Twins Team Win Values

So far, we’ve looked at a couple of teams who were less successful than we would have expected at turning their win values for 2008 into on the field wins, mostly due to situational hitting and pitching. Boston and Texas both played better than either their records or their RS/RA would show, and that should be encouraging to their respective fanbases with regards to 2009.

On the flip side, though, there’s the Minnesota Twins. They traded away Johan Santana, watched Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva cash in via free agency in other cities, and yet still managed to improve from 80 wins in 2007 to 88 wins in 2008, turning themselves into a surprise contender for the AL Central. If we were to use the standard deviation from pythag, we would simply concede that the Twins were a legitimate winner, as their 89 pythag wins was right in line with their 88 actual wins.

However, their team win value total for 2008 was just 80.5 wins. Based on the context-neutral performances of their players, they were a .500 ballclub, mostly due to an offense that just wasn’t that great. Their 12.8 batting runs above average was 9th best in the American League, but they were 3rd in the AL in runs scored at 5.09 runs per game.

Just like as before, let’s take a look at the situational context.

Bases Empty: .697 OPS, 11% below average
Men On Base: .811 OPS, 4% above average
Runners In Scoring Position: .826 OPS, 6% above average
Bases Loaded: .837 OPS, 2% above average

When a single wasn’t going to be worth much, the Twins didn’t do much, hitting like a band of Triple-A infielders. When they had a chance to drive men in, though, they turned into a pretty nifty bunch of run producers. Because their offensive distribution was so heavily skewed towards hitting in situations that would produce runs, the team ended up finishing 3rd in the AL in runs scored despite an offense that simply wasn’t that good.

While watching your team capitalize on a huge portion of their run scoring opportunities is exciting, it’s not a great recipe for success. If the Twins want to keep winning in 2009, they’re going to have to just hit better, rather than rely on turning up the offensive jets only in certain situations.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

9 Responses to “Twins Team Win Values”

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  1. Sky says:

    While it’s about 10% as important as the RISP stuff, the Twins were excellent baserunners last year, on the order of a full win according to BPro.

    Why they’re favorites in the Central is beyond me.

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  2. snepp says:

    Didn’t you hear? The Twins are the only team in the league that “works on situational hitting” in batting practice.

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    • Adam Peterson says:

      They might be the only team with a “move ‘em over” signal. A hitter will actually be chewed out if they single to left field with a runner on second base and no outs. Everyone knows they should hit a can of corn grounder to second…

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  3. Adam Peterson says:

    We’ve had a good discussion of the Twins hitting with RISP over on Twinkie Town, focusing on the extent that the high averages may regress to the mean in 2009.

    One aspect of the better RISP hitting that cannot be ignored is that the Twins’ 3-4 hitters (Mauer and Morneau) have hit better with RISP in 7 of the last 8 years. Morneau 2005 was the only exception.

    Sky has a good point, according to my numbers, Minnesota had the second best baserunning team in the majors, to Philadelphia. Also, the Twins’ situational hitting to “move the runners over” on a more consistent basis has a surprising effect. I’m finishing up my analysis, but my preliminary results show Minnesota a full 20 runs ahead of the second best team in the majors doing the “little things”, productive outs, bunting, etc. I’ll post a spreadsheet tonight or tomorrow, as soon as I finish writing up the methodology.

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  4. BJ says:

    I’m assuming that situational performance has a lower year to year correlation than FIP and wOBA, but just how much lower is it?

    Also does a certain strategy such as emphasizing small ball, as Adam mentions, work better in higher leverage situations, and therefore consistently produce better results it those situations than with the bases empty? I guess you’d be looking for correlation from year to year for a team which maintained a certain strategy of having a consistent difference of OPS+ with bases loaded vs. empty

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  5. Xeifrank says:

    I am glad you posted this and the Rangers team win values. I saw little reason during the season that the Twins were as good as they were and the Rangers as bad.
    vr, Xei

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    • Adam Peterson says:

      What do you mean, Minnesota versus Texas? Texas was outscored by their opponents 901-967 while Minnesota outscored their opponents 829-745.

      It all comes down to pitching…

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