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Article: Do The Twins Need A Proven Closer?

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Decision On Paul Molitor Looming

UPDATE (5:30 p.m. on Thursday) - According to Charley Walters (former Twins pitcher and Pioneer Press writer), Paul Molitor WILL return to the Twins under a new contract. A tweet from Mike Berardino said 'I'm told Paul Molitor has indeed been invited back for 2018, but source w/direct knowledge says 'nothing has been decided or agreed to' yet.
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When Paul Molitor was hired as the Twins manager, he was given a three-year contract. His contract ran through this season, so he is technically approaching free agency. The legend from St. Paul has been in the Twins organization for most of the nearly 20 years since he retired from his Hall of Fame career.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took the helm of their new positions with the understanding that Paul Molitor would be the manager for at least the 2017 season, finishing his contract. That season is now over and the front office must decide whether they want to keep Molitor as manager or bring in their own choice for skipper.
Image courtesy of Daniel Mick
In the very near future, the Twins organization will make a decision on Paul Molitor. They will either sign him to another multi-year deal, or they will tell him that they are not going to renew his contract and a search will begin.

One of the reasons given for letting Doug Mientkiewicz know right away that he was not going to be brought back as a minor league manager was so that he would have time to look for and potentially obtain another job. Managers and coaches are generally fired or let go within days of the end of the season so that the team can start its search right away.

So the big question that the Twins have to answer in the very near future is whether or not to bring back Paul Molitor as the team’s manager. By all indications, Molitor would like to come back and continue the progress made this season. Darren Wolfson reiterated on 1500ESPN’s Wild Card post game show Tuesday night that as of very recently, Molitor had not yet been approached about an extension.

So should the Twins bring back Paul Molitor, or should Derek Falvey and Thad Levine move forward with their own managerial choice?

There are many ways to look at it, so I did a little research to try to find out what makes a good manager. While it’s easier to think of what makes a good baseball manager, some principals required for a good manager in the business world should also be considered. The front office has said on several occasions that they hope to bring in people and ideas from a variety of disciplines in an attempt to obtain new ideas and new ways of thinking.

So here are a few characteristics that make a good manager in business or on the baseball field. As you read them, think about which Molitor may or may not fully meet the requirements of.

Here’s the reality, however. Much of what makes a good manager in any business can not be seen by outside observers.Much of what makes Paul Molitor a good manager (or not, if that's the thought) happens behind closed doors. I am fortunate to have spent some time in the clubhouse during spring training and a couple of times each year at Target Field. I see a cohesive group. I see a manager who has the respect of his players. I talk to players who speak very highly of their manager. But we see and hear only a small part. What happens in the clubhouse or on the phone or when no media is present and no fans are around is where much leadership tends to happen. So as much as we hear and as much as I may present below, it is only a small part of what makes a good manager or leader.

#1 - Goals and Results Oriented

In the “real” world, companies set goals for sales, revenues, safety and more. Often managers are judged by how their groups perform relative to those goals. A performance review may have categories such as Doesn’t Meet Expectations, Meets Expectations and Exceeds Expectations.

While Twins players, Molitor and the front office often said that they didn’t want to set any sort of Wins expectations or limitations for the season, you have to think that Molitor and the Twins exceeded expectations in 2017. You can also say that they didn’t meet expectations in 2016, and that they met expectations in 2015 when they were in playoff contention until the final weekend.

What we don’t know in this category is what goals and results and expectations were presented by Falvey and Levine to Molitor. Wins and losses are ultimately what matter in the big leagues, but the front office may have other metrics or data points that it will factor into their decision. Talent level factors in as well.

Clearly the big picture goal as laid out by the front office from the time they were hired and introduced is a sustainable, championship-caliber team and organization. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine need to determine if it is Paul Molitor who can take them there.

#2 - Assertiveness

Does a manager have to be assertive? I guess there can be several levels of assertiveness, but in the end the key is that everyone knows that the manager is in charge. While Molitor generally exudes a quiet, calm demeanor, his players understand that he’s in charge. He has clearly gained confidence leading this team, and the team responded.

On the other side, Molitor certainly is aware of who his bosses are and works well with them too.

#3 - Delegation

While the manager has to understand and pass on the organization’s goals while being in charge, he also has to delegate responsibilities. The Twins brought in a few new coaches in 2017, and Molitor certainly seems to have allowed them to do their jobs.

There appeared to be clear responsibilities for each coach. There appeared to be more communication. We read and heard about how Molitor worked closely each day with the front office and his coaches in developing game plans, understanding the advanced statistics and how to implement. The challenges have been taking the numbers, making them meaningful and figuring out how to present them to the players to make them usable.

Sure, the global vision for the organization now comes from Derek Falvey. There was a lot of oversight and evaluation in his first season. How that vision was forwarded to Molitor and from him to the players is how Molitor’s delegation abilities will likely be evaluated.

#4 Leadership

It’s a very broad term and ties to the areas above, but Molitor was the leader. He seemed to understand the strengths of his players and coaches and worked with them individually to bring out their best. He showed good patience through player struggles, delegated work to his coaches and motivated the players. Several players had tough stretches and yet look at how many Twins players had breakout years or returned to form.

Any worker will respond best to a boss who they believe is real, is authentic. They need to believe that their boss has their back and truly cares about them. They need to know that their boss has been where they are. They need to believe that their boss (manager) is working as hard at his craft and understanding the game and preparing as they are. They want to know that he has a passion for what he does and a will to be great.

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Those four characteristics are filled with things that we as fans can’t know. We don’t know how Molitor would grade in these categories. We see pieces of them when FSN shows him in the dugout. We get snippets of Molitor’s personality and thought-process from his post-game interviews or the quotes he provides to the media before and after the games.

We can’t see what is happening behind the scenes, but we do see what happens in a game, at least on the field.

We can see the lineups every day. Obviously. But that gives us 162 (and with the Wild Card game, 163) data points. While we aren’t going to agree with every spot in every lineup, there can be trends. Brian Dozier stayed in the leadoff role. Joe Mauer was primarily batting second. After that, it would change from month to month, week to week and sometimes game by game. Molitor was clearly developing and showing a willingness to go with the hot hand, to play matchups, to break up lefties, to use platoon splits and more. He gave Jorge Polanco four games off and had him working on things ,and when he returned to the lineup, he took off. By season’s end, he often had Polanco, Rosario, Escobar and Buxton hitting 3-6. Think about that. That’s a willingness to adapt. Of course there are several unknowns that go into it, such as family situations, minor illnesses, who is taking great rounds of batting practice or impressing the coaches with extra work.

Bunting… yes, we all hate bunting. At least we hate bunting in most situations. The Twins bunted as much as (OK, more than) any team in baseball. How did the front office feel about that? Obviously Falvey, Levine, that analytics folks, Jeff Pickler were involved in those daily discussions, and I’m certain it would have come up in discussions, yet Molitor continued to bunt quite often. Does that mean that the front office approved of that strategy, or they could use it as a negative data point for Molitor? And even if it is, relative to everything else, how important is it?

Many question Molitor’s bullpen usage, much as they questioned Ron Gardenhire’s bullpen usage. I wonder if Tom Kelly’s bullpen usage (or Sam Mele’s) would have been questioned to this extent had Twitter and other social media been around in those years. That’s pretty normal.

To be fair, there were not a lot of givens in the Twins bullpen this year. Brandon Kintzler earned his closer’s role and did well. Taylor Rogers was fantastic against lefties and righties in a great first half. He probably was used too much, but things were going so well. It took Molitor a few too many outings to realize that his splits against right-handers caught up to the mean, but that’s also understandable. Molitor stood behind Matt Belisle through his early-season struggles and that paid off. He didn’t use Trevor Hildenberger or Alan Busenitz in high-leverage situations for a while, but as they got the job done in low-leverage situations, Molitor trusted them more and they responded well. Over 162 games, it’s going to be impossible for any manager to use a bullpen in an ideal manner. And, how much of a role does (or should) the pitching coach have in bullpen assignments?

These are just some of the in-game decisions that a manager can be judged upon, and even for each of them we don’t necessarily understand the full picture.

So, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have a tough decision to make. Or maybe they don’t. What do you think? Should Paul Molitor be brought back? Should Paul Molitor be brought back? Will he? At this point, only Falvey and Levine know, but the rest of us will learn soon. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that the Twins front office has given it more thought and likely had many more data points than we do.

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130 Comments

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Deduno Abides
Oct 05 2017 03:26 PM
I would replace Molitor, because, while he has improved, there are likely better managers out there. It's not like business, where often just being a competent manager makes someone look like an amazing standout. There are only thirty baseball managers - each of them should be fantastic.

Btw, I base my opinion only slightly at most on bullpen usage. It seems like nearly every manager is criticized for bullpen usage - leaving the starter in too long, taking the starter out too soon, picking the wrong reliever, riding one reliever, not using the best reliever enough, etc. Memory is that Sparky Anderson was criticized for his bullpen choices and that people would be horrified by how Earl Weaver ran his bullpen. Last year, Joe Maddon - an innovative and excellent manager - was criticized for how he used the best reliever in the world while winning the World Series. Therefore, I cut Molitor a lot of slack here.

My main issue is that he seems to be a learner, instead of an innovator, and sometimes he's slow or hesitant (not meaning slow as not smart, because he's plenty smart) at that, which means that he will never come up with something that gives the Twins an advantage. Just learning how to be competent isn't good enough. Secondarily, until the last month, he seemed to be a below-average (for a major league manager) leader, and I'm not sure that the last month was enough to make me think he had become an above-average leader.

 

 

If true, being good news is definitely a matter of opinion.

    • Jerr, nicksaviking, David HK and 2 others like this

 

What do you think these systems are that the front office wants to implement and that Molitor would be incapable of executing?

 

Nobody knows except the front office at this point, right? I haven't seen any plan. Have you? Does it matter? I stand of the same opinion. I think Molitor had his three years.

    • David HK likes this
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Deduno Abides
Oct 05 2017 04:51 PM
Was just about to post reasons to keep him (I would have brought in someone new).

1. He's not bad.
2. He's familiar with the players, so less churn would occur.
3. The players seem to like him.
4. He finished the season showing good leadership.
5. Many players showed improvement this year.
    • Danchat and DocBauer like this

Guess that takes care of that.

Per LEN3, whole staff is back too. Kind of surprising.

 

Per LEN3, whole staff is back too. Kind of surprising.

Well they did get the team to the playoffs. That hasn't happened for years. Besides some of the staff have already been replaced.

    • DocBauer and dbminn like this

Nobody knows except the front office at this point, right? I haven't seen any plan. Have you? Does it matter? I stand of the same opinion. I think Molitor had his three years.


Of course I haven't seen the plan, but I also have seen no reason to think Molitor can't adjust and adapt.

I would be fine with a new manager, that would be the front office's prerogative. But I do think outside of a handful of bunts Molitor did a really good job this year. Handled a bad bullpen well and oversaw great development from the young hitters.

I defend him here because I find most of the criticisms to be weak, unconvincing, and often contradictory. There is not much reason to think a different manager would be all that different (aside from a handful of bunts), and perhaps even worse.

I'm glad he's getting another year, I'll be the optimist and say the combination of Molitor and Falvey/Levine might bring out much good in both.
    • h2oface, DocBauer and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this

Well they did get the team to the playoffs. That hasn't happened for years. Besides some of the staff have already been replaced.


I thought they would replace Allen.
    • Twins33 and Sconnie like this
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yarnivek1972
Oct 05 2017 05:27 PM

I thought they would replace Allen.


Nothing stops them from making a change early next season if the results aren’t where Falvine believes they should be.
    • drjim, spinowner and Broker like this

Oh, please, God, no....

 

To quote a well-known Twin, "this sucks right now."

    • Thrylos likes this

Dang it, he cost plenty of games this year, (and last year, and the year before), with awful lineups and mind-numbing in-game management.Gee, maybe the Twinks would have had home field in that playoff if not for games given away during the season.

 

I have not the time nor the wherewithal to go through all the game threads, but I do remember countless times, after a loss, when the "this one's on Molly" quotes were abundant.

 

This sucks right now.And it'll suck next year, too.

    • Thrylos likes this

 

Well they did get the team to the playoffs. That hasn't happened for years. Besides some of the staff have already been replaced.

 

Well... they did improve all of 2 games in two years. From 83 wins to 85 wins. On pace for another game improvement next year?

 

If 2016 was an aberration, as many want to suggest, and I will say it is for the benefit of the doubt, then the progress has still been very minimal for two years.

    • Thrylos likes this

Yes - hire him again.I am not anxious for a new genius when the team has come together under his leadership.I like some continuity for a young team.

    • brvama, DocBauer and crop duster like this

Congrats to Paul Molitor. Well deserved new contract!

    • Otwins, Dman, bizaff and 4 others like this

I guarantee there is a portion of the fan base that would be unhappy with the manager whoever he is. 

 

Molitor did fine with his decisions. The players, usually the bullpen didnt do their job.

    • bizaff and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this
Congrats to Molitor. Now let's see how he does with a (more) competent pitching staff.
    • Dozier's Glorious Hair likes this

 

Congrats to Molitor. Now let's see how he does with a (more) competent pitching staff.

To be more competent they had to be competent first :-)

 

The overall pitching staff was 11th out of 15 AL teams in FIP and WAR.

