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James Richter

Baseline: How bad are the 2012 Twins?

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It's easy to be down on the Twins' prospects for this year. 2011 was in many ways their worst season ever, and the offseason moves by Terry Ryan didn't do much more than maintain the talent level they started with last April. So we must be headed for another dreadful season, right? Not so fast.

The Twins allowed 804 runs last year. Their pitching staff was last in the Majors in K/9, 29th in ERA and 29th in WHIP. But they were also last in BABIP, suggesting that things might bounce better for them this year. Their FIP (4.30), xFIP (4.33) and SIERA (4.27), though still among the worst in the league, indicate the pitchers deserved better than their 4.60 team ERA. Were they to pitch precisely as poorly in 2012, they could be expected to allow 45 fewer ER over the same number of innings.

The defense, somewhat surprisingly, wasn't terrible in terms of range. UZR/150, for example, has them at just -0.4 R for the season. What killed them were errors; they were 28th in errors and fielding %. The 80 unearned runs they allowed were by far the most of the Gardy era. Over the last 10 seasons, they've averaged between 50-60 UER. Cutting back on errors is something the Twins can control, and with the additional emphasis they're placing on fundamentals this spring, I would expect them to reduce their mistakes by about 1/3. Simply replacing the abysmal play they got at SS with Jamey Carroll's excellent career averages at the position would eliminate 19 errors and 13 UER.

On the run prevention side of the ledger, if you give the Twins' pitchers a 4.30 ERA over 1450 IP (a roughly league average total), they will allow 693 ER. If you assume that the more focused and slightly upgraded defense will cough up a more typical 55 UER, you get a total of 748 RA.

The offensive side is clouded by lingering injury concerns to some key players. But until I hear reports to the contrary, I'm going to assume that everyone is healthy, and therefore ready to contribute at the levels they've established in recent years. The exception is Morneau - I don't think it's reasonable to expect him to return to the MVP-caliber play he displayed before his concussion.

Below is a table which builds a simple formulation of runs created: (H+BB-CS)x(TB+.55SB)/(AB+BB). The numbers I'm projecting for the starters are based on the stats from their last 3 healthy seasons, prorated over the number of ABs they racked up in a typical year. Span's averages go from 2008 up to the point of his concussion; Doumit's and Casilla's include 2008 since they missed so many games between 2009-2011. I'm throwing out Mauer's 2011 as an injury aberration and using 2008-2010 instead. With Morneau, I'm also throwing out 2011, but estimating only 75% of his 2008-2010 production over 140 games. I'm only using Major League stats for Valencia and Revere.

The starters account for about 77% of the total ABs the Twins had in 2011. The remainder will go to the bench, which I assume will be Butera, Nishioka, Plouffe and Hughes, or similarly unimpressive players. Whoever comes up from Rochester will also be thrown into that pool. I'll give that cast of characters a 23% share of the Punto-esque numbers the Twins hitters as group posted last year (.247/.306/.360). The results:

Player AB H BB TB SB CS RC
Span 593 172 68 233 24 7 87
Carroll 410 111 50 141 10 2 51
Mauer 523 178 75 263 2 2 111
Morneau 524 118 55 208 0 0 62
Willingham 471 121 67 226 5 1 80
Doumit 419 118 31 188 2 1 62
Valencia 540 145 38 219 3 4 68
Casilla 317 82 28 112 11 2 37
Revere 450 120 26 139 34 9 45
Subs 1240 307 99 446 24 18 133
Total 5487 1472 537 2175 115 46 729


729 runs scored. 748 runs allowed. That differential should result in around 80 wins. With no improvement from the pitching staff, and with Morneau hitting something like .225/.299/.397 over 140 games.

From there, the upside is considerable. What if Baker is healthy enough to take Diamond's starts? Subtract 7 ER. Or if Zumaya can apply his 3.05 career ERA to Nathan's 44.2 IP? Subtract 9 ER. What if Revere improves his average to .280? Add 5 RC. What if Morneau is 80% of his former self? Add 8 RC.

The 2012 Twins don't look like they're going to be a very good team, but they shouldn't suck, either. As long as they aren't unlucky and can put their best guys on the field about 3/4 of the time, they should be around .500. I wouldn't expect any less of them.
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Comments

  1. Thrylos's Avatar
    This is good stuff... And I suspect that if someone was doing a similar analysis for the 2008 team (that won 88) based on the 2007 results, the conclusion would be similar: a .500 team at best (and most teams are .500 teams on paper.) What happened in 08 and can happen again in 12 is that a few players stepped up and exceeded expectations. And if that happens, a 82 win team, easily becomes a 90 win team...
    Updated 02-25-2012 at 09:19 AM by Thrylos
  2. PeanutsFromHeaven's Avatar
    Really nicely done. I think it's reasonable to assume that last year was out of the norm for the Twins--assuming a return to the mean it can easily make .500; but I doubt that Gardy or the veterans (Mauer, Morneau, Baker, Span) will accept just "average"--which can help boost them to contention.
  3. TwinsGuy55422's Avatar
    Great analysis. I would also like to mention the possibility for in-season moves if things are going reasonably well. That could lead to some runs created and/or runs prevented.
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