If the Twins want playoffs in 2023 (let alone a World Series Championship), at the very least, one thing must occur. If you toss out whatever the empty stands 2020 season brought us, no team since 2015 has made the playoffs with a road record of less than .460. Not a single team. This statistical oddity stands out more clearly when comparing the 2022 Twins squad against the 2019 Bomba Squad. What would you say if I told you that the Twins' home records for those two seasons were exactly the same!?
It's true. Once the shock wore off, I triple-checked it. In the 2019 and 2022 seasons, the Twins were a respectable and playoff-bound 46-35 at home. So what made the difference between the excitement and potential of the 2019 playoff run and last year’s disappointment? To put it bluntly: road trips.
In 2019, the Twins were an astounding 55-28 on the road! In 2022, the Twins managed a below-MLB road record average 32-49 mark. (Click here for another, less recent, trip down the rabbit hole of why home teams win 54% of games in the MLB.) That’s a 23-win difference on the road between 2019 and 2022! How on earth does such a thing transpire?
Well, for the 2022 Twins, it happened slowly and consistently over the entirety of the season.
In fact, the only two road trips that the Twins secured a winning record were the second and third trips of the 2022 season. (They went 4-3 against Tampa Bay and Baltimore and 5-1 against Oakland and Kansas City.) They played around .500 ball on the road the rest of the way until the fateful ninth trip to Los Angeles in mid-August. After going 1-4 against the Dodgers and Angels, the Twins finished their last four road trips 5-19. 5…and…19….
So what went wrong on the road? A couple of abnormal instances pop up when you dig a little deeper. The Twins were 6-23 in road games determined by 2 runs or less. In fact, the “pitchers taking the L on the road” list runs like a who’s who of the Twins bullpen. No one leaves unscathed.
Also, during the end of the season road collapse, the Twins were without Byron Buxton. Yet, they managed to go 15-10 at home during this same stretch of games. So what about Byron’s absence made the road woes so magnified? In fact, the Twins went 6-23 overall on the road in 2022 when Byron was out with an injury.
I’m enough of a statistician to know that a few instances do not make a correlation, and they definitely don’t make causation. However, where there is smoke, there usually is fire.
Do the Twins’ 2023 playoff hopes actually hinge on this obscure and recent part of baseball’s seasonal grind, and Byron's health/our bullpen's strength? Or does Carlos Correa officially being a Twin “for life” now, as opposed to the “soon to be free agent”, bring enough leadership to buoy the Twins through the inevitable injuries this time?
I would argue that the soft-science of clubhouse "unity" gets magnified on the road. With the signing and security of locking down Correa and his assistant GM leadership, do the Twins now have a formula for righting this wrong in 2023?
We shall see. 31,759 miles and 14 road trips await the Twins this season. The Twins will start their 2023 campaign on the road in Kansas City and Miami, winnable games to be sure. But the next three journeys take the Twins through the Bronx, Fenway, Cleveland, and Dodgers Stadium, to name a few. Reaching their ultimate goal will depend on holding their own in the face of these early tests.
Root, root, root for the home team, indeed! But if the Twins' road trips don’t bring them at least 38 wins, you can kiss the playoff dreams goodbye.