Baseball Prospectus has released its PECOTA projections for the 2018 season, and Nate Silver’s system has the Twins projected for 82 wins and a comfortable second-place finish in a woeful AL Central.
2018 AL Central PECOTA Projections
|Chicago White Sox||73||89|
|Kansas City Royals||66||96|
Eighty-two wins would represent a three-game decline from last year’s 85-win campaign, but it’s important to remember that the 2017 Twins outperformed their underlying numbers by somewhere between three and four games last season, depending on which metric you use.
Last year PECOTA put the Twins at 80 wins, right around where their stats suggested they belonged at the end of the 2017 season — meaning that an 82-win 2018 may represent a small improvement in actual talent level from last season.
PECOTA factors in playing time, and the Twins’ pitchers’ playing times were updated on Tuesday, so Ervin Santana’s finger surgery is baked into the final numbers. Losing Santana for a month or so to start the season means more innings from pitchers like Phil Hughes, who PECOTA is not psyched about. After pitching a shade more than 100 combined innings over the last two seasons (and struggling when he did try and pitch around his various maladies), Hughes projects to tally a 6.11 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 38 strikeouts and (gulp) 15 home runs allowed in 55 innings in 2018.
On the positive pitching side, Jose Berrios projects as the Twins’ most valuable pitcher — 4.06 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 165 innings — with a projected 2.1 Wins Above Replacement Player. PECOTA also expects good things from the Twins’ bullpen, especially Tyler Duffey, Ryan Pressly, Trevor Hildenberger, Addison Reed, and Fernando Rodney.
Byron Buxton claims the highest WARP projection (3.6) on the team and of any position player, with Dozier, Sano, and Kepler behind him, respectively. PECOTA puts Buxton at a .250/.308/.437 line with 20 homers, 25 steals and 19 Fielding Runs Above Average in center. Last year, Buxton racked up 25.5 FRAA, according to BP, which was second among all players in MLB and six runs ahead of any other center fielder. My guess is that 19 FRAA is not a prediction of decline but more an acknowledgement that it’s foolhardy to expect Buxton to be as defensively brilliant as he was last season every year.
All in all, PECOTA thinks the 2018 Twins look awfully similar to the 2017 Twins, and that’s a good thing if players can keep progressing and improving. The Twins also feel like a team poised to make a free-agent signing (as much as any team looks poised to do so in this historically dormant market), so the roster may look a little different soon.
Personally, I think playing nearly 60 games against the White Sox, Royals, and Tigers should set the Twins up for a higher win total. What does everyone else think: does 82 wins feel about right? Would you consider that a success or a disappointment?