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Rocco Baldelli: Hero or Villian?

Doc Munson



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Twins fans, like most fans tend to have a hot/cold, love/hate relationship with coaches/managers.

What exactly is the Baldelli Lama?

IS he a wunderkind for babying and piecing together a top 10 starting rotation getting the max results from a bunch of #3s or #4s? Will he end up looking like a genius by not letting starters go past 70 pitches regardless of results? With the delayed start to the season, OBVIOUSLY no pitcher should be able to go past 4 2/3 or touch 80 pitches per game right??? I mean they are not conditioned for such a workload.  The whole rest of MLB will look ridiculous when Ryan, Ober, Archer, Bundy, Gray  end up in a 5 way tie for the Cy Young with MONSTER second halves because they were not overused at the beginning of the season right??

All smart alecking aside (and I can guess you can figure out where my views land) Has he done a good job with the starters? keeping them healthy, slowly... ever so slowly loosenign the reigns, or doing a 2 steps forward 1 step back approach. I mean Archer just went 5 scoreless on 57 pitches and was pulled.

It doesnt seem to be the case, with Sonny Gray having multiple nagging injuries, Paddack needing TJ (again who didnt see that coming when the trade was announced??) Bailey Ober has already had a stint as well.

Still it is impossible to prove a negative, and one could easily say that if the Twins had NOT slowly built up the arms there would have been even MORE carnage and poor performance, so for the Hero argument, lets give Baldelli his due!!  HE is the coach, and the starters have pitched very well.  If you get the blame, you should get the credit as well.


Now, speaking of getting the blame...

Is Baldelli the Villian for not allowing the starters to go deeper into games? to learn how to pitch out of tough situations? to not build up  that arm strength to be even stronger in innings 5,6 and God forbid 7th innings later in the year?  And what kind of impact has the low number of innings had on the bullpen? Both now and going forward? Are we burning out the pen? Will that come back to haunt us? 


This is a results based game. and going back to the Archer 5 inning game, if Archer comes out after 5 innings and we hold onto a 2-1 win, then Baldelli gets praise for beautifully handling the pitching staff, since we lost, he gets tore apart for pulling a guy after 5 innings and just 57 pitches . and it loses a bit of actual "sting" since it wasnt the NEXT pitcher who gave up the lead, Duran came in and gave us 2 strong innings.  AND to Baldellis credit before Pagan gave up the game, he had a 2.12 ERA. but we did not hold the lead so it was a "bad decision"


And again with it being a results based game, we are still in 1st place, and a single win counts only as a single win, so it shouldn't matter if it is from a dominant 3 hit CG shutout on 115 pitches or a "two times through the lineup  max" game for 3-4 pitchers. they still count the same. but they do not FEEL the same. and the losses sure the heck dont!!  a well pitched 7-8 inning start we lose feels like we lost to a better team. a 3-4 pitcher game where the bullpen gives up a few runs feels we lost because we are just bad.

Maybe I am just too "old school" who likes watching pitchers go deep, get out of trouble, and have a theory that you use the pen when you NEED to, not when you CAN.  Maybe the game has passed me by, because I have great unease about this team, and what may happen going forward mainly as a result poor pitching management. Should I just be happy that we are in first place, and not care about how those wins LOOK?  Take the pleasure in the win, vs the pleasure of watching entertaining baseball?

But I am digressing... Getting back to the question at hand, I think our success/failure comes down to pitching more than hitting, And I think it is because I truly do not have an answer to my own question...

Is (will) Baldelli (be) a hero or a villian? 





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Old School. Pitchers will never ever go deep again. The days of complete games, and even getting full credit for a shutout are long since past. Sadly.

Thru the first third of the season, the Twins have ben extremely lucky. All their starters will pitch just south or north of 25 games, if we hold to the current path. The Twins have been able to field a six-man rotation pitching like they were a five.

All the starters, except for Gray, were expected to implode if pushed past 150 innings. Guys rotating thru injury and COVID lists, plus the ability to short start the season thru mid-June with an enhanced bullpen, has given the Twins a slight edge in that regard. The guys have been able to build up endurance.

The bigger question is can the bullpen sustain, following Rocco's pre-game schedule of who does what, when. 

If starters can barely pitch into the sixth, the days of bullpen arms pitching multiple innings without rest inbetween, or a bullpen arm pitching 2-3 and maybe four days in a row, are done and gone.

We are seeing 100 mph pitchers happening a tad more frequenbt. As long as batters suffer with pitcher changes (even the sad "must face three batters rule seems a joke"), and you have the ability to actually find relief arms that can pitch 40-50 outings, managers will short the starters and increase use of the pen. 

Especially if you have a pipeline to the minors. Sure, there are restrictions now where a guy has to stay down 10 days. But that doesn't stop you from rotating guys off the 40-man, especially now as the season progresses and you can bring in a fresh arm (with experience) that you may only need once or twice before sending on their way (Cotton).

The only flipside of the Twins is that they are pretty much stuck at seven rotation arms right now. Winder is still injured and could thrive as a long man, if you can afford a roster spot - again - for a guy who is pushing it to go four innings, be it as a starter or out of the pen. WInder needs to stretch out as a starter at St. Paul. Bundy is NOT a gem. If they need an 8th, the choices are Henriquez, Balazovic and Sands...none of whom are performing well, and shows the problem of putting unknown prospects that still need minors time on the 40-man.

And, final point - fans are fickle. We yell if a guy loads the bases and is allowed to try and get out of an inning. We yell if he is pulled too soon in a close game and a pitcher thrtows a home-run ball (which happens more than not). We scream that they pay too much time looking at iPads and video. Yet as long as a manager wins, all is forgiven. Even when we can also blame the front office for not giving us 100% workable, always a win, pieces of players.

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I  don't know if Baldelli is or will be a hero, but I'm OK with him pulling starters the way he has been.  So many times I've watched a starter cruise through the lineup once or twice  and I get all excited about what a great game he's having, and then it falls apart in the later innings. So many times (and this is after the fact) I've complained that the manager left him in one inning too long.  If only he had pulled him earlier the pitcher would still have a sparkling ERA and the team would still be in the game.  As I said, this is after the fact. But this is where a great manager comes in. He "knows" or should know, how the rhythm of the game is changing, how strong his pitcher is, how rested the BP is, and a slew of other factors. A great manager has great judgement and consistently makes the right decisions. This is a hard job because he doesn't have a crystal ball. If he knew a reliever was going to come in and blow the game he wouldn't have made that decision. But removing the starter may have still been the right thing to do. 

As far as other managerial decisions - starting line up, batting order, if and when to steal, bunt, hit and run, I'm seeing a very conservative manager, which may be due to the roster and playing the hand you have, but the lack of "small ball" tactics makes for a boring game and seems (to me) to suggest a lack of imagination and aggressiveness by the manager. 

So, is Baldelli a hero or a villain? In some ways he is doing fine, and in some ways he needs improvement.  Same could be said for each of us. It's been said that winning solves all problems. If the Twins become champs, (because of or in spite of Baldelli) he will be a hero. Time will tell 

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I really wonder how many decisions Rocco makes on his own. How many things are coming down from the FO? How many times does he just go with his "gut", or does he just look at the computer printouts and play it the safe way. The Twins have had some really good managers over the years, some that have had a lot less talent yet have managed to get the most out of what they had. Rocco has had fairly talented teams to work with, but IMO, he hasn't really been able to get the most out of what he's been given, yet. With that being said, I will also say other than the way he handles the pitching staff, it seems like he is improving. Now he just needs to figure out the handling of pitchers.

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2 hours ago, Karbo said:

I really wonder how many decisions Rocco makes on his own. How many things are coming down from the FO? How many times does he just go with his "gut", or does he just look at the computer printouts and play it the safe way. The Twins have had some really good managers over the years, some that have had a lot less talent yet have managed to get the most out of what they had. Rocco has had fairly talented teams to work with, but IMO, he hasn't really been able to get the most out of what he's been given, yet. With that being said, I will also say other than the way he handles the pitching staff, it seems like he is improving. Now he just needs to figure out the handling of pitchers.

I've heard rumors that Baldelli doesn't get very much freedom to make decisions, and there is a ton of collaboration with the front office when making lineups / bullpen pecking order / etc. I don't think he makes that big of impact on the team, positive or negative.

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I'm not a huge Baldelli fan but I actually see him trying to react to the lineup issues. He called for a sacrifice bunt in the late innings today and he is definitely trying to manufacture runs with Correa out and Buxton and Polanco both hurting and not hitting. I think he's done a decent job with an undermanned bullpen. Overall, I'd give him a B/B- for the year so far. Not great, but not bad. 

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Solidly not a villain. Not quite yet the contender captain we want him to become here, but I'm still pulling for him because I think he's a decent man with good intentions for the club. This team is hanging in there despite some crucial injuries, tender arms and challenging stretches.

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IMO there might be some decisions that are out of Baldelli's hands like  pitchers (Coloume', Happ, Shoemaker, Pagan) that have been obtained and FO wants Baldelli put these pitcher in a place where they look good. So he doubles, triples, quadruples or more down  on a player that should have been demoted a long time ago.

But there other times where the FO is right and Baldelli bucks them. Example, FO stated that they wanted to adapt an piggy-back system because of the shortening of spring training, young rookie SPs, SPs obtained that  don't have arms to go 5+ innings through out the season. Piggy-backing you depend on long relief to get you through, I'm 100% behind this strategy. But Baldelli is so stubborn about depending so highly on short relief that he quickly over uses & burns them out, that could cause injuries. To spare the short relief he then over uses the rotation causes them to get burned out and injured. We need long relief and for Baldelli use them the way that long relief should be used, sparing the rotation & short relief so they'll be healthy, fresh & strong for the post season.

If he's able to change his mindset on this, I'd deem a hero.

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You're being old school. Baldelli manages pitchers the same way every other manager in the game manages pitchers. In fact, the Twins leave starters in slightly longer than league average. 

I think his primary impact on the team has to do with clubhouse chemistry. He's not a yell in your face, motivate by telling you how much you suck type guy. He encourages players, has their backs, and puts them in spots to succeed. He also has confidence (false or not) that they will succeed. That does go a long way in knowing hey, the manager believes in my skills, my role, and here's what I need to do to get better and help the team win. 

For how much the Twins have been banged up, he's done a pretty good job managing who can pitch when, who can play where, etc. The Twins have already had to go what, 14 starters deep? Top 4 starters are ALL unavailable right now and the team is still in first place. 

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I have questioned many of Rocco's decisions on pitchers, both when he uses them and who he uses. The one that bothered me the most was the Archer move, after pitching 5 innings and only throwing 57 pitches, he pulls him. This was easily Archer's best performance so far and IF Rocco is truly following a "pitch count" plan, it makes no sense, given Archer had thrown over 70 pitches in each of his 3 previous starts. The guy was cruising and in my opinion, could have went one or two more innings. That is when he should have brought in Duran, to pitch the 8th & 9th innings.                                                   Beyond that, using 3 to 5 relief pitchers  every game, will have the bullpen completely burned out by July 4th.  He needs to find a balance and it appears that when it comes to pitchers, he is in over his head.

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I think you're attributing too much to Baldelli, good or bad.

There's next to no chance that the decision to limit innings and manage health is his call. He maybe has a seat at the table for these discussions, but he's almost certainly not King Arthur in this scenario.

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Rocco is an interesting study as a manager.  He has had a tough year with all the injuries and FO.  Still in first place?  Big deal!  It's a crummy division and Twins have been ok and very lucky at times.  I think twins have only won like 5 of their last 13 or so.  I think he is a very decent man and very competent.  I am not a fan of his overuse of his analytics and his computer needs a reboot.  I don't like his use of the pitching staff.  His lineups at times are horrific.  Injuries aside there's been too many times when star players were not in lineup even though they were able to play.  His in game decision making and adjustments are very poor.  Sticking tou your game plan without any game flexibility leads to losses.  He has apparently throw away games when his plan must be used even if it will likely result in a loss.  I think he is inflexible and stubborn in his way or not at all.  I'm not ruling him a hero or a villain at this point mainly due to the injuries and covid issues.  Last year was a disaster.  This year could become a disaster but I surely hope not.

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