excellence from their relief pitching corps, it really should not have.
The Twins let Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes walk after the 2010 season, a foursome that have combined for a combined career ERA of 3.50 and a combined career WHIP of 1.24. They were not actively replaced, the Twins choose instead to go with organizational options such as Jim Hoey (acquired on the J.J Hardy trade and waived this off-season), Alex Burnett (incredibly average over his first 3 seasons), Chuck James, Jeff Manship and Dusty Hughes. The result was a bullpen that ranked dead last in the majors, with a combined ERA of 4.51 and an opponent batting average of .270 – eek. The Twins corps also allowed opponents a .350 OBP, had a WHIP of 1.46 and a K/BB of only 1.66.
Remarkably the bullpen, perhaps the most bitter tasting of all the failures of the Twins last year, especially given its previous years of consistent success in the one area as yet unaddressed by Terry Ryan his off-season. While the middle infield, outfield and starting pitching have undergone some personnel change (with the recent addition of dependable ground ball machine Jason Marquis), the Twins bullpen if the season were to start today, might look something like this;
Matt Capps – Closer
Glen Perkins – Setup
Anthony Swarzak – Long relief
Brian Duensing – Lefty specialist
The remaining platoon would be chosen from the likes of;
The core of this bullpen is certainly solid. Matt Capps, while perhaps not as spectacular as his 2010 numbers made him look, is certainly a good deal more capable than his 2011 made him look. Glen Perkins proved himself an outstanding setup man last season, despite a sky high BAbip of .333. Duensing has proven historically that he can be highly effective at retiring lefties and Swarzak produced some solid starts for the big league club last season.
The questions surround the remaining spots in the bullpen, the candidates to fill them being plagued by either inexperience, or mediocrity at the major league level. The Twins could certainly use a veteran presence with the remaining $1-2 million left in their budget to sure u a bullpen lacking both experience and confidence.