Projecting the Twins: Early 2013 ZIPS
by, 11-11-2012 at 10:33 AM (2354 Views)
The early ZIPS projections were reported midweek and the AL Central has sobering information for the Twins.
Note: Unfortunately, you will need an insider account to access the link above.
The Twins in their construction are projected for 66 wins and 5th place in the AL Central. Entering the 2012 season they had a projected 70 win team from ZIPS so in the ZIPS lens the Twins have dropped back some.
Clearly, the poor starting rotation has a significant impact on the performance. Scott Diamond and his poor k/9 ratio is the number 1 starter projected for a 4.85 ERA.
Gleeman and the Geek had an interesting debate last week about indicators and performance. Runs given up is what matters. However runs given up in 2012 is not the best indicator of runs given up in 2013. Strikeout, walk, ground ball and home run rates are better indicators for 2013.
Diamond's indicators and his three year past shows that ZIPS expects a significant regression.
The projections have a hard time even finding a 5th starter listing Duensing but giving him an innings number and projection of a reliever/spot starter. The Twins can gain some ground by replacing Blackburn's and DeVries' projection. Replacing Blackburn and DeVries with league average performance will help significantly. Maybe even 6-8 wins. That only gets them to 74.
The real concern has to be projections for the Twins offense.
Willingham, Doumit, Mauer, Morneau and Span are all projected to regress. Why? All five had a relatively healthy season compared to previous and that can not be expected again. Four of the five are in their 30s. In the steroid era, some players kept their peak performance well into their 30s. That is not likely the case.
ZIPS OPS projections for these 5
Willingham .890 to .819
Mauer .861 to .812
Morneau .773 to .767
Doumit .781 to .722
Span .738 to .700
Morneau's is not a mathematically significant drop, but it also isn't a return to his previous level and mediocre play for a 1B.
ZIPS projections are based on 3-4 years of previous data based on the player's age. The Twins can choose to ignore them. Somehow they need to convince the faithful that they can add three pitchers and all will be OK. It is necessary for ticket sales.
I would suggest that the Twins can not be fixed for 2013. The only long term fix is to repair the minor league system.
How do they turn it around?
1) Sign no one to a multiyear contract that will commit the Twins beyond their age 32 season.
2) Trade off declining assets and build the system. Trading Willingham is a must. He is owed 14 million (2 years). He can not be put in LF any longer. He is unlikely to be more valuable than he is this off season. Someone will take on all 14 million and give the Twins prospects
3) Similarly Morneau has 14 million left over 1 year. The Twins should trade him and "buy" prospects in the form of picking up a significant portion of his contract.
4) Do not offer extensions that commits the Twins to anyone beyond their age 32 season. That means pay Burton his due this year and do not extend him beyond 2013. Hopefully he is a tradeable asset midseason.
5) Does Doumit have any value in a trade? Is it reasonable to think his 2014 season will be anything like his 2012 season?
6) Wait out the free agent season. Although Ryan would disagree, there are plenty of starting pitchers on the market. Some will be left with few suitors The Twins should be able to sign some of them to a 1 year deal. If the deal is one year, age should not be a factor.
It is critical that they no longer sign decline phase players to multiyear contracts. They did it in the 90s with no success. The 1997-1998 teams were among the oldest Twin rosters.
The 2012 roster is comparable to those of 98-99. Doing so will only continue the cycle of mediocrity.
How do they turn it around?
Go young. Build the system.
They did it in 1982. The average batter and pitcher age were both lowest in organization history.
It paid off.
They did it again in 1999. Average batter age dropped 3 years and average pitcher age dropped 2.4 from 1998.
Paid off again.
Can you wait for the pay off? Would you rather be mediocre?
I fear the Twins management doesn't trust the ticket buying public to accept the growing pains of building the system. They will sign decline phase players to multiyear contracts to satisfy the fans and drive ticket sales.
This article will be written again next year as it was last year.