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  • How the MLB’s Latest Plan Might Benefit the Twins


    Patrick Wozniak

    At The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal recently wrote about the latest details on baseball’s plan to return. The plan calls for an 80-game season (approximately) that would have teams hosting games at their home ballparks and only traveling within their region. Today, we’ll look at one possibility that Rosenthal lays out and how it might favor the Twins.

    Image courtesy of © Steve Mitchell - USA TODAY Sports

    According to Rosenthal, Major League Baseball is currently hoping to have the regular season begin sometime in early July. We’re looking at something like 80 games, but that’s just an approximation, the number could be 78 or 82 as well. Teams would only face opponents from their own region, which for Minnesota would mean AL and NL Central teams.

    In considering a 78-game season, Rosenthal speculated that teams might play four three-game series against each division opponent and two three-game series against non-division opponents. That would mean the Twins would play 48 of the 78 games (62%) within the division as opposed to just 76 of 162 games (47%) in the pre-COVID-19 regular season schedule. That’s a 15% increase in games against AL Central opponents with the remainder of the games presumably played against NL Central teams.

    Reducing the schedule to 78-games obviously greatly increases the variability of potential results as the season has less time to play out, favoring fringe teams while generally unfavorable to better teams like Minnesota. However, the negative effects of this variance would potentially be offset for the Twins by facing weaker teams like Detroit and Kansas City more often. The White Sox should be improved but are also far from a sure thing, and although Cleveland has the potential to be a good team, they didn’t do much to bolster their club this past offseason.

    In 2019 Minnesota was 50-26 in games played within the division and 41-16 against Detroit, Kansas City, and Chicago. Cleveland was the only divisional opponent the Twins had a losing record against, but just barely (9-10). In addition, the Twins were able to add key pieces this offseason, including Josh Donaldson, Kenta Maeda, and Rich Hill and Chicago was the only other AL Central team that really added significant pieces this offseason.

    Predicting how the Twins will fare against NL Central teams is a more difficult task. The division is certainly more balanced than the AL Central as Pittsburgh is the only club projected to be really bad in 2020. While Cincinnati also struggled in 2019, they have added several pieces and should be an improved team. Of the remaining clubs (St. Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee), none reached the win totals of either Minnesota or Cleveland but all finished the season with winning records and the Cardinals won 91 games.

    It's unclear whether or not a universal DH will be adopted, but with so many inter-league games, it seems a possibility. This would obviously be somewhat advantageous for AL teams like the Twins, as NL teams didn’t approach the offseason with DH acquisition in mind. The altered landscape of the 2020 season is a great opportunity for MLB to adopt the universal DH if it is a priority.

    The latest plan also has MLB expanding the number of teams advancing to the postseason from five in each league to seven. Those extra two slots would go a long way towards mitigating some of the variance of a shorter season that could be harmful to a team like the Twins.

    Needless to say, this plan isn’t set in stone and a lot of work is left to be done including ensuring the safety of all involved and getting all the financial matters ironed out between the players and owners. But the financial incentives of having a season are huge and the chances of having baseball in 2020 seem likelier by the day. And it looks like it might just work out in the Twins favor.

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    I was just thinking recently how there might be a larger % of intra-division games and how a compressed season with fewer off days and greater potential for double-headers could favor a deep club like the Twins.  Maybe enough to offset the greater potential for variability.  More teams could also give the Twins a better chance to face a team besides the Yankees in round one.  Let's get this started already!

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    I’m cautiously hopeful. The players are young and strong but not so the staffs or umps. It would be strange to have baseball without fans but good to see games while housebound. Or fans might be allowed with distancing. Either way, it’s a year with an asterisk. Let’s hope a viable mass-produced vaccine is available By spring 2021.

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    Something I don't get is if there aren't going to be fans, why is it important for the games to be played in the home stadiums? Even with sticking to only playing teams in the same region, that still seems like a lot of extra needless travel. 

