Mar 042011

Major Moves

Not so many. They replaced Hudson at second with Japanese import Nishioka, and Hardy at short with Casilla. They also overhauled their bullpen, mostly by relying on previous stalwarts Nathan and Neshek, who were hurt and unable to contribute last year. Cuddyer spent a lot of time at first, with Morneau hurt, and will move back to the outfield. Thome was the DH and will be back, but ESPN currently has Kubel there; he was in the outfield last year.

Hitters 2010 B+ 2011 A-

I don’t buy my own methodology, though it has served me well. THIS time, though, Morneau doesn’t show in 2010 at all, since he was neither the most-used 1B NOR the most-used DH, but he earned 5.4 bWAR in only 348 PA, an astounding rate. So the Twins DON’T figure to improve their hitting by 7 WAR, no matter what the chart below says. I DO think they will improve it a bit, if you add the 5.4 WAR back into the total, the improvement drops to 1.5 WAR, which seems about right. This is a potent lineup, and the “weak links” Delmon Young and Alexi Casilla are both young and could contribute much more than projected.

Rotation 2010 B 2011 B

I don’t buy it here, either. The hidden factor in the rotation is that the Twins will use the same 5 starters as last year, and they all project to regress to the mean. In fact, it is worse than the chart looks, because Duensing is listed as a reliever, but he started 13 games and earned 3.7 WAR, 3rd best on the team, and most of that as a starter. On the other hand, while I agree that Pavano figures to regress a lot, Liriano ought to be pretty good again, if healthy. His 2.1 assumes a 60% chance of his not getting to pitch. So I threw out the calculations and project the Twins to have as good a rotation as last year.

Bullpen 2010 B 2011 C

Here I do agree there will be some fall-off, but it is pretty hard to know how much, as the bullpen is shrouded in mystery: who will close, Capps or Nathan? Will Neshek be as good as he was? Will Nathan? Crain, Guerrier, Rauch, Duensing: they were all really valuable last year – will the new guys step up? Possible, of course, but you have to predict that they will not be as good.

Overall 2010 A- 2011 A-

I see the Twins as the team to beat in the Central. I expect them to win about 90 games (they won 92 in 2010), essentially the same record as before. I think the hitting will be a bit better, the pitching a bit worse. And I also believe that, barring major injuries, there is more upside than downside – I think they are more likely to win 93 than 87.

Charts

Player Position 2011 2010
Joe Mauer Catcher 7.6 5.6
Justin Morneau First Base 4.5 0.2 Cuddyer
Tsuyoshi Nishioka Second Base 3.0 2.0 Hudson
Danny Valencia Third Base 2.0 2.5
Alexi Casilla Shortstop 0.5 1.4 Hardy
Delmon Young Left Field 0.3 0.8
Denard Span Center Field 2.5 0.0
Michael Cuddyer Right Field 1.0 0.2 Kubel
Jason Kubel Designated Hitter 2.0 3.5 Thome
23.4 16.2

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Carl Pavano Starting Pitcher 2.1 4.6
Francisco Liriano Starting Pitcher 2.4 4.6
Scott Baker Starting Pitcher 2.7 2.0
Kevin Slowey Starting Pitcher 1.6 1.5
Nick Blackburn Starting Pitcher 1.4 0.1
10.2 12.8

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Jose Mijares Relief Pitcher 1.0 0.5
Alex Burnett Relief Pitcher 0.5 3.7 Duensing
Pat Neshek Relief Pitcher 1.5 1.2 Crain
Jeff Manship Relief Pitcher 0.5 1.4 Guerrier
Joe Nathan Relief Pitcher 1.4 1.5 Rauch
Matt Capps Closer 1.0 1.2
5.9 9.5

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