ZiPS is a notoriously pessimistic projection system. Or, perhaps more accurately, it's a cold mechanism that is the most popular of baseball's projection oracles because of how often it hits its mark. How you view ZiPS probably depends on how much it likes your team. In our case, ZiPS is not a fan of the 2015 Minnesota Twins.
With that in mind, let's play a game. I'll go through a number of the players who are likely to give the Twins a good deal of time this year (it's no use betting on players like Byron Buxton, for example), and in the comments you have an opportunity to vote for the over or the under on that player. For position players I'll make note of their triple slash and wins above replacement numbers, and for pitchers I'll use FIP and wins above replacement. (For full metrics, check the link above.)
Brian Dozier: 244/321/399, 2.4 zWAR
After a breakout 2014 campaign that saw him accumulate 4.6 fWAR, ZiPS looks at his recent history and the history of other similar players and sees regression. Regression is a popular theme when it comes to predicting how a player will do in the future, whether that's one year or five, and until Dozier can string together multiple All-Star like seasons his ZiPS projection will continue to be a non-believer.
Trevor Plouffe: 255/319/426, 2.1 zWAR
There's less of a dip for Plouffe than for Dozier. He'll be 28 when the year starts, and ZiPS sees a slight recovery in power while it splits the on-base percentage between where it was in 2014 and 2013. Considering that Plouffe's 3.5 fWAR was far and away his best seasonal value to date, a 2.1-win season would constitute another good year for a guy who could be a valuable super-utility player by this time next year.
Josmil Pinto: 245/317/396, 2.1 zWAR
ZiPS is funny with playing time, since it more or less predicts players as if they were available to the Major League team to start as often as history might suggest they could. This means that Pinto is awarded 495 plate appearances, which seems a bit high - unless he gets more starts behind the plate or at designated hitter than we expect.
Joe Mauer: 285/371/396, 2.0 zWAR
Projection systems have always had a problem with Mauer, simply because there have been so few players like him. With that in mind, ZiPS sees 2015 as one of the three worst seasons of Mauer's career, along with 2011 and 2014. Even if Mauer is on the decline, and he could be, this would be a surprise.
Danny Santana: 271/305/377, 1.2 zWAR
With just 430 plate appearances to his name, it's hard for ZiPS to have a lot of reliable data for projections of a Major League player. Still, considering that Santana is a career .273/.317/.391 hitter in the minor leagues, the triple slash looks like a fair assessment. How will Santana's defense at shortstop add or subtract to his 2015 value?
Eduardo Escobar: 259/301/376, 1.1 zWAR
Like Pinto, Escobar is projected for plate appearances of a player who will get a good deal of playing time: 443 plate appearances. It keeps a lot of the success he had last season, which is good to see. But if he doesn't play in 120 games this year, will he be able to accumulate 1.1 wins above replacement?
Kurt Suzuki: 259/311/357, 1.1 zWAR
In spite of being a below average hitter for his entire career, Suzuki hit .288/.345/.383 in 2014 and spun his way to a two-year extension. That's not a bad thing, but ZiPS sees a return to form for Suzuki. He's also projected for fewer plate appearances than Pinto. In 2011, and 2014, Suzuki was worth two wins. In 2012 and 2013 he was worth less than a single win above replacement. In eight seasons, he's averaged between one and two wins per year. Do you believe in 2014, or do you believe in the rest of his career?
Oswaldo Arcia: 252/316/450, 1.0 zWAR
ZiPS understands that Arcia is a young player who is ramping up to who he could become, and rewards him accordingly on the offensive side. It even sees him hitting 21 home runs, which could very well be low but is still not bad considering how ZiPS behaves. Where Arcia loses value is with his defense. He was worth all of 0.9 fWAR in 2014, in spite of being a growing threat inside the batter's box. Can he be a better defender in left field, or can his offense be better than the system predicts?
