January 21, 2015

ZiPS: When bad projections for the Twins aren’t so bad for the Twins

Sano and Buxton

Dan Szymborski of ESPN and FanGraphs has a projection system called ZiPS that is consistently among the best and most detailed around. As discussed on this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode, he published the Twins' projections for 2015 and ... well, it ain't pretty. I'm sure most fans will focus on that, because the thing about projections is that every year every team's fan base thinks they're too low. Doubly so in this case, since ZiPS thinks very little of the Twins.

But here's the thing: Who really cares about the 2015 projections? Certainly everyone wants to see the Twins show significant improvement on the way to hopefully avoiding a fifth consecutive 90-loss season and maybe even approaching a .500 record. But in the grand scheme of things it matters little whether the Twins win 72 games or 78 games in 2015. They're unlikely to be a very good team, may continue to be a very bad team, and remain focused on rebuilding.

It'd be nice if ZiPS (or other projection systems) pegged Brian Dozier for an .800 OPS instead of a .720 OPS or had more faith in Ervin Santana being worth a $55 million investment or thought Torii Hunter was worth any kind of investment, but the numbers are the numbers and even an optimistic set of 2015 projections would probably have the Twins looking like at best an 80-win team. And deep down most fans presumably knew that, with or without the projections.

What matters more in the big picture is how their young talent develops and within the ugly 2015 projections there are actually positive signs. For instance, even after missing all of last season following elbow surgery Miguel Sano is projected to hit .218/.288/.441 if he reaches the majors. Obviously the batting average and on-base percentage stink, but a .441 slugging percentage and .223 isolated power for a 22-year-old prospect coming off a lost season is extremely promising.

Here's a list of every 22-year-old to surpass a .425 slugging percentage and .200 isolated power since 2010: Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward. That's it. That's the entire list. Sano has played a grand total of 67 games above Single-A and played zero games last season, yet ZiPS still thinks he has that kind of elite power potential at a time when power is down across baseball.

ZiPS projects Byron Buxton to hit .251/.315/.386 if he reaches the majors in 2015. Those aren't eye-popping numbers until you consider he's a 21-year-old center fielder with exactly one career game above Single-A and, like Sano, injuries wrecked his 2014. Or, put another way, if Buxton is called up to the Twins this season and hits .251/.315/.386 everyone should be thrilled because 21-year-old center fielders who hit .251/.315/.386 usually become stars.

According to ZiPS' projections for the overall offensive levels in MLB for 2015 a .251/.315/.386 line translates to an adjusted OPS+ of 95. Here's a list of every 21-year-old center fielder to top an adjusted OPS+ of 90 since 1980: Mike Trout, Rocco Baldelli, Andruw Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds. So that's two inner-circle Hall of Famers, one near Hall of Famer, the current best player in the world, and a good player whose career was derailed by health problems.

Sano and Buxton need to get healthy, stay healthy, and pick up developmentally where things left off for any of it to matter, but if their big-league careers start the way ZiPS projects the Twins will have accomplished something in 2015 no matter the standings. Quibbling with projections is fine and comes with the territory of being a fan, but the numbers simply represent the team's current lack of high-end talent. And those same projections suggest that's about to change soon.


For a lengthy, player-by-player discussion of this year's ZiPS projections for the Twins, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

November 14, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• Longtime Purdue basketball coach Gene Keady finally got rid of his infamous/hideous combover in the name of love and saving $600 per week.

• Craziest story of the week: Robert Swift, former NBA first-round draft pick, is now "a heavily armed heroin addict" who was arrested with "a military-style grenade launcher."

• Sad headline (and pictures) of the week: "Mase performed to a crowd of less than 50 people."

• Accurate review: "Buffalo Wild Wings seems a little too proud of their food and beverages."

• I sometimes worry my life is being wasted arguing about Joe Mauer with people on Twitter, but Curt Schilling angrily arguing against evolution with people on Twitter puts it all in perspective.

• If the Twins have one obvious lineup hole for 2015 it's in the outfield, so which free agent should they sign?

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode was recorded over beer and bourbon at Town Hall Brewery and we talked about Paul Molitor officially being hired and whether any real changes will be made.

• "Backseat Freestyle" by Kendrick Lamar was my favorite song of 2013--there's an official list and everything--but it loses a little something when mashed up with Taylor Swift:

Big week for people with the last name Swift, really.

Jeff Sullivan of Fan Graphs had an interesting look at why the fastest man in baseball, Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton, didn't steal a ridiculous number of bases as a rookie.

• Good to know I'll always have a fallback plan in case America runs out of white Adidas.

• Studies show that hosting national sporting events is overrated economically, so not surprisingly Minnesota hosting the All-Star game didn't make as much money as everyone expected.

