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Friday, February 17, 2012

Odds of the Twins Being Competitive in 2012 & Friday Links

I'm not a mathematician or a statistician. In fact, I tried to avoid taking math in college. I do remember a few things, though. One of them is this: if you want to calculate the odds of two or more independent events occurring, you simply multiply the odds of each individual event together. As a practical example, you know that there is a 50% chance of a random flip of a coin ending up "heads." So what are the odds of getting 2 heads in a row? .5 x .5, or .25 -- which is 1 in 4. Three heads in a row would be .125, or 1 in 8.

Most every blogger, and even local and national baseball writers, are pointing to three separate things that, we all believe, will be very determinative of the success or failure of the Twins in 2012. In no particular order, those things are: Joe Mauer having a healthy and productive 2012; Justin Morneau demonstrating that he is fully recovered from his concussions and other issues and returning to the power threat that he once was; and Francisco Liriano re-establishing his dominance. There are other very important issues facing the Twins, like Denard Span's health, or whether Danny Valencia will be more like he was in 2010 than he was in 2011, but many people have isolated these three particular players because of their relative importance to the team.

I believe that, if these 3 things do, in fact, occur, the Twins could be a good team. They might not really compete with Detroit for the AL Central, but then again, Detroit is only a Justin Verlander or Prince Fielder injury away from being a significantly less dominant team than once thought (I'm not wishing injury on either of these players; my point is only that, as Twins fans, we certainly know how one or two injuries to star players can derail a team). But I do think that, with all the other Twins' weaknesses, these 3 things all need to coincide in the same year in order for this team to make it past the trade deadline in contention for the playoffs. So what are the odds of this taking place in 2012? Let's figure it out.

Without any insider knowledge, I'm just going to rely hunches and (hopefully) common sense to arrive at percentages for each player. For Mauer, I believe that there is an 80% chance he returns to his form in 2010, when he was very good. There is little or no chance of seeing a repeat of 2009, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime season, anyway. All fans, of course, would prefer a repeat of 2010 over 2011. I think Joe is going into the season completely healthy, and I believe there's a great chance that he has a solid year, putting together a .330 average and reaching base above a .400 clip.

Justin Morneau, on the other hand, has me understandably more skeptical. I think there's a 30% chance that he returns to his "old" form -- as in his form the first half of the season in 2010 when he was arguably on pace for another MVP award. This percentage is definitely just conjecture: he hasn't even participated in drills or games, so we have no idea whether he'll even be ready to start the season. In fact, 30% might be quite generous.

Francisco Liriano is so frustrating. Last season, we were hoping he could match, or improve upon, his 2010 stats, and he ended up being one of the worst pitchers in baseball; but he also threw a no-hitter and occasionally showed flashes of brilliance. I think there is a 40% chance that Liriano goes back to his 2010 form: he pitched in winter ball (though he did not do well), so it seems likely that he will come to camp in better shape than he did in 2011; additionally, he's only a season away from free agency, so he's pitching for a contract, whether it's with the Twins or another team.

So those are my guesses: 80% for Mauer; 30% for Morneau; 40% for Liriano. Multiplying those percentages together, you end up with 9.6%. Otherwise stated, based on my guesses, there is roughly a 10% chance of these three players reverting to 2010 form -- or post-concussion form in the case of Morneau. Not very good odds. Again, these are only three players out of the 25 that will be with the Twins this season, and, as always, there will be surprises, both good and bad, from other guys, some of whom we may not even know much about now. But I don't think it's an understatement to suggest that, especially in 2012, the Twins need good seasons from these three players in order to have any shot at having a year where they are not out of contention at the trade deadline.

Out of curiosity, I wonder how far off my figure of 9.6% will be from the preseason odds of the Twins winning the AL Central.

Now, onto a few links that I enjoyed reading this past week:

Seth Stohs at had an excellent post discussing present and potential future aces in baseball.

If I didn't know better, I would think that JC over at Knuckleballsblog wasn't a big fan of Bud Selig. I can't tell you how furious I would be to not be able to watch basically any regional baseball teams based on licensing and broadcast blackouts, so I definitely have sympathy for JC. Although the native Minnesotan in me thinks that might just be another reason not to live in Iowa. Just sayin' . . . .

The Twins released their promotional schedule for 2012, and there are no bobblehead days. I've never been a bobblehead collector, but I do think they are kind of cool. I did get a Danny Valencia AA Rock Cats bobblehead this past season, though, so maybe I'm coming around. NoDak Twins Fan eulogized the demise of the bobblehead promotion in a creative and well-written post.

Topper Anton at Curve for a Strike contemplated Love and Baseball in a Valentine's Day post. Very well done!

Happy weekend, everyone!


  1. Interesting take, Andrew. I hope all three are able to beat your percentage guesses, but agree with you that the odds aren't good.

    As I think about Liriano being in his final year before free agency, it worries me a little because from what I have seen, he does not do well under pressure. If he puts pressure on himself to have a career year, we are more likely to see a repeat of 2011 than 2010. Sure hope I'm wrong, but if he is the head case he appears to be, this year won't be pretty.

  2. I may have bought two dozen rose-colored contact lenses for the coming season, but I too think that the odds are slim. Still, as long as there is some chance (however slim), I'll be watching--and probably after that vanishes too.

    1. Thanks for the comments, PK and Scruffy.
      I definitely hope that my percentages are way, way off. It's tough not to be at least a little optimistic this time of year, with pitchers and catchers reporting, the weather getting better, and the knowledge that the regular season is just around the corner.
      I'd love to see Liriano have a career year, even if it means he gets priced out of the Twins' range.