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Updated: October 18th, 2012 10:54pm
Mackey: In revisiting projections, role players killed Twins offense

Mackey: In revisiting projections, role players killed Twins offense

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

Last offseason, it was suggested by this scribe that the Minnesota Twins offense had potential, if healthy, to be one of the highest scoring units in baseball following the signings of Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit.

I posted offensive projections that showed the Twins could score somewhere between 750 and 780 runs if all went well, which would put them in or near MLB's top five.

Twins hitters came up short of that figure, instead scoring 701 runs and ranking mid-pack.

Ultimately, as you'll see below, it wasn't the big thumpers who held the Twins back as much as it was the 950 plate appearances (15% of team total) given to Danny Valencia, Alexi Casilla, Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon -- hitters who proved to be a collective black hole to a lineup that otherwise might have been among baseball's best.

The pitching was much worse, due in large part to injuries.

Now that the season is over, it's only fair to look back and see how close, or not close, those 2012 preseason projections were.

Individual hitters

The individual player projections are derived mostly from weighted, three-year batted ball track records (line drives, groundballs, fly balls, home runs, frequency, etc.) as well as strikeout and walk rates.

CF Denard Span
Projection: .274/.353/.367, 3 HR, 23 2B, 10 3B, 21 SB
Actual: .283/.342/.395, 4 HR, 38 2B, 4 3B, 17 SB

SS Jamey Carroll
Projection: .281/.349/.328, 0 HR, 16 2B, 3 3B, 14 SB
Actual: .268/.343/.317, 1 HR, 18 2B, 1 3B, 9 SB

C/1B Joe Mauer
Projection:
.323/.399/.451, 9 HR, 37 2B, 1 SB
Actual: .319/.416/.446, 10 HR, 31 2B, 8 SB

LF Josh Willingham
Projection:
.260/.358/.481, 25 HR, 27 2B
Actual: .260/.366/.524, 35 HR, 30 2B

1B Justin Morneau
Projection:
.282/.366/.507, 22 HR, 31 2B
Actual: .267/.333/.440, 19 HR, 26 2B

C/DH Ryan Doumit
Projection:
.261/.327/.430, 15 HR, 25 2B
Actual: .275/.320/.461, 18 HR, 34 2B

OF Ben Revere
Projection:
.282/.328/.338, 1 HR, 14 2B, 5 3B, 42 SB
Actual: .294/.333/.342, 0 HR, 13 2B, 6 3B, 40 SB

INF Trevor Plouffe
Projection:
.253/.320/.416, 16 HR, 26 2B
Actual: .235/.301/.455, 24 HR, 19 2B

3B Danny Valencia
Projection:
.281/.332/.434, 16 HR, 33 2B
Actual: .198/.212/.310, 2 HR, 6 2B (with Twins)

2B Alexi Casilla
Projection:
.271/.333/.368, 3 HR, 24 2B, 18 SB
Actual: .241/.282/.321, 1 HR, 17 2B, 21 SB

1B/DH Chris Parmelee
Projection:
.254/.334/.402, 7 HR, 11 2B
Actual: .229/.290/.380, 5 HR, 10 2B

I also had Rene Tosoni (projected: .244/.313/.399, 6 HR, 9 2B, 4 SB), Luke Hughes (projected: .249/.315/.401, 6 HR, 8 2B, 2 SB) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (projected: .261/.324/.345, 2 HR, 9 2B, 2 3B, 8 SB) splitting more than 600 combined plate appearances, because last offseason those three players were in line to earn 25-man roster spots. All three were disasters. Tosoni was taken off the 40-man roster late in the season after struggling at Triple-A and Double-A. Nishioka begged out of his contract after a horrific season, mostly in Triple-A. And Hughes was DFA'd by both the Twins and Oakland A's.

Many of those would-be at-bats went to Brian Dozier, who hit just .234/.271/.332 with six home runs in 340 trips, and Pedro Florimon, who hit .219/.272/.307 in 150 trips. Darin Mastroianni, who effectively took Tosoni's place, hit .252/.328/.350 with 21 stolen bases in 186 plate appearances.

The projections for Morneau and Valencia turned out to be too optimistic. Willingham and Plouffe outperformed theirs.

Team offense

The team offense numbers were derived from adding up approximately 6,200 projected plate appearances, such as the ones above. The run projection total was derived using David Smyth's base runs estimator, which is usually accurate to within 10-15 runs over the course of a full season.

As mentioned above, the presence of Valencia, Dozier, Casilla and Florimon dragged down what was otherwise a very good offensive unit. Had those players provided even replacement-level production, the Twins likely would have scored 750 runs with relative ease.

Only six teams scored more than 750 runs this season.

Batting average
Projected: .275
Actual: .260

On-base percentage
Projected: .342
Actual: .325

Slugging percentage
Projected: .411
Actual: .390

Home runs
Projected: 125
Actual: 131

Doubles
Projected: 283
Actual: 270

Triples
Projected: 42
Actual: 30

Stolen bases
Projected: 117
Actual: 135

Caught stealing
Projected: 43
Actual: 37

Runs
Projected: 771
Actual: 701

Even with 701 runs, the Twins still finished 16th in the major leagues in scoring, so the offense wasn't a complete disaster. The Twins scored 619 in 2011.

They were limited mostly by a lack of on-base percentage and clutch hitting. The Twins hit just .253 with runners in scoring position, which isn't much worse than their .260 overall team batting average. Had they hit .260 with runners in scoring position (an extra 12 hits over the course of the season), the Twins likely would have finished the season with 720 runs instead of 701.

Hitting into 149 double plays (third-most in MLB) also killed multiple rallies.

Individual Pitchers

The pitching projections were a debacle, mostly due to injuries suffered by Scott Baker and Carl Pavano, and Francisco Liriano underperforming before getting dealt to the White Sox in July.

By the time September rolled around, all five of the Twins' projected starters from spring training were on the disabled list or off the 40-man roster entirely.

Because guys like Samuel Deduno, Cole De Vries and other off-the-grid pitchers wound up throwing so many innings, we'll just skip ahead to the projected team totals to see how they held up.

Team pitching

Innings
Projected: 1,465
Actual: 1,438 2/3

Strikeouts
Projected: 1,006
Actual: 943

Walks issued
Projected: 420
Actual: 465

Hits allowed
Projected: 1,589
Actual: 1,536

Home runs allowed
Projected: 142
Actual: 198

Runs allowed
Projected: 754
Actual: 832

Home runs given up were the biggest reason why the Twins allowed more runs than all but two MLB teams. Only the Toronto Blue Jays served up more long balls than the Twins, who also tallied the fewest strikeouts, by far, of any team in baseball.

To put 832 runs into context, 16 teams allowed fewer than 700 runs. Four teams allowed fewer than 600 runs.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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