Twins Chances Shrink in Muted Season
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsRight now, baseball continues to suggest that a full season is going to take place whenever play resumes. While that’s a great though, and obviously what would favor the almighty dollar, any logistical hurdles that would impose seem certain to have other ideas. With there only being so many teams in warm weather portions of the country, and a 2021 season to consider on the back end, some sort of alternative schedule would seem to make sense.
In digging through what the Twins have planned for 2020, there are 18 games scheduled against the National League. Of the 162 games played during 2019, 47% of them were against divisional opponents. Adjusting for travel and removing what could be deemed non-essential contests, interleague opponents could quickly be wiped off the map this year. With divisional races often being tightly contested, it would stand to reach that playing that same volume remain imperative.
A year ago, Rocco Baldelli’s club played the AL Central to the tune of a 50-26 record (.658 winning percentage). The Chicago White Sox have taken steps forward, while the Cleveland Indians have taken steps backwards. It’s mainly status quo at the bottom of the grouping, but Kansas City and Detroit should be expected to take plenty of lumps regardless of who is in the other dugout.
We’re in uncertain times to be sure, and no one really knows when baseball will return. Soon doesn’t appear to be a good descriptor though, and that leaves any number of things on the table. Maybe a year in which only division games are player, or some construction of around 100 games makes sense. At any rate, some baseball would be better than none at all.
I recently touched on how the timelines of players like Byron Buxton and Rich Hill could be impacted by this delay. Certainly, having them healthy for a new Opening Day would be more ideal than not. The flip side could be losing a substantial portion of what may be Nelson Cruz’s final contributions. Outside of the individual impact though, we can turn back to that nuance lost by playing a shortened campaign.
Fangraphs recently ran simulations utilizing ZiPS to provide context to what impact may be felt in a diminished season. Gone is the opportunity to run away and hide at that top, and what is generally a marathon turns into an all-out sprint.
Heading into what was scheduled for 2020, the Twins owned a Postseason probability of 75.4% (5th highest in the game). Shrink the schedule to 110 games and that drops to 63.4%. If we’re talking about a June or July start, something like an 81-game schedule could commence, and that scenario has Minnesota’s odds to make the Postseason at just 55.5%. That’s a significant 19% drop and more importantly is an amount eaten up by the competition.
With less variables in play it’s the fringe teams that find themselves in the most ideal position to benefit. When looking at Postseason percentage gains, AL Central foe Chicago is third highest in baseball at just north of 16%. Even the Kansas City Royals go from being non-factors to having a 14% probability of playing after the regular season. If this division was the Twins to lose in the year ahead, it certainly becomes much easier for them to do so without much room for error.
Again, we aren’t yet in a place where we know what tomorrow looks like much less how October or November baseball may play out. What we do know is that once the first pill is delivered in 2020, there will be an immense amount of pressure to make sure every result acted upon with a high level of execution.
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