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Baseball Prospectus released its PECOTA projections earlier this week, and Nate Silver’s prognostication engine dug the Twins, — surprising, given the 103-loss abomination from which the erstwhile Senators are rebounding.
The startlingly rosy projection largely stems from BP’s bullish view on the development of Twins youngsters Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Jose Berrios and Tyler Duffey and improvements wrought by the addition of new catcher Jason Castro.
Today I’m taking a look at the PECOTA numbers to highlight a few particularly noteworthy projections.
The reports of Jason Castro’s framing are not greatly exaggerated
The new regime’s big free-agent acquisition fit the “New sabermetrically inclined front office shakes things up” narrative quite nicely: they signed Jason Castro, a feeble-hitting catcher who could steal strikes with his excellent framing skills, embarking on exactly the kind of remodel that Falvey and Levine’s more archaic predecessors would have eschewed.
The 2016 Twins’ catchers — largely Kurt Suzuki with some Juan Centeno and John Ryan Murphy mixed in for bad measure — were worth -16.3 framing runs and -22.7 Fielding Runs Above Average last season, the second-worst mark in MLB, per Baseball Prospectus.
Here’s how Fangraphs illustrated the difference between Suzuki and Castro in the above linked article, using their Framing Runs metric:
SEE ATTACHED Photo at the end of the post
With Kepler, Buxton and Rosario playing a full season in the outfield and Castro behind the plate — the projected starting lineup that received the bulk of the playing time in BP’s simulations — the Twins are projected to be 35.1 Fielding Runs Above Average, good for the third-best defense in the majors. (That impressive number is calculated with Miguel Sano receiving 65% of the playing time at the hot corner, for what it’s worth.)
All told, PECOTA projects huge improvements for the Twins defense, and the bulk of that improvement comes from simply installing Jason Castro behind the plate.
The article goes on to discuss PECOTA's predictions for starting pitchers and also has a section on batting averages, a stat that Dick Bremer, Bert Blyleven and Mark love to embrace.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.