Friday, March 14, 2014

Breaking Down Minnesota's "Core Five"

ESPN's Sweetspot blog posted an interesting entry earlier today looking at the top teams in relation to their "core five" players. They took the top five men from each roster and compiled their Baseball Reference WAR totals to come up with a top ten list. Obviously the better players you have, the more likely you are to be a very good team. Out of their top ten list, eight of the teams qualified for the postseason last year.

There's no surprise that Minnesota didn't crack the top ten list. However, the Twins were on a different top ten list within the same post. Minnesota finished in eighth place because 74% of the team's total WAR came from the club's top five players. Against other American League teams the Twins would have come in fourth place.

Here's a look at the Twins "core five" players and how their WAR helped the club last season:

1. Joe Mauer: 5.4 WAR
Mauer missed a big chunk of time in the second half due to his concussion symptoms and he still easily led the team in WAR. In fact, Mauer accounted for 26% of the team's total WAR in 2013. His defensive WAR of 0.9 was helped by his time behind the plate so it will be interesting to see how much the switch to first base impacts his defensive value in 2014. His 4.6 offensive WAR was one of the lowest totals of his career so fans could expect a jump in WAR value from Mauer moving forward.

2. Brian Dozier: 3.8 WAR
Dozier's breakout season at the plate and in the field helped him to finish second on the team in WAR. His 1.5 defensive WAR was second on the team behind Pedro Florimon. He finished second to Mauer according to offensive WAR. Dozier finished first on the team in home runs and he will be the top returning RBI man from 2013. Plus, who didn't love seeing his long locks making diving plays at second base?

3 (tie): Pedro Florimon: 2.1 WAR
Most of the WAR value produced by Florimon comes on the defensive side of the ball. He was tops on the team when it came to defensive WAR and he hardly made a blip on the radar offensively.If Minnesota wants to get back to winning games, there is no way Florimon should be in the team's top three of their "core five." His 2.1 WAR was over 10% of the team's total WAR for 2013 and that's just way too much for a player whose skill set is completely on defense.

3 (tie). Glen Perkins: 2.1 WAR
In his first All-Star season, Perkins was good enough to have the highest WAR of any Twins pitcher. The next three pitchers on the list threw 96 innings or more so Perkins was providing his value in shorter pieces of work. It's great to have Perkins as a core member of the team's roster but it would be much better to see some starting pitchers on this list ahead of him. This could change with the additions of free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.

5. Trevor Plouffe: 1.9 WAR
Hope were high for Plouffe entering last season as fans hoped to witness some more of the power he had shown in the minor leagues. Some injuries force Plouffe to change his approach at the plate and this took away some of his power. The former first round pick is still trying to prove his value to the Twins and this could be an important year for him. Is he part of the long-term core in Minnesota? Only time will tell...

Predicting 2014's "Core Five"
1. Joe Mauer 
2. Ricky Nolasco
3. Oswaldo Arcia
4. Brian Dozier
5. Phil Hughes

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