Tuesday, November 15, 2016

From the Handbook: Molitor's managing

The Bill James Handbook 2017 arrived at my residence this weekend, and I could probably mine the numbers for posts all winter.

Today, let's examine what it shows about Paul Molitor's tactics in the season past.

Molitor in 2015, his rookie season as skipper, did not lead the league in anything. This year, he

  • used more lineups than anybody else in the AL
  • made more pitching changes than anybody else in the AL
  • and, of course, lost more games than anybody else.

Compared to 2015, he

  • pinch-hit slightly less often
  • called for more bunts, steals and runners-in-motion
  • issued fewer intentional walks and was less successful with the strategy

That last segment is ... a bit odd. Team generally pinch-hit more often when behind, and lordie, the 2016 Twins were behind a lot. Teams generally break out the one-run strategies when ahead or at least tied late; again, that was not the rule for the 2016 Twins. Even the IBB -- the intentional walks is a tactic best used by the trailing team.

All this suggests that Molitor spent the season trying to "make something happen." He didn't pinch-hit as often because he wasn't starting defensive specialists; he was starting weaker fielders in an effort to push the offense. Eduard Nunez and Jorge Polanco at short. Juan Centeno at catcher. Miguel Sano as a right fielder. Even Danny Santana -- he hasn't hit for Molitor, but Molitor plays him as if he will.

Juggle the lineup. Change the pitcher. Put on the hit-and-run. Molitor was the managerial equivalent of the famous cartoon of two buzzards, one saying to the other: "Patience, my ass. I say let's go kill something." Molitor may have been losing, but he wasn't passive tactically. Indeed, he may have been trying too hard.

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