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The Key to Success is Losing the Division


renabanena
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The Twins were swept out of Detroit over the weekend, scoring a meager six runs, then followed that up with another loss Monday against the White Sox. That marked the first time the Twins had lost six games consecutively since July 4, 2018, a disappointing season when the Twins under-performed after a Wild Card run.Two seasons later, the lead is again slipping away toward our division rivals to the east.If the playoffs started today, the current seeding would look like this:

  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Oakland A’s
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Houston Astros
  • New York Yankees
  • Minnesota Twins
  • Toronto Blue Jays
The Twins would face the Oakland A’s, one of the hottest teams in baseball. However, Baseball Reference paints a slightly different playoff picture (predicted wins in parenthesis):
  • Tampa Bay Rays (38.0 - 22.0)
  • Cleveland Indians (37.0 - 23.0)
  • Oakland A’s (36.6 - 23.4)
  • Houston Astros (35.6 - 24.4)
  • Minnesota Twins (34.5 - 25.5)
  • New York Yankees (34.2 - 25.8)
  • Chicago White Sox (33.9 - 26.1)
  • Toronto Blue Jays (31.2 - 28.8)
In this projection, the Minnesota Twins would face off against the Houston Astros, while the Cleveland Indians would face off against the Chicago White Sox.

 

This season, the only teams that any division winner could play in the first round are the Wild Card teams and a second place team. However, the top two seeds of the second place teams are guaranteed to play one another. On paper, winning the division is the most favorable. Realistically, with the current field of Wild Card teams and the last second place seed, it is most favorable for the Twins to finish second in their division as the fourth or fifth seed to avoid potentially facing either the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, or Toronto Blue Jays as a division winner.

 

Given the history of Twins and Yankees postseason meetings, no explanation is needed as to why the Twins should avoid New York at all costs. The Chicago White Sox have been a surprise this season with their lethal offense, led by rookie Luis Robert. Having to face left-handed veteran Dallas Keuchel in the second game of a White Sox matchup puts the pressure on the first game against “no-hitter” Lucas Giolito if the Twins want to advance. Given the Jays’ trade deadline moves and the imminent return of Bo Bichette, the Jays will be an even more formidable opponent in September. The numbers also suggest that the Astros are a preferable opponent over Toronto and other playoff contenders.

 

The Jays’ pitching has been surprisingly lethal this season with a 3.60 ERA that ranks them 5th in baseball, over the Twins, Chicago, Tampa, New York, and Houston. Their rotation holds a 1.30 WHIP over the Astros’ 1.33, and opponents are batting .232 off of Jays pitchers. The addition of Robbie Ray adds another veteran lefty to their rotation (with Ryu), while the only left-handed Astros starter is Framber Valdez. Right-handed veteran Justin Verlander currently has no return date, in addition to Roberto Osuna, Brad Peacock, Jose Urquidy, and Chris Devinski.

 

The baby Jays have quietly been lethal offensively as well, with every single rookie batting over .252 with an .800 OPS or better. The Jays are currently outhitting both the Twins and Astros in home runs and OPS and have a similar batting average as the Astros. The Jays have reached all of their current milestones without Bo Bichette. However, Jonathan Villar was acquired as an insurance bat in Bichette’s absence. Meanwhile, many of the Astros’ best hitters are struggling at the plate, with Altuve hitting under .200 until a week ago. Unlike Toronto, Houston did not add an insurance bat to take the place of Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, or Michael Brantley.

 

With no home-field advantage, the seeds become a moot point and puts the emphasis on the matchups. In a normal season, a division win is the only guaranteed way into the playoffs. However, in this unusual year, the road less traveled, a second place finish, could be the Twins’ key to success.

 

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The AL playoff field is virtually all set, with one exception: Detroit.

 

Yes, the Tigers (at 17-17) are realistically the only team that could, in theory, catch and replace the Twins in the AL playoffs this year.

 

And we've got 5 straight games against them starting today. Including a mini double-header (I'm beginning to hate those 7 inning games BTW).

 

Sweeping or dominating this series may essentially clinch the series for the Twins. Losing the series or gosh forbid getting whooped means we're in panic mode. Should be interesting.

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The AL playoff field is virtually all set, with one exception: Detroit.

 

Yes, the Tigers (at 17-17) are realistically the only team that could, in theory, catch and replace the Twins in the AL playoffs this year.

 

And we've got 5 straight games against them starting today. Including a mini double-header (I'm beginning to hate those 7 inning games BTW).

 

Sweeping or dominating this series may essentially clinch the series for the Twins. Losing the series or gosh forbid getting whooped means we're in panic mode. Should be interesting.

I hate to disagree with bighat, because most of what he says I agree with.  My disagreement is on 7 inning games.  I am actually growing to love them and with the fact that the games keep pushing into my bedtime I would think that maybe the way to control time is to have seven inning games all the time (or start the games earlier).

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First, I am not sure they have made agreement on "bubble" neutral site games for post-season, but sounds likely just to make sure they get played.  Second, there is an inherent advantage to being home team even in neutral site.  You get to hit last, which is always an advantage because you know what you need to do to win.  You will play different in the late innings, and extras. 

 

That being said, I fully agree matchups will be huge.  Cleveland will be a tough first matchup for anyone with their starters, but second round could hopefully not have to face Beiber or only once.  Sox same thing with them only having 2 starters, but we have handled Gioleto well. 

 

I am sure the team is just worried about winning games and not playing the who will we match up against.  Just please please please no Yankees, I cannot handle another Yankees sweep of us.  

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Bro, I don't know what you were drinking, but I would never pass an opportunity to play the (stinky) White Sox in the playoffs. They ALWAYS find a way to beat themselves, as long as their opposition hangs around. 

Wouldn't want to play them this year in a 3 game series. Strong starting pitching and a mashing lineup. Yes, they are historically bad at fielding. But I hate to have my season ended by that team (would the Yankees hurt more or expected?) Sigh.

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