Wednesday, November 18, 2015

From the Handbook: Molitor tactically, Part I

2015 was something of a novelty for Twins fans: They got to see a new manager after 13 seasons of Ron Gardenhire calling the shots. And before Gardy, there was 14-plus seasons of Tom Kelly.

What, specifically, did Paul Molitor do differently in terms of moves than Gardenhire?

Here's a sizable difference: Consecutive days of use by relief pitchers. Gardenhire at one point (2007-2010) averaged more than 100 RCD a year. But his final four seasons, he was down to 82, 82, 78 and 82. Molitor shot that up to 123 last year, roughly a 50 percent increase, and notably more than Gardenhire's high of 115.

Five pitchers had at least 13 consecutive days usage for the Twins last year; Blaine Boyer led with 20.Two others had nine. Only three Twins relievers had 13 RCD in 2014, none with more than 17.

I think this is worth bookmarking. Ryan Pressly had nine RCD in his 27 appearances for Molitor, then he got hurt. Boyer spent time on the disabled list. Aaron Thompson had 13 RCD, lost effectiveness and was sent down, never to return. Pitchers get hurt, and some of these guys were and are marginal major leaguers anyway, so I'm reluctant to declare a bright line of causality. but this is worth monitoring. Molitor was aggressive about using relievers on consecutive days. It's possible that is counterproductive.

To cherry-pick some other possibly interesting data points: Gardenhire used an average of 125 lineups a year, with a high of 135 in 2005 and low of 97 in 2006. Molitor's 124 is right around Gardenhire's average.

Gardenhire's teams averaged 135 steal attempts and 51 sac bunt attempts; Molitor in 2015, 108 and 44. (Gardenhire's two lowest bunting years were his final two seasons). Molitor also stole less often in 2015 than Gardy did in 2014 and bunted more frequently. 

Gardenhire's hitters over his career had the platoon advantage 62 percent of the time. Molitor's hitters this year, 59 percent of the time. I believed, and declared often, that Molitor was more attuned to the platoon advantage than Gardenhire was, but this suggests otherwise. (I suspect the difference is that Gardenhire had a number of left-handed hitting regulars over the years that he simply refused to platoon despite the numbers, such as Jacque Jones and Jason Kubel; they faced more righties than lefties simply because there are more righties than lefties. Molitor's regulars tended to be right handed.)

Molitor put runners in motion 132 times, the closest of any manager to the AL average of 136. Gardenhire averaged 128 (but in his first two years, just 44 and 37; in 2012 he was up to 207). 

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