StaTuesday: 2017 predictions for the Minnesota Twins
Ah, spring is in the air. Well, at least spring training.
With baseball back -- or at least the preparation for the regular season -- we have seen a few statistical predictions for the 2017 edition of the Minnesota Twins.
First, the predicted record.
Baseball Prospectus' Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm system -- better known as PECOTA (see more on description and how it works here) -- has Minnesota finishing with 77 wins (and it should be noted that historically that site is a little conservative in its projections, something to keep in mind below). Interestingly, that would put the Twins in second place in the AL Central in BP's predictions. Other AL Central win projections from BP: Indians 91, Tigers 77, White Sox 75 and Royals 70.
USA Today also put out projected season standings -- no word on how it came up with the numbers -- and has the Twins with 66 wins. Others in AL Central: Indians 95, Tigers 85, Royals 83 and White Sox 68.
OK, now let's take a look at some of the projections for players. These are from Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs. It should be noted that Fangraphs' "projections are a combination of ZiPS and Steamer projections with playing time allocated by our staff."
(note: slash lines of batting average/on-base percentage and slugging percentage are used; also games played listed just to give a comparison)
BP: 153 games, 244/296/434, 17 HR, 16 SB
Fangraphs: 138 games, 243/398/411, 17 HR, 18 SB
Comment: Let's first keep in mind that Buxton just turned 23 in December, but is this the year he breaks out? Both sites do see some increase in power in 2017. With all that speed he possesses, the steal totals might seem low, but Buxton only swiped 17 bases combined in 141 games with Triple-A Rochester and Minnesota.
BP: 129 games, 239/313/404 15 HR
Fangraphs: 100 games, 224/303/374, 11 HR
Comment: The projections here are pretty much in line with what Castro did in his last three years with Houston with a slight uptick.
BP: 154 games, 244/316/436, 25 HR, 15 SB
Fangraphs: 155 games, 248/330/450, 26 HR, 13 SB
Comment: Not quite the 42 homers he hit last year, but still decent numbers for Dozier, albeit a downtick in every category compared to last season (268/340/546, 18 SB).
BP: 154 games, 256/327/435, 17 HR
Fangraphs: 137 games, 262/333/437, 17 HR
Comment: Kepler hit 235/309/424 last season, so both sites see improvement here -- however the outfielder hit 17 homers in 113 games last season, so they don't think there will much of a power increase.
BP: 144 games, 275/360/393, 9 HR
Fangraphs: 150 games, 273/361/402, 12 HR
Comment: While neither site sees Mauer getting back to his .300 form, both do see him hitting better than he has in the past two seasons. Interestingly, Fangraphs has him with 12 homers -- Mauer hasn't had more than 11 in any year since 2010. Of course, the 150-game projection helps that, too (Mauer has reached that mark just once in his career, in 2015, but to be fair, he played catcher up until 2014).
BP: 154 games, 265/313/410, 14 HR, 11 SB
Fangraphs: 138 games, 270/320/400, 11 HR, 12 SB
Comment: Will Polanco's production go down with increased playing time? He batted .282 for the Twins last year in 69 games and is a career .287 hitter in the minors.
BP: 146 games, 257/286/433, 17 HR, 10 SB
Baseball Prospectus: 117 games, 259/292/412, 13 HR, 10 SB
Comment: The numbers here pretty much fall in line with what Rosario has done in his first two seasons in the majors (268/292/443 with 23 HR and 16 SB in 214 games).
BP: 151 games, 240/334/473, 31 HR
Fangraphs: 147 games, 241/333/474, 32 HR
Comment: Sano has a 162-game average of 36 home runs in his brief two-year career. For what it's worth, Baseball Prospectus has Sano with 201 strikeouts and Fangraphs 196. Sano already is the only player in Twins history with 150+ whiffs in a season with 178 in 2016.
BP: 136 games, 243/332/443, 22 HR
Fangraphs: 133 games, 247/332/441, 24 HR
Comment: Rumors have it that the Twins are looking for a veteran player to help fill the designated hitter role. Both Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs seem to feel that Vargas will do just fine, at least in terms of power.
And now for the pitchers. Statistics included below are, in order: ERA, WHIP, walks per nine innings and strikeouts per nine innings.
BP: 4.23, 1.41, 3.6, 7.7
Fangraphs: 4.36, 1.33, 3.4, 8.4
Comment: Berrios' rookie campaign did not go well, to put it lightly, so the projections above are actually a vast improvement in every category from what he did with the Twins in 2016. However, still a bit away from what Berrios did in Triple-A the past two seasons (2.62 ERA and 0.965 WHIP in 12 starts in 2015 and 2.51 and 0.988 in 17 starts in '16). Berrios will turn 23 in May, so patience.
BP: 3.92, 1.32, 2.6, 7.1
Fangraphs: 4.25, 1.31, 2.5, 7.0
Comment: Both sites see a return to his 2015 form, when he made 10 starts for the Twins and had a 3.10 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, rather than his disastrous 2016 (6.43, 1.50).
BP: 4.19, 1.40, 3.3, 7.1
Fangraphs: 4.48, 1.41, 3.1, 6.1
Comment: Like Duffey, Gibson took a step back in 2016. For what it's worth, Gibson's career WHIP is 1.41, but he's had extremes on both sides in his four years: 1.75, 1.31, 1.29 and 1.56. Both sites playing it safe here.
BP: 4.43, 1.35, 1.8, 6.9
Fangraphs: 4.77, 1.28, 1.7, 4.7
Comment: Before last year's injury-marred season, Hughes posted ERA of 3.52 and 4.40 and WHIPs of 1.13 and 1.29 in his first two campaigns with the Twins.
BP: 4.01, 1.27, 2.3, 8.7
Fangraphs: 3.82, 1.21, 3.7, 8.6
Comment: How to project someone coming off an injury which basically cost him all of 2016? Both sites are taking a conservative approach. As Minnesota's closer from 2013-15, Perkins had a 3.08 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with 1.8 BB/9 and 9.8 K/9. Can he get back to that form? Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs don't see it quite yet, at least not in 2017.
BP: 4.20, 1.30, 3.0, 8.0
Fangraphs: 4.47, 1.32, 2.8, 7.4
Comment: Interesting projections here as in the last four years Santana has posted ERAs of 3.24, 3.95, 4.00 and 3.38. He has had a WHIP of 1.30 or higher just twice since 2010 (1.32 in '10 and 1.31 in 2014).
BP: 4.98, 1.45, 3.9, 7.9
Fangraphs: 4.95, 1.41, 3.8, 7.3
Comment: Both sites clearly see Santiago trending downward. While he struggled in his 11 starts (5.58 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) last year in Minnesota after being acquired from the Angels, Santiago's combined 4.70 ERA between the two teams was the highest of his six-year career. His highest WHIP was 1.40 in 2013 with the White Sox. Santiago also has struck out 8.0 batters per nine innings over his career.
Dave Heller is the author of the new book Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth's Shadow as well as Facing Ted Williams Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns