Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Twins Causing Trouble With The Curve

Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball teams always looking for pitchers who can light up the radar gun. However, in recent years there has been a resurgence in pitchers utilizing the curveball. Pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, and Jake Arrieta have been dominant because of their off-speed offering. Even young pitchers like Lance McCullers have relied on the curveball to be effective.

Minnesota has been home to some of the greatest curveball throwers in history. Now, the Twins have their own core of pitchers utilizing one of baseball's oldest pitches. As the curveball makes a comeback, can the Twins cause some trouble with the curve?

Berrios Riding The Curve
It's no secret that Berrios struggled during his rookie campaign. In 14 starts, he allowed 12 home runs and posted an 8.02 ERA. Things have turned around this season as he has an impressive 2.84 ERA while having a higher strikeout rate and walking fewer batters. Something has clicked for the young pitcher and his curveball might be one of the reasons for the dramatic turnaround.

During the 2016 campaign, Berrios threw his curveball 21.6% of the time. He was consistently falling behind batters and this meant he couldn't turn to his off-speed offerings. So far this season, he has been able to use his curveball almost 30% of the time. This pitch can continue to be a weapon if he can stay ahead of batters and avoid fastball counts.

Berrios isn't the only Twins pitcher taking advantage of the curve.

Twirling Relief Trio
Minnesota ranks in the top-10 for curveball usage this season and only four AL teams have a higher curveball percentage. Tyler Duffey, Buddy Boshers, and Taylor Rogers have all used their curveball for close to a third of their pitches. Duffey has been one of Minnesota's best relief options this season as he's posted career best marks in SO/9, WHIP, and ERA. In his first season as a relief pitcher, he has seen his fast ball velocity increase by almost two miles per hour which helps to set-up his off-speed offerings.

Rogers has also seen an improvement in some of his peripheral numbers while being used in some late inning situations. Boshers has spent the majority of the season at Rochester. However, he struck out nearly nine batters per nine innings at Triple-A and has a spiffy 0.818 WHIP in his time with the Twins.

This trio along with Berrios are following some of the best curveballs in history.

Minnesota's Curveball History
Two of the most feared curveball pitchers in history have worn Minnesota Twins jerseys. Camilo Pascual started his career as a 20-year old with the Washington Senators. When the Twins moved to Minnesota, Pascual was in the midst of four-straight All-Star seasons. He'd lead the AL in WAR in 1959 and 1962.

Ted Williams, who is considered one of the game's greatest hitters, had high praise for Pascual. "He had the best curveball I ever saw. You could hear it." He went on to say it sounded like ripping silk and that Pascual "had the most feared curveball in the American League for 18 years." Besides Williams' praise, fellow Hall of Fame hitter Al Kaline said, "Pascual's curveball was big, sharp and fast. Most players couldn't hit it."

While Pascual was terrific, Bert Blyleven rode his curveball all the way to the Hall of Fame. He had nine seasons where he was in the top-10 for WAR and he lead the AL in WAR for Pitchers in 1973 and 1981. Jim Palmer said, "I was amazed at how Blyleven's curve seemed to change direction not once, but twice on its way to the plate." Phil Roof, one of Blyleven's catchers, could hear the pitcher's middle finger snap against his palm since he threw his curve with so much force.

The curveball might be back and it could be a key pitch as the Twins fight to stay in contention in the weeks ahead.

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