Monday, January 14, 2013

How should Glen Perkins be used?

During the last couple of offseasons, there have been some question marks about the role of Glen Perkins. In 2008 and 2009, Perkins had struggled as a starter so the Twins needed to find some kind of role for him. The 2010 team didn't really have a role for Perkins and he spent most of the year as a starter in Rochester. He finally found his spot in the bullpen in 2011 and things have been on the upswing ever since that point.

This offseason there is little doubt about his role for 2013; Perkins will be the closer for the Twins at the start of the year. It will be the first year that Perkins has started the season as the closer. Last year he served as set-up man before Matt Capps started dealing with injuries and poor play. One of the biggest strengths of last year's squad was the bullpen and Perkins hopes that continues in 2013.

Over the last two seasons, Perkins has been one of the best relief pitchers in the American League. He has a low 2.52 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and 143 SO over 132 innings pitched. As a relief pitcher, Perkins has been able to add a little velocity to his pitches and this has helped to make him more dominant. Last season was a career year as he saw his WHIP drop to 1.038 and he was able to increase his SO/9 rate to 10.0 for the first time in his career.

Twins fans have become accustom to having shutdown closers for much of the last two decades. The lineage of closers goes back to Rick Aguilera and stretches down through Eddie Guardado, Joe Nathan, and now Mr. Perkins. With a dominant closer, there can be some question surrounding the use of this type of player. How should a manager use a dominant bullpen arm?

With Ron Gardenhire as the manager, the Twins have followed the standard of limiting the closer to getting the last three outs of the game. There have been some exceptions to this rule but for the most part it has been true. Using a closer exclusively in the ninth inning is not necessarily a bad thing but there can be some advantages to thinking outside the box when it comes to the late innings of games.

Last season when Matt Capps was dealing with some injury issues at the end of June, it looked like the Twins might be going with a two-pronged approach to finish off games. Minnesota seemed to be looking at the match-ups and trying to decided if the left-handed throwing Perkins would be the better option or if right-handed hurler Jared Burton would be the way to go. This didn't last long as Burton would pick up a handful of saves during the rest of the season but Perkins became the standard as the ninth inning man.

The idea of using two different pitchers as closers seems like it could be intriguing to attempt especially on a team trying to rebuild after back-to-back 90 loss seasons. There could be situations where a left-handed pitcher would be better and other times where a right-handed man is needed. With how well Perkins and Burton were throwing last season, it seemed like a win-win situation.

There are also going to be situations where the closer might be needed for more than one out. What if there is a tough string of batters due up in the eighth inning? Should a manager throw a lesser pitcher out there to face the heart of the order or put his best bet in the bullpen? It seems much more logical to have a team's best pitcher out there in a tougher situation.

It might also be in the best interest of the team to let a closer get more than three outs to record a save. If trouble arises in the eighth inning, the closer should be able to come in and attempt to finish that inning and get the last three outs of the ninth. Out of Perkins 16 saves in 2012, only one of them was over one inning of work. In fact, he only recorded more than three outs in a game on four occasions last season. It doesn't seem like Gardenhire is going to allow his closer into the game early and maybe it doesn't matter with a last place team.

Even if the Twins are building toward 2014, it would be nice to see a few more victories in 2013. The Twins had a great bullpen in 2012 and it could help to be a little more creative when it comes to finishing games. Perkins could turn out to be the best closer in franchise history but the team should still be smart about the way they use him. Getting more than three outs, using him earlier in the game, and having Burton pick up a save or two could help the team to find more success next year.

What are your thoughts on using a closer earlier than the ninth inning? What about the two closer approach? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

No comments: