Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Feeling Out the Front Office

Over the course of the past two seasons I have seen plenty of comments directed towards the Minnesota Twins front office. With Derek Falvey and Thad Levine replacing the Terry Ryan regime, much has been made of their age and new-fangled way of doing things. When looking at it objectively however, are there really any egregious missteps, and isn't this the way baseball is run around the league?

From many around the media landscape, nicknames have been given to the duo sitting at the top of 1 Twins Way. Whether calling Falvey and Levine the "Boy Wonders" or "Baseball Nerds," there continues to be monikers that poke at the age and data driven ideology disseminated from the Twins organization. From my vantage point, this either speaks to a lack of knowledge regarding the current game, or a level of malice intended towards individuals deemed unfit for the role.

At any rate, using analytics as a buzzword remains out of touch in today's game. Baseball, and front offices in general, have long since incorporated data driven practices to set forth at least a portion of what they do on a daily basis. This isn't specific to the Twins, and it's certainly not new to the game. When attempting to carve out competitive advantages, continuing to do the things you have always done will quickly get you left in the dust.

In an effort to attack some of the misconceptions head on, I posed this question last night on Twitter:
The responses were aplenty, but genuinely surprised me. Maybe it's because of my follower base being of the more informed variety, but there simply weren't the frustrated and shortsighted responses I expected to get. Sourcing through a few of the comments, I did want to do my best to rebut a few things that I thought lacked context.
A couple of comments surrounded the handling of Byron Buxton, which has been a horse I've severely beaten. The FO looks silly for how they handled that, and regardless of the business aspect, you'd have to be looking through a very narrow vacuum to argue in favor of it.

The other point that's touched on regards Matt Belisle and the 25 man roster. If there's criticism I believe is fair, it's how the 25 man roster was handled at times this season. It's hard to know what level of impact Paul Molitor needed or wanted over who he managed, but aging veterans were often preferred over potentially more impactful youth. Should that be a reality we move away from in 2019, one can assume Molitor's hand may have been in that process as well.

From there, we get into a few complete fallacies.
I don't know how you could realistically look back at the offseason and come to the above conclusion. Logan Morrison was added for nearly nothing after hitting over 30 longballs in 2017. Lance Lynn was a big rotation boost, and was brought in late in the game. Although not a free agent, acquiring multiple years of Jake Odorizzi for a low-level prospect was another shrewd move. The winter as a whole was hit out the park by the front office. We know how the talent performed on the field, but there's zero argument to be made against the moves being sensible at the time.
Looking across the organization, I'm not sure how there could be a conclusion that the Minnesota Twins aren't in a significantly better position than they were two years ago. The developmental staff of coaches and scouts has been beefed up significantly, and the influx of talent has followed suit. Drafting first overall in 2017, Falvey and Levine put together a very strong class. They then followed up that group with another good set of youth this past season. Supplementing amateurs with prospects acquired through trades this season, identifying talent genuinely seems like something they've excelled at.

At this point in the game, you need to come to the table with something better than stathead or moniker driven detractions for the Twins front office. It's not as though computers run the game of baseball, but data driven analysis has turned into an exploitable competitive advantage. Marrying that notion with the human element and squeezing the most out of the on-field product remains the optimal goal.

We're embarking on year three for this front office, and the offseason is an incredibly critical one. 2019 remains a season that Minnesota should compete at a high level, and expecting a full tear down or rebuild is nowhere in the blueprint of what is currently taking place. Although being left out of the postseason isn't fun, an objective view of the current landscape should be viewed with a level of positivity.

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