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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