The Twins have ridden the roller coaster during the Paul Molitor era. Up in 2015, way down in 2016, a peek at the playoffs in 2017 and now way down in 2018. The roller coaster claimed a front-office victim in longtime GM Terry Ryan two years ago and now there has to be some heat on field manager Molitor after this season's extreme disappointment.
The complaints about the old regime included being too "old school", including pitch-to-contact staffs, not using advanced metrics, cookie cutter approaches to hitting, and of course, not spending enough to bring in and keep talent. Fair complaints all, I think. However, in the Levine/Falvey era, we see little real progress and a real lack of talent in the upper minors. This year's crop of September call-ups is among the most uninspiring in recent memory.
I believe there are two keys to being competitive and sustaining that competitiveness for a number of years. The first is pitching. Levine and Falvey are supposed to be pitching guys. They have acquired pitching, but with mixed results at best. Their best talent at the top levels of the farm system doesn't have many, if any, outstanding talents. Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi didn't move the needle much for the big club this year. Perhaps they have suffered from some bad luck and just need to add quality until it sticks and stays. All I can say is this, the Twins rank in the bottom third of almost every meaningful pitching stat. You don't win year after year with far below average pitching.
The other component which is missing in my opinion is defense. For the last two years, the Twins have gone with a primary shortstop who is well below average defensively, couple that with a revolving door in center field this year, the trading of the regular second baseman and the season-ending injury to primary catcher Jason Castro, and you have a toxic mess turning outs into outs. Further, and if there is one complaint about Molitor that sticks, it is this. The team has been woeful at executing fundamental baseball. I'm talking about throwing to the proper base, making needless throws, failing to hit cutoff men and the like. Add in that opposing baserunners are taking extra bases like free gifts and this is tough to watch.
I think the front office needs to commit to pitching and defense in a big way this offseason. That would include making every effort to keep their most gifted defender (Byron Buxton) in Minnesota and on the field as much as possible. Secondly, I think the Twins need a defensive-minded shortstop, with the idea that Jorge Polanco can move to what I think is his natural position, second base. On the pitching front, more and better arms to augment the so-so rotation (I think Gibson/Berrios/Odorizzi is fine for #2-4) and a questionable bullpen. I like May/Hildenberger/Rogers, but more is needed included a closer.
The Twins have been in the baseball wilderness long enough. They need to have a solid plan for improvement, stick with it and stay relevant not for an occasional year, but consistently. I think the long suffering fan base deserves it.