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Patience

Posted by d-mac , 11 April 2016 · 1,102 views

terry ryan tom brunansky minnesota twins paul molitor
At what point do changes with the FO/coaching staff get made? How much patience should we have with the status quo? This is a team that was expected to improve and contend this year. As a self admitted pessimist I always have low expectations, but this team has underperformed even my wildest nightmares. Obviously, this team will not lose every game and will improve, sample sizes are fairly small yet and won't continue to be sub-Buterean with RISP, but if this team continues on it's current trajectory should changes be made and if so, when?

1.) If this team is still leading baseball in K% come early May, Bruno needs to go, IMO. None of the young hitters have learned anything resembling plate discipline and many of them have regressed. None of them had issues with plate discipline in the minors (Sano's strikeouts notwithstanding). The evidence is pretty damning, IMO. And I was a big supporter of Bruno after what he did with Dozier. But even Dozier is looking like he has regressed in terms of plate discipline the past two seasons.

2.) Molitor is starting to look like a bad choice as a manager. Batting Rosario and Santana second are indefensible decisions. Not playing Arcia at all until the 5th game is indefensible. Sac bunting early in games is indefensible. And the running game is something else. He has been uber aggressive with base stealing, but this team as a whole is so poor at base running it's costing this team runs, which is a trend that carried over from last year. And it's not that this team is slow, there is plenty of speed on the roster, the runners are just very unskilled. I prefered both Dougie M and the bench coach from the Red Sox org they interviewed over Molitor. But I was fine with the hire and approached it with an open mind, but I think it's fairly obvious at this point that Molitor was not the right man for the job.

3.) And of course everybody here knows my thoughts on Terry Ryan. I've been calling for him to be canned for several years now. I had always thought was not the right to guide the team through a rebuild- the last time he rebuilt the Twins, it took almost a full decade, not to mention he's a complete idea dinosaur when compared to most GM's today.

Needless to say, I've been highly critical with how he's handled the rebuild. I felt it's been half-a**ed a bit. He never fully committed to tearing down the obviously bad teams in the early part of this decade. He had many chances to sell high and trade away established/veteran players and acquire more young talent, but instead chose to save face with the fans after he promised in the media to contend every year (even though nobody believed it). Both Willingham in 2012 and Suzuki in 2014 should have been traded at the deadline for anything that could have been had. Based on their ages, their values could not and would not ever have been higher. Predictably, the aging Willingham couldn't stay on the field the next two years before retiring and Suzuki has regressed and aged into being one of the worst starting catchers in baseball. Not to mention Perkins never being shopped was also indefensible. That was the lowest of low-hanging trade-able fruit: an all-star closer in his prime on a team that was losing 90 games a year. Predictably, when the team is expecting to contend the aging Perkins, due to decreasing fastball velocity is all but washed up. Not only did Ryan do a disservice to the Twins by not trading Perkins for young talent, but did a disservice to Perkins himself by wasting the prime of his career on crummy teams with no shot at winning. INDEFENSIBLE.

Resigning players after career seasons has also been a pretty indefensible. After failing to trade Suzuki at the deadline in 2014, he was EXTENDED for two years (with a vesting option for 3, WHY?) after having a career year at age 30 as a catcher which had followed two seasons of terrible offense. While, the extension of Suzuki was indefensible, I have to admit the original signing of Suzuki going into 2014 on a one year deal after Mauer had moved out behind the plate (should have been done way sooner, but I won't go there) was fairly astute. In 2013 Suzuki cut down his K% from the previous year and saw a significant jump in line-drive %, yet saw one of his worst BABIP seasons of his career. But compounding the lack of selling after his hot start was the extension. That shows a clear lack of understanding of aging curves for catchers, BABIP, and the principle of buy low/ sell high. Another astute signing that was ruined by extension after a career season was Phil Hughes. Hughes was a great value signing- a flyball pitcher with a good K/BB rate that was being penalized by an extreme hitters' park in a division filled with hitters' parks. He was signed to a team-friendly three years, $24m. Hughes was a solid #3 signed to a reasonable contract through his prime. But after a career year, where he pitched like a high-end #2 starter, he was extended for 3 additional years at $58m and included paying him $1.2m more for years he was already under contract. WHAT?! WHY?! Terry must have been drunk, that's the only explanation. Pitchers are fickle, they get injured or become ineffective for no reason. In Hughes' case he's an extreme fastball pitcher that relies on velocity, fastball command, a deceptive short-arm delivery, and lacks a quality third pitch. As predictable as the sun rising in the morning are pitcher injuries, and sure enough, Hughes got injured this past year, his fastball velocity was sapped, and because of his lack of a third pitch has turned into a pumpkin. This shows a lack of understanding basic awareness of pitcher injuries, how age affects fastball velocity (research shows average fastball velo maxes out between age 24-26 seasons, Hughes will be turning 30 this season), and lack of the buy low/ sell high (bought low, but bought again really, really high).

Ryan has filled the rotation with middling free-agent 3/4 types that have pushed more talented (i.e., higher upside) and less expensive pitchers to the pen (May) or left them in AAA (Berrios). You'd think with a strike-out challenged, potential limited starting rotation he would have assembled a lock-down bullpen. Guess again. Outside of Perkins this bullpen is and has also been strike-out challenged and filled with minor league free-agents and rule 5 selections. The one time he goes outside the org (Jepsen), he traded for a reliever at the deadline, when relievers are the most expensive as contending teams get panicky about their pens. After telling the public that the pen was the top priority, signed a couple of minor league free-agents and filled it with a talented, young starter misallocated to the bullpen. Ryan and the Twins appear to be all in on the fireballing college relievers they've drafted (not going to touch the ridiculousness of drafting college relievers in the top few rounds) the previous few years. None of them have debuted with the team yet. Typically, teams that draft top college relievers and push them to the majors by the following season, because the value that top college relievers provide are a quick turnaround time to the majors. Remember, pitchers get hurt, and peak velocity occurs between ages 24-26. None of the fireballing relievers have pitched above AA. Some have had TJ surgery, and the older relievers are already using their peak velocity innings in the minors.

Finally, the Ryan FO has married itself and the short and long-term success to the risky strategy of depending 100% internally drafted, signed, and developed prospects. What happens if a few of the prospects end up being busts when all is said and done? Trading for areas of need, whether it be prospect for major leaguer, major leaguer for prospect, or prospect for prospect, has to this point almost entirely been eschewed. Trading Hicks for Murphy was a good start, but indefensibly Suzuki is still starting over Murphy. Forcing Buxton into the majors before he is ready (detrimental to the team and his long-term development), with a real lack of alternative options is pretty indefensible. It's maddeningly obvious he's overmatched and they are repeating the same mistakes they made with Hicks. Plus, forcing Sano into a position he's never played before while he's still trying to establish himself in the majors is so incredibly short sighted. Plouffe is not the future, Sano is. And now if by some miracle everything goes according to plan, then Kepler is blocked. Bottom line: this team is walking a tightrope based on Ryan's strategy, a lot will have to go right for this team to be a perennial contender.

TL;DR Version: After ranting for a bit about Bruno, Molitor, and a lengthy rant about Terry Ryan, what say you Twins Daily? If the current trend of this team continues, what changes do you think will likely happen, or what do you think should happen? And when? What would you do? If you don't think any changes should happen, then why? Do we or should we fire Bruno if the Strikeouts and lack of progression for the young hitters continue? How soon? Do we replace Molitor at some point or give him more leash if this team tanks? If I were the owner, I'd obviously clean house in the FO immediately. But if the rebuild fizzles and the Twins never seriously contend in the next few years, do you think Pohlad finally sweeps out the Old Boy Club in the front office?




I thought it was reasonable for TR to return to stabilize things when Smith was let go. A year or so while ownership sought out a young GM from outside the org. But it's now passed the time that should have happened. Too risk averse, too resistant to change, too cost conscious. Too old-school, and I'm generally an old school fan. We should already be well into a new era. And that opinion wasn't formed by a horrible seven game stretch to open 2016. Nice blog, BTW.
    • d-mac likes this

 

I thought it was reasonable for TR to return to stabilize things when Smith was let go. A year or so while ownership sought out a young GM from outside the org. But it's now passed the time that should have happened. Too risk averse, too resistant to change, too cost conscious. Too old-school, and I'm generally an old school fan. We should already be well into a new era. And that opinion wasn't formed by a horrible seven game stretch to open 2016. Nice blog, BTW.

 

Thanks! I was originally going post it in a forum, but when it got long-winded and a bit rant-y I figured i post it as a blog. Like you, I also haven't come to the conclusion he should be gone based on these past seven games.

 

Where I'd disagree is that TR needed to stabilize things after Smith. In my opinion, it is impossible to separate the Bill Smith era from the Terry Ryan era. When Terry "stepped down" he was still a senior advisor to Bill Smith. Then, when things went south, he took over for Smith. Smith, instead of being fired, was just reassigned inside the organization. In hindsight it just appears that Smith was only promoted to take the blame of "negotiating" a contract with Hunter and trade Santana.