April - May be the Most Important Month in 2023
In looking at the 2023 schedule a bit closer, the Twins schedule in April may be the most important month of the year. Not only, as it is every year, will it be important to get off to a good start, the schedule has some tough matchups, and, what should be, very winnable series as well.
Here is a breakdown of the first month of the season:
3 @ Kansas City Royals
3 @ Miami Marlins
3 vs Houston Astros
3 vs Chicago White Sox
4 @ New York Yankees
3 @ Boston Red Sox
3 vs Washington Nationals
3 vs New York Yankees
4 vs Kansas City Royals
I first wanted to look at the head to head record against these teams this past year. The Twins had a combined record of 28-30 against these opponents. They did not play against either Miami or Washington in the 2022 season. So against the other 6 teams, they had a losing record. While this might not be a great sign, if you take the Astros and Yankees out as well, the combined record is 26-19.
So, as I mentioned, getting off to a strong start is important in wanting to win the division and make the playoffs. It appears the Twins are capable of finishing April above .500, but they will need to play well to do so. If they play as poorly against the Yankees and Astros as they did in 2022, they will have to be almost flawless against the other teams during the month, which is not a great recipe for success.
Now let's break down what the Twins need to do to have a successful first month of the season this coming year:
3 @ Kansas City: The Twins record against the Royals in 2022 was 12-7. This is the type of record they will need to have this coming year if they want to win the division again. It's hard to sweep a 3 game series, so a good start to the season would be winning 2 out of 3 in Kansas City.
3 @ Miami: The Miami Marlins went 69-93 this past season, but have improved in some areas as well (see Arraez, Luis). While the Marlins are an interesting team and have a pretty solid rotation going forward, they will likely be having their 4/5/1 starters going in this series. A 2-1 record feels realistic in this scenario.
3 vs Houston: Man, did the Twins play horrible against the Astros in 2022. In the 6 matchups, the Twins were outscored 11-36. The later matchups were closer, but they still lost all of them. The Astros are one of the favorites to represent the American League in the World Series in 2023. I would like to believe the Twins will play better against the Astros this year, especially in their first series at home, but it's not a given. I will say it would be great if they went 2-1, but would expect a 1-2 record instead.
3 vs Chicago: The Twins and White Sox were pretty evenly matched throughout the year, with the Twins winning the season series 10-9. Both teams are hoping (and probably expecting) improvement from last year, but if the Twins can continue to have success versus Chicago and win 2 out of 3 in this series, they will finish the first homestand 3-3. This isn't ideal, but not bad given the matchups of Houston and Chicago to start it.
4 @ New York: If you have been mildly paying attention to baseball for the past 20 years or so, you have probably noticed the Twins record is abysmal when playing in New York, or heck, playing against the Yankees anywhere. Maybe they should try playing on the moon or something? Anyways, the Twins have had very little success in New York since I can even remember, but going 2-2 on the road in New York would be a pretty solid matchup. Because it appears the Twins may be cursed when it comes to the Yankees, I am tempering my expectations and say they can go 1-3 in New York and still have a successful first month.
3 @ Boston: The Red Sox are an interesting team in the sense that they have let moved on from stars, such as Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, but have retained Rafael Devers going forward. They also signed Mastaka Yoshida, who I am excited to see transition to MLB and I think could be a pretty solid addition going forward. While I don't think they should have traded a generational talent in Betts, they deemed it the right move. Because the Red Sox are in a weird flux position and I'm not convinced they have improved enough to stay competitive, I will say the Twins are capable and need to win 2 out of 3 games in Boston to start off successfully in 2023.
3 vs Washington: While the Red Sox moved on from Betts, the Nationals moved on from Juan Soto, who has received comparisons to Ted Williams. Soto is now in San Diego, and the Nationals are in a free fall from their championship in 2019. The Nationals went 55-107 last year and while their young guys are improving, it's not clear they will be a competitive team this coming season. Winning 2 out of 3 versus Washington will be key to the first month of the year.
3 vs New York: It feels realistic to think the Twins could be 12-9 at this point, and facing New York will be another tough test, about 10 days after they played them first. After winning 2 out of 3 against both Boston and Washington, I would hope the Twins come in with some confidence and play well. To have a successful first month, the Twins will need to either split the 4 games in New York and/or win 2 out of 3 in this series a week and a half later. I will say they have to win 2 out of 3 to not have people wondering too much if they are for real or not.
4 vs Kansas City: The Twins finish the month off versus the lowly Royals, who happen to always give the Twins a tough matchup it seems. 4 games series are always a little weird and it seems like the Twins always go 2-2 in those matchups, I think the Twins are capable of winning 3 out of 4 against the Royals, but I will say they only need to win 2 out of 4 with where they are at to have the first month be deemed a success.
While a 16-12 record doesn't mean it would be a resounding success, with a total of 10 of those games being against the Yankees and Astros, this record would not be the worst possible outcome. While I think they could win 2 out of 4 in New York, or even win the Astros series, I think it's hard to say they will definitively do either of those things. While it's possible to not play well against the Yankees and Astros and still finish the month off with a winning record, it's not something Twins fans would feel great about if they get dominated by those teams that are considered favorites in the American League. (Note: This has the Twins going 4-6 against these two teams). Now that I see that, going 5-5 in those matchups could be a decent outcome.
I am pretty confident that if the Twins finish the first month 16-12, or even 15-13, or better, they will be set up to succeed going into the dog days of summer. One thing I think that will be interesting is that they will play every team in the league this year, which means less games against their AL Central foes. The Twins went 39-37 versus the division last year, which they will need to be better than that to win the division, without a doubt. I would like to believe they will be better against Cleveland than they were in 2022 (6-13).
Let me know in the comments if you think this is realistic in your eyes, or if you think I am too high or too low on the level of success the Twins need to have in the first month of the season.