Too much bunting -- I get the complaints, especially Grossman early in the game.
The steals -- sometimes they don't work. At the same, they've been showing themselves to be more aggressive on the basepaths recently, and I think that all-in-all that's a good thing.
The bullpen composition -- some of us think it's horrible, but the front office has incrementally worked to improve it, never sacrificing the long-term view in the process.
But I'm not sure I disagree with Molitor's bullpen management, given the context, including the last several days. To think back...
- He managed Thursday well, following 7 strong innings from Gibson with an inning from Hildy and an inning from his closer. He got that win in the bag.
- He managed Friday well. Santana was struggling and had given up three runs in his last two innings. Needing to get four innings, he went to Duffey, one of the better candidates for multiple innings, even though he has struggled recently. Duffey got him an inning and then let the first batter reach. In a higher-leverage situation, he went to Rogers, hoping to finish the 7th with him. Unfortunately the next two guys got on, so he went to Hildenberger in what was now an even-higher leverage situation. Hildy pitched great and got out of the jam on a few pitches -- a huge performance. The Twins scored twice in the top of the 8th to make it 8-5. Rather than let this one get away, Molitor ran Hildy back out for the 8th and got him through the two innings on just 18 pitches. Then he used Belisle in the closer situation, according to the book. (We can argue about whether the book was right in this situation with a 3-run lead, but we would have excoriated him if he'd gone to someone else in either the 8th or 9th and blown it. And if the Twins score another run in the 9th, he saves Belisle.).
For Saturday, then, that left him with:
- Two wins in the bag (three if you count Wednesday against Toronto)
- His two best relievers -- Hildy and Belisle -- unavailable after pitching three straight days. That's the price you sometimes pay to win three straight.
- His third best reliever -- Rogers -- likely not available for more than 1-2 batters after pitching three of the last four days (and 41 pitches in the process, plus warmups).
That sounds like a formula for "roll the dice and hope for the best" on Saturday night. So, Berrios gets through 7 innings on 94 pitches and a 2-2 tie. I kinda hoped he'd bring Berrios back out, but I can understand the logic of not. Basically, three things can happen and two of them are not good:
- Berrios sails through the eight on a dozen pitches or less, leaving with a pitch count just into the 100s. That's the best case.
- Berrios struggles a bit. He gets through the inning unscathed, but it took him 20+ pitches, pushing 120 him to pitches in the process.
- Berrios gets into trouble, and Molitor has to go to guys he doesn't trust, with runners on base.
Here's where the dice rolling comes in.
- Pressley has pitched well at times and can maybe get through the inning, so he rolls the dice with him. Unfortunately Pressley gave up two baserunners.
- Still tied, the ineffective Pressley has to leave. Next up is a lefty, and the choices are Boshers or Rogers. But you're not going to Rogers for more than two batters. That means he would get a lefty and a righty, so this is for all practical purposes a LOOGY situation, because Yost isn't going to PH for Perez. Waiting a couple batters later are back-to-back lefties in Moustakis and Moss. So, does he want Boshers facing one batter and Rogers two, or vice versa? He wants Rogers facing two, so he rolls the dice with Boshers here. Unfortunately, Boshers gives up a hit, which scores the first run.
- So then, which righty do you go to? We might have liked Busenitz, but Molitor still has more confidence in Duffey. He also knew it was a one-batter situation, so I'd like to think that he was using Duffey here and saving Busenitz for the 9th if the Twins should get fortunate enough to have a lead. Unfortunately, Perez doubles and drives in the second run.
- If any of Pressley, Boshers, or Duffey had gotten even one out, Molitor is sitting with Rogers to face the two lefties in Moustakis and Moss. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and Perez compounded the problem by doubling, so the logical move is to intentionally walk Moustakis to set up the double play. Molitor lets Duffey take responsibility for the four-finger salute does before he exits.
- And then Rogers comes in and gets his out against the remaining lefty, and it's still a two-run game. So you roll the dice with Busenitz and hope for a rally.
- Busenitz gets the two outs, but unfortunately, one of them scores a third run.
And the Twins don't rally.
The Twins lost the game, but Molitor got them through to Sunday with a generally available bullpen and an off-day Monday. Rogers may not be available today after pitching in 4 out of 5 games, but it was only 11 pitches in the last three days, so he might again be available for 1-2 batters. Similarly, Duffey may not be available after pitching back-to-back days, but it was only 11 pitches.
But everyone else is available, though I'm sure he'd love a blowout to give Belisle, Hildy and others an extra day before taking on the Padres. Going to KC, I think the goal was to win 3 of 4, and they are in position to do it thanks at least in part to how Molitor handled the bullpen.