October 29, 2017

Twins’ Falvey & Co. make under-the-radar pitching coach hire

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised: Twins’ Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine continue to show they are going to do things their way, not the old-fashioned Twins way.

(And that’s what we want, right? No?)

Despite the rumor mill suggesting the next Twins pitching coach to replace Neil Allen was either former Twin Carl Willis or Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, the Twins have hired Garvin Alston to fill that role.

Not that Neil Allen was such a household name, but Garvin Alston? Who’s he?

According to the Pioneer Press: “Alston was the bullpen coach for the A’s for most of last season and was bullpen coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016. A right-hander, he pitched nine professional seasons in the Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations and made six major-league appearances with the Rockies in 1996.”

That’s right: His major league experience amounts to six appearances, once again showing that a lack of experience in the bigs has little bearing on whether you’re a successful coach.

In fact, the hiring reminded me of the same decision Falvey & Co. made when they replaced hitting coach and former Twin Tom Brunansky with new hitting coach James Rowson.

Despite a horrendous 2016, Bruno’s Twins still hit 200 home runs as a team, yet Rowson didn’t miss a beat, and helped to get even more out of the offense this past season. In the American League, the Twins finished 9th in home runs (206), sixth in hits (1,444), fourth in runs (815) and third in a category embraced by all Moneyball types: 593 walks.

When Rowson was hired, Falvey and manager Paul Molitor praised his communication skills. After meeting Alston, Molitor came away from that meeting saying some similar things.

He told the Pioneer Press:

“I didn’t know about Garvin before he came in,” manager Paul Molitor said. “I did my homework and then gave him a chance to sit down and have a rather lengthy conversation with me. I thought there was a fairly instantaneous comfortability.”

Alston didn’t put in a full season as the A’s bullpen coach this past season. Still, A’s relievers had a slightly higher winning percentage, lower ERA and more strikeouts per nine innings than the starters, according to Baseball-Reference.com. As a team they also notched 35 saves. The Twins had 42 this past season.

As for his time with the Diamondbacks, he certainly could have played a role in what the D-backs’ bullpen became. In 2017, it was 27-18 with a 3.78 ERA and recorded 43 saves. In 2016, the bullpen had to carry the load of a 93-loss season, yet still had a better winning percentage, ERA and strikeouts per nine innings than the starters, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.