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How Much Would a Key Injury or Two Hurt the Twins Postseason Chances?

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#1 Andrew Thares

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Posted 20 July 2020 - 08:43 AM

In a typical season, if a player goes on the Injured List, they might miss a couple weeks and then come back having missed perhaps less than 10 percent of the season. Now, a similar minor injury could cause a player to miss as much as 25 percent of this shortened 60-game season. This means teams will need to have a heightened sense of care for their players to help avoid injuries, especially with the lack of rest days built into the schedule.All Twins fans were holding their breath last Monday afternoon, when Byron Buxton needed to be carted off the field after chasing down a Nelson Cruz home run. Fortunately, Buxton only suffered a mild left-foot strain and could be back in action for Opening Day. Freakish accidents like this could instantly change the outlook of a team’s season. So, how might an injury or two to a key player or two affect the Twins chances this season?

To find the answer to this question, we should first look at the odds on baseball for this season, to gauge where the Twins chances are to win the division heading into the season. Right now, the Twins over/under win total for the season stands at 34.5. This gives the Twins a projected couple game leg up on the Cleveland Indians (32 wins) and the Chicago White Sox (31.5 wins) heading into the season. In total, the Twins currently are -150 to win the AL Central, which means they are being given a 60 percent chance to win the division. While this isn’t the perfect indicator of how things will break down, it is a strong baseline to use for projecting the season.

The next thing to look at is how many wins should the Twins expect to lose as a result of a few key players missing some games due to injury. To do this, again we will look into projections to gauge a rough estimate, this time being the ZiPS projections over at Fangraphs in order to break down the expected WAR from the top players on the Twins roster. Altogether, there are 8 players on the Twins roster who project to be worth at least 1 WAR during the 2020 season. However, when you lower the criteria down to 0.8 WAR or higher, that list expands to 13 players, which is tied with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers for the highest in the MLB.

For the purposes of this exercise, we will consider those 13 players as the key members of the Twins 2020 roster. Those 13 players include each of the 9 projected starting position players, along with 4 starting pitchers that include Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak.

For the 9 position players, they had a weighted average (based on projected number of games played per player) of 0.021 WAR per game. To put that in simpler terms, the Twins should expect to have one less win for every 48 combined games that these players miss below what they are expected to play. This number could vary depending on which player(s) have to miss time, but on average this is what we should expect. For reference, here are the ZiPS projection breakdowns for each of those 9 players.

Download attachment: 8C536D16-4FFE-4915-B6A8-D49A3C276848.png

Next we will analyze how missed starts by those four starting pitchers will hurt the Twins. Again, we will use the weighted average (based on the projected number of starts per pitcher) of 0.10 WAR per start. This means for every 10 starts that these four pitchers miss, the Twins should expect to win one less game. Like the hitters, here are the ZiPS projects for those four Twins starting pitchers.

Download attachment: DC122E4E-993C-4833-953D-BE7BDEDF16CB.png

While 48 games missed by position players, or 10 missed starts by starting pitchers, per win may seem like a lot for a mere 60-game season, it could add up very quickly if a player or two suffers a severe injury early in the season, and wind up missing that amount of time by themselves. This won’t be that hard of a thing to have happen, given that recovery times for various injuries will still take the normal amount of time. This means that even intermediate injuries that have a 6-8 week recovery time, like a wrist fracture for example, are now essentially season ending injuries.

One thing to keep in mind is these numbers are reflective of these players’ projected performance over a replacement level player. With the incredible depth that the Twins have, it can be expected that the negative effects of losing one or more of these players to an injury will be less severe, as players who would play more to fill in like Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave, Ehrie Adrianza, Rich Hill, Michael Pineda and Homer Bailey all project to play at above replacement level. Additionally, they have players in the minor league system like Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach and Lewis Thorpe who could be called upon to provide above replacement level play as well. This is a big advantage that the Twins will have over other organizations, who don’t have this level of depth, when it comes to dealing with the inevitable loss of players throughout the season.

With the extreme importance that each game will have in this shortened season, a couple games here or there that go in the “L” column instead of the “W” column could make or break the season for the Twins. Luckily, the Twins seem better prepared than most to withstand a few short-term losses, but if those losses become long-term and teams like the Indians or White Sox are able to stay healthy, it could cost the Twins any chance they had of winning the division or even making the Postseason.

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#2 rdehring

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Posted 20 July 2020 - 10:38 AM

Very interesting, but way to technical for this old guy.

 

I expect there are two important factors when taking a look at this situation. First, in this shortened season it is likely every team is going to have players miss games because of injuries. And the rush to get to opening day will probably increase the missed games early in the season when their bodies aren't at 100% game condition.

 

And you hit the second reason, the Twins have a very deep group of starters and bullpen. I have no problem with Dobnak, Smerltzer or Thorpe having to start a half dozen games until Pineda is ready. You mentioned the depth for position players, but really the best depth there may be from a trio of prospects who are very, very good and close to being ready for their debuts...Kirilloff, Rooker and Jeffers. And that doesn't include Larnach or a couple of the young guns we all have been talking about.

 

Are injuries going to be a problem for teams, yes. Will the Twins fair better than most, yes, unless they get way more injuries than other teams.


#3 Craig Arko

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Posted 20 July 2020 - 10:58 AM

The team with the best control of COVID spread wins. That could take out an entire squad if it infects enough people.

  • Joey P likes this

Update your priors.


#4 bobs

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Posted 20 July 2020 - 12:40 PM

Analytics aside, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how well stocked this organization is for any injury/codid-related issues.There is pitching depth, with guys like Dobnak, Thorpe, Smeltzer able to make spot starts.Cave has proven he can play.The young hitters, like Rooker, Kiriiloff, etc., look ready to fill in if needed.


#5 Thegrin

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Posted 20 July 2020 - 03:30 PM

Oviously we don't want to see any injuries.We hold our breath when any of them gets hurt.This is the obvious reaction.Fortunately the Twins are rebuilt to withstand theseinjuries. We have good young pitchers available if any Berrios, Odoriaaqmor Maeda go down or if Rich Hill or Homer Baily can't perform up to their old standard.Pineda is coming back in the back half of our short season. He could be the Twins "Secret Weapon" when he returns.I've been impressed by johan Duran and Jorge Alcala, havn't you?We have more arms available than we know what to do with.

We don't want Buxton or any of the other regulars to go down, but we have Gonzlwez, Adrianaa & El Totuga to replace the infielders (Is Gordon on our 60 man roster?). and we have Royce Lewis, Larnach, LaMonte Wade & Kiriloff to hit. We have hitters out the ying-yang.Injuries will only make a fascinating season more intriguing. :) Win Twins!

 


#6 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 22 July 2020 - 05:52 AM

The first eight games on the schedule are a concern. Three tough clubs with two of them as the projected toughest AL Central rivals. If our Twins stumble in those first eight games then they almost have to hit the panic button/scramble mode. I do think even if a poor start happens there will be time for the Twins' depth to right the ship.



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