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Go Bold: Trade for Gerrit Cole

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As we're all discussing ways to improve the pitching staff, one name seems to be forgotten around here... Gerrit Cole.  The Pirates...
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Thinking ahead already towards the 2018 season. I'm wondering what the status is for some of the several players who missed all or a port...
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Three-Bagger: Heroic Hildy, Golden Buck & Molitor's Last Stand

An unlikely bullpen savior. A front-runner to become the first Minnesota Gold Glove winner since 2010. And a manager who just might stick around after all.

Let's dig in on these three trending September story lines...
Image courtesy of Jay Biggerstaff, USA Today
* Michael Tonkin. Pat Light. J.T. Chargois. Neil Ramirez. Alex Wimmers. These are all right-handed relievers that the Twins tried to bring along last year, with little-to-no success. Minnesota's whiff rate on bullpen reinforcements (and the lack of significant offseason moves on this front) is a primary reason the unit developed into such a frustrating liability – one that went unaddressed at both the July and August trade deadlines.

But in Trevor Hildenberger, the Twins have found a rare internal solution, and a player whose impact exceeds anything they could've hoped to acquire in a deadline deal.

When the team shipped out Brandon Kintzler, it looked like a move that could cripple an already vulnerable unit. His departure left behind a group of righties who were all either extremely inexperienced or extremely difficult to trust.

Some members of that latter category – namely, Matt Belisle and Ryan Pressly – deserve plenty of credit for stepping up, as does another rookie newcomer, Alan Busenitz. But no one has been quite as impressive as Hildenberger, the side-arming slinger who hit the ground running in late June and hasn't slowed his pace since.

Hildy's overall numbers are stellar: 35.1 IP, 2.29 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 58.5 GB%, 36-to-4 K/BB. But what has really stood out are the moments. The 26-year-old rookie has been used in numerous high-leverage spots, where many green arms would wilt, and he has consistently delivered. Friday night may have been his most dazzling performance yet: he entered in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and no outs, and somehow escaped unscathed. Then he cruised through a clean eighth, the sixth time this year he's given Minnesota two full innings out of the pen.

According to Win Probability Added, Hildenberger has been the third-most impactful Twins pitcher behind Ervin Santana and Kintzler. Hard to argue if you've been watching him put out fires over the past few months.

His delivery might be deceptive (especially with his quirky tendency to switch it up on occasion) but his numbers are not. The young right-hander has a strong recipe for sustainable success, with outstanding control, a feel for missing bats, and the ability to get grounders on command. Whether he's a future closer or setup man, the Twins are extremely lucky to have him. Hildenberger single-handedly changes the outlook of the bullpen going forward dramatically.

* For a long time, Twins players were regular fixtures on the Gold Glove ballots. Thanks mostly to Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter, Minnesota was represented in the awards for a decade straight, from 2001 through 2010.

No Twin has taken one home since, and while we can certainly criticize the voting system that elects winners, it's hard to deny that this is an apt reflection of the team's plight over the past six years – bad defenses making poor pitching staffs look even worse.

The Gold Glove drought is almost certain to end at the conclusion of this 2017 season, because Byron Buxton is essentially a shoe-in for what will likely be his first of many.

We all know that GG voters are creatures of habit, but Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier, the AL's center field honoree in each of the past two seasons, missed 10 weeks this summer with a wrist fracture, which should take him out of the running. (Though this is not a guarantee; Hunter won in 2005 despite playing only 98 games.)

Buxton would be the deserving recipient anyway. He's been all over the highlight reels, he dominates defensive metrics, and his contribution to Minnesota's stunning improvement this year is well known nationally. He further solidified his case on Friday night with a game-changing grab at the warning track to end the fifth inning and preserve a slim lead.

This recent tweet from Aaron Gleeman puts some context behind what Buxton's glove has meant to the Twins this year:



Wow.

The Twins could easily have multiple players earn hardware. Joe Mauer should be at the top of the list for first basemen, and there's a decent argument to be made for Brian Dozier. But I'd rate each of their chances at less than 50/50.

Buxton, though? He's got this thing wrapped up. Now let's just hope his hand starts feeling better soon.

* Lame duck. It's a term no manager wants attached to his name, but Paul Molitor wore it openly and candidly coming into 2017. He has never shied away from the stakes of this season for him personally, with 2016's scars still fresh and a new front office group likely eager to install its own preferred choice for the gig.

