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2012 MLB Predictions, and Why the Twins Will Not Disappoint

I ambled by Baseball Prospectus yesterday -- as I typically do -- and happened upon the crew’s 2012 predictions. Having been a former BP staffer, heck, even one who did those same predictions last year, naturally, my interest was piqued.

Now before I pick up too much steam, this isn’t a shot at BP. Far from it. Everything I’ve done in baseball -- make no mistake, read that as ‘not much’ -- is still thanks pretty much exclusively to BP.

But I just felt like the BP panel of experts were a bit down on the Twins this season. I only use them because it’s ostensibly a bigger group of experts than say, Athlon Sports. I’m pretty sure every prediction/projection system is down on the Twins this season. So today, let me first show off my predictions, and second, to keep it TwinkieTown relevant, I’ll suggest why I think the Twins will surprise some pundits this season.

As an aside, I also read Ken Rosenthal’s piece. I like Rosenthal, but blech. Twins worse than the Orioles, Cubs, Padres, Pirates, White Sox and Mariners? TEN slots below the Royals? I just don’t see it.

But anyway, here are my projected standings. In parentheses are my over/under for wins in 2012. Please keep in mind I did NOT consult Vegas on the O/Us:

American League

AL West:
1. Rangers (93.5)
2. Angels* (90.5)

3. A’s (75.5)
4. Mariners (70.5)

AL Central:
1. Tigers (94.5)
2. Twins (84.5)
3. Indians (82.5)
4. Royals (77.5)
5. White Sox (74.5)

AL East:
1. Yankees (92.5)
2. Red Sox* (90.5)
3. Rays (85.5)
4. Blue Jays (81.5)
5. Orioles (70.5)

National League

NL West:
1. Diamondbacks (88.5)
2. Giants (86.5)
3. Rockies (84.5)
4. Dodgers (80.5)
5. Padres (76.5)

NL Central:
1. Reds (88.5)
2. Cardinals* (86.5)
3. Brewers (82.5)
4. Pirates (79.5)
5. Cubs (76.5)
6. Astros (65.5)

NL East:
1. Phillies (91.5)
2. Nationals* (87.5)
3. Marlins (85.5)
4. Braves (84.5)
5. Mets (77.5)

*Wild Cards

AL MVP - Evan Longoria
AL Cy Young - Justin Verlander
AL ROY - Yu Darvish

AL Comeback - Joe Mauer
AL Manager - Jim Leyland

NL MVP - Joey Votto
NL Cy Young - Roy Halladay
NL ROY - Devin Mesoraco

NL Comeback - Adam Wainwright
NL Manager - Davey Johnson

AL Champion - Texas Rangers
NL Champion - Arizona Diamondbacks

World Series Champion - Texas Rangers

Feel free to leave any thoughts you have on my predictions below.

As for the Twins, yes, 85ish wins is a lofty expectation, but I think the boys are up for it.

For one, the shortstop debacle is by-and-large taken care of. A typical season from Jamey Carroll should result in about a 2.0-2.5 WAR, while last season’s Twins shortstops combined for -1.1 WAR, by far the worst in the entire major leagues (next worst? Braves at -0.1). So that’s anywhere from 2.0-3.5 added wins when the dust settles. Quite a nice upgrade considering the length and financial commitment to Carroll, who in all honesty is a nice complimentary piece but for most teams wouldn’t swing the ledger nearly as much.

Another small note on Carroll: He’s by no means great shakes with the mitt, but the Twins were -- pinch me if you’ve heard this one -- the worst among shortstop units, this time on the defensive side, at 23.2 runs BELOW average. Essentially, assuming 10 runs = one win, the Twins lost two whole games by virtue of poor shortstop play. Ergo, if Carroll is simply his self -- read: average, or thereabouts -- that is possibly as much as a plus two-win proposition. Aren’t stats fun?

Next, consider that the club got virtually nothing out of Denard Span, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau last season. Next to nothing. Combined, the trio was worth 3.5 wins last season. For a little context, let’s consider 2010, which was the last season the three were all healthy. In that season, the fellas were worth 13.3 wins, and that was even with Span’s first tough season offensively. It’s by no means guaranteed that one can just assume health and add 10 wins to the Twins’ ledger, but at the same time, the Twins are doing all the right things to assure that Morneau can be healthy and productive -- as an aside, he was a FIVE win player in his abbreviated 2010, which is insane -- and that Span and Mauer are healthy and ready to make up two-thirds of the Twins top third of the batting order.

Adding Josh Willingham was also beneficial. He beats Michael Cuddyer in career wOBA, and he has more power which is better suited to Target Field. There’s a good chance with his combination of pull tendencies and the fact that his new home digs are more accommodating than his old for RH power that Willingham could pop 30 home runs for the first time in his career.

The other signing that’s interesting to take a look at is Ryan Doumit. No, Doumit’s glove doesn’t profile particularly positive in any one place, but consider him as depth. When Doumit’s needed at C-1B-LF-RF-DH, he’ll be able to step in. Who was stepping into those places last season? This is a big reason why I get a bit chafed when I hear national pundits, and even some of my colleagues suggest that Doumit is not a special player. He doesn’t NEED to be. By virtue of helping neutralize the combined 1337 plate appearances taken by the likes of Drew Butera, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Matt Tolbert, Jason Repko, Rene Rivera, Brian Dinkelman, Steve Holm, and entirely too raw carrots Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni, guys like Doumit and Carroll are incremental, if not exponential upgrades.

But I digress. I’m still not wild about the pitching staff, but I like the direction it’s headed. Simply improving at short should help some of the ground balls get sucked up, and I think the bullpen will be better by simply adding a few guys that will throw more strikes AND strike threes. Guys like Jared Burton and Matt Maloney may be household names in no time! Okay, maybe not, but there’s potential to be sneaky good here in the Twin Cities, and you heard it here first, friends.

85 wins sounds about right.