    I don`t get it either. I`d still prefer to start sooner in like AZ & eventually liberate home games as states allow. Regions I believe teams should be liberated approximately the same time & have some attendance. I disagree that all teams should have to wait for the few that`ll be delayed

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    Pretty certain the announced owner's plan has a universal DH clause in it

     

    This is what I don't understand... why not just continue with Park rules? Players are used to playing in those circumstances... They do it every year... the only difference is needing to do it slightly more. 

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    Something I don't get is if there aren't going to be fans, why is it important for the games to be played in the home stadiums? Even with sticking to only playing teams in the same region, that still seems like a lot of extra needless travel. 

    The fact that the players do not want to be in a city they would need to rent a place.  That was one of the major things I read players did not like about the AZ FL plans.  They would be away from their homes and family for months with little to no chance to see them.  Sure they could try to bring family with them, but that means uprooting their family as well.  I know I would not be happy to have to be away from my family for 4-6 months I was not expecting.  Also, the additional cost of having to have a second home in the short term home area.

     

    Travel is not an issue of safety, as they charter planes anyways so only team and team officials would be on plane, but an issue of time.  With having less off days, this would be less travel days, so reducing the distance on the plane helps.  I mean you can have 9 game road trip and between the travel sites never get on plane if you do Milwaukee, Chicago, Chicago trip.  Fly to one, that takes an hour, then bus between Milwaukee and Chicago takes like an hour to two. 

     

    Also, I wrote in another comment in the past that the home place is not just about fans, it is about the team set up for the park.  Our team is set up to allow fly balls, but we are in a park that tends to be little in favor of that, not like some but much better than others.  Imagine if we had to play all our games at Yankee stadium, not that it would be likely, just using as example.  HR fly out of right field like none other.  There are many other HR friendly parks that would not serve well for our pitchers.  May be better for our hitters, but you build your team with fact that 81 games should be played in your park.

     

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    This is what I don't understand... why not just continue with Park rules? Players are used to playing in those circumstances... They do it every year... the only difference is needing to do it slightly more. 

    I wrote a comment on this the other day.  If interleague play is increased, and under this plan it would be, we would be without one of our best offense weapons for a larger percent of games.  In a 162 game schedule you play about 9 games at NL parks, under this plan it would be 82 game scheduled with about 15 to 20 at NL parks.  That is huge when you plan to have a DH for 153 games of your 162 games, versus 65 of your 82.  This one means you are paying a player to do less, but also you did not plan for this.  The NL teams would be at no disadvantage because they just get to have more games with DH, and their pitchers have hit for years, some AL pitchers have not hit for a very long time and spend no time really working on it all.

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    Lots of reasons to play in the home parks with several mentioned above.  

     

    I expect travel, both time and cost, is a factor that both management and the players should like.  Some of the other reasons why all the teams going to Florida/Arizona don't work is weather.  Teams aren't going to want to be playing outdoors in Arizona in the summer.  And look at the problems the Miracle (I refuse to use that new name) have in July/August with rainouts.  If you are dealing with a tight schedule, can't have a couple rainouts every week in late summer.  Plus, doesn't the plan include having the 20-man taxi squad playing/working out at their spring training sites?

     

    Add the fact that a lot of the vets already have homes in the home market and it does make sense. 

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    It sounds like the 20-man taxi squad concept is part of the proposal, for purposes of having players available for call-ups, etc. 

     

    Here's my thought -- to minimize the need for travel for Florida each time someone is activated, play 7-inning "JV games" in the morning to keep those 20 extra players sharp! With so many of us quarantined, the TV ratings would be better for those games than four hours of SportsCenter repeats.  

     

     

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    Something I don't get is if there aren't going to be fans, why is it important for the games to be played in the home stadiums? Even with sticking to only playing teams in the same region, that still seems like a lot of extra needless travel. 

     

    siap. Family. Home.

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