The rotation was 10th out of 15 AL teams in FIP and WAR and 12th in IP.

The bullpen was 11th out of 15 AL teams in FIP and 13th in WAR.

    • Thrylos and Mike Sixel like this

This was the right move to make. Molitor had a squad that was falling apart at the end of July and they pulled themselves back into shape and made the playoffs. Buxton melted down in April, but he figured things out. Polanco had a meltdown of his own in July, but then something in his head clicked. Berrios was just garbage in 2016 and he rebounded back to where we'd though he might be. I don't know if Molitor was responsible for any of these, but so many players took steps forward through 2017 and I have to give the manager some credit for it.

 

Don't get me wrong though - the incessant sacrifice bunting, poor bullpen usage (yes, he had poor options, but there were certain points of complete ineptitude, like using lefties wrong, leaving a pitcher in too long and allowing a runner on at the start of an inning, using Belisle (early season) / Pressly / Rogers at the wrong times), and relatively poor lineups (I will still not get over Gimenez in the #4 spot), Molitor has a lot to improve. But he deserves more chances to figure these things out.

To be more competent they had to be competent first :-)

The overall pitching staff was 11th out of 15 AL teams in FIP and WAR.
The rotation was 10th out of 15 AL teams in FIP and WAR and 12th in IP.
The bullpen was 11th out of 15 AL teams in FIP and 13th in WAR.


Right. What I meant was, "more competent than what they had this year." So (relatively) competent would have been more accurate.
    • jimmer likes this
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ChiTownTwinsFan
Oct 05 2017 07:29 PM

Per LEN3, whole staff is back too. Kind of surprising.


I'm not a Molitor fan but I'd have been okay one way or the othe, but the entire coaching staff? Really? Hmmm.
    • Mike Sixel, Sconnie and wsnydes like this
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Deduno Abides
Oct 05 2017 07:49 PM

To be more competent they had to be competent first :-)
 
The overall pitching staff was 11th out of 15 AL teams in FIP and WAR.
The rotation was 10th out of 15 AL teams in FIP and WAR and 12th in IP.
The bullpen was 11th out of 15 AL teams in FIP and 13th in WAR.


I know, lazy me, but has anyone checked out a comparison between the first half staff and the second half staff? It seems like a much better staff, with a lot of different pitchers. Second half Berrios > first half Hughes; second half Colon > first half Santiago; second half Gibson > first half Gibson; second half Hildenberger > first half Tonkin; second half Matt Belisle >> first half Bat-a-mile; even second half Slegers > first half Wilks, among others.

Does Molitor deserve another year? I've never been a big fan, but yes, he definitely does. The team does seem to be on his side. I'd like to see what happens with a beefed up bullpen.Short leash, but I'm onboard. 

I would have been perfectly fine if the new braintrust had just felt they needed a new direction. It would only make sense if they did. I'm very content with this decision. I know there are two sides on opposite sides of the aisle here, but I think it's the right move for various reasons.

The radio staff was talking recently about managers in baseball, various moves expected to happen or already announced, etc. And they were talking about managers who had NEVER been a manager before at ANY level. Of course, they mentioned that about Molitor, and I had almost forgotten that fact regarding him. Does being a manager previously, or not, at the ML or milb level, indicate you can or can't do the job? No. But I think it is a pertinent point.

In his 3 season's, Molitor has lead the Twins...not going to go in to specifics, to a disastrous season, an almost playoff team, and a playoff team. Personally, I think he's showing real growth as the head man, and would argue he made much better choices the second half of the season.

A few points:

1] This team never quit, loved to play, seemed to believe in themselves.

2] We complain, at times, about the development of young players. But we saw actual improvement and development amongst the young players this season. We saw patience with guys struggling at times. And we even saw a greater reliance on some young players the second half of the season.

3] Lineup construction has been a bit of a debate. But there are lots of ways to construct a roster and how to use it. I didn't always agree with some lineups, but I usually saw method in the madness. While there is room for growth in certain areas, overall, this was a fine defensive team, a quality and highly productive offensive team with balanced production.

4] With holes in the staff, this team reached 85 wins and the post season. If you want to argue they could have won a few more with a different manager, go ahead, I will respect your opinion. But to reach 85W while still needing some upgrades doesn't speak to utilizing what you have...despite some debatable choices here and there...nothing I could say would convince anyone.

Molitor still has some things to learn to be better at. I suspect he will. But another upgrade in the rotation, another quality RP or two and maybe one more solid bat could make him look a whole lot smarter as well.
    • brvama and bizaff like this

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