THOMA COLUMN | Building a pitching machine

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Edward Thoma, The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.
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Mar. 15—Falvey's departure certainly hasn't changed that. The team to be nicknamed later continues to develop quality pitchers — including, in Shane Bieber, perhaps the best starter in the American League — without, by and large, investing high draft picks in the process.

And while the Twins have improved their pitching since Falvey's arrival, it's been more with imports than products of the farm system. Of the five men projected to be Minnesota's opening rotation, only Jose Berrios came out of the Twins system. Kenta Maeda, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker all came from the outside.

A developmental assembly line for pitchers is pretty much the dream of any general manager. But it's not that easy, and even when an organization gets a reputation for developing pitchers, the process generally soon fizzles.

A half-century ago, the Baltimore Orioles seemed to be able to conjure up a pitcher on demand. Then their fielding deteriorated, and the pitching soon followed.

One of the first, and most important, insights of sabermetrics was: Much of what we call pitching is actually fielding.

That insight wasn't a real secret. From Charles Comiskey to Frank Chance to Bill McKechnie to Al Lopez to Earl Weaver to, yes, Tom Kelly, there is a longstanding managerial philosophy of putting outstanding glovemen behind pitchers who throw strikes and let the fielders do the work.