At 12-23, the Minnesota Twins currently occupy last place in the AL Central. Yes, they're below the Detroit Tigers (13-24), . Minnesota, the two-time defending AL Central champs, have been the most disappointing team in baseball this season and I don't think it's particularly close.
"This team is built to win games, not to be in these situations," Nelson Cruz told reporters, including Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, earlier this week. "But unfortunately it is what it is. We all have to take responsibility of our job. We have to be individual, you know? Everyone has to do their part on every game and that's how we'll win games."
Just about everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the Twins. They're allowing 5.09 runs per game, sixth most in MLB, and they've lost several key players to injury, including Byron Buxton and Alex Kirilloff. Alex Colomé has been the worst player in the game by win probability added (including position players) and reigning Cy Young runner-up Kenta Maeda has a 5.08 ERA. Ouch.
The good news is Minnesota still has 127 games to play. The bad news is they are 10 (!) games behind the first place Chicago White Sox, and they've done significant damage to their postseason odds. Sportsline gave the Twins a 71.8 percent chance to reach the postseason before the season. Those odds are down to 4.7 percent. No team has taken a bigger tumble.
There are already rumblings the Twins could sell prior to the July 30 trade deadline, though management won't rush into a decision. These next few weeks will determine the club's course of action. Preferably, they would climb back into the race and play meaningful games down the stretch. If that doesn't happen, selling will have to be on the table. The Twins would have no choice.
I wouldn't call Minnesota's upcoming schedule favorable, necessarily, though it will be telling. The next three weeks will tell us whether the Twins have any of hope of reaching the postseason this year, or whether they should shift focus to 2022. Here's what the Twins have coming up the next three weeks.
The upcoming homestand
- Three games vs. Athletics (May 14-16)
- Three games vs. White Sox (May 17-19)
Two first place teams are heading to Target Field -- the White Sox just swept the Twins in Chicago -- and hey, if the Twins are going to climb back into the race, they're going to have to beat first place teams at some point. They've already exhausted their margin of error. Both the A's and White Sox are playing very well at the moment, though I think the Twins need to go 3-3 at minimum these next six games. Ideally, they'd take two of three in both series.
The impromptu five-game road trip
- Two games at Angels (May 20 doubleheader)
- Three games at Cleveland (May 21-23)
The originally scheduled three-game road trip to Cleveland is now a five-game trip with a stop in Anaheim to play a doubleheader. The Twins and Angels had two games postponed last month because of Minnesota's COVID-19 outbreak, and these are the makeup games. Flying to the West Coast to play two games on what should've been an off-day is a bummer, but that's life.
The Angels are yet again disappointing despite Mike Trout's greatness and . They're in last place in the AL West at 16-20 and are allowing 5.61 runs per game, the most in baseball. Anaheim consistently performs below their talent level. The Twins are 0-11 in Manfred ball games (0-4 in seven-inning doubleheader games and 0-7 with the automatic runner in extra innings) but you know what? If you want to get back in the race, you go sweep a last place team on the road in two seven-inning games.
As for the Cleveland series, that will be no fun because they're