Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Breaks: Introduction

The Twins appear to have their roster set for 2010 after a shrewd offseason in which they upgraded their MI, bench and bullpen. I keep eagerly checking the preseason projections to see how well the Twins are now expected to do. And it's a little disappointing, actually. With the addition of Orlando Hudson, the Twins are the clear favorites to win the AL Central, but still with only 86-87 wins. They won that many the last two years - aren't they better now?

Yes, but it's important to remember a couple of things. First, these same prognosticators had the Twins winning 79 or so games the last 2 seasons, so as far as they're concerned, the Twins' improved roster is reflected in their projections. We fans tend to expect that breakout seasons are the new standard and disappointing seasons are the exception (Jason Kubel finally reached his potential in 2009! Michael Cuddyer's 2007-08 seasons were weak because he wasn't 100%). The prognosticators have to be more objective than that, rating a player's average potential based on his total body of work, good and bad. And looking at PECOTA's weighted mean projections for the Twins' lineup, I have to admit, everything there looks pretty reasonable.

Second, the Twins were able to exceed their 2008-09 projections because a few things went better than could have been expected prior to the season. In '08 they hit unsustainably well with RISP, resulting in far more runs than their component hitting stats would have implied, while their young rotation performed exceedingly well for most of the season. Last year, they got unprecedented power output from several lineup regulars, and extraordinary contributions from from newly acquired players over the final 2 months of the season. And, to be fair to the prognosticators, the Twins were essentially a .500 team for all but the final couple weeks.

A good team has to be put together well, so that an average performance from everyone on the roster should result in a winning season. Right now, on paper, the 2010 Twins are a good team, and that's reflected in the projections. In order to be a great team, once again outperforming the projections by 8-10 games and taking their place among the League's elite, they're going to need some people to exceed their projections. Or, more realistically, they'll need to have more of those than guys who have disappointing seasons. They're going to have to get some good breaks.

Who has the best chance of outperforming the projections, and by how much? Which of those contributions will add the most extra wins to the club? I'll be exploring those questions in the coming days...

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