Minnesota Twins: Paul Molitor’s New Year’s Resolutions

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 11: Manager Paul Molitor
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 11: Manager Paul Molitor /
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Trust the young guys, play the young guys

The Minnesota Twins were tagged with having a no-name bullpen going into the playoffs, but the bullpen that the Twins brought into the postseason was not the same bullpen that had the 22nd ranked bullpen ERA for the full season.

Even with the team’s closer traded at the end of July, the bullpen was actually significantly better in the 2nd half, the 12th best in the league. Heck, in the month right after the Twins made their midseason trades, they sported the league’s 7th-best bullpen.

A great example of this of this was Alan Busenitz. Brought up in June, he pitched to a 2.08 ERA in six appearances…and was promptly sent down to the minors to bring up another reliever?!

Busenitz was then brought up July 24th and not sent back down, but in the first 20 days he was up, Busenitz was used just 3 times. For a bullpen sorely lacking in power arms, a guy who could reach 98 with his four-seam fastball and has a curve that gets over 50% ground balls when put in play would seem to be an ideal arm to utilizing.

Similarly, a guy like Aaron Slegers was given two September starts, 24 days apart. How exactly is a guy supposed to stay in a starter’s game mode with that usage? At the very least, Slegers could have been a ground ball machine used out of the pen all month rather than Tyler Duffey, who put up a 7.15 ERA in September, yet somehow was run out there 10 times and given 11 1/3 relief innings in the month as the team attempted to lock down the 2nd Wild Card spot.

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John Curtiss‘ usage was odd as well. Along the lines of Busenitz, with one of the few arms that could legitimately threaten triple digits on the radar gun with a killer slider, he had two back-to-back pairs of appearances, along with one 5-game break, 2 6-game breaks, and an 8-game break.

Trying to stay in game-ready shape as a reliever with that much time between appearances will wear on a guy mentally and physically. Notably, a pitcher that touched 99 MPH frequently last fall in the Arizona Fall League was maxing out at 97 with the Twins. Much of that could be attributed to rust on the arm, yet he only had 2 walks in his 9 appearances, both of them coming in one appearance.

On the hitting side, Twins fans were excited to see catching prospect Mitch Garver come up. He was one of the best-hitting catching prospects in all of the minors before he came up, with power and good contact ability. However, he consistently got multiple days in between getting a plate appearance.

Even when Garver would get a plate appearance, he was not getting full game work. In September, Garver played in 16 games, but he started only 5.

For a team that needs right-handed power, especially in September as Miguel Sano was out, Garver could have spent time at DH, 1B, and C to get starts, meaning he wouldn’t have had to displace just one normal starter to get his at bats.

In 2017, those young guys coming up got stung in playing time, and even the young players in the lineup were the most apt to get shuffled in the lineup based on how they were hitting from one day to the next, seemingly. For 2018, Molitor needs to resolve to trust his young players and play them!

Next: Starting Pitcher Rumors

That’s our list of resolutions for Molitor. Do you have any more that you would add?!