PECOTA likes Twins chances to repeat as A.L. Central champs; Derek Falvey won’t rest on it

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Derek Falvey isn’t in the business of counting unhatched chickens.

I asked Falvey this week about his view of the division, and his club’s place in the whole thing. In 2019, after all, the Twins leadership that you’d talk to throughout last season was constant in their statements that Cleveland owned the division until they were knocked off. I’m not exaggerated when I say that a division lead of 10+ games by midsummer did not change their tune. (And good thing, because you’ll recall that the Indians came storming back to momentarily take the standings lead in August.)

“I come into this spring training,” Falvey said as he overlooked a groomed infield on a muggy Florida afternoon, “really no different than we did last year.”

“I look at is as there’s one team in the division that’s won 90-plus games, four consecutive seasons, and it’s still the Cleveland Indians. They won 93 games last year. We were fortunate to get just ahead of them, but they’re going to come in and be a talented team again.”

[This comment — and the PECOTA projections — came before it was announced Friday that Mike Clevinger would have knee surgery, which could possibly jeopardize his availability for opening day.]

“I see the White Sox as a team that got quite a bit better this offseason. They’ve invested. Rick Hahn does a great job, Rick Renteria, that whole group. They know what they’re doing and they’re really pushing that team in a good direction.”

To those points, the PECOTA projections are out this week. That’s the projection system at Baseball Prospectus that tries to forecast player and team performance. In BP’s own words: “PECOTA is a system that takes a player’s past performance and tries to project the most likely outcome for the following season. It looks at all of the numbers, and all the numbers that make up the numbers, to see which players are more likely to repeat their success and which ones benefited from good fortune.”

The system sees the most likely outcome for the Twins is a 93-win season, a division title, and a return to the postseason. PECOTA does not pass judgment on Yankee Curses, so no word yet on the ALDS.

Here’s a good visual on their possible range of outcomes. As you can see on this chart, there are of course scenarios in which the White Sox and Indians both finish ahead of Minnesota this year. That’s why Falvey can’t and won’t rest easy. Heck, there’s even an outcome in which the Royals beat the Twins this year – but let’s not get too carried away.

Source: Baseball Prospectus

“I feel confident about the group we have here, but we’ve earned nothing as of today. And so now we have to go earn it,” Falvey said. “We have to go out there and prove it. I think we’re a talented group, but it’s about how you go about your work, it’s about how you compete on the field, it’s about how you don’t quit, 7th inning or later, doesn’t matter what the score is.

“That’s what our group is going to do, and I’m confident Rocco’s going to lead them there.”