The year started on a redeeming note for Molitor and the Twins, but as the trade deadline came and went, the skipper's outlook began to take an ominous turn. The team was sinking out of contention, and while he was still on track for a big step forward, it wasn't necessarily the type that would save his job.

But Molitor's role in the turnaround we've seen over the past six weeks should not be downplayed. Sure, there are some things to take issue with from a tactical standpoint – the propensity for bunting and some occasionally head-scratching bullpen decisions come to mind – but to the extent that a manager functions as captain of the ship and motivator of men, there is really no knocking the work he has done.

This Twins team has proven incredibly resilient, rebounding from setbacks time and time again. Even when things have looked grim, the players haven't gotten down and fallen into a funk the way they did in 2016. His club's response to the deadline sell, a 20-win August, was quite the statement.

We know ownership likes Molitor. And his players have been going to battle for him in a big way. With both those things being the case, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine may be hard-pressed to go another direction, especially if this strong late-season run culminates in a postseason berth.

If the team re-ups with Molitor, I do hope that Falvey and Levine have a long sit-down with him during the offseason to go over run-scoring matrixes, statistical probabilities and sacrifice bunting.

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80 Comments

 

If you are implying they never had a conversation, that's silly.

 

The connotation is they "had a conversation" but the conversation was about how he has to do a better job.  I doubt that happened because his job status was out of their hands.  In that situation, you play nice.

I'm not implying anything more than what Nick said in the article: "If the team re-ups with Molitor, I do hope that Falvey and Levine have a long sit-down with him during the offseason to go over run-scoring matrixes, statistical probabilities and sacrifice bunting."

 

No reason they couldn't have sat down with him last offseason and done the same thing.  (In fact, it doesn't really make sense not to do that last offseason. I'd want to see how he adjusts with that information before I had to make a decision on re-upping him.)

So you are going with the "that's silly" narrative. OK.

I'm assuming they have conversations with him all during the year......and that he likes to bunt no matter what the math says. Some people just believe things, no matter what science/math say....

 

So you are going with the "that's silly" narrative. OK.

I'm not saying they never had that conversation.  Nick hopes that if the re-up with Molitor, they sit down with him and have that conversation this winter.  I'm saying, they either had that conversation last winter and Molitor has not responded to it terribly well in 2017, in which case why would we re-up him and try the conversation again.  Or they didn't have that conversation, in which case they I'm not sure why you'd re-up him before having the conversation.

The owner of the team declared any Molitor discussions out of bounds.


Got a link for this assertion?

 

I'm assuming they have conversations with him all during the year......and that he likes to bunt no matter what the math says. Some people just believe things, no matter what science/math say....

https://www.tfes.org

 

Well, his overall MLB sample size is pretty small too, but that didn't stop Nick from saying "Hildenberger single-handedly changes the outlook of the bullpen going forward dramatically." :)

 

I think it's fair to pump the brakes a bit on that.  I don't want the team to say "the bullpen is just fine with minimal changes" yet again this winter...

 

I think he changes it for the rest of the season? He has a hot hand and gives Molyl someone he can hand the ball to in a late game with some confidence (perhaps misplaced but confidence nonetheless). I'd agree with you about going forward into next year though, it's too early to tell.

 

That said, I don't want the Twins throwing money around in bullpen free agency for next year. There are a lot of young arms coming up and I don't want them blocked by guys who are a crapshoot. I'd like to see the Twins make a few low-risk free agent pickups like the did with Belisle/Breslow.

 

I'm not ready to give up on Duffey, Pressley etc. like many here seem to be. I'm also hopeful that a number of minor league guys are going to be coming back from injury and can hopefully contribute. The Twins have a lot of fun young arms and I'd like to see them bringing in some low cost vets to supplement the growing pains of young guys.

 

Mostly, I'd like them to make some decisions on whether guys like Gee, Hurlbut, Sledgers are starters or relievers in the long term. If they're not starters (and I doubt anyone except maybe Slegers is), they should start working them as relievers. Taylor Rogers shows the benefits of doing that (and to a lesser extent Gee, though he's been used as a long man and not a set-up guy).

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Nick Nelson
Sep 11 2017 11:41 AM

 

No reason they couldn't have sat down with him last offseason and done the same thing.  (In fact, it doesn't really make sense not to do that last offseason. I'd want to see how he adjusts with that information before I had to make a decision on re-upping him.)

