Taylor and Tyler Rogers: What these Identical Twin Pitchers Tell Us About Genes, Performance, and the Making of a Major League Ballplayer

Talking to Taylor and Tyler Rogers, who became the first set of identical twins to pitch against each other in a Major League Baseball game in April, can feel like, as Yogi Berra put it, déjà vu all over again.Identical twins are perfect genetic copies of each other, and the physical similarities between the two relief pitchers are striking, their remarks and mannerisms uncannily alike. But they pitch in wildly different ways. Taylor (career ERA: 3.14), who plays for the San Diego Padres, is the more conventional of the two, and throws much harder, topping out around 98 mph. Tyler (career ERA: 3.08), a San Francisco Giant, is a submariner who relies on unusual mechanics and movement to succeed.This divergence might seem curious, but for researchers who study twins, it’s not exactly surprising. The Rogers brothers are mirror image twins, meaning that one is left-handed (Taylor) while the other right-handed (Tyler). Physical reversals like this are common in identical twins—not just handedness but also fingerprints, the direction of their hair whorl, and small physical attributes like birth marks. Identical twins can also differ in all kinds of bigger ways, including intelligence, personality, running speed, height, and weight. In fact, studies of identical twins have become a key tool in the study of human genetics—it’s an ideal way to study the power of environmental influence—and the different paths the Rogers brothers took to the big leagues is a fascinating look into the making of a pro ballplayer. Like many identical twins, Tyler and Taylor share a lot. While sitting in their dugouts before their teams played a Friday night game in May, they noted that they are the same height and nearly the exact same weight. In high school they shared a truck, a Toyota T100 with 200,000 miles on it, and a single cell phone. One got to drive the pickup while the other had the phone; the next week they switched. They separately pointed out that they were dressed the same until they could dress themselves–with one deviation.“We had the same clothes, but they were different colors,” said Taylor. (He was always in blue while Tyler wore green.)Even their differences are similar: the best they could come up with is that they disagree on which of mom’s casseroles the other likes best. The other disagreement, and that might be too strong a word, is about what it means to be on time. “He’s not showing up late,” said Taylor of Tyler, “but he’s just not early.”The Rogers brothers are the tenth set of identical twins to both play in the MLB, and the first since 2003, and it would be easy to assume that they simply hit the genetic lottery—but it was a little more complicated than that, and Tyler’s route had far more twists and turns.“In high school Taylor was the big star—junior year in high school he was all-state and I was on JV. He had big aspirations of being a Major League Baseball player, and I just had fun playing baseball,” said Tyler. “Obviously when you’re on JV and your brother is playing varsity you really don’t think Major League Baseball is that attainable for you.”