Torii Hunter: 279/308/429, 0.4 zWAR
That's not a terrible batting line for a guy who will turn 40 later this year, and the 14 home runs aren't bad either, but he's projected to walk like Delmon Young and he's seen as the worst defender on the team. That all feels accurate. Which is unfortunate for his on-field value.
Aaron Hicks: 219/304/336, 0.3 zWAR
ZiPS has seen too many players like Hicks in the past, and as a result it doesn't give him a whiff of breaking out of the gutter in 2015. The walk rates are highly regressed and he's still striking out in one of every four plate appearances according to ZiPS.
Jordan Schafer: 219/295/300, -0.1 zWAR
ZiPS sees Schafer as being the player he's always been. His performance with the Twins last year majorly bucked a trend.
Kennys Vargas: 240/298/398, -0.5 zWAR
ZiPS credits Vargas with 17 home runs, but otherwise regresses him harshly. In a similar position to Danny Santana, it's going to take more experience (and some success) to convince ZiPS that he's not just a flash in the pan that can launch a ball or two when he connects.
Phil Hughes: 3.12 FIP, 4.0 zWAR
In spite of having a career year, ZiPS ran the numbers and comes away believing that Hughes' improvement in 2014 is sustainable. He's also the only Twins pitcher credited with more than 200 innings in 2015, which would have to be a disappointment.
Kyle Gibson: 4.28 FIP, 1.5 zWAR
Because he has a relatively short track record, and because of his age, it looks like ZiPS sees him as more or less being the player who he was in 2014. There are slight ups and downs in various metrics, but suffice it to say that the system doesn't see the improvements in Gibson for this season that we're all hoping he'll make.
Alex Meyer: 4.63 FIP, 1.0 zWAR
Sub-par command, okay strikeout rates, just 113 innings. Considering there's no Major League data to go off of, forcing ZiPS to predict equivalent minor league production, there isn't much to be made of this. Personally, I think he could be better.
Ervin Santana: 4.71 FIP, 0.9 zWAR
Whoa. In spite of averaging more than 200 innings over the last four years, which is how far back ZiPS looks, it knocks him to 170 innings and gives him a higher FIP than he posted in 2011, 2013, or 2014. If I had to guess at the methodology, ZiPS is taking information from similar pitchers and forecasts a big step back for the 32-year old pitcher as a result.
Ricky Nolasco: 4.46 FIP, 0.7 zWAR
Nolasco has always been a pitcher who has seemed to buck the system by always posting FIP and xFIP numbers that insisted he was better than his ERA. It seems that the trend will continue this year, as ZiPS doesn't really see him improving on his 2014 in any respect. That's a hard pill to swallow for anyone who was hoping he could return to his pre-Minnesota form, but on the plus side if he does improve he'll exceed his 0.7-wins projection quite easily.
Tommy Milone: 4.93 FIP, 0.2 zWAR
Good command and a fair but uninspiring strikeout rate don't make Milone look very good to ZiPS, which believes that Milone will continue to give up hits at an alarming rate. The system bumps up Milone's BABIP higher than it's been over the last four years on the whole, which really doesn't do him any favors. Good ammunition for anyone who believes Milone isn't a good fit for Target Field.
Trevor May: 5.01 FIP, 0.0 zWAR
ZiPS may as well just spit out Latin. May tanked in a number of starts down the stretch, and those numbers overshadow the promise he showed not to mention his status as a prospect. As a result of so little data, the system believes he's a pretty terrible pitcher and has projected him accordingly. If he can't get his command under control more consistently, the projection may not be too far off.
Mike Pelfrey: 5.22 FIP, -0.3 zWAR
Big Mike Pelfrey is down for 13 starts and 65 innings and some pretty terribly peripherals. Considering his performance with the Twins in 2013, not to mention his injury-shortened 2014, this isn't surprising. Should he do better? Absolutely. But that's an easy thing to say considering our starting point for the discussion is "Can Mike Pelfrey do better than actually making the team worse by pitching?"
Head into the comments, where I'll have a comment for each player and then two replies - one that says Over and one that says Under. Just "rec" the answer you think applies, and leave the discussion below!