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What I Wish the Twin’s Front Office Would Say About 2022 (Part 2)

Thad Levine here.  My 2022 Brutal Self-Assessment (BSA) includes the key areas that I think are important to Twins front office and coaching staff success.  Twins Daily readers should offer solutions or point out things I have missed.  Space limits stop me from listing all areas that need to be addressed.

#1. We arrived in 2016 touting our ability to identify, draft and develop players, especially pitching.  How have we done in six drafts? My quick BSA shows that in 2022, three pitchers we drafted and developed (Winder, Sands, and Varland) will have pitched about 120 of the nearly 1,500 innings pitched.  Five position players we drafted and developed will make roughly 500 of nearly 6,000 plate appearances.  Those same players (Jeffers, Larnach, Lewis, Contreras and Wallner) will have produced about 60 of the 650 RBI in 2022.  After six seasons, we still don’t have a homegrown MLB pitcher or position players considered a difference maker.  I admit we have spent too many high picks on power bats with no obvious defensive position.  Is there potential?  Yes!  But potential means you ain’t done it yet.

I’m also concerned about our minor league development system. A good example is Kirilloff, who has a great swing tool, but as an outfielder, he is in mortal peril of being overtaken and crushed by a glacier.  Great bat, average arm, and slow equals 1B.  But we didn’t play him much at 1B until AAA.  I give kudos to Gordon and Miranda in 2022.  Throughout their minor league careers, they didn’t play the most innings at the position we put them at in the Bigs.  We do a disservice to players to promote them, then ask them to adjust to MLB pitching, AND, play a new position at MLB level. Gordon was never the system’s best SS or 2B.  We did should have groomed him early for a utility role.  We need to make the call on the MLB position(s) we think they can play, and then we school them deeply.  If they balk, we help them find a team who thinks they can be something else.  When we’re wrong, we try to get smarter.  In business, the only bad decision is when you fail to make one. Don’t be a squirrel in the middle of the road, zigzagging, and then getting run over.  Make a decision.  If it’s wrong, fix it.

Grade: D

#2. We have talked ad nauseum about our superior abilities in advanced analytics.  Looking back on 2022 and previous seasons, it appears we are letting analyses make rather than guide our decisions.  An old Sparky Anderson managing guideline was that career or season-long numbers didn’t matter nearly as much as how any player had been doing the past three weeks.  Hard and fast rules based on analyses of old data for pitching, hitting or evaluating players is like driving a car forward while looking in the rearview mirror.  It works fine until the road curves.  There are a lot of curves in the road of baseball.

Grade:  C

#3. Our love affair with young, cute analytics made us kick old, reliable baseball fundamentals to the curb.  This seems to be a problem throughout our system.  I am told that in olden days, players were reprimanded and sometimes lost playing time for missing cutoffs, throwing to the wrong base, missing signs, not holding runners, not hitting the ball to the opposite field, lousy baserunning or not being able to put down a sacrifice bunt.  Our third-base coach seems to struggle with the concept that slow runners should not be sent home with one out just to surprise the other team. One old timer told me that if Tom Kelly was dead, thank goodness he is not, his grave would always appear freshly rototilled due to a full summer of spinning.  We fired Paul Molitor because he didn’t use our analytics.  Perhaps we need to add someone to our staff who suspects that baseball is more than homeruns, strikeouts, pitch MPH and exit velocity.  We will need to discuss these new, difficult concepts internally.

Grade D

#4. We are a medium budget team.  That means we don’t have much margin for error in player development, trades or free agent acquisitions.  We’ve had to cover our weak record on producing relatively low-cost, high output young players.  We were forced to promote players who aren’t ready, make questionable trades and chase affordable free agents.  Joe Ryan was a great trade.  Dumping Donaldson, a free agent error, luckily got us two much-needed, reliable regulars in 2022.  But it cost us a low-cost reliable SS.  If we had kept Escobar at $8M/yr., who put up similar numbers as Donaldson, we could have kept Kiner-Falefa for 2 years at $7.5M.  Yes, we would not have Duran. But we wouldn’t have needed Correa at $35M/yr., thus we could have afforded better pitching.  Using a $M/WAR basis, Escobar and Kiner-Falefa were bargains. 

If we could draft and develop better as well as not make big free agent mistakes, we would not have to go dumpster diving for 3-4 level starting pitchers and further deplete our farm system to get #2-3 starters and relievers via trades.  We still don’t have a #1 playoff caliber pitcher.  For you cheerleaders, take September performances and statistics vs non-contenders with a grain of salt.  It would also help if our front office could prevent trades for guys who are hurt.  But this all feeds off our weakness in #1.  We have to get better as scouts and get better player information. Desperate time yield desperate trades and signings.  That was us in 2022.

Grade C-

#5.  Our in-stadium and TV product needs to improve.  The players in the dugout appeared to be having fun in 2022.  That was an improvement.  We understand our quality of play needs much improvement. I’m considering having a frank discussion with some of our fans.  An opposing pitcher should not be showered with boos every time he chases a Twins runner back to first base.  It makes us look like fools who don’t know baseball.  It may also be contributing to our pitchers’ reluctance to hold runners.

Silly prefab noise like “Everybody Clap Your Hands” is now ruined for me once somebody asked, “Why do you want everybody to crap their pants.”  We’ll fix that.  We are also going to revisit contracts with our announcers.  We may remove the “And Never is Heard, A Discouraging Word” clause and allow them to speak freely.  That may also educate our fans, stop the booing when pitcher chase runners back, and maybe our pitchers will start holding runners. 

Dick Bremer will no longer be required to hand out verbal participation ribbons. An example is after a wild throw home from the outfield that is too late but allows two runners to advance a base, Bremer doesn’t have to comment on how strong the throw was.  He can tell the truth.  In a similar vein, Justin Morneau will no longer be required fill each inning with three to five “Justinifications” about how the same or any play could have been good baseball if the player was thinking about this, or that, or ifs to the fifth.  We will also stop paying Morneau per word uttered.  We did not anticipate he could talk without stopping to breathe. Sadly, Fernando Valenzuela taught him how to breathe through his eyelids like a lava lizard.  Latroy Hawkins taught me that during a baseball telecast, a few moments of silence can be golden.

Grade C

Thank you Twins fans for your support and your patience, which we know we can’t expect to continue much longer.  Hang in there Mr. and Mrs. STR.  I smell a playoff victory in 2023.

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2 hours ago, Snarkier Than Reusse said:

Hard and fast rules based on analyses of old data for pitching, hitting or evaluating players is like driving a car forward while looking in the rearview mirror.  It works fine until the road curves.  There are a lot of curves in the road of baseball.

Dangerous too. Objects (losses) in mirror are closer than they appear.

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