• I was 11 years old and Aaliyah obsessed in 1994, so Shea Serrano's tribute to that year's R&B music is perfection on Grantland.

Byron Buxton got a bunch of tattoos, while wearing a cast on his broken finger.

• At least Ricky Rubio got to make one classic Rubio face before getting injured.

• The always underrated Maura Tierney talking about her many good TV roles is a good read.

Hannibal Buress is funny doing almost anything, including half-hearted restaurant reviews:

My favorite part is when he says "whatever, she won't see this anyway." Yeah, right.

• Running a young catcher into the ground usually has consequences, which is worth remembering when Salvador Perez is worn down next season.

• Reminder: The actor who played Luke on "Gilmore Girls" was the Braves' first-round draft pick in 1980 and was later traded to the Yankees for Bob Watson. Oh, and he was also Elaine Benes' sponge-worthy boyfriend on "Seinfeld."

"24 Hours In Fargo" by friend of AG.com Liz Welle is a cool tribute, with lots of good pictures and other fun stuff.

• As someone who grew up listening to "Loveline" and is now obsessed with podcasts, Dr. Drew chatting with Marc Maron is perfect.

• "Seven" is my favorite movie of all time and now it's on Netflix.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Does Gordon Ramsay wear boxers or briefs?"
- "Was Tom Kelly a good baseball manager?"
- "Benjy Bronk orgasm"
- "Destini Molitor photo"
- "How much does Terry Ryan get paid?"
- "Paul Molitor financial information"
- "What does debut mean in baseball?"
- "Podcasts recorded at bars"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Are You That Somebody" by Aaliyah:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

October 29, 2014

Twins Notes: Molitor, Maddon, Lovullo, Colabello, Buxton, and chafing

Joe Maddon Rays

• After interviewing a surprising (to me, at least) number of outside candidates to replace Ron Gardenhire the Twins have settled on a final three of Paul Molitor, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Torey Lovullo. Molitor was on Gardenhire's coaching staff, Mientkiewicz managed the Twins' high Single-A team, and they're both longtime members of the organization. Lovullo has no real ties to the Twins and is portrayed as being very stat-head friendly, so I'll be shocked if gets the job.

Because the Twins' manager search is still unresolved Joe Maddon opting out of his contract with the Rays led to some speculation about their chances of hiring him. General manager Terry Ryan then fanned those flames by publicly commenting on Maddon, seemingly making it very clear that he thought highly of and had interest in Maddon. However, according to multiple reports the Twins never even contacted Maddon. Anyone shocked probably isn't much of a Twins fan.

• For a lot more about the Twins' managerial search and why Maddon was never going to happen, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

• Gardenhire has publicly been supportive of Molitor's candidacy to replace him, but this tidbit from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press was interesting:

Molitor's addition to the staff caused Gardenhire to chafe at times behind the scenes, especially early on, considering their shared expertise when it comes to infield play.

For years fans and media members wondered why Molitor wasn't being added to coaching staff and there was speculation that Gardenhire was against the idea. Molitor was finally added to the staff in October of last year and less than 365 days later he's a finalist to replace Gardenhire, with the assumption that he's been the favorite the entire time.

• On a random note: While looking at his Hall of Fame playing career I thought this comparison of Molitor through age 31 and Joe Mauer through his current age of 31 might interest people:

THROUGH AGE 31          MOLITOR    MAUER
Batting Average          .299      .319
On-Base Percentage       .360      .401
Slugging Percentage      .435      .459
OPS                      .795      .860
Games                   1,282     1,298
Wins Above Replacement   40.8      46.3

Anything portraying Mauer in a positive light angers a lot of people these days, but whatever.

Chris Colabello joins the lengthy list of Twins to play through an injury and perform horribly, admitting that he suffered a thumb injury on April 23 and "still feels numbness and tingling" six months later. At the time of the injury Colabello was hitting .346. He continued to play for the next month, going 8-for-73 (.110) with 28 strikeouts before the Twins demoted him to Triple-A. He returned later and hit .222 in 19 games before being sent down again.

According to Colabello's hometown Worchester Telegram he "glued cotton to his batting gloves and tried a thumb protector" to alleviate the pain and "didn't tell the media in Minnesota" about the injury. Berardino also reports that "a Twins official rejected that notion" of Colabello being injured when asked in June and "suggested it was purely a matter of timing and confidence." As usual the tough-guy culture of playing through it helped neither the player nor the team.

