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Twinkie Relief

Posted By Eric Seidman On February 5, 2009 @ 8:00 am In Daily Graphings | 4 Comments

In the midst of recording data for the playoff teams in the win values era, I came across something extremely interesting: since 2002, the best bullpen of any team, playoff or not, belongs to the 2006 Minnesota Twins. Johan Santana and his second Cy Young Award garnered much of the attention that year, but the Twinkies relief corps was far and away the best in the league. In fact, in this seven year span, the next closest bullpen fell almost a full win behind.

In 2006, the Twins bullpen produced +99.7 runs above replacement. +99.7! Second place that season was over 20 runs behind. Of playoff teams, only the 2004 Angels at +89.1 and the 2004 Twins at +88.0 came close. The Gardenhire Gang produced +30 runs with the bat and +19 runs in the field, but boasted much of their success thanks to the rotation and bullpen.

Joe Nathan led the ‘pen with +32.2 runs, +3.1 wins. As R.J. pointed out not too long ago, non-closer relievers generally do not sport solid runs or wins above replacement marks, primarily due to the lack of innings. Many relievers fall below the +1 win mark, making it incredibly remarkable that the Twins bullpen in 2006 featured five different relievers at +1 win or better.

After Nathan came Juan Rincon (+1.8 wins), Jesse Crain (+1.2 wins), Dennys Reyes (+1.1 wins), and Pat Neshek (+1.0 wins). And Francisco Liriano even pitched a bit in relief, racking up +0.8 wins. Here are some of their other statistics that season:

Joe Nathan     64 g   1.58 ERA   1.68 FIP   12.5 K/9   2.1 BB/9
Juan Rincon    75 g   2.91 ERA   2.84 FIP    7.9 K/9   2.8 BB/9
Jesse Crain    68 g   3.52 ERA   3.38 FIP    7.0 K/9   2.1 BB/9
Dennys Reyes   66 g   0.89 ERA   2.87 FIP    8.7 K/9   2.7 BB/9
Pat Neshek     32 g   2.19 ERA   2.88 FIP   12.9 K/9   1.5 BB/9

Nathan has continued to be very successful, putting him on a very small list of closers successful for a relatively extended period of time. Unfortunately, the others are yet to experience as much success. Rincon last pitched for the Indians in 2008, and Reyes is a Type B free agent still on the market. Crain and Neshek are still members of the Twins bullpen. By nature, relievers are a fickle bunch, but the 2006 Twinkie relief corps was the best of the last seven seasons.


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