The last four World Series champions – Red Sox, Astros, Cubs and Royals – all had something the Twins have never had: a bullpen loaded with flame-throwing pitchers.
A lack of hard-throwing relievers has been a problem for the Twins for years, largely in part because of past regimes' desire to draft control pitchers rather than guys who light up the radar gun, which is borderline mandatory for any team hoping to grind through a long postseason and reach the Fall Classic.
Boston, on any given night, brought the likes of Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel out of the bullpen, all of whom made the catcher's mitt pop with fastballs in the upper 90s. They also had Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi bringing the heat as starters.
What does the Twins current roster have to compare? Next to nothing.
The starting rotation has Jose Berrios, but he doesn't have consistent upper-90s heat. The best chance Minnesota has to feature a starter with a blazing fastball next season is probably Fernando Romero, who used a 95-98 mph fastball to flash potential in 11 starts, although his strikeout numbers weren't very impressive.
More importantly, Minnesota's bullpen severely lacks hard-throwing pitchers.
They traded Ryan Pressly to Houston where he used an upper-90s heater with a big curveball to post a 0.77 ERA while striking out 32 batters in 22 2/3 innings.
Trevor May has a promising future as a late-inning reliever, although he's on record saying he still wants to be a starter. In his first stint back from Tommy John Surgery, May struck out 12.79 batters per nine innings, doing so with an average fastball of 94.1 mph, according to FanGraphs.
Brasier (97 mph), Kelly (98.2 mph), Barnes (96.9 mph) and Kimbrel (97.5 mph) all threw faster fastballs on average than every Twins reliever:
- Taylor Rogers: 93.4 mph
- Kohl Stewart: 93.5 mph
- Matt Magill: 95 mph
- Addison Reed: 91.3 mph
- Gabriel Moya: 90 mph
- Andrew Vasquez: 90.2 mph
- Trevor Hildenberger: 92.6 mph
- John Curtiss: 94.2 mph
- Alan Busenitz: 95.6 mph
So while all of the focus in Minnesota seems to surround the trials and tribulations of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, the real area of focus should be on finding pitchers who throw, as Randy Moss might say, straight gas, homie.
Here are five of the best, hard-throwing relievers, most of whom will be very expensive, that will be free agents this winter. Minnesota should do everything it can to get one or two of them.
1. Zach Britton: the 31-year-old lefty is still among the most dominant relievers in the game, and his fastball averaged 95.6 mph this past season. His strikeout numbers dipped to 7.5 per nine innings, which is concerning, but he's still elite.
2. Cody Allen: his velocity has been trending down the last four years, but he still clocked in an average heater of 94 mph and struck out just 10.75 batters per nine innings for the Indians.
3. Kelvin Herrera: the 29-year-old's fastball averaged 96.9 mph last season with the Nationals and Royals, and he can run it up to around 100 mph.
4. Jeurys Familia: a 29-year-old righty with a fastball that can touch 100 mph (averaged 97 mph) is what every team will be drooling over this offseason. Oakland traded for him; will they let him go?
5. Justin Wilson: at 31, Wilson still brough the heat his fastball in 2018. He averaged 95 mph on his heater with the ability to go higher, and he struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings with the Cubs.
Bonus: Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel: We'd all be surprised to see the Red Sox let go either after their dominance in the playoffs, although letting go of Kimbrel might be easier considering the Sox have so many relievers with closer potential.