The Twins have completed 14 games by now and have looked far better lately than when they started the season 1-5. Through it all, two things have immediately jumped out at me about new manager Paul Molitor, and both have to do with platoons.*
* Literally as I typed this, Molitor did something last night so crazy that I'll add it to the end.
I've written about this plenty of times before, which is the thought of platoons. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Molitor going to Oswaldo Arcia and Jordan Schafer against lefthanded David Price on Opening Day and how I hoped that this wouldn't become a trend. Fortunately it hasn't, as Molitor has been content with mixing up his lineups on a daily basis.
The first thing I've noticed is that he's held true to his word with having a platoon in center field. In their 14 games thus far, Jordan Schafer has started nine games and Robinson has started the other five. Secondly, Molitor has benched Oswaldo Arcia against some lefthanded starters, and Trevor Plouffe even sat one game against a righty simply because of the match-up. Though I've disagreed with Eduardo Escobar being inserted in left field, Molitor has not been afraid to minimize his players' weaknesses by having them sit against same-sided pitchers.
The second main thing that I've seen is on the other side of the platoons. With Ron Gardenhire, we often saw pitchers go one inning at a time. Closers were for save situations only unless they needed some work. Molitor has approached his bullpen in a different manner as he's again looked for match-ups to help his players succeed. It hasn't always worked (Blaine Boyer seeing more high leverage situations than he should) but we've seen Molitor make mid-inning pitching changes regardless of the situation and effectiveness of the pitcher. I would not be surprised if the bullpen had a bit of an adjustment period as they learned their new roles, but the logic is sound in having pitchers throw to batters against whom they theoretically should hold an advantage.
Finally, I thought I was going to stop at two things but Molitor made a decision late last night that was brilliant, even if it didn't actually work. With the score tied at 5 in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Royals were threatening to score again. Having already brought in one run, they had speedy Paulo Orlando at third base and lefty Mike Moustakas batting. With Aaron Thompson already used earlier in the game, it would have seemed likely that Caleb Thielbar would enter the game. However, Molitor went with the bold strategy of bringing in Glen Perkins instead, even though it was not a save situation and the Twins were on the road. This meant that Perkins would not be available for a save later in the game, but ultimately it didn't matter as Perkins allowed a go-ahead RBI single to Moustakas. Still, in spite of the outcome being unfavorable, I was impressed that Molitor was willing to go against the grain in bringing in his closer when most managers wouldn't. It showed that he understood that the current moment was the most critical juncture of the game and thus he should use his best available reliever.
So, overall I have to say that I've been pretty pleased with Paul Molitor's work. He's introduced some concepts that Ron Gardenhire would have never considered, and although the team's record may not reflect it, I feel these changes will do the team well in the long run.