With better fundamentals and more success late in games, Molitor told (the new front office chiefs), the Twins would be much better than their 59 wins without dramatic changes. After checking the analytics, Falvey and Levine bought into the message.
A fellow who was part of the group with which I attended Monday's game isn't buying into it. He repeatedly insisted Monday that this year's model will finish several games worse than 2016's squad.
Not likely. The 2016 team's won-loss record was markedly worse than their underlying numbers suggest. The "pythagorean theorum" devised decades ago by Bill James to calculate an expected record from runs scored and runs allowed says the Twins "should" have gone 66-96, which is not a good record at all but is still seven games better than the 59-103 they did record.
That wasn't the worst underperformance of 2016 (Tampa Bay missed by nine games), but it's close.
The 59-103 mark is real. The 66-96 pythagorean record is probably a better indicator of how bad the team actually was.
The point being ... to get to the 109 or so losses the guy on the bus claims to anticipate, the new, younger Twins would have to decline probably not only six games in results but another seven or so in the underlying stats.
In a sense, Paul Molitor is trying to catch a falling knife. If the 2017 Twins finish with a 66-96 record, that seven-game improvement is likely to be discounted by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, the manager's new bosses. Sixty-six wins is probably the baseline. A 70-92 record would be an 11 game improvement -- and less than that in the eyes of Molitor's most important beholders, and likely in Molitor's estimation as well.
There's a line of thought that Molitor is being set up to fail by the new front office, which inherited him as manager. That implies a bad faith I doubt is actually at work. If Molitor -- who is in the last year of his contract -- is dismissed after the season, it will be after a legitimate opportunity and, presumably, legitimate failure. We haven't gotten there yet.