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.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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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.