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Minnesota’s Ideal Path Through the AL Playoffs

Welcome to the first week of September and the last month before playoff baseball starts. Minnesota is almost a lock to make the playoffs at this point with FanGraphs putting their playoff odds at 99.9% and their odds of winning the division at 97.5%. With separation starting in the AL Central, fans can start looking toward the playoffs and the path that could lie ahead.

Minnesota doesn’t get to pick their playoff opponents, but what would be the ideal path through the American League playoffs?
Image courtesy of © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Avoid the Wild Card Game
One of the most important steps in having a sustained playoff run is avoiding playing in a coin flip game like each league’s wild-card game. Minnesota fans are well aware of the dangers of this game after seeing the Twins fall to the Yankees back in 2017. New York went on to the ALCS that year and there are some concerns with surviving this style of game.

In that 2017 AL wild card game, Minnesota started Ervin Santana and then was forced to turn to Jose Berrios as a reliever. If the club had survived, they would have been put in an interesting spot for picking a starter of in Game 1 of the ALDS. Pitching staffs can be taxed in this type of game and there is too much randomness in a win-or-go-home atmosphere.

The Twins need to make sure they take care of business and win the AL Central.

Houston Poses a Problem
If Minnesota is able win the AL Central, the club will qualify for the ALDS for the first time since 2010. Entering play on Wednesday, New York and Houston are separated by less than a game. Minnesota sits four games back so it seems unlikely they could catch either of the front-runners for the league’s top record. This means a first-round series on the road versus one of the league’s top teams.

There are a couple ways to think about a Houston match-up. Teams are going to have to go through Houston at some point in the playoffs and it might be better seeing their strong starters in a shorter series. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke would get fewer starts over five games than in seven games. This could allow the Twins to steal a game or two and end up with a series victory.

New York would be the better match-up, but it would be better to face Houston in a shorter series. If a team must take out Houston, do it in the ALDS.

Big Apple Battle
Minnesota fans might have a phobia of facing off against the Yankees because of past playoff experience. When the Yankees came to Minneapolis earlier this year, it resulted in an epic back-and-forth series. New York’s pitching staff has flaws, but their offense is certainly on a par with Minnesota’s record-breaking line-up.

It seems most likely for Houston or New York to take care of any of the wild card teams, but anything can happen in a five-game series. Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Oakland are all in the running for the two AL wild card spots. Any of these three teams would be a better match-up than facing Houston or New York in a seven-game series, but it would take a team coming in hot to take down one of the league’s top foes.

If Minnesota takes care of Houston in the ALDS, it would be fitting for the club to face-off against the Yankees for the right to represent the AL in the World Series. It would be similar to the Red Sox exorcising their demons against the Yankees on the way to their 2004 title. If Minnesota must beat New York at some point, so why not do it on the biggest possible stage?

What do you feel is the ideal path for the Twins to make it through the gauntlet of the AL playoffs? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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28 Comments

Better, but less likely....get hot in the 5-game to knock off the Yankees...and the Astros somehow get upset on the other side. (Or if you like, get hot/lucky against the Astros in the ALDS, and the Yankees are upset on the other side.) Meanwhile, the Dodgers lose the NL pennant...to someone other than an experienced and hot Cubs club...and probably someone other than the Nations, as well. No team is simply going to walk through all three of Houston, the Yankees, and the Dodgers. In a theoretical world where all the ‘best of the rest’ (either league) had to face that gauntlet, I’d give the Twins and the Nationals the best chance...but, no.
    • Sssuperdave and DocBauer like this
Obviously, this is all speculation. But I will say that any Yankee "jinx", IMO, is over. Different seasons and different players involved. This team doesn't seem to have any fear or doubts about themselves. It's a long season, and things change for all teams, but if I'm not mistaken, didn't the Twins win the season series against Houston? I don't knkw if there is an "ideal" situation. You still have to face a very good team and win. But if I could write the story, the Twins would play Houston first and win. They would then face the Evil Empire from N.Y. and beat up their starting staff and make the WS, exercising any remaining ghosts of the past.
    • brvama, woolywoolhouse and Nine of twelve like this
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VivaBomboRivera!
Sep 04 2019 09:26 PM

Nothing would please me more than sticking it to the Yankees in _any_ playoff series.

    • Twins33, Oldgoat_MN, Danchat and 4 others like this
I want Houston first round, and that’s what I think we’ll get.

I want the short series to be against Houston, as mentioned. I want to have to win as few games against that pitching staff as possible.

I’m not interested in the easiest route to the second round. The Twins’ best chance at winning the World Series, IMO, is taking the Astros out early. Talk about setting a tone. The clubhouse confidence level would be through the roof.

How would the Yankees (or Wild Card) feel about facing a team that just homered their way past Verlander, Cole, and Grienke? The Twins are built even better for that slow pitch softball yard in New York than the Yankees....and they’re running out the rotting zombie corpses of Tanaka and Happ after German? I’d feel pretty darn good at that point.
    • SQUIRREL, Twins33 and SoDakTwinsFan4 like this
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KirbyDome89
Sep 04 2019 10:19 PM

They're going to need to score a ton to win a playoff series.

 

The best route is getting the WC in the ALDS then NY in the ALCS. I like the Twins offense matching up against the Yankee's starting pitching. Since that won't happen, I hope Houston gets the WC and gets knocked off while MN gets NY in the ALDS. 

 

Houston is a nightmare matchup for the Twins. 

 

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this
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SoDakTwinsFan4
Sep 05 2019 02:14 AM
If I'm Houston or New York I wouldn't feel all that great going against the Indians. I think Cleveland would be tough in a 5 game series. Twins vs Indians in the 2019 ALCS!
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woolywoolhouse
Sep 05 2019 07:32 AM

I just think it's kinda cool that the three teams leading their NL Divisions are all past World Series opponents for the Twins: Dodgers ('65), Cardinals ('87), and Braves ('91.) A rematch against any of them would be fun and bring out the nostalgia. 

    • 70charger, Sssuperdave, Longdistancetwins and 2 others like this

Twins need to win today against the Red Sox. Talking about playoff match ups now; might as well speculate about next year's schedule.

Right now, I only care about the Twins making the playoffs.

 

Once the Twins make the playoffs, everything else will take care of itself.

    • brvama and howieramone2 like this

Championship caliber teams don't worry about the opposition. Bring 'em on.

 

At their best this season, I've seen some of that swagger from the Bomba Squad. 

 

This last month should tell us all we need to know.

    • SQUIRREL, Twins33, howieramone2 and 1 other like this
Be careful what you wish for because it may happen.

When the baseball gods wish to punish us... they answer our prayers.
    • Blake likes this
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nicksaviking
Sep 05 2019 09:25 AM

Going 20-3 the rest of the way and snagging the number 1 seed so as New York and Houston have to face each other first sounds like a daisy of a plan to me.

    • Nine of twelve likes this

Yanks in the opening round, kick their butts to get that off our back. Then, an epic ALCS against Houston.We don't have the pitching to beat them, but then again, Adrianza would never homer off Verlander to win a 1-0 game. So, basically, beat the Yankees and hope for some magic. 

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Cooper Carlson
Sep 05 2019 09:38 AM

I told Matt Braun in our podcast I would much rather face the Yankees over the Astros and he wasn't having it. The New York curse still lingers I suppose. The only way to break the curse is to beat the Yankees this year.

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sampleSizeOfOne
Sep 05 2019 10:10 AM
Ideal path?

Winning.
    • ashbury and Nine of twelve like this
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sampleSizeOfOne
Sep 05 2019 10:15 AM

Be careful what you wish for because it may happen.

When the baseball gods wish to punish us... they answer our prayers.

I think the funniest thing about this response is it follows a post by someone with the username Monkeypaws...

Isn't there a short story about a monkey paw that grants wishes?

For me it is drowned in the depth of camping stories, many of which were borrowed from the Red Sox fan, Stephen King.
    • Riverbrian and Oldgoat_MN like this
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Nine of twelve
Sep 05 2019 11:42 AM

Slightly off-topic, but I want to comment on having 2 wild card teams. I think MLB added the second team to give another team a chance to make the postseason. (BTW postseason is the correct term, not playoffs.) But I think the best thing is that having two wild card teams puts a premium on winning a division. With one wild card team that team has essentially the same postseason as the division champions. The single postseason game that involves two wild card teams means that advancing is much more uncertain, and whoever advances has used its number one starter and possibly weakened its bullpen going into a series against a team with its number one starter and fresh bullpen. And the next game is a number three starter for the wild card team against the number two starter for the opposition. That's why it's very important these days to win your division if possible.

    • SQUIRREL, USAFChief, Oldgoat_MN and 1 other like this
Any chance we can face the Orioles and Royals? The Tigers play us to hard. The question is - how many expect us to beat the big guys?

Meanwhile in Cleveland, the ChiSox are putting the kabosh on the Indians.

 

6-1 Sox in top of the 6th, 3 runs in, two men on, no outs. 

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nicksaviking
Sep 05 2019 12:54 PM

My (ridiculous) take:

 

The Yankees have a questionable rotation and a strong bullpen, while the Astros are just the opposite. If I want the Twins best chance of advancing one round, I'd take the Yankees first. BUT, if I want the Twins best chance of advancing to the WS, I want the Yankees 2nd. My thoughts being that the Yankees are going to run away with their division and can rest their pen late in the regular season, so I would like Oak/TB/Cle to force them to put some innings on those arms, possibly keeping some of them unavailable or limited early in the next series..

 

So far this year, the Twins OPS in the first 5 innings is about 100 points higher than it is in the rest of the game. I like the offense's chances against Houston's top end starters more than I do New York's top end relievers, so if I got to pick one I'd rather not get extra rest, it'd be the relievers.

    • FlauerPauer likes this

 

How would the Yankees (or Wild Card) feel about facing a team that just homered their way past Verlander, Cole, and Grienke? The Twins are built even better for that slow pitch softball yard in New York than the Yankees....and they’re running out the rotting zombie corpses of Tanaka and Happ after German? I’d feel pretty darn good at that point.

 

I'll note that Severino is coming back soon.

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yarnivek1972
Sep 05 2019 03:00 PM
Ideal path: Rain out after every game so they never play two in a row so the better bullpen boys can pitch every game.

Of course, they would have to play until like Thanksgiving, but hey. Whatever works.
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FlauerPauer
Sep 05 2019 03:18 PM

 

I just think it's kinda cool that the three teams leading their NL Divisions are all past World Series opponents for the Twins: Dodgers ('65), Cardinals ('87), and Braves ('91.) A rematch against any of them would be fun and bring out the nostalgia. 

 

Would definitely need to watch the replays of those games to get the vibe right! Go Twins!

    • woolywoolhouse likes this
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FlauerPauer
Sep 05 2019 03:19 PM

 

I'll note that Severino is coming back soon.

 

No guarantee that he will be where he was last year. I'd take my chances.

    • brvama and Oldgoat_MN like this

 

I'll note that Severino is coming back soon.

Severino will be in the pen, or a short starter (opener type). Although they have the bullpen quality to perhaps make up for that, especially if Betances comes back strong too -- although they're running out of time to find out, as both are just now making their season debuts in minor league rehab games.


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