Each January, Dan Szymborski releases his ZiPS projections—a “cornerstone of the baseball analytics community.” The projections are just computer-based performance predictions for each player and team for the upcoming season, laid out in analytical terms. If you’re wondering where “ZiPS” comes from, it actually stands for “sZymborski Porjection System”. So, yes—this is basically really nerdy stuff.
Today, Szymborski released his ZiPS projections for the 2017 Minnesota Twins, and they are... sort of okay? I mean, it’s really hard to say what is “okay” after a 103-loss season. The projections basically say that the Twins will be better, but honestly, how could they be worse?
Basically, the ZiPS predict that the 2017 Twins position players will be an “average group”, which is better than the sub-average group they were in 2016. Brian Dozier, obviously, is projected as having the highest WAR at 4.3 (for reference, Dozier posted a 5.9 fWAR in 2016). ZiPS are also still quite high on Byron Buxton, who is projected at 3.5 WAR, despite only earning 1.7 fWAR last year. Even though those are the only two Twins players projected to have a WAR over 3, as a whole, the projections show more players contributing positively than 2016’s projections did.
As for the pitching... well, here’s what our Randball’s Stu wrote last year about the 2016 ZiPS pitching projections for the Twins:
When Szymborski ran the numbers, his computer "began to shake and smoke, almost as if by an occult hand," per the police report. It goes on to read that, "The screen flashed one word, 'REPENT.' over and over. Soon, the screen changed to 'IT'S TOO LATE FOR YOU NOW. IT'S TOO LATE FOR EVERYONE.' Then the results printed out on a dot matrix printer in an abandoned crematorium three miles from Szymborski's residence. It is not known at this time how or why this happened."
You could basically just go with that again—especially since the most significant pitching acquisition the Twins have made this off-season is Rule 5 Draft pick (trade?) Justin Haley. That’s um... not exactly going to save us.
The Twins did get two new pitching options during the 2016 season via trades: Hector Santiago and Adalberto Mejia. Both are projected to provide positive WAR in 2017, at 1.1 and 0.6 respectively. Still, that’s just 1.7 WAR combined.
So, the 2017 ZiPS projections seem to say the Twins will be better in 2017, but still not very good. However, keep in mind that these numbers are just projections, and often end up being wildly inaccurate. In 2016, for instance, ZiPS projected Byron Buxton to post a 2.9 WAR and Miguel Sano a 3 WAR, and we know in reality neither of them even cracked 2 WAR. Jose Berrios was also projected at 1.7 WAR, and let’s just say that was a bit off too. Hence, no matter how fancy Szymborski’s computer is, the Twins can still find a way to suck worse than it can even predict.
What do you think about the Twins’ 2017 ZiPS projections? Does anything seem unrealistic to you? Do they make you any more (or less) hopeful for the upcoming season?