Fire Gardy

Mismanaging games since 2002

Perception, Reality, and the Twins

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs, who has historically been a big Twins-hater, loves what the team has done this offseason. He’s as bullish as we are about the additions of Hardy, Hudson, and Thome, likes the Pavano deal, and thinks good seasons from Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano are within reason. I bring this up, because he has no idea what Vegas is thinking.

Apparently, Vegas thinks that people with money hate the Twins. If there’s one over/under that stands out like a sore thumb, it’s Minnesota at 82 wins. 82 wins – the same as the White Sox, one win more than the Tigers, tied for the seventh best record in the American League. Really? Seriously?

In addition to listing the Twins’ additions, he lists the Tigers’ subtractions, and is confused as to why Vegas would have both teams dropping by the same number of wins.

CHONE has the Twins as an 86 win team, and there’s certainly upside beyond the expected performances of guys like Young, Liriano, and Hardy. My back of the envelope calculations have them at something more like 87 or 88 wins.

I don’t have a projection system of my own,* so I generally don’t like to pull numbers out of my ass … but if I were going to do just that I’d say 87-91 wins sounds about right.

* Maybe I should make my own projection system, though. That could be a really fun project.

That said, Vegas sure isn’t alone in projecting a sour season for the Twins. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system* projects the Twins to “win” the division with 83 wins, just one more than Vegas projects.

* Yes, this is the same projection system that thought Matt “God” Wieters would bat .850 in his rookie year, be immediately elected to the Hall of Fame, and then rise into heaven on a cloud of virgins. So take from it what you will.

Perhaps this interview with Howard Norsetter, specifically when he’s talking about Dutch pitching prospect Tim Stuifbergen, will shed some light on the divergence of perception and reality surrounding the Twins.

This year, some of his control numbers were other-worldly. One game, he threw his fastball 41 times — 39 of them were strikes. He didn’t even make the top 30 lists for some pundits, which is weird.

Part of the problem is that he is an international player without a draft round associated to him, or a high bonus pedigree. At the World Junior Championships in Cuba a few years back, he was named the Most Valuable Pitcher. He pitched successfully against the Cuban senior team when he was 17.

That’s a salient point, and one that gets to the heart of the point. Without a way to accurately measure how good these young players are, analysts have to fall back to indirect measurements, like draft round and signing bonus. Since the Twins rarely even try to compete in that arena, it leaves people wondering “how in the world can the Twins compete when they have so few players we consider important?”

I personally don’t think that’s the whole reason, especially when it comes to PECOTA,* but it stands to reason that it could be part of it. And remember, we’re talking about Vegas here — which bases their picks not on what they think about baseball, but on what they think most people think about baseball.

* I’ve said it before, but I remain convinced that Baseball Prospectus’ roots on the south side of Chicago and ongoing loving relationship with the White Sox cloud its views of the AL Central, and the Twins in particular.

When I was younger, I used to think the national analysts were actively “against” the Twins, which in retrospect just seems foolish. It seems to me now that for the Twins, perception and reality are simply widely divergent; everyone’s opinions are honest and well-formed, but are simply based on information that doesn’t apply, or ignores important data that does. So if you were a gambling man — and for the record, I’m not — you may well be wise to take advantage of this perception gap and take the “over.”

Oh, and one more thing: if you were looking for a new young player to be excited about, Stuifbergen just may be the one. If only because of this:

The first words out of his mouth when he walked off the mound in Holland’s historic win against the Dominican Republic in the WBC last year were “I’m gonna take Papi off my fantasy team — he can’t hit an inside fastball.” And at the World Cup in Europe last year he was outstanding.

Oh yeah. I’m a fan of this guy already.

6 comments

6 Comments so far

  1. FunBobby March 4th, 2010 10:48 am

    I am actually going to be in Vegas this weekend and plan on putting a little money on the Twins. I think betting heavily on the over will happen.

  2. FunBobby March 4th, 2010 10:48 am

    Can I expense gambling loses to firegardy.com?

  3. sirsean March 4th, 2010 1:46 pm

    Once we’re actually making money we can start doing crazy stuff like that. I probably should figure out how to expense the hundreds of dollars I’ve lost on t-shirts and web hosting.

  4. DrJubal March 4th, 2010 3:51 pm

    I had a friend in Las Vegas over the weekend for the NASCAR race.

    I had him put $10 on the Twins for the AL and for the WS – and the numbers surprised me –

    +400 (5:1) for the AL Pennant ($10 to win $50) +800 (9:1) for the World Series ($10 to win $90)

    [Bellagio sports book]

    Last year the numbers were SIGNIFICANTLY worse, I think 15:1 and 30:1 respectively. Of course last year they were supposed to finish 4th in the AL Central.

  5. USAFChief March 4th, 2010 3:53 pm

    You won’t find the Twins at 82, FunBobby. You’ll probably be able to find 84.5, and the ‘over’ will cost you something like -115.

  6. sirsean March 4th, 2010 3:55 pm

    I guess Vegas’ odds must have changed since Cameron wrote his article.

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