Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Looking Back at 2010 Twins Predictions

Just before Opening Day each year, in a feature called "The Nicks' Picks," me and my former blogging partner Nick Mosvick lay out our predictions for the upcoming season. It's always amusing -- and often embarrassing -- to go back and review those predictions at season's end. For instance, I had the Red Sox and Cardinals squaring off in the World Series, and of course neither made the playoffs.

For the first time this year, we introduced a series of Twins-specific predictions, both because it was a logical thing to do on a Twins blog and because fellow blogger Josh Johnson campaigned to make April 2nd the universal "Twins Prediction  Day" for all writers covering the team. Today, I'll take a look back at my Twins predictions and see how they panned out, while reviewing the thought process that led to these prognostications:

Twins MVP: Joe Mauer

Certainly not a tough call after Mauer took home league MVP honors in 2009. While his season certainly didn't live up to the lofty standards set last year, Mauer was an extremely valuable contributor who was named team MVP in Seth Stohs' polling of local bloggers and personalities at season's end.

Twins Top Pitcher: Francisco Liriano

Some would argue that Carl Pavano ended up being the team's best pitcher, and there's certainly a fair case to be made there, but for my money Liriano was the most impressive starter on the team. He ranked among the league leaders in strikeouts and ground ball rate while earning a nod as the Twins' No. 1 starter in the postseason.

Twins Best Rookie: Anthony Slama

Well this was a big whiff. Slama got only a brief taste of the bigs and failed during that brief stint to carry over his dominant minor-league numbers, allowing four hits and five walks over 4 2/3 innings for a 7.71 ERA. Of course, few could have anticipated that Danny Valencia would have as large of an impact as he did. I suspect we'll see more of Slama next year, with several current relievers set to depart via free agency.

Twins Most Improved Player: Liriano

Liriano's transcendent performance in winter ball, coupled with the fact that he truly did not pitch as badly last year as his numbers indicated, made this an easy pick for me. Sure enough, Liriano won AL Comeback Player of the Year with a huge bounce-back campaign. Those who pegged Delmon Young in this category can also be feeling pretty good about their pick.

Bold Predictions: Jesse Crain will lead team in saves; Nick Blackburn will post 5+ ERA; J.J. Hardy will win first Gold Glove

Only the Blackburn prediction came true, but I definitely feel like I was on the right track with both of the others. Crain never got a shot at taking over closer duties, likely because of his lack of experience in that role, but he was undeniably the team's best reliever for most of the season. Meanwhile, Hardy won't be among the Gold Glove winners announced today and tomorrow since injuries limited his playing time this season, but defensive metrics do peg him as one of the American League's finest defensive shortstops in 2010, with an outstanding 8.1 UZR in 100 games at the position.

A.L. Central Prediction (Standings): Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Royals


Three Keys to Success for the Twins: Slowey and Liriano stepping up, bullpen staying healthy, success at Target Field.

It's obviously debatable how much each of these things factored into the team's success, but certainly Liriano's emergence and a tremendous home record were elemental in their division title. The bullpen had a few injury issues, but most of the key players stayed strong all year and allowed the unit withstand the absence of Joe Nathan. Slowey never really pulled it together

What about you? What were your predictions before the season started? Which events did you foresee and which ones took you by surprise?


Durt E. Sanchez said...

I was on the Liriano bandwagon the minute I saw him pitching in Winterball last year on ESPN3. He had command of his mid 90's fastball (97 in that game, who know about the DR gun though) and the nasty slider was back but most of all it had the hard diving nasty bite that he lacked the previous two years. When I saw that I knew if he could stay healthy he would have a huge year.

If the Twins had hit for Liriano a little more he might have won 20 games. Every starter deserves to have one game where their offense wins it for them over the course of a season. That didn't happen for Liriano this year, Pavano, Slowey and Blackburn benefitted from good offensive games on many occasions and their win totals clearly show that.

I think Liriano's arm got tired late in the year when he had a couple tough starts. He threw a lot of innings this year, way more than any other time in his career.

I look forward to what he can do if he stays healthy the next few years. He probably has the best raw stuff of any pitcher in the AL. If he can consistently locate his fastball in the mid-upper 90's and continue to be able to effectively mix the devastating slider and underrated changeup he can possibly win 20 games and a CY Young. Target Field was built for Frankie's game. He might not give up 10HR there the rest of his career.

Anonymous said...

I predicted a photo of Bert Blyleven, featuring a lap full of an overweight exotic dancer from a seedy Cleveland nightclub, would grace the front page of ESPN.com. Sadly, I misfired on that one - the photos were never made public.

Ed Bast said...

Nick, nice job on the predictions. The playoffs are always tough to predict but you were pretty spot on otherwise. Pretty impressive.

Unfortunately, the only prediction I made before the season was that the Twins would lose 3-1 to the Yankees in the ALDS because we didn't have enough starting pitching. I "renewed" this prediction after we failed to get a started at the trade deadline. Not to pat myself on the back...anyway it appears I was a little optimistic.

Matt said...

I've been hard on Scott Baker on this board because I thought this would finally be the year that he'd put a solid FULL season (rather than just the 2nd half) together and utilize his talent. Well, he struck out a few and wooed the blog universe due to his advanced stats, but he let me down.

Liriano has awkward and erratic mechanics (falling off the mound every which way, back facing hitters after delivery) but was effectively wild enough to be good so I'll admit he surprised me; I thought he was finished after last year.

I predicted Harris would be a valuable bat and spot infield starter off the bench. Whoops.
I thought Orlando Hudson would be a classic Twins "el-cheapo" veteran that is out by mid-June, but he played well most of the season and turned in a solid, if unspectacular year.

I did think Delmon would improve, and I think he'll continue that next year. I don't know what fans are thinking when they say he should be traded. He's got lots of big league experience for his age and still has upside; I think he could be a cornerstone of this francise in the future.

As usual, I was mostly off on the team (where did you come from, Danny Valencia?), but the division finished as I thought it would. Still, I expected the Tigers to push a little harder but they really tanked down the stretch.

thrillho said...

I predicted that Nick Punto would be adorable and I was right.