For a Twins team that has had some of the worst pitching staffs in baseball in recent years, Derek Falvey could be in the right place at the right time.
Falvey on Monday was officially announced as the Twins’ new executive vice president and chief baseball officer after spending nine years in Cleveland. He will join the club at the conclusion of the Indians’ playoff run and will become the sixth person to head the Twins’ baseball department.
While Falvey has earned praise for his communication skills and understanding of all facets of a baseball operations department, he is considered a whiz with pitching analytics. That might be selling Falvey — who pitched at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. — a little short. Those who know him believe that he blends the art and science of pitching more than just doing a deep-dive into numbers.
“We always looked at where someone could come in and make an impact and make a difference and Derek forged his path with the Indians by coming in and making a significant impact in our pitching identification, development and philosophy,” said Mark Shapiro, president and CEO of the Blue Jays, who ran the Indians when Falvey was hired as an intern in 2007. “He did a lot of research, spent a lot of time and made a big impact.”
Even as the Indians assistant GM this year, Falvey drew praise for his work with pitching coach Mickey Callaway. And pitching is a big reason why Cleveland won the AL Central division this season.
It could be a positive development for a Twins pitching staff that this season had the second-worst team ERA in the majors at 5.08. They were ranked 19th last season, and 29th, 29th, 28th and 29th the years before that. The change must begin on the mound, and the Twins believe they have found someone able to lead that charge.
The club pointed out Falvey’s pitching acumen in a letter to season ticket holders on Monday.
“Derek joins the Twins following a nine-year stint in Cleveland where he has positively impacted all aspects of their baseball operations, including the development of an organizationwide pitching philosophy,” the letter read.
Falvey replaces Terry Ryan, who was executive VP, general manager. While the title is different, Falvey undoubtedly will be the No. 1. baseball executive at 1 Twins Way. He is expected to hire someone to work under him, possibly as the general manager.
Rob Antony will remain the interim GM until Falvey begins his tenure with the Twins. Antony, who could still be the GM under Falvey, did meet with the coaching staff on Monday morning at Target Field and informed them that their futures will be determined after Falvey joins the organization.
Manager Paul Molitor has been assured of returning in 2017. But the staff — bench coach Joe Vavra, first base coach Butch Davis, third base coach Gene Glynn, hitting coach Tom Brunansky, assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez, pitching coach Neil Allen and bullpen coach Eddie Guardado — all have contracts that expire on Oct. 30.
Outside leader rare
Falvey, in a statement, called the Twins “a proud, resilient franchise,” and said he was “eager to return championship-caliber baseball to the Twin Cities. ... It’s a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead the Twins baseball operation.”
From the time Falvey joined the Indians, he showed his ability to connect with people with wisdom that belies his age. Shapiro pointed out that he was 25 when he was a farm director, so he sees Falvey’s age as neither a hindrance nor an advantage.
“I think he’s got all the skills necessary to not just do the job but to excel at that job,” Shapiro said. “His ability to communicate, to go into some very tough cultures and tough environments and very quickly both win people over and do it in a way that was respectful. His ability to build respectful, trusting relationships across very diverse groups with a baseball operation was quickly evident.”
Falvey’s arrival is a quantum shift for an organization that has had a “next man up” mentality when it has come to appointing the head of their baseball department. The last time they hired from outside was a 32-year old Andy MacPhail in 1986, and the Twins won World Series in 1987 and 1991.
Can the Twins be just as fortunate with Falvey? What’s known at this point is that owner Jim Pohlad acknowledged a “total system failure” as the team lost a franchise-record 103 games this season.
And they are rebooting with Falvey.
“We believe Derek represents the next generation of dynamic, game-changing MLB leaders,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said in a statement. “We expect Derek to create positive change directed at restoring our winning tradition.”