Hudson and the Twins

When people talk about teams that have had good off-seasons, the usual names that come up are the Seattle Mariners, the Boston Red Sox, and people that hate the New York Mets. For all of them, this has been a productive winter full of good news. But there’s a new contender in the mix for best off-season in baseball: the Minnesota Twins.

They were able to retain Carl Pavano on a one-year deal, solidifying their starting rotation. They picked up J.J. Hardy on the cheap to solve their shortstop problem. They added Jim Thome as a bat off the bench and to provide depth at DH and, by extension, the corner outfield spots. And they’re reportedly on the verge of signing Joe Mauer to a long-term contract that will keep him in Minnesota for the rest of his career – or most of it, anyway.

They capped their winter yesterday by signing Orlando Hudson to play second base, getting him for the bargain rate of just $5 million. His abilities with the bat, as a switch-hitter no less, make him a perfect fit for what the Twins needed. He’ll slide in between Denard Span and Joe Mauer, breaking up the string of lefties and giving their line-up depth that it did not have before.

With Hudson, Hardy, and Thome, the Twins have improved their offense significantly. By retaining Pavano and watching Francisco Liriano return to form in winter ball, their pitching rotation has the chance to be among the best in baseball. Their bullpen is still good, anchored by a relief ace and some quality arms in front of him.

It’s hard to imagine the Twins could have had a better winter. They used this off-season to upgrade the team, and while the roster isn’t perfect, they are clearly the class of the AL Central at this point. Adding Hudson is just the cherry on top of what was already a very good winter.

We hoped you liked reading Hudson and the Twins by Dave Cameron!

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TheUnrepentantGunner
Member
TheUnrepentantGunner

Couldn’t agree more. I sit next to a die hard twins fan, who is not sabermetrically inclined. besides him hating pavano, I have watched with extra interest their off season and every move seems reasonable. The biggest challenge for them will be cutting bait for Delmon Young if/when he stinks the new stadium up out of the joint.

The stadium could have some random effect of -2 games on their record, but it still feels like a 88 win team, which should be enough for the postseason.

aj
Guest
aj

Why would the stadium have a -2 game effect on THEIR record, and not the visitors?

Jason
Guest
Jason

Because they play half their games there?

Steven Ellingson
Guest
Steven Ellingson

They play half their games there….. but SO DO THE VISITORS! This doesn’t make any sense. They Rays don’t get to play in Florida when they are playing the Twins (unless, of course, it’s a home game).

Lee Trocinski
Member
Member
Lee Trocinski

Maybe it has something to do with being in a new park. They don’t have quite the home-field advantage, since they don’t know the park as well as most teams know their home park.

TheUnrepentantGunner
Member
TheUnrepentantGunner

do you want a math based reason or non math-based reason?

Lets start for the easier ones, for the admittedly non sabermetric reason that other teams hated playing there, between the weird sight-lines, awkward field dimensions, the crowd (loud at times), the turf, etc etc. That adds up whether you want to realize it or not. You get used to those conditions in the outfield or infield, play someone that might see 9 games at most there a year, you have an edge

Since that wont satisfy you (and it shouldnt), I took the liberty of looking at the last 10 seasons of twins baseball.

On average they won 47.6 games at home each season, versus only 38.7 on the road.

Thats a NINE game difference. Why is it that one team is 11%(!) more likely to win at home versus the road?

(note, ran some quick math, in 2009 the average gap was 9% at home, didn’t do the math for the entire decade but someone can probably run it, in either case we are looking at data for 2400 games for the 2009 only sample and ~=1600 games for the decade sample, so the 2% number isnt decisive but feels significant, one standard deviation over 1600 games is about 10 games, so if the true standard is really a 54.5-45.5 split, then the twins are something like a 2.8 sigma event.

So the home field probably helped. But not by more than 2 games. Why the home park helped is anyone’s guess, and im sure someone with more time could flesh out my numbers better, but this was a pretty easy one to defend, and i think even to the naked relatively untrained eye it also makes sense.

TheUnrepentantGunner
Member
TheUnrepentantGunner

LeeTro: exactly, you made the point i made just below you in alot fewer words. I explained reasons why the twins might have an advantage being used to a relatively unique (albeit ugly) park that plays differently from other parks.

Their new park will have two factors against it

1) the twins will take some time to acclimate to it
2) the risk of being generic and having no distinguishing features that make it significantly harder than other parks.

I am guessing they will probably be on average 8 percentage points better at home than on the road this season, and it could go back to the 9-10 range.

Hence the two win dropoff for park effects.

Steven Ellingson
Guest
Steven Ellingson

Yeah, but you’re comparing how well they’ve played at home, to how well they’ll potentially play at home in the future. We’re talking about how they project for next season, which doesn’t take into account how they played at home in the past. (I realize it does slightly, since some of the players may have gotten a “boost” from this extra homefield advantage). But only some of the players have played their whole careers in Minnesota, and projections are also based on other things, such as minor leagues, etc.

