Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Puffs of white smoke

Word on the interwebs Monday was that the Twins had settled on Derek Falvey, 32-year-old assistant general manager of the Cleveland Indians, as their new president of baseball operations.

The Twins haven't announced such a hire; they haven't even scheduled an announcement. One genuine possibility for delay is that Falvey's current team was in a pennant race. (The Tribe clinched the AL Central title last night.) Another may be that the Twins intend to announce other changes -- such as the new general manager -- at the same time.

Here's Cleveland.com, the online arm of the Plain Dealer, on Falvey's many-faceted role with the Indians. The importance of connecting the work of the analytics people with that of the manager, coaches and players was a major theme of "Big Data Baseball," the 2015 book on the Pittsburgh Pirates, and seems to be a major part of Falvey's duties with the Tribe.


Well, there's an interesting thing about the rise of the Cleveland Indians. In 2014, by the defensive metrics to be found on Baseball Reference, they were an awful defensive team. In 2015 they moved more or less to the middle of the pack, and this year they are at or near the top.

There are a lot of factors involved in that; the arrival of Francisco Lindor at shortstop certainly didn't hurt. But one of them was moving a third baseman, Lonnie Chisenhall, to right field. Another was undoing their own version of the Sano fiasco. in which they attempted to install Carlos Santana at third base. That 2014 experiment lasted about as long as Sano lasted in right field this year.

I won't pretend to know what Falvey's role was in any of those decisions. He probably wasn't an innocent bystander. But the notion that a front office exec coming out of the Cleveland Indians culture is going to be fervently anti-experimentation is simply silly. There may be no operation in the game more willing to try something different than Cleveland.

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