"Give me a place to stand," the ancient mathematician and engineer Archimedes supposedly said of leverage, "and I will move the world."
Rocco Baldelli has the place to stand in the Twins dugout. The issue is how stout a lever the Twins bullpen can be.
Minnesota's manager has, more than 60 games into his rookie season, deployed a no-name relief corps in a nonconventional manner.
And it has worked. In a season marked around the majors by bullpen meltdowns and failures, the Twins have — despite a notable hiccup last week — largely avoided blowing leads.
Entering Sunday, the Twins bullpen had been charged with just four blown saves. Only three teams had fewer, and they all had far fewer opportunities to cough up leads.
Still, the public perception is that the Minnesota bullpen is its weak point, and the public perception isn't necessarily wrong. Minnesota's combined relief ERA as the weekend opened was more than a run higher than that of its starters.
Perhaps more to the point, much of the bullpen is made up of castoffs. Of the eight relievers on the active roster for Saturday's loss, three were signed as minor league free agents, another was nontendered by his previous club, and yet another had never been on a 40-man roster before his call up.
I've no doubt that, if Baldelli followed a conventional use of his bullpen and made his best reliever — Taylor Rogers — his closer, Rogers would be widely viewed as a star. One-inning closers get saves, and saves get attention.
But Rogers doesn't even lead the Twins in saves. Blake Parker — cut loose by the Angels last fall despite their chronic bullpen problems — does. TV play-by-play man Dick Bremer keeps calling Parker the Twins closer, but that's not accurate either.
Baldelli doesn't have a closer. Maybe he would if the Twins had won the reputed bidding war for free agent Craig Kimbrel, but they didn't (and I continue to believe they are fortunate in that).
What Baldelli has are a few leverage arms — not as many as he did coming out of spring training, and not as many as he needs.
Baldelli's Big Four in the 'pen has lost Trevor Hildenberger, who is struggling in Triple A. Trevor May is chiefly used to get out of jams in the middle innings.
And Parker and Rogers are on call from the seventh inning on, frequently for stints of more than an inning.
On Wednesday, Parker entered for the seventh with a two-run lead. He promptly allowed three runs on two homers, and the Twins never caught up.
Former closer Glen Perkins observed on Twitter:
Blake Parker has been struggling a bit since before tonite but i’m just gonna throw it out there that maybe, just maybe, throwing guys out there for random innings is easier on paper than it is in actual game situations.
Perkins, of course, thrived as a one-inning closer for several seasons. But describing Parker's use as "random" isn't accurate.
Parker was pitching in the seventh because it was a game situation against the middle of the order. If not him, who? Matt Magill, perhaps, or Mike Morin or Tyler Duffey — pitchers in whom Baldelli has less confidence. And that to save Parker for later in the game, for a situation that might well be less important.
Obviously, Parker didn't get the job done in the seventh. That doesn't mean the strategy was wrong.
The Twins could certainly use more quality arms in their bullpen, and we can expect that the front office will seek reinforcments in the next couple of months. But it would be best if the relievers don't expect to be pigeon-holed into specific innings.