So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance
Minnesota’s strong start to the shortened season greatly increased the club’s chances of qualifying for the postseason, especially considering the newly implemented expanded playoff format. The Twins are currently the seventh overall seed in the American League, but they have over a 90% chance of making the playoffs with the second highest change of winning one of the two wild card spots.
Looking around the division and its looking increasingly likely that the AL Central will have three playoff teams and there is an outside chance at four clubs qualifying. Chicago and Cleveland have been back and forth at the top of the AL Central, but each club has over a 98% chance of making the playoffs. Tampa Bay and Oakland, the AL’s top-two teams, have the best odds to make the postseason tournament.
Looking in the Rearview Mirror
Behind the Twins in the AL standings are a group of teams that wouldn’t have even thought about being in playoff position under the old format. Toronto has a good young core of players, but they are a few years away from being strong contenders. That being said, they have an over .500 record and they a greater than 60% chance qualifying for the postseason.
Another AL Central foe, the Tigers, sit behind the Blue Jays in the American League standings. Minnesota has had its fair share of trouble with the Tigers this season and now the Motor City Kitties head to Minneapolis for five games this weekend. Detroit is the final AL team with a record above .500 so the Twins would have to fall behind the Tigers to be out of playoff contention.
At season’s start, Minnesota had the easiest strength of schedule compared to team’s records from last year. Obviously, the AL Central has been much more competitive than originally thought. Cleveland has the easiest strength of schedule (.479 winning %) among the contended AL Central teams. Chicago (.496) and Minnesota (.499) have nearly identical strength of schedules the rest of the way. The Tigers (.508) have the third hardest remaining schedule in the league.
If the playoffs started today, the Twins would play a three-game series in Oakland to decided who makes it out of the first round. For a healthy Twins team, that would be a series the team could win. The A’s have also been off the field all week after someone in their organization tested positive for the coronavirus so they are going to be playing catch-up to get all 60-games played before season’s end.
Houston trails Oakland by a handful of games in the AL West race so there is a possibility the Twins could end up heading to Texas. There’s also a chance the AL Central winner (Chicago or Cleveland) ends up with the number two overall seed and that could result in an intriguing match-up for the Twins. Luckily, the Yankees are in second place in the AL East, so a match-up with the Bronx Bombers is unlikely at this point.
Realistically, everything is going to come down to a short three-game series at the start of the playoffs. The Twins haven’t won a single playoff game since 2004 and they haven’t won a playoff series since defeating Oakland back in 2002. It’s a weird season and the playoff race is only going to make it weirder.
What are your thoughts on the Twins playoff chances? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
- Sep 02 2020 10:31 AM
- by Cody Christie
What could it look like? How could MLB promote more exciting baseball? Is 162 the right amount of games? Is the inclusion of reality TV a real thing? Is it logistically even possible?
So I came up with an idea.
It's a little crazy, (I think) more exciting, fewer games, includes weekly reality TV and (most likely) would be a logistical mess (in every aspect imaginable). But would be all sorts of entertaining. Oh, and it includes two new expansion teams. We need 32 teams for this to work.
Phase 1 runs for 13.5 weeks and each team plays 27 three-games series. The phase runs from March 25 until June 27. Each team would play each division opponent for five series (15 games x 3 teams = 45 total games) and each league opponent in one three-game series (12 teams x 3 games = 36 games.) The first phase would be 81 total games. You would alternate home-field advantage (and the 41st home game) every other year. At the conclusion of Phase 1, each team would get a full week off, which includes all the All-Star Game festivities, and, potentially, the trade deadline.
Phase 2 is where things start to get different. It will be exclusively five-game series for nine weeks, with those games all being played between Tuesday and Sunday. It's also the beginning of the "playoffs." Crazy, huh? Stay with me.
Only the teams that finished Phase 1 in fourth place would play a best-of-five series in the first week, though. The other 12 teams in each league would match up with an opposing division and play a five-game series, with the games counting towards their overall record.
In the second week of Phase 2, the two third-place teams with the worst record would play the fourth-place winners, with the fourth-place losers also facing off (all ties would be broken with head-to-head games, as everyone plays league opponents, initially, an odd amount of times). Non-playoff teams would play an interleague opponent.
This is where Manfred can get his reality TV. The third-place team with the best record gets to choose which fourth-place winner they want to play. Depending on how far in advance MLB wants to do things, they could also announce all other weekly matchups. Teams all travel on Monday and all tickets go on sale Monday morning (which would help limit after-market sales, maybe).
I have the whole bracket made up here, if you're interested.