Parker Hageman of Twins Daily notes that Twins pitchers combined to throw a grand total of one pitch 97 miles per hour or faster this season. It was by Lester Oliveros, in September. By comparison, every other team in baseball threw at least 75, all but four of the other teams threw at least 150, and half of the teams threw at least 500. Kansas City led MLB with 2,287 pitches of 97 mph or faster. Again, the Twins threw one.

• Last month I examined the 40-man roster and identified 19 players the Twins could potentially drop. So far they've dropped four of them by declining Jared Burton's option for 2015, cutting Doug Bernier and Yohan Pino, and selling Kris Johnson to a team in Japan. Johnson and Alex Presley were the Twins' haul from the Pirates in exchange for Justin Morneau. They combined to play 31 games for the Twins and were both sent packing for nothing in return.

Byron Buxton's injury wrecked season keeps getting worse. Playing in the Arizona Fall League after missing all but 31 games of the regular season with a wrist injury and a concussion, Buxton fractured the middle finger on his left hand while attempting to make a diving catch. In the grand scheme of things a busted finger isn't a big concern, but the missed development time for a 20-year-old is lost forever.

• Wins by American League Central teams from 2011-2014:

Detroit Tigers       366
Cleveland Indians    325
Kansas City Royals   318
Chicago White Sox    300
Minnesota Twins      265

And that's not even counting postseason wins.

• Outfield defense played a huge role in the Royals' success this season and according to Ultimate Zone Rating their outfielders were 60 runs above average. Meanwhile, the Twins' outfielders were 36 runs below average according to UZR. Improving the pitching staff is obviously very important, but don't discount the negative impact defense and specifically outfield defense has had on their runs allowed totals. Oswaldo Arcia's continued presence makes big improvements tough.

• In the 23 years since their last World Series title the Twins have a 1,777-1,908 record for a .482 winning percentage, including 6-21 in the playoffs.


This week's content is sponsored by Harry's Razors. Go to Harrys.com and enter in the promo code "Gleeman" to receive $5 off your first order.

August 15, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• From the same doofuses who brought you Twins Daily comes a new Minnesota sports website on which you can kill countless hours while at work: Vikings Journal.

• Shocked and appalled that Gleeman-Bonnes didn't make the New York Times' extensive "Twitter power couples" list.

• Twins fans know all too well that there's no such thing as "just a concussion," but based on how ugly his outfield collision looked Wednesday things could've been much worse for Byron Buxton.

• I like to imagine Idris Elba staying awake all night agonizing over whether to correct this story.

Adam Dunn vs. Dee Gordon vs. Koji Uehara vs. Bartolo Colon in the silliest league ever.

Kate Upton is the new Elaine Benes, apparently.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we broke down Kevin Correia's departure and Trevor May's arrival, plus how to properly buy a car and why everyone should own a penthouse.

• Actually, forget the silly penthouse apartment. I want to buy this insane house in St. Cloud:

There was a shorter, more polished version of that video, but it's been taken off YouTube and, honestly, the world should see the full 12 minutes of pure magic.

Hard-hitting journalism: "We asked Gassen the question Lindsay Guentzel was afraid to know the answer to."

Joe Nathan got booed at home in Detroit by Tigers fans and made a chin-flick gesture at them, so he apologized.

• Did the Twins accomplish anything by purging a bunch of veterans from the roster around the trade deadline?

Yoenis Cespedes: Badass.

• I move from Hopkins to Uptown and now Hopkins is a "hipster haven"? Puh-leeze.

• My uncle and cousin were again the subjects of a lengthy article in the Minnetonka Sun Sailor, which may have simply decided to cover stuff that's sure to be linked here at this point.

• I don't really have any interest in seeing the new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie, but I did enjoy this pug-starring remake:

Great special effects.

• Next month Target Field is hosting a "Light the Night Walk" charity event to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. If you're interested in making a donation, consider sponsoring my friends on Team Minnie Mouse.

Phil Hanley was a good guest on what remains my favorite podcast, "Stop Podcasting Yourself" with Graham Clark and Dave Shumka.

Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew are both basically the worst now, but lately I've been going to sleep listening to old "Loveline" episodes and it makes me happy.

• One of my favorite stand-up comedians, Jen Kirkman, is coming to Acme Comedy Company in Minneapolis next month and everyone should get tickets.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Todd Milone trade"
- "Tom Milone trade"
- "Jon Taffer hair transplant"
- "Terrible comedy podcasts"
- "Guide to podcasts"
- "Matthew LeCroy salary"
- "Lean Cuisine success"
- "Lew Ford married?"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Collide" by Howie Day:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

July 30, 2014

Twins Notes: Morales, Pryor, Guerrier, Pressly, Worley, and Buxton

kendrys morales twins

• The money meant nothing to a team $20 million under budget, but signing Kendrys Morales carried more downside for the Twins than commonly believed because his performance was tough to predict after sitting out the first two months of the season and the move meant stalling Josmil Pinto's development in favor of a potentially inferior player. With that said, no one could have expected things to go as badly as it did.

