The numbers game

Twins official talks statistics – and players – at Lions Club meeting

By ERIK SANDIN- Stillwater Gazette

OAK PARK HEIGHTS – Minnesota Twins front office official Jack Goin admits that the team’s 2011 season did not go well.

"As everyone knows, we had a difficult year last year. We’re not running from it," Goin told the Stillwater Lions Club Tuesday during the club’s meeting at Boutwells Landing.

But as the Twins prepare for the start of spring training Feb. 18, Goin expressed optimism that the team’s 2012 season will be better than last year when he was asked to predict how many games the Twins will win this year.

"Around 85, give or take a few," he said. "Last year, everybody who could have had a bad season had a bad season."

Predictions aside, Goin – the Twins’ manager of major leagues administration and baseball research – spent much of his time explaining how the team uses statistics to evaluate players.

"A lot of my job is looking at statistics," he said, adding that his research looks at figuring out what players "can and cannot do."

"Every team has at least one, and probably three or four or five people doing what I am doing," Goin said.

Along with doing player research through scouting reports and statistical analysis, Goin also assists the Twins assistant general manager with salary arbitration preparation and multi-year contract proposal research and scouts the American League Central Division.

In fact, Goin admits his current job with the Twins was not the career path he charted as a student at Lake Forest College in Illinois. Goin thought about being an agent and interned with an agent while in college. But once Goin went to work with the Twins, starting as a part-time ticket office employee and working his way to a full-time job, his career vision changed.

"I loved the daily competition," he said. "We have great people to work with and the opportunity to win a World Series."

Looking back on a 99-loss season in 2011, Goin said tough changes were likely for the team heading into the 2012 season.

"We lost (Michael) Cuddyer and (Jason) Kubel. Those were not easy decisions for us," he said. "It was a difficult decision for both parties."

But Goin pointed to the signings of free agents Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit and Jason Marquis as evidence that the Twins are trying to strengthen themselves at positions viewed as weaknesses last season.

"The funny thing about Jason (Marquis) is, just about evey team he plays for makes the playoffs," Goin said.

And Goin also believes the Twins will get better performances this year from catcher Joe Mauer, first baseman Justin Morneau and infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

"We expect Joe to get back to his 2009 level," Goin said. "I think Justin will be fine."

As for Nishioka, Goin thinks his second season with the Twins will be better because Nishioka has a season in the majors under his belt. Nishioka missed much of the first half of the 2011 season with a broken leg he suffered while turning a double play in an early-season game against the New York Yankees.

"Nishi came over here last year and he didn’t speak the language," Goin said. "It’s a little bigger transition than they’re (Japanese players) used to."

In fact, Goin said the struggles of Nishioka and some other Japanese position players points out how hard it is for teams to get accurate statistics on Japanese players. Goin adds that the Japan League uses a slightly smaller-sized baseball than the one used by MLB, Japanese pitchers throw more off-speed pitchers and the training and culture are different than in the majors.

That’s why Goin said the Twins philosophy is not only to use statistics, but actually see the players in games.

"We can’t be afraid to make a mistake," he said. "One of the phrases we use as a club is, ‘take in all information.’ We value our scouts and what they say. You need to go out and see the players."