Essentially, over the nine-week phase you slowly introduce all the teams into a bracket-style tournament. Each week culminating with a primetime, Sunday Night two-hour show that reveals and previews the next week. Yes, Sunday Night baseball would probably have to go. Yes, Monday is probably now baseball-less. And, yes, you also don't know where or when your favorite team will be playing for the upcoming week until days in advance. (Though I imagine someone smarter than me could work out these kinks.)
Over those nine weeks, no team will play more than 45 games. Some teams (if swept or sweep in best-of-five sets) could play as little as 27 games. (Though you could make those best-of-five series a regular five-game series if you really wanted to. Again, that's for someone smarter to decide.)
Phase 3 would begin in early September - right in time to compete with the NFL - and the first two weeks would include all teams, all would have a chance to make what would eventually become a more traditional playoff look. All best-of-seven series over a ten-game stretch. (The four teams in each league that lose in both Weeks 1 and 2 would be eliminated and could enter an 8-team tournament to determine draft order.)
If you look at the bracket, you'll notice a lot of "battle back" games starting at week 8; teams looking to re-enter for the chance to win the World Series. That would end after Week 11, when the four winners in each league enter the Division Series (week 12). The winners then play the Championship Series (week 13). The season would be capped off by the World Series (week 14) which would take place between October 17 and October 26.
It would be a seismic shift. Fewer games. More intrigue. And fascinating to think about. Little changes are silly. Big, out-of-the-box changes, though, might just attract new fans, all while keeping the old ones.
- Feb 21 2020 05:15 AM
- by Jeremy Nygaard
Halfway through the season it looked like the postseason was a distinct possibility. The Twins entered the All-Star break at 49-40, sending Glen Perkins and Brian Dozier to represent the team in Cincinnati. Perkins, a converted starter who was perfect in save situations up until that point, and Dozier, a converted shortstop who has been immaculate in the field and productive as the team’s leadoff man, were two shining examples of the Twins’ patience in developing prospects and adjusting on the fly. Additionally, Trevor Plouffe was mashing at the plate and handling the hot corner with ease, Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario and Torii Hunter had shored up the outfield, and the pitching staff — led by, ahem, Mike Pelfrey — was holding its own. The fact that Joe Mauer’s slow start was overshadowed by the team’s overall success told you everything you needed to know about the Twins up until that point.
It was obvious at the trade deadline that Minnesota had to shore up a bullpen that was relying on Aaron Thompson, who had been sent down after two strong months, and a slew of other pitchers on the wrong side of 30 — Brian Duensing, Blaine Boyer and Casey Fien — to get by up until that point. Kurt Suzuki had regressed from his All-Star status last year, hitting .230 and having trouble throwing out runners and blocking stray pitches. The shortstop position was held together by a rotating cast of characters — Eduardo Escobar, Eduardo Nunez and Danny Santana. Still, the Twins had built a buffer between themselves and the rest of the AL, and if they got off to a good start to the second half, they might have even been able to challenge the Kansas City Royals for the division lead.
Instead of vying for the AL Central title, the Twins now are in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs, losing six series (and splitting one) since the All-Star break. Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays revamped their roster by adding David Price and Troy Tulowitzki at the deadline and are now chasing the New York Yankees for the AL East crown. The Houston Astros are driving Twins fans mad, as they were similarly awful along the same timeline as Minnesota, but were declared future World Series champs by Sports Illustrated. They appear to be unfazed by the magazine’s hex, however, adding Scott Kazmir and Carlos Gomez at the deadline in an attempt to stave off Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the AL West. Even the Texas Rangers made a splash, acquiring Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies.
With the Baltimore Orioles also in the mix for a wild card spot following a strong start to the second half, the Twins suddenly are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture. They relinquished their wild card spot during their series in Toronto, which was infuriating to fans who watched the Blue Jays beef up their roster while the Twins made a relatively minor deal to get Kevin Jepsen, a decent reliever. But it wasn’t just the Jays who have turned Minnesota into a .500 team: The A’s beat them 14-1, the Angles 7-0, the Yankees 7-2, the Pirates 10-4, the Mariners 6-1, the Jays 9-3, the Indians 17-4 — essentially a route per series. And that’s not including New York coming from behind to win after being down 5-0 in game 2 of that series — a possible turning point in the season — or Minnesota losing 8-1 in Cleveland on Sunday.