While batting almost exclusively fourth or fifth in the lineup Morales hit .234/.259/.325 with one homer and a 27/6 K/BB ratio in 39 games, posting a lower OPS in a Twins uniform than, among others: Tony Batista, David McCarty, Nick Punto, Mike Lamb, Clete Thomas, Juan Castro, Adam Everett, Rondell White, Terry Tiffee, Denny Hocking, Tommy Herr, Henry Blanco, Matt Tolbert, Luis Rivas, and Aaron Hicks.

To the Twins' (partial) credit they cut bait instead of stubbornly sticking with Morales for the rest of the season and to my surprise they actually got another team to assume the remainder of his contract and give up a potentially useful player in return. By trading Morales to the Mariners the Twins save about $4 million of his $7.4 million contract, but their lack of spending means the money probably won't be re-invested in the team anyway.

Where they could get value is from Stephen Pryor, a 25-year-old reliever whose average fastball clocked in at 96 miles per hour before shoulder surgery. So far Pryor has struggled since coming back, with a big drop in velocity and poor Triple-A numbers, but there's still some potential there. They basically paid $3 million for 39 terrible games from Morales, the motivation to demote Pinto to Triple-A, and a post-surgery version of a once-promising reliever.

Matt Guerrier's decent-looking 3.86 ERA masked a terrible 12/10 K/BB ratio in 28 innings and similarly underwhelming raw stuff. Guerrier is one of the most underrated pitchers in Twins history thanks to a six-year run as a durable, reliable setup man during his first go-around in Minnesota, but the reunion worked out only slightly better than this year's other reunions with Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett.

Ryan Pressly replaces Guerrier in a middle relief role after posting a 2.98 ERA and 63/21 K/BB ratio in 60 innings at Triple-A. Pressly spent all of last season on the Twins' roster as a Rule 5 pick and held his own as a 24-year-old, but his control is shaky and his strikeout rate hasn't matched his fastball velocity. He has a whole lot more upside than Guerrier, however, so the switch makes plenty of sense even if it pained the Twins.

• Here's a list of the starting pitchers the Twins have used this season while refusing to call up 24-year-old prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May from Triple-A:

Phil Hughes
Kevin Correia
Kyle Gibson
Ricky Nolasco
Sam Deduno
Yohan Pino
Mike Pelfrey
Kris Johnson
Anthony Swarzak
Logan Darnell

This season the Twins have used a pitcher younger than 25 years old for a grand total of 12.1 innings, all by reliever Michael Tonkin. Meanwhile, across MLB there have been 447 games started by pitchers younger than Meyer and 504 games started by pitchers younger than May.

Vance Worley, whom the Twins gave away for nothing this spring without needing to for any real reason, tossed a complete-game shutout Monday and is now 4-1 with a 2.54 ERA and 30/8 K/BB ratio in 50 innings for the Pirates. When the Twins acquired Worley from the Phillies as part of the Ben Revere trade he looked like a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter and now at age 26 he looks like that again in Pittsburgh.

• Old friends Danny Valencia and Liam Hendriks were traded for one another Monday, as the Royals and Blue Jays swapped role players. Valencia proved stretched offensively and defensively as an everyday third baseman for the Twins, but has settled into a part-time role mostly facing left-handed pitching. Hendriks continues to thrive at Triple-A and struggle in the majors while frequently finding himself on the waiver wire since the Twins gave up on him in December.

• Because no Twins prospect is ever safe, both Kohl Stewart and Jose Berrios have been shut down with shoulder injuries. That means four of the top five prospects in my preseason rankings have been sidelined by an injury.

Byron Buxton is healthy again after missing nearly half the season with a wrist injury and has hit .378 with a .472 on-base percentage and .622 slugging percentage in his last 10 games at high Single-A.

Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (with the help of Glen Perkins) did a nice job laying out the disconnect between Kurt Suzuki's defensive reputation and defensive numbers.

Oswaldo Arcia smashed his bat over his knee, Bo Jackson-style, after a recent strikeout, but with 183 strikeouts in 151 career games perhaps he shouldn't be blaming the equipment.

• Since signing him last season the Twins have a .346 winning percentage when Correia starts and a .443 winning percentage when anyone else starts.

Brian Dozier is hitting .178 with 29 strikeouts and four walks in 28 games since June 25.

• FOX Sports North showed a great scouting report on Darnell before his first MLB start.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked about realistic options at the trade deadline and wondered how thin the ice is getting under Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »