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Making The Most Of Molitor

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 19 September 2017 · 913 views

Coming into 2017, the Minnesota Twins were entering uncharted waters. A new front office was at the helm, and the captain of the dugout was managing for his life. Now, as the season rolls towards a conclusion, lots has changed but plenty still remains unknown. Without a new contract in place for 2018, it's time to begin wondering about the future of Paul Molitor and the Minnesota Twins.

Personally, I'm inclined to suggest that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine move on. While Molitor has been an integral part of the organization for many years, his value as a manager has never seemed anything but average at best. At times, it's seemed to be a struggle for him to relate to youth (which is the current lifeblood of the 25 man), and in game managerial decisions have been passable at best. Going forward, I'd hardly be disappointed in seeing the new regime bring in their guy, with the hopes of them helping the organization reach new heights.

Taking a step back however, and viewing things from what may (or is likely to) happen, who heads the Twins active roster in 2018 is a bit more confusing. There's plenty of reason to believe that Molitor will garner (and maybe even win) a handful Manager of the Year votes. The expectation from a national sense was that the Twins should be terrible. I'd argue that was misguided, and 2016 was more a reflection of the volatility that is young players. Minnesota wasn't expected to be a playoff team in 2017, but even a 90 loss season seemed laughable from the outset.

So, with Molitor's team positioned for a serious run at the 2nd Wild Card, it's fair to include him among the best manager's in the American League for 2017. He'll face stiff competition for the award in the form of both Terry Francona and A.J. Hinch. The Angels Mike Scioscia should get consideration as well, given that roster probably had even less talent than the Twins, and they have found a way to stay afloat as well. Whether the Twins skipper takes home hardware or not, the inclusion among the conversation only clouds the future further.

Let's operate under the assumption that Minnesota makes the playoffs and Molitor wins the award. In this scenario, the Twins manager would generate what should be quantified as two victories. In the front office though, it will be interesting to see what level of weight that holds. Recently fired Doug Mientkiewicz was produced winners throughout the minor leagues, and the message there screams of a guy that didn't fit the direction of the club going forward. At the highest level, it's probably a bit more difficult to can a manager that would have accomplished so much. Suggesting it's out of the realm of possibility isn't something I'm prepared to do, but you'd have to imagine the Twins brass better be well prepared for an explanation.

Should we assume Molitor is retained, whether on a single-year deal or a multi-year extension, there's a few conversations I think Falvey and Levine would be inclined to have with their skipper. Focusing on those of integral importance, here'
s a brief list:
  • Bullpen usage- Over the course of his tenure as Twins manager, Molitor has made more than his fair share of head scratching relief decisions. Whether playing into odd splits, relying on a guy too far, or over exposing a specific arm, there's plenty of room for growth here. It may be micromanaging to suggest a checks and balances system, but Paul clearly could use some prodding in more than a handful of relief situations.
  • Bunt deployment- Specifically the sacrifice bunt. Over the course of 2017, bunting has become more prevalent for the Twins than at any point I can recall previously. Whether having your cleanup hitter (regardless of who it is) drop down a sacrifice, or living by it in general, it's run way too rampant among a strong lineup. Minnesota has shown an ability to score runs, and a forward thinking front office can't be please with the general willingness to surrender free outs.
  • Relation to youth- This has been somewhat curbed by the additions of help to his coaching staff. At times in his first two seasons, it seemed Molitor was quick to wash his hands of a player. When struggles arose for a young player, they were quickly jettisoned back to the farm, and growth at the highest level was rarely achieved. Knowing that it's on the backs of a youth movement that Minnesota regains its prominence among the AL Central, Molitor will have to commit to uplifting and utilizing players without a significant track record.
  • Adaptation of numbers- Admittedly, I have no idea what level of value sabermetrics play in a game by game basis for Molitor or the Twins. That said, it's become apparent that Falvey and Levine put a great deal of stock in numbers. Minnesota is committing to winning off the field by developing a greater Baseball Analytics department, and the goal would seemingly be to implement those ideas on the field. Being an elder statesmen of the game, that's something that Molitor will have to be open to, and utilize.
At the end of the day, I'd suggest with near certainty that missing the playoffs results in Molitor being let go. A Wild Card exit probably also gets him fired, and even a Divisional Series defeat could see him walking through the door. Things become a bit more complicated if he's given the award (though I think regardless he's behind Francona), but as we saw with Mientkiewicz, the new front office has a direct plan. It may be nice to see a fresh face, maybe someone in the vein of Sandy Alomar Jr., but there's little to suggest that a drastic difference follows a change as well. No matter what the Twins do for their skipper in 2018, I'd imagine there will be more of a front office reflection on the field, and that's something I can get behind.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • Blake and dgwills like this



I have saw nothing to make me think that Molitor would be any better a manger with a good pen than this one. If he had a couple dominant relief pitchers he would likely fry them to a crisp by August. Good managers know that somedays you just take a loss and live for another day. It's a long season. He can't seem to do that. As for the bunting? It's getting so obsessive, some fans should consider turning it into a drinking game. :)
Molitor is the Dusty Baker of bullpen usage. He abused Rogers for most of the season to the point he's not been as good for a while

Bullpen usage is really tough to judge. People always thought Gardy was bad at it. People always thought Tom Kelly was bad at it. It seems to be one of those things that every team's fan base thinks the manager is bad at. I don't know whether or not he's good at it, but I don't think he's horrible either. The one area I do think he's struggled is over-using some guys (Pressly last year, Rogers this year), but when you look at the bullpen as a whole, it's hard to argue that he's been bad at it. This team has won a lot of games because of it. 

 

And as far as dealing with young players, I don't see that one at all. Tom Kelly was hard on young players, famously with Todd Walker (and as we recall, Mr. Mientkiewicz talked about it while he was still in the minors).  But he also used Chuck Knoblauch in 1991. He's the one that led the way for all those rookies that played a lot in 1998 and 1999. Molitor's been fine. He's dealt with things fine. I personally may not agree with everything, but he's sure eased Hildenberger and Busenitz in to more key roles this second half. He showed a lot of patience with Rosario and Polanco. For every "I didn't like this" thing, there are probably 2-3 "he handled that well's" in there too. 

 

Baseball is all about second guessing. A baseball manager gets questioned every single game by some. But realize that he's meeting with Falvey and/or Levine every day. He's working with Jeff Pickler and Joe Vavra (both who are big into the numbers) and they're coming up with game plans and in-game strategies. Maybe they have some calculations on some things that we have no idea about. Molitor has been very open to all of the analytics presented to him. 

 

I'm not saying Molitor is some great manager. I'm not real concerned either way about whether they bring him back or not... But these types of conversations are had by fans from every team in the league.  It will be interesting to see what Falvey and Levine decide. 

    • rukavina, Blake, brvama and 1 other like this

Bullpen usage is really tough to judge. People always thought Gardy was bad at it. People always thought Tom Kelly was bad at it. It seems to be one of those things that every team's fan base thinks the manager is bad at. I don't know whether or not he's good at it, but I don't think he's horrible either. The one area I do think he's struggled is over-using some guys (Pressly last year, Rogers this year), but when you look at the bullpen as a whole, it's hard to argue that he's been bad at it. This team has won a lot of games because of it. 
 
And as far as dealing with young players, I don't see that one at all. Tom Kelly was hard on young players, famously with Todd Walker (and as we recall, Mr. Mientkiewicz talked about it while he was still in the minors).  But he also used Chuck Knoblauch in 1991. He's the one that led the way for all those rookies that played a lot in 1998 and 1999. Molitor's been fine. He's dealt with things fine. I personally may not agree with everything, but he's sure eased Hildenberger and Busenitz in to more key roles this second half. He showed a lot of patience with Rosario and Polanco. For every "I didn't like this" thing, there are probably 2-3 "he handled that well's" in there too. 
 
Baseball is all about second guessing. A baseball manager gets questioned every single game by some. But realize that he's meeting with Falvey and/or Levine every day. He's working with Jeff Pickler and Joe Vavra (both who are big into the numbers) and they're coming up with game plans and in-game strategies. Maybe they have some calculations on some things that we have no idea about. Molitor has been very open to all of the analytics presented to him. 
 
I'm not saying Molitor is some great manager. I'm not real concerned either way about whether they bring him back or not... But these types of conversations are had by fans from every team in the league.  It will be interesting to see what Falvey and Levine decide.

I was not in the group who thought they were that bad. And I had lots of issues with Gardy, a few less with TK. Baseball is really in the eyes of the beholder, maybe more than most sports. But I always thought these guys had two things. A formula for pen usage, and the desire and fortitude to not abuse their best arms. They looked long term, Molitor has looked short term for all three years. Even last year, he was trying to win single games at the end of the year, when in actuality his template with those players and that record should have been as a MiLB manager developing talent.
    • Blake likes this

Of course there is a lot of things that go into these decisions that we don't see. It makes it hard to judge with the limited amount of information that we have, but I'll do it anyways.

Molitor has been good with young players this year, but was god awful last year. Specifically Alex Meyer. Sano, Buxton, and Chargois also spring to mind. I guess we'll call that a push.

The main thing for me is all the bunting and what seems to be an old style school of coaching. Gardy was great back in the day, but still doesn't have a job. There's a message there.

Falvey deserves to get his own guy with a similar vision. We can't really judge the front office otherwise.

 

I am on the fence with Molitor returning. Not having insight from behind the scenes I can't really speak to his use of the numbers or his relationship with the young players. His bunting is a concern as is some of his in-game decisions. I'm even on the pen usage. But one area I have to give him props is the resiliency this team has shown. For such a young team to overcome some tough games or a series,it's remarkable how they have avoided the long losing streak. I'm sure the vet's play a big role here, but it's the manager that sets the tone everyday. That is not an easy trait to learn, whereas the other shortcomings can be easier to correct. I'm hoping he returns b/c that'll probably mean the Twins did very well in October.
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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 24 2017 05:50 PM

There are only 5 of the 15 American League teams with winning records. One of them was a 100 loss team last year and will win 82-88 games this year. Maybe we could hire that team's Hall of Fame manager. Wait a minute...we already have that team's manager. In summary, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I will be surprised if Molitor does not win the manger of the year award. While some have issues with his methods I think results is what a manager should be judged on. This team plays hard, aggressive sometimes misguided baseball and will end up as the 5th best record in the American league. No need to switch managers.