After that 17-4 loss, in which the Twins resorted to using Shane Robinson as a reliever despite a nine-man bullpen, many fans and pundits pronounced the team dead (including Cold Omaha’s Sam Ekstrom on The Wake Up Call). Depending on who you ask, Minnesota is either wasting money or not spending enough of it. In truth, the Twins were smart not to sell the farm at the deadline, allowing the team to keep its window of success open longer by not acting shortsightedly. Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton still have something to offer to this club, even if neither is a shortstop or catcher. And, really, Alex Meyer could provide a valuable arm in the pen next year even if at one point he was projected to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
When it comes to the bullpen, player development is holding back the Twins. Everyone knew that Duensing and Fien were aging last year, and Blaine Boyer, 34, was not a long-term solution. Hope resided in prospects like Nick Burdi, Zach Jones and, to a lesser extent, Tyler Jay. All three are in their 20s, all three have stuff, but none are close to surfacing as a major leaguer. Lester Oliveros, the player to be named later in the Delmon Young trade, is 27 but hasn’t pitched in the majors this year, and Michael Tonkin, a 30th round pick in 2008, has been given opportunity, but never stuck.
At the major league level, Ryan Pressly and J.R. Graham will likely factor into the bullpen equation in the future, given that they have stuff and are in the prime of their careers, but both need to prove they can be reliable in high-leverage situations. Ryan O’Rourke is a lefty-killer who could become a value pick (13th round, 2010), as could A.J. Achter (46th round, 2010) if they can stick in the majors. All four players are in their mid-20’s. Perkins, 32, likely will be the exception to the rule in that he should pitch well into his 30’s, and appears to be getting out the rut he was in following the All-Star break.
While the bullpen should be able to be fixed internally, the Twins will likely have to go outside the organization to fill their need at catcher. Josmil Pinto is battling concussion symptoms and wasn’t a great defensive player to begin with. Chris Herrmann has shown flashes, but hasn’t been consistent enough to challenge for the starting job, and Suzuki has regressed — likely due, at least in part, to the heavy beating he’s taken at that position over the years.
Minnesota could build support in the offseason by acquiring Matt Wieters, the Orioles catcher who likely will be available in free agency, but offering a large contract to a 6-foot-5, 29-year-old catcher runs the same risk they had with Mauer — he gets hurt or wears down and ends up at first base for the last half of the deal. The Twins may have to take that risk, however, given that the second-best catching prospect in the organization, outside of Pinto, is Mitch Garver: a 24 year old in High-A.
Whether or not the shortstop solution comes from within the organization is up for debate. Minnesota appears to be grooming Jorge Polanco for the position, but whether or not he will stick at shortstop is up for debate. “That will be up to him,” says Ryan. “A done deal? Well, we thought Plouffe was a done deal once, and we thought Cuddyer was a done deal once. You know it’s up to the player: Can you handle it or can you not?”
If Polanco doesn’t end up being a major league shortstop — a la Dozier and Plouffe — in the near future, Minnesota will end up having to go outside for that position, too. There’s always an outside chance that Nunez, Escobar or Santana make a second-half surge, but given the amount of playing time they’ve had and the fact that none of them has taken over a spot that’s clearly up for grabs, that seems unlikely.
The pitching staff has struggled lately, but Minnesota can’t afford to use more resources there. Pelfrey will likely be off the books next year, and the team must hold out hope that Nolasco will be better when healthy. Trevor May should be back in the rotation, and Berrios hopefully will challenge for a spot — creating a culture of competition that should be good for the rest of the players on the staff.
As far as whether or not this season will be deemed a success, playoff berth or not, that’s probably best judged in the years to come. As much as Twins fans have become impatient after four 90-loss seasons — and reasonably so — there’s reason to believe that the best has yet to come. The pitching staff isn’t this bad. The outfield is suddenly stacked. There’re young arms to replenish the bullpen. The Twins constantly claim that money is not an issue, which should mean they’ll invest in a catcher, at the very least, in the offseason. Mauer’s inability to catch will be overlooked if the team is winning, he’s productive with the bat, and there’s a premier free agent to help out behind the plate.
Keep in mind, most people that follow the Twins thought this would be a 75-win season. It was a logical conclusion, one that would show the team was moving in the right direction. Instead they’ve increased expectations — not a bad thing by any means — and must live up to them. Because, even though 75 wins is an improvement from where the Twins were, the goal, as always, should be to play meaningful games throughout the year. “As everybody in this game should be pointing towards the playoffs, we are too,” Ryan said back in November. “I expect to get into the playoffs every year. Why [else] should we take the diamond?”
This article was originally published on the Cold Omaha section of 105TheTicket.com.
Follow Tom on Twitter @tschreier3.
- Aug 11 2015 10:10 PM
- by Tom Schreier