Tag Archives: roster construction

Falvey, Philosophy, & the Future

"Good pitching beats good hitting," the saying goes. "TINSTAAPP," might be the rejoinder.

Derek Falvey no longer works for the reigning American League Champions. As of today Falvey is in charge of the worst team in baseball. The newly-installed Executive Vice President & Chief Baseball Officer of the Minnesota Twins, Falvey has been credited with a substantial role in the development of the pitching program that provided the bedrock of his former team's success. He announced his first hire, Thad Levine, who will be the Twins' General Manager and Senior Vice President. Levine's previous duties in Texas included international scouting, player acquisition, roster composition, contract negotiations, and statistical/financial analysis. Rob Antony, the now-former interim GM, was considered the contracts expert in former GM Terry Ryan's cadre of longtime assistants and former GMs. Antony's new duties have not yet been defined. The continued involvement of Terry Ryan, Bill Smith, Wayne Krivsky, Mike Radcliff, Deron Johnson, Brad Steil, and even Jack Goin appear to be open questions.

As I contemplated the rosters of Cubs and their opponent last night, I felt the first major question of this new era of Twins baseball hit my mind with full force:

Will the Twins follow the pattern of Falvey's old team and stress the development of a raft young pitchers as the prime motivator of a run at contention. The Twins' ballpark might be well-suited to this approach, but the volatility of young arms suggests a substantial amount of assumed risk in that strategy.

Or will Falvey shift gears and attempt to fix a player development program that has left talented young position players spinning their wheels in a constant revolving door between Minnesota and the minor leagues? Said another way, will Falvey's plan be to develop a core of talented young position players like the Cubs, and then buttress it with a pitching staff assembled through smart acquisitions and signings?

Of course, it's simply too early to know. What we'll learn about Falvey's roster construction approach first will be informed by the more mundane, familiar offseason questions: Which veterans are tendered a contract? How does the club approach and weather arbitration? What does the front office say about the 2017 roster?

But it seems worth discussing, in the (small?) window we have before things begin to take shape under Falvey's guidance, the merits and pitfalls of each approach, or how – and to what degree – we might like to see them applied to the organization. This is a pivotal moment in the existence of our favorite franchise. It's the first gust of truly fresh air through a front office that has been intellectually stagnant & compositionally fetid for over a decade, a front office that was working off a plan that traced its origin back to the mid-1980s and its conventions back to pre-integration baseball. The twenty-first century, it seems, may have finally arrived for the Minnesota Twins.

The clubs that concluded the World Series last night offer two compelling patterns. For the first time in a long while, there is an exciting amount of uncertainty around the Twins.

How Many Brians Dozier?

On a recent episode of Effectively Wild, the hosts were presented with the following scenario:

Let's say you run a team filled entirely with league-average players, and you're given the unique & magical option of replacing as many of those players as you like with Barry Bondses. How many Barrys do you take, where do they play, where do you hit them in the order, and how many games does the team win?

The hosts decided to answer the question three times: once for 2016 Barry Bonds, once for 1993 Barry Bonds, and once more for 2004 Barry Bonds. The hosts assumed that every starting position player & member of the rotation were roughly 2-win players, every bench player was slightly better than replacement level, and every reliever a 1-win player. Finally, they used the lineup analysis tool at Baseball Musings to generate a rough idea of how many runs their Bonds-fueled offense would score per game.

Let's substitute "Barry Bondses" with "Brians Dozier" and contemplate the scenario twice: once with full 2016 Brian Dozier, and once with post-17 June 2016 Brian Dozier. What are our answers?

On the full season, Dozier has posed a .349 OBP and .580 SLG. His value according to your preferred metric is 6.0 rWAR, 5.7 fWAR, or 4.7 WARP. Since 17 June, Dozier has a .369 OBP and .746 SLG. A league-average hitter across MLB would have a .322 OBP and .419 SLG, which is just about what Kurt Suzuki has managed this year (.319/.421). A lineup of store-brand Kurts Suzuki would score 4.510 runs per game.

Using the 1989-2002 model of the lineup tool, a lineup of eight full season Brians Dozier, plus a store brand Suzuki at catcher, would score 6.375 runs per game. A lineup of eight post-17 June Brians Dozier plus IGA Suzuki would score 8.177 runs per game.

Obviously you deploy a Dozier at second & shortstop, where he has significant experience, at DH, and at 1b (I mean, Ryan Howard plays there...). Dozier's roughly an average defender at second (Fangraphs has his UZR/150 at -0.9 over 5144 innings). At short he's a bit worse: -5.0 over 732.1 innings. But then it starts getting tricky.

Dozier has exactly 20 games at 3b in the pro level, none since he played 6 innings at third for New Britain in 2011. Reaction time is the big unknown and Dozier's limited range at shortstop becomes less important. Michael Cuddyer had a -8.1 UZR/150 at 2b over 532.1 innings and was -10.2 at 3b. Assuming Dozier's arm is weaker than Cuddyer's, but that he gets to a few more balls than his former teammate, we could say Dozier's probably in the neighborhood of a -3.5 defender at third.

Dozier has never played outfield in pro ball. Cuddyer was -8.1 over 7546.2 innings in right field. Cuddyer clearly made a deal with the SSS devil to get his 34.4 UZR/150 in 36 blessedly uneventful innings in center. Dozier is younger and more mobile than Cuddyer was, a plus for potential deployment in center, but his arm becomes more of a factor in the outfield. Frankly, your guess is as good as mine.

Since Dozier is a middle infielder you can relieve yourself of the burden of carrying a Denny Hocking on the roster to cover up-the-middle positions on the bench, but you probably need a backup catcher with Chris Herrmann's resume. Whether you carry eleven or twelve pitchers probably depends on your feelings about a bunch of 1-win relievers. Of course, you could elect to have a six-man rotation to give yourself one more 2-win starter.

So, how many Brians Dozier do you take – full season and post-17 June – to make up your team? Where do you play them?