We all love to make predictions for the upcoming season. Which teams improved? Which are worse? Who was lucky last season and will see a correction this year?
Unfortunately the Twins do fall into that third category and despite all the denial in the world, it sure looks like the Twins may lack the pitching staff necessary to make a playoff run this season. Of course, crazier things have happened, but it feels like a significant uphill battle when we look at ZiPS projections, courtesy of FanGraphs.
You're probably already aware that ZiPS has projected the Twins to finish dead last in the AL Central in 2016, although the gap is just four games between the 78-84 Twins and the second place 82-80 Tigers (my apologies, I'm not sure if that projection is pre- or post-Justin Upton). That at least feels encouraging, as it would just take a few breaks and a little luck to vault to the top of the division. Maybe at worst a Wild Card is up for the taking then?
Well, I wish it were that easy but currently it doesn't appear so. Intuitively, we would have an equal number of above-.500 and below-.500 teams. In the National League, that plays out as seven of the 15 teams currently project to finish with a losing record and an eighth (Miami) is supposed to be exactly .500. Meanwhile, the American League is a completely different animal with the Twins as just one of four teams that are predicted to break more than 81 losses.
In the always-competitive AL East, only the Baltimore Orioles are predicted to finish under .500. The same is true in the AL West where the Oakland A's are still looking to rebound after last year's disappointing season. The AL Central brings up the rear as both the Twins and Kansas City Royals are facing an uphill battle, though after two consecutive trips to the World Series and no evidence the team is any worse than last year, I'm sure Royals fans are collectively raising a middle finger to ZiPS.
Yes, things can always change, injuries can happen, and the game is played on a field and not in a spreadsheet. But, at least on paper it sure appears as though the Twins will have a tough time making it atop the AL Central this season, let alone even making it into the Wild Card game.