Twins manager Molitor getting hip to new regime
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The biggest adjustment for Twins manager Paul Molitor in acclimating to his new bosses may be keeping up with the business-school jargon that has been flying around the team's winter meetings suite this week.
"I don't have the extensive vocabulary that we've seen these guys display to this point," Molitor said Wednesday. "I just watch (Bill) O'Reilly and get my Word of the Day and try to put it in there somewhere."
Actually, Molitor's educational bona fides via Cretin High and the University of Minnesota leave him well positioned to contribute to the discussion. The plainspoken era of longtime Twins general manager Terry Ryan ended in July, but that doesn't mean Molitor and the new baseball-operations pilots, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine, risk having a failure to communicate.
"It's a change, but it's working," Molitor said. "When you make major moves like that, it's going to take time on both sides of the coin. I think everyone's put forth our best effort in trying to expedite building the relationships."
At 60, Molitor is the oldest manager in Twins history. The 33-year-old Falvey is one of the game's youngest executives, with Levine, 45, offering a helpful interpretive midpoint.
Although Molitor is entering the final season of a three-year contract, his status hasn't been an issue, even coming off a 103-loss nightmare. It helps that the new guys entered praising the holdover manager rather than questioning him.
"They have inviting personalities," Molitor said. "There is obviously a fairly easy connection."
While Ryan had his certain way of running internal meetings, there has been somewhat of a transition period to the new way here this week.
"A guy like Terry, who did it for so long, you know what that's like," Molitor said. "It hasn't been dramatically different, but they have a little different way they're operating. I like the energy, and there is a lot of high baseball IQ there. We're just trying to continue to find ways to get on the same page."
A big part of that is striking a balance between short-term improvements for 2017 and moving established pieces for prospects with higher future upside. Slugging second baseman Brian Dozier is the most noteworthy example, with Molitor correctly stating it would be better for him if the Twins hold onto their 42-homer team leader.
Falvey this week mentioned how he quizzed Molitor in some of their October phone conversations, shortly after getting hired, and asked "about how he operates, decision-making" and other manager-related matters.
"I was eager to hear some of the things he was saying about how open-minded he is or the things he reads or what he tries to look up and understand more of," Falvey said. "It's a bit of an education process with a lot of these new stats and systems and Statcast—everything that comes out every year that's new."
Molitor, a seeker by nature, chuckled and said he hadn't been assigned any particular offseason reading material but that he is open to suggestion when it comes to modern analytics.
"You need to refresh yourself along the way," he said. "There are a lot of initials to know—what they represent and how to quantify those things. I haven't specifically done more than get a better understanding of some of the things that we feel in terms of resources might help us get better."
Molitor made particular mention of fielding-independent pitching (FIP), spin rate and the pitch-framing data that led the Twins to sign light-hitting catcher Jason Castro for $24.5 million over three years.
"It's gained a lot of credence," Molitor said. "The whole idea of signing Jason Castro, a lot of it was measured on the impact of catching on a staff. As we've learned more how to quantify that, I think that it's probably been a little bit of an undervalued position for guys that handle some of those types of things better than others."
And while Molitor admittedly would prefer a set lineup and set roles, he recognizes the value of key metrics that could lead to more platooning and less traditional bullpen usage.
"We can quantify so many more parts of the game now," he said. "It's more tangible in how we evaluate, and in some ways how we apply the use of our roster day to day. You're smart enough to know that you're going to do what you need to do, according to what knowledge you have in trying to give your team the best chance to win every day."