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Jack Morris Elected to Hall of Fame

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Along with Alan Trammel.Congrats to them both.
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The Winter Meetings are an interesting event, particularly for fans. There are a multitude of rumors, and we need to sift through them to...
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I hate the Yankees...

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that's all I wanted to say.I consider it good for baseball if they don't win the World Series next year.   Feel free to vent below....
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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

 

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. 

Not too many .500 hitters around, either.

 

I was a Math major. :)

    • Jerr and Mike Sixel like this

When Falvey and Molitor have their rumored season ending conversation the first words Molitor should say is starting pitchers.He has 2. Cleveland have 4 performing well, and a couple not doing poorly

 

 

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.....

 

I don't understand, but fine. Molitor has made a number of bad decisions in important games, and by "bad" I mean ex ante, without the benefit of hindsight. You can argue those are not bad decisions for some reason, or that other alternatives for manager would make just as many or more mistakes, or you can argue that his player management makes up for his strategic mismanagement.I don't buy any of those three. Not sure what other arguments you can make.

 

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.

About 5 years ago the success rate stated in an article was 80% for sacrifices. No idea how the current data would be at.Since it looks like you are implying they are bad at it, and do it a lot, perhaps you would like to find the statistics that back it?

 

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 of the teams that are low in sacrifice bunts are higher in GIDP, ie 2 outs instead of 1.Tricky business this is

    • Original Whizzinator likes this
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Tom Froemming
Sep 11 2017 02:57 PM

 

Not too many .500 hitters around, either.

 

I was a Math major. :)

We were talking about successful sac bunt attempts. If you want success rate at bunting for a hit, Fangraphs has that. The Twins have a 31.7 bunt hit percentage over the past three seasons. That's fifth-best in baseball over that stretch.

 

Not too many .317 hitters out there, either. But, those are all singles so it's a very empty .317 batting average.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

 

Not too many .500 hitters around, either.

 

I was a Math major. :)

 

well, 49% success at sac bunts, not at hitting for a hit. Not sure what you mean, actually.

Not too many .500 hitters around, either.

I was a Math major. :)

We're not talking about successful hit attempts.

The data suggests the Twins can't successfully make an intentional OUT at a .500 rate. Which is pretty astounding.
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Tom Froemming
Sep 11 2017 03:25 PM

 

Some of the teams that are low in sacrifice bunts are higher in GIDP, ie 2 outs instead of 1.Tricky business this is

Fair point. The Twins are among the lowest teams in GIDP%, per b-ref, but there aren't huge differences. The Twins are at 9%. They've had a runner at first and less than two outs 1,047 times and have hit into 94 double plays.

 

The Royals have the worst rate at 13.5%. League average is 11%.

 

Some of the teams that are low in sacrifice bunts are higher in GIDP, ie 2 outs instead of 1.Tricky business this is

 

That's why they have big giant studies that look at all possible outcomes, like success, failure, double plays, hits after you give up on bunting, etc. So we don't have to post all the individual outcomes and address them all independently. 

You cannot judge Molitor without bring 2016 into conversation.He is the leader of the worst team the Twins had had since they moved to MN.The pitching has sucked equally in 2016 and 2017, if you take ERA and the other numbers (like WHIP) that are affected by the much improved Twins' fielding in 2017. 

 

Allen has to go, no matter how you look at it.About time that the Cleveland Pitching Guru brings someone who knows pitching to be the pitching coach.Vavra has to go too, if not for any other reason, just because of the Gardenhire and the 99+96+96 (and now +103) taint.

 

Molitor needs to go as well because he does not understand the concept of win probability and the fact that you have higher win probability with a man on first and no outs vs with a man on second and 1 out. Bunting your hottest hitter multiple times in a game and in a series should be a fatal offense for a manager in 2017.Same with burning one of the 2-3 reliable bullpen arms (Rogers) you have, just to get one out. 

 

Hope that he goes Kelly's way, with his head up and the team in an upswing and goes to Fort Myers to do what Kelly used to do.  He is 61.Kelly was a decade younger when he retired.

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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).


There is assumption that interest in upgrading our pen from the outside means big money mediocrity deal. It's not necessarily true. There are usually some interesting guys who are a step up from Breslow/Belisle. Trade is another avenue. And of course, sometimes there is a FA like Andrew Miller who is worth the risk of bigger money. Maybe nothing will come of it this winter, but I see no reason to close that avenue off now. We will have plenty of spots left for arms that want to step up.

FWIW, Gee is a FA, and Hurlbut is a minor league FA. Neither should have any bearing on our 2018 pen plans. The fact that you would even bother to mention them tells me your pen plan is uncomfortably thin.

 

Some guy did some number crunching in an article quite a few years ago. Actually runner on first ,no outs, a sacrifice increases your chances of scoring exactly one run. Molitor is doing a pretty good job in one run games, as someone else on this board calledthe Twins lucky in that category. Perhaps Moliror might be smarter than some here give him credit for.

I just saw him sac bunt in the second inning or son. That's just wrong, wrong, wrong. If you're tied in the 9th, sure, sacrifice. You only need one run. If it's the second, you need more than one. Sacrifices kill big innings.

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yarnivek1972
Sep 11 2017 04:04 PM
Paul Molitor was at least 5 years older when hired than any previous Twins manager, all the way back to Cookie Lavagetto. Most were in their early to mid 40s.
    • bighat likes this

Paul Molitor was at least 5 years older when hired than any previous Twins manager, all the way back to Cookie Lavagetto. Most were in their early to mid 40s.


To be fair, I think they first wanted to hire Molitor back in his mid-40s. :)
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Don Walcott
Sep 11 2017 05:13 PM

Joe Maddon almost lost the Cubs the WS last year with some very questionable, if not downright terrible, tactical decisions. But I believe nobody talks about it much because he's considered to be very good at a bunch of other things, including leading a team and building team unity. It's hard to find someone who ticks all of the boxes.

 

It does seem like this team is resilient and together. Not sure what happened in 2016, but Molly must be doing something right in that way this year. I wonder whether and to what extent the FO gives any guidance in tactics during the season. Molly definitely does some odd things with the lineup.As for the bullpen, there are times I'm bemused at his decisions (as are many on this site), but he hasn't been given the best staff to work with.He'd probably look a lot smarter with Cleveland's staff.

    • markos likes this

 

Fair point. The Twins are among the lowest teams in GIDP%, per b-ref, but there aren't huge differences. The Twins are at 9%. They've had a runner at first and less than two outs 1,047 times and have hit into 94 double plays.

 

The Royals have the worst rate at 13.5%. League average is 11%.

 

Yet the Royals have the 3rd lowest groundball rate in the league, which makes their league leading GIDP rate all the more "impressive."

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theBOMisthebomb
Sep 11 2017 07:08 PM

Baseball players aren't heroes.

"Lighten up, Francis."
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Government Mule
Sep 12 2017 01:13 AM

 

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.

Hoe do you get bref to state failed sacrifices? I see a column for SH, but not 0-SH it failed.  Fangraphs will tell you how many times tried and made for bunts. Nothing about sacrifice failures

Hoe do you get bref to state failed sacrifices? I see a column for SH, but not 0-SH it failed. Fangraphs will tell you how many times tried and made for bunts. Nothing about sacrifice failures

Situational Hitting page:

https://www.baseball...l-batting.shtml

 

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.

If the sac bunt strategy is based on a flawed premise, which, from what I've read, it is, then it doesn't matter how many times the sac bunt has been implemented. 

 

What needs to be looked at is when the bunt was attempted and by what player. 

 

From what I've seen this year, the sac bunt is almost automatic with Molitor, if it's late in the game, runner on first, no one out..no matter who is at the plate.

 

I've linked to it before, but Bill James Online did some number crunching and came to the conclusion the sac bunt has very limited value and tends to be a wast of outs.

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Nick Nelson
Sep 12 2017 11:17 AM

Thrylos calling for mass firings, must be a day ending in Y. 

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Thrylos calling for mass firings, must be a day ending in Y. 

 

Cute and with substance.

 

Allen, Molitor, Vavra are not mass firings from a 103 L staff.I explained in depth why they need to go away from a team that has improved despite them.

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Sep 12 2017 01:53 PM

 

Cute and with substance.

 

Allen, Molitor, Vavra are not mass firings from a 103 L staff.I explained in depth why they need to go away from a team that has improved despite them.

There was plenty of accountability for the 2016 season

 

There was plenty of accountability for the 2016 season

 

Plenty?Let's see who was fired after the season:The hitting and first base coach of a team that had the worst pitching and fielding in baseball; every one in the Front office, but that man who was responsible for the Fort Myers improvements, stayed.

 

That's like blaming Jerry and Stelly for the 99 L season...


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