They were still in the initial stages of getting to know Molitor last offseason. Now they've had a full season of working closely with him in a collaborative manner. I think such conversations would be much more in-depth and substantive this winter. 

    • Blake, Jerr and Original Whizzinator like this

 

They were still in the initial stages of getting to know Molitor last offseason. Now they've had a full season of working closely with him in a collaborative manner. I think such conversations would be much more in-depth and substantive this winter. 

Sure, but I don't think the topics you mention required "getting to know" Molitor to engage in a meaningful way.  "Hi Paul, nice to meet you. What do you think of the state of the team?  Do you have any concerns? [Listen and respond to concerns.] Also, here are some data and tools that we provided Francona with in Cleveland, and they really helped him. Do you use anything like this now?  If not, we'd love to try in 2017. We'll touch base with you throughout to season to see how it's going."

 

If we're nearly a year into it, and he's still trying silly sac bunts in a pennant race, I'm not sure he's passing the "working closely in a collaborative manner" test that should contribute to the decision whether to re-up or not.

    • USAFChief likes this

 

Yes, Molitor's love for the sacrifice bunt is painful. And yes, it might have cost them a run here and there. But, when you average it all out over the year, it comes out in the wash. That's why I actually like measurements that try not to take averages over the year, but look at discrete outcomes in a game. But even those are tiny differences usually. And even those wash out when you add them up (some negative, some positive).

 

those are my theories, anyway.

I don't understand what you mean by it all averages out. What reason is there to think that? If he was really good on some kinds of strategic decisions, and really bad on others, maybe that would be the way to look at it. But can you point to one area of tactics or strategy where he is good enough to compensate for the terrible bunting, base stealing attempts (by mediocre runners) and relief pitcher use? I sure can't. And as you say, his player management is difficult to judge, so we don't know whether or not that averages out with his bad strategy/tactics. If I saw Molitor learning from his mistakes, I might think differently. But if anything he is just becoming more and more stubborn.

 

I don't understand what you mean by it all averages out. What reason is there to think that? If he was really good on some kinds of strategic decisions, and really bad on others, maybe that would be the way to look at it. But can you point to one area of tactics or strategy where he is good enough to compensate for the terrible bunting, base stealing attempts (by mediocre runners) and relief pitcher use? I sure can't. And as you say, his player management is difficult to judge, so we don't know whether or not that averages out with his bad strategy/tactics. If I saw Molitor learning from his mistakes, I might think differently. But if anything he is just becoming more and more stubborn.

 

that was a general statement on averages, not on Molitor in specific. Like, the average temperature in a hospital being 98 degrees doesn't tell me much.....

 

that was a general statement on averages, not on Molitor in specific. Like, the average temperature in a hospital being 98 degrees doesn't tell me much.....

Suggests a possible problem with the thermostat.

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Don Walcott
Sep 11 2017 01:23 PM

 

Suggests a possible problem with the thermostat.

It's the hot yoga classroom.

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Suggests a possible problem with the thermostat.

 

nicely played!

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Tom Froemming
Sep 11 2017 01:40 PM

 

Got a link for this assertion?

All the way back in July of 2016, Jim Pohlad was already insisting that Molitor would be the manager this year. Here's a link to a Chip Scoggins piece about it. It includes this quote:

 

"They can do that (hire a manager of their choice) in the future if they want,” Pohlad said. “But for 2017, Paul will be our manager.”

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All the way back in July of 2016, Jim Pohlad was already insisting that Molitor would be the manager this year. Here's a link to a Chip Scoggins piece about it. It includes this quote:

 

"They can do that (hire a manager of their choice) in the future if they want,” Pohlad said. “But for 2017, Paul will be our manager.”

That's about firing Molitor, though.  Not a prohibition of "all Molitor discussions" as the poster said (or having "a long sit-down with him during the offseason to go over run-scoring matrixes, statistical probabilities and sacrifice bunting" as Nick said in the article).

    • USAFChief, Blake, Craig Arko and 1 other like this

 

That's about firing Molitor, though.  Not a prohibition of "all Molitor discussions" as the poster said (or having "a long sit-down with him during the offseason to go over run-scoring matrixes, statistical probabilities and sacrifice bunting" as Nick said in the article).