The Twins have been notorious for beating their projected win total in years past, and this extra homefield advantage may have something to do with it. So, if anything, the Twins should have gotten a 2 game boost to their projected win total in years past, and this year they should project at exactly what the numbers say.

TheUnrepentantGunner
Member
TheUnrepentantGunner

steve lets take this further.

how long does it take to acclimate to your home park before you have an advantage vis-a-vis other parks?

what percentage of home field advantage is things that are player independent (the crowd, the effects of sleeping in a random hotel and travel and all that it entails),

and what percentage of home field is things that a player can adapt to and legitimately get better at over time? (ie: how long did it take Nick Punto to figure out exactly where to stand against a left handed spray hitter who hit alot of line drives and ground balls?

I am not smart enough to even figure out the best way to figure out the answer to these questions, as i would run into correlation-causation errors.

But we can both agree that the twins were playing 2 games better than projections the last few years, almost to the point where people should have pencilled them in to do slightly better, in spite of wanting to hate Ron Gardenhire.

So then the question is do you take those two wins out of the question (assuming you have the park built in), or do you assume that the overachievement was because people werent factoring in the park, in which case you stick with your projection. I have goine with choice one, someone could go choice 2, but i dont think anyone can dispute that the Dome was a meaningful advantage for the Twins, that cannot be assumed to continue to be a factor for target field.

Pradesh
Guest
Pradesh

Hometown crowd size, noise, energy and excitement are certainly factors. And the Twins will have that added edge in their new park during April and May; larger and more enthusiastic crowds than they would normally have had at the Metrodome during the initial months of a season. I

‘d guess this “artificial” playoff-like atmosphere at beginning of the season will be worth at least a 4 game bump.

One could check, I imagine, the overall changes in records of the last ten teams to move into new stadiums. That is, victories in the last season in their old stadium compared to victories in the first season of their new stadium.

aj
Guest
aj

“how long does it take to acclimate to your home park before you have an advantage vis-a-vis other parks?”

Acclimation aside, it takes exactly until the other team boards a plane, tries to sleep on it, and then shows up at the new stadium to play you that you have an advantage.

I wonder what was the HFA difference between 2008 and 2009 for the Yankess and Mets? Or when Cardinals opened the new Busch? Or Philly when they opened Citizens?

don
Guest
don

Man. That’s a lot of explanation. I thought it was a joke about the stink of Delmon Young rubbing off on the park.

TheUnrepentantGunner
Member
TheUnrepentantGunner

AJ, this result surprised me, and has me challenge my thesis slightly.

I looked at the most 12 recent stadium openings (anything opened after 2000).

in the last season before those 12 teams shut down their old stadiums (NYY NYM WAS STL PHL SDP CIN MIL PIT HOU DET and SF)

those 12 teams won 524 games at home and 449 on the road

The first season of their new stadium they only won 511 games at home (which is worse you see), but the did even relatively worse on the road, winning 424 games. (Note i wasnt looking at winning percentage, just raw wins for the regular season since i amd oing this mid-conference call).

so in short, there was a gap of 6.25 wins between home and away record in the last year of the old stadium, but 7.25 wins between home and away records in the new stadium.

Is that extra win significant? Maybe. Does it put a major dagger in the theory that the twins might do worse in their new park vis-a-vis their old one? Probably.

Incidentally, the #’s were just about dead even until the 3 recent stadium openings of the most recent stadiums. None of those old stadiums really had a home field advantage (like the Vet Did!), but that might be using narrative where it’s unwarranted.

Individualy alot of this is noise, but the new stadiums most benefited Pittsburgh, St Louis (a gorgeous stadium if you’ve ever been), and NYY.

The teams that benefitted the least from their move were the Phillies, the Padres and the Brewers.

I can’t easily post my data set from here but its kind of interesting.

TheUnrepentantGunner
Member
TheUnrepentantGunner

lets see if this dataset posts…

Old H Win Old A Win Gap new H win new A win Gap Team
48 41 7 57 46 11 NYY
48 41 7 41 29 12 NYM
40 33 7 34 25 9 WAS
50 50 0 49 34 15 STL
49 37 12 42 44 -2 PHL
35 29 6 42 45 -3 SDP
38 40 -2 35 34 1 CIN
42 31 11 36 32 4 MIL
37 32 5 38 24 14 PIT
50 47 3 39 33 6 HOU
38 31 7 43 36 7 DET
49 37 12 55 42 13 SF
524 449 75 511 424 87 TOTAL

Ben
Guest
Ben

“Is that extra win significant?”

Be wary of small samples. That’s only 12 stadium openings. In this case we are looking at group level outcomes (team wins in new vs. old stadium). Even though many individual games were played over those years, only 24 seasons were involved.

steve ell gso
Guest
steve ell gso

i dont know who this steven ellingson guy thinks he is but he sure has a funny name