Monday, February 10, 2014

Minnesota Twins Power Rankings: PECOTA Edition!

I thought last week was a slow week.  I'm shocked at how little is going on in Twins Territory.  I mean, when you think of early February, all you think of is baseball!  Therefore, a standard Power Rankings would be silly nonsense.  However, Baseball Prospectus did unveil their PECOTA projections last week and I thought they might be fun to look through, Power Rankings-style!

For those who don't know, PECOTA is Baseball Prospectus' projection system.  It's named after Bill Pecota, the original Mr. Peanut.  They use data and stats to create projections for each player with the sole purpose of upsetting every fan base.  Their projections are based on what a player would do in a median season (or mean...or mode...I can't keep those straight) and therefore, truly "big" seasons are rarely projected.

All that out of the way, I combed through their Twins projections.  Here are the 10 most important items I found in the PECOTA spreadsheet.  Remember, these are just projections and they should be taken very seriously/at face value. 

10.  No one will win 10 games!

According to PECOTA, Ricky Nolasco will lead the Twins with 9.3 wins.  Ignoring the preposterousness of a .3 win [pitcher wins are meaningless enough, let's not add decimals to water them down even more (I promise this will be the only decimal "joke")], I find it hard to believe that no one will get to that paltry and attainable figure.  Even though the Twins have been brutal for the last three years, I'm sure a bunch of their pitchers have met and exceeded that number.  In fact, here's what I can only guess will be a giant list:
Well then.  Point, PECOTA.  I still think Nolasco and/or Hughes reach 10 wins. 

***Update - Phil Hughes is now projected for 9.6 wins, thus rounding to 10.  I thought so, PECOTA.***

9.  Weak Joe Mauer will lead the team in slugging percentage

This one isn't too surprising, considering he did so last year.  He'll slug .447, mostly from doubles.  More importantly, one of Mauer's comparable players is Kent Hrbek, so maybe an attitude change is on the horizon.  I know that I would get a great deal of enjoyment out of seeing Mauer report to Spring Training while smoking, chewing and drinking.  But then I would think of the children and become visibly horrified but secretly indifferent. 

8.  The Eddie 400 will be an abject failure

According to PECOTA, Pedro Florimon will hold off the happier Eduardo Escobar.  Escobar will receive just 169 at bats, not even halfway to 400.  Of course, Florimon's projected .234/.286/.336 batting line completely justifies his continued impediment of the Eddie 400 movement.  I'm not even going to bother to check Escobar's numbers, but I'm sure they're somewhere in the .500/2.000/OH WOWOWO neighborhood. 

7.  Andrew Albers is going to make a surprise return

Either the PECOTA projections were made prior to Albers signing to play in Korea or PECOTA knows something we don't know.  Or, PECOTA doesn't give a crap and projects whatever it wants.  Either way, Albers is going to be a busy Twins pitcher in 2014.  In fact, he's projected to start 21 games and post a 4.23 ERA.  That second figure would be a Twins record for this current decade.  Probably.  I won't look it up.  I wonder how Albers' new team feels about this.

6.  Oswaldo Arcia will be good

Well, offensively, and by Twins standards anyway.  He's going to hit .256/.311/.439, with 28 doubles and 21 home runs.  He'll only be worth 1.1 WARP (BP's WAR) because his defense and baserunning will be below average.  That slugging percentage will be good for second on the team though.  These numbers only represent a slight increase from last season, and I think Arcia could be even better.  He's projected to strike out 27.2% of the time in 2014, down from 31% in 2013.  If his strikeout rate drops four points in the real world, he should post a better line than PECOTA projects.

5.  Aaron Hicks will be bad

Of course, a great Spring Training could change all of that, right?  PECOTA sees Hicks as either a back-up player, or a late-season call-up, projecting just 235 plate appearances for the popular centerfielder.  He'll totally justify the PAs he gets with a sick .221/.299/.331 batting line, all representing career highs!  Well, not the slugging somehow, but the others.  He'll have 15 extra-base hits, so that's nice. 

Look, PECOTA can only go by the numbers.  It can't account for Hicks' ludicrously poor start.  It can't account for the fact that Hicks generally takes a long time to adjust to a new level.  It can't adjust for my blind faith in a player who I once described as "handsome."  PECOTA is a slave to the data.  I live in the real world, where players improve with repetitions and experience and magic hopefulness.  I shudder when I think about a world run by Microsoft Excel.  I have a fever, but still.  PECOTA could learn a thing or two from the outside world.  Hey spreadsheet, get your head out of that spreadsheet! 

4.  Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco have a 2 in 3 chance of being good

Here are the three comparables for each player:
  • Hughes:  Ervin Santana, Jeff Francis, Dan Haren
  • Nolasco:  James Shields, Joe Blanton, Josh Beckett
You'd take two of each of those three, right?  So, roll your three-sided die and see where it lands.  I think Santana is the best comp for Hughes because both throw hard but don't generate a ton of strikeouts.  Each controls the strike zone but can be prone to home runs.  Santana has coaxed a few good seasons from that skill set.  Can Hughes?

Nolasco doesn't remind me of any of those three, but if he can just gather the courage to grow a really tasteless soul patch, then I could start to see the Beckett comp. 

3.  Byron Buxton comps continue to be insane

For fun, here are the three comparables for Buxton:  Mike Trout, Fernando Martinez, Justin Upton.

Admit it, you'll be just a twinge disappointed if Buxton is only as good as Upton.  Admit it.  Did you admit it? 

If you don't remember, Martinez was the player the Twins reportedly wanted in the Johan Santana trade with the Mets, but the Mets decided that giving up an 18-year-old for the best pitcher in baseball was not worthwhile.  The Twins agreed on Carlos Gomez instead and everything ended up cool.  Martinez was likely included here as a cautionary tale or because PECOTA was worried that Twins fans had too much to cheer for in 2014. 

Mike Trout is Mike Tyson.  Not the boxer, the video game character.  You can beat him, but not easily.  You should probably write down the code too.

2.  Josmil Pinto is headed for AAA

And I suppose this is the right move, but I still hate it.  Pinto has only played a handful of games above AA and he had a super high BABIP in his September debut and he needs to work on his defense and cats are lol and whatever.  Has anyone asked what I want, even once?  I want to watch a young exciting player.  I want to know that catcher is covered for the next decade.  I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.  No one seems to care!  Pinto is likely on the Aaron Hicks plan that we discussed earlier, only projected for 148 plate appearances.  He'll hit .263/.323/.416 in those PAs and everyone will cry about how much he's regressed and I'll seethe with tortured anger and then play with my hippo. 

1.  The Twins will suck less than the previous three seasons

PECOTA has them winning 71 games, 5 games better than the previous two seasons.  They also have the White Sox passing the Twins and winning 76 games, which calls into question this entire operation.  That aside, if the Twins can win 71 games in 2014, I'll be pleased.  Slow progress can be maddening, but as long as things are moving in the right direction, it's still progress.  The Twins aren't likely to win much more than PECOTA projects, but they should win more than they have since 2010.  That's something, right? 

I can't wait for the 2015 PECOTA projections.  Homer Bailey is going to win 10 games for the Twins in 2015, I can tell you that much.  Have a great week, everyone!

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