I do get this image of 'you may only communicate by post-it notes delivered in whisky bottles' after reading all the speculation.

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Tom Froemming
Sep 11 2017 01:58 PM

 

That's about firing Molitor, though.  Not a prohibition of "all Molitor discussions" as the poster said (or having "a long sit-down with him during the offseason to go over run-scoring matrixes, statistical probabilities and sacrifice bunting" as Nick said in the article).

Oh, I see. Well, no, there aren't any quotes anyone's going to be able to dig up about that, but committing to Molitor in that way really sent a message.

 

It's entirely possible that the new regime requested that Molitor update his strategy and he simply replied "no thanks." Either way, if Falvey/Levine have any issues with the way Molitor is managing, I'm sure they have communicated that to him. Now whether he needs to listen is another story. Molitor has ownership on his side, so he can do whatever he sees fit as long as that's the case.

 

I'm assuming they have conversations with him all during the year......and that he likes to bunt no matter what the math says. Some people just believe things, no matter what science/math say....

Some people put a general equation to a specific situation and think they are being scientific. Some people make a generalization based out of dislikes. Over the three year period that Molitor has been manager he has sacrificed 80 times.American League average over that time is 70.No great departure there. The Indians lead with101.Falvey worked for the Indians. It might be well possible the Indians did a little more in depth research on that aspect of the game than whatever it is the posters here have done.

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Some people put a general equation to a specific situation and think they are being scientific. Some people make a generalization based out of dislikes. Over the three year period that Molitor has been manager he has sacrificed 80 times.American League average over that time is 70.No great departure there. The Indians lead with101.Falvey worked for the Indians. It might be well possible the Indians did a little more in depth research on that aspect of the game than whatever it is the posters here have done.

 

Interesting. I had read it was a lot more than that, compared to the AL average. Thanks for the info. Still hate it. The fact that the Clevelands are that far out front does suggest that perhaps this FO likes it more than the public would think. 

 

Kind of gets to my other point, I'm not sure many managers do all that much all that differently, over 162 games....

 

Some people put a general equation to a specific situation and think they are being scientific. Some people make a generalization based out of dislikes. Over the three year period that Molitor has been manager he has sacrificed 80 times.American League average over that time is 70.No great departure there. The Indians lead with101.Falvey worked for the Indians. It might be well possible the Indians did a little more in depth research on that aspect of the game than whatever it is the posters here have done.

That is only counting successful sacrifices that get marked in the box score as such. There isn't anyone (to my knowledge) tracking sacrifice attempts - successful or not. A manager that calls for a lot of sacrifice bunts with a team that is very bad at bunting may not end up leading the league in the sacrifice bunt category but still wasted a lot of opportunities.

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If the team re-ups with Molitor, I do hope that Falvey and Levine have a long sit-down with him during the offseason to go over run-scoring matrixes, statistical probabilities and sacrifice bunting.

Click here to view the article

 

Perhaps as a future article you can go over the different matrices for playing for one run, two runs and scoring in bunches. 

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Tom Froemming
Sep 11 2017 02:29 PM

 

That is only counting successful sacrifices that get marked in the box score as such. There isn't anyone (to my knowledge) tracking sacrifice attempts - successful or not. A manager that calls for a lot of sacrifice bunts with a team that is very bad at bunting may not end up leading the league in the sacrifice bunt category but still wasted a lot of opportunities.

B-Ref tracks sac bunt attempts, though I don't know what their methodology is. Sometimes it can be tough to tell whether a player is bunting on their own/trying to bunt for a hit or if he was asked to lay down a sac bunt. 

 

Either way, according to their data the Twins lead the AL in sac bunt attempts over the past three seasons with 159. Cleveland is second with 151, followed by the White Sox at 143. But the average for AL teams over the last three years is 113. A few teams almost never bunt. Oakland (65), Boston (77) and Baltimore (78) all have bunted less than half as much as the Twins have.

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Tom Froemming
Sep 11 2017 02:33 PM

And despite all their practice, the Twins have been bad at bunting. They're 26th in sac bunt success rate this year at 49%. That's an improvement from the previous two seasons when they ranked 29th both years (49% again in 2016 and 53% in 2015).

    • Don Walcott likes this

they try more often, and they fail more than they succeed. That seems like a bad formula. But then, I was never a math major. 

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