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Comparing 2017 pre-season predictions to the Twins’ actual 2017 season

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Spoiler alert: No one really saw this stuff coming.

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Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals
Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

The Twins’ 2017 season has been over for over a week now, and though they ended their season once again with a playoff loss to the New York Yankees, there is plenty for Twins fans to be happy about. To make this fact especially especially clear, I want to go over some of the pre-season predictions and projections people put out there for the Minnesota Twins.

Buckle up, kiddos, because this is going to be fun.

USA Today is lost in left field

Kids, don’t do drugs. Now, I know pre-season predictions are extremely difficult and often wrong, no matter how knowledgeable one is—but USA Today bombed this one. First of all, Bob Nightengale predicted the New York Mets would win the World Series. The Mets actually finished 70-92, and only made fourth place in the NL East because the Phillies exist.

As for the Twins, USA Today thought they’d end up last in the AL Central with a 66-96 record. Obviously, none of their analysts thought the Twins would be anywhere near the wildcard game. Obviously, all of their “analysts” were wrong.

Oh, and they also thought the Tigers were going to end up in second place in the AL Central this year with a 85-77 record—which is exactly what the Twins actually did. No, I don’t know why USA Today thought the Tigers would be good. I mean, even I knew the Tigers were going to stink this season, writing this in my pre-season preview:

Want my frank opinion on the Tigers? I think they’re going to do worse than people expect. There’s a lot of recency bias with this team because they were very good for awhile, and they have big names like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander—but everyone gets old, folks. Cabrera will be turning 34 this April. Justin Verlander is 34. Ian Kinsler? Also 34. Seriously, it’s like the Kirby Puckett memorial-aged team over there in Michigan.

Some may claim the Tigers window for winning is closing, but I think it’s already shut.

FYI—The Tigers ended 2017 with the worst record in all of baseball.

PECOTA projections not good enough

Every year Baseball Prospectus, aka The Fightin’ Aaron Gleemans, puts out their PECOTA Projections, predicting what each teams’ record will be for the season. Since it’s Baseball Prospectus, I assume they come up with these numbers based on very scientific formulas I may have understood before I literally forgot how to do any advanced algebra four years out of high school.

The 2017 PECOTA Projections were actually pretty favorable for the Twins, (correctly) pegging them to finish second in the AL Central, but (incorrectly) predicting them to do it with a 80-82 record. At the time, though, the PECOTA Projections were some of the most favorable towards the Twins—and the Twins even out did them by five whole wins! WOOT!

ZiPS Projections moderately on target

Every year baseball analyst Dan Szymborski releases his pre-season “ZiPS” projections, which stands for “sZymborski Porjection System”. These projections try to peg how well each player is likely to do in a season.

Here’s what the ZiPS projected each Twins batter to do (zWAR), along with what they actually did according to FanGraphs’ measurements (fWAR) and Baseball Reference’s measurements (bWAR):

Twins 2017 projected zWARs vs. Actual WARs

Player zWAR fWAR bWAR
Player zWAR fWAR bWAR
Brian Dozier 4.3 4.9 4.5
Byron Buxton 3.5 3.5 5.1
Miguel Sano 2.5 2.3 2.5
Jorge Polanco 2.3 1.6 2.1
Max Kepler 2 1.2 2.1
Jason Castro 2 1.6 2.5
Eddie Rosario 1.6 2.5 1.7
ByungHo Park 1.5 N/A N/A
Trevor Plouffe 1.5 N/A N/A
Tommy Field 1.4 N/A N/A
Mitch Garver 1.4 -0.1 0.1
Eduardo Escobar 0.9 1.6 1.3
Joe Mauer 0.9 2.3 3.4
Zack Granite 0.9 -0.2 0.3
Kennys Vargas 0.9 0.4 0.7
Chris Gimenez N/A 1.2

I’ll give it up to Dan—he was actually pretty damn close on the first four or so batters. However, the ZiPS projections missed the mark on a lot of others—most notably, Joe Mauer, ByungHo Park, and... Tommy Field? What?

I guess the other things to garner here are that people believe Max Kepler has more room for growth than he displayed this year, and people still believe in ByungHo Park? Hopefully.

Twinkie Town’s SooFoo Fan nails it

Twinkie Town’s very own SooFoo Fan wrote a post with five predictions for the 2017 season. Though it was a brief and admittedly very optimistic post, four of his five predictions came true! That’s pretty impressive, especially considering how wildly off the so-called professionals at USA Today were.

His four predictions that came true were:

  1. Joe Mauer hits .300 again (Mauer actually finished 2017 with a .305 BA).
  2. The Twins are not “eliminated” in July (He specified this meant that they would be near .500)
  3. Brian Dozier will not be traded (He wasn’t)
  4. Jose Berrios has a good bounce back year (He did)

The only thing that didn’t come true was SooFoo’s prediction that Byron Buxton would be the lead-off hitter by May. In reality, Buxton had a pretty slow start to the year.

SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee is oblivious

Look—I love Grant Brisbee. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, I pity you, and I will also inform you that he is the head writer for SB Nation’s main MLB site. He’s also hilarious and knowledgeable beyond belief.

But Brisbee had a pretty crap prediction for the 2017 Twins, calling them an “obvious fifth-place pick” in his pre-season predictions. In fact, it seems he just wrote them off altogether without even bothering to do any research, since he only gave them about a sentence of attention in his AL Central preview.

Tsk, tsk, Mr. Brisbee. Thou shall not write off young teams with tons of former-top prospects coming of age.

Did the 2017 Twins outperform your expectations? This is where I ask you questions. Answer me.