|Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn- USA Today Sports|
His first 29 appearances with the Twins were very good. He posted a 1.61 ERA and a 25 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio while picking up 10 saves. It might have been the best stretch of pitching in his big league career. More importantly, he was doing this at a time when the Twins were fighting for the playoffs and Glen Perkins was trying to pitch through an injury before being shutdown for the year.
The 2016 season has seen a very different Jepsen in a Twins uniform. His ERA is north of 5.00 and he's never posted a season ERA that high in any season where he's thrown more than 15 innings. His already surrendered four home runs which is tied for the second most he has ever allowed in a season.
It's clear that something isn't clicking for Mr. Jepsen.
Over the last two seasons, Jepsen has been used a lot. From 2014 through 2015, the only AL pitcher with more than Jepsen's 149 appearances is Bryan Shaw (154 appearances). Jepsen lead AL pitchers in appearances in 2015. He will turn 32 later this summer so there could be a lethal combination of innings adding up with his age.
One of the biggest changes this season might be Jepsen's ability use his fastball effectively. Opponents are hitting .300/.338/.583 off his fastball after posting a measly .546 OPS in 2015. His fastball velocity has also been declining over the last three seasons. During the 2014 campaign, his average velocity stay at 95 mph or higher for nearly every appearance. This season he's been limited to two outings where the average velocity on his fastball was 95 mph.
Jepsen's curveball has been his most effective pitch for striking out batters throughout his career. However, this season there have been limited opportunities to use this pitch because he can't get ahead of batters early in the count. His SO/9 rate is 8.4 for his career and that number has dropped to 6.2 so far this year.
Minnesota's bullpen needs help and the struggles are not limited to Jepsen. The plan was for Trevor May, Jepsen, and Perkins to be a relief pitching trio that could bridge the gap from the starter to the end of the game. That plan hasn't worked yet and it isn't all Jepsen's fault.
Closers get a lot of focus because of the big leverage outs they are asked to get. Jepsen has not been the same pitcher this season and Twins Territory is frustrated with the way this season has started. In the end, Jepsen is going to need to find what life is left in his right arm to show he can continue to be a late inning pitcher.
Otherwise, he might become the fan's punching bag as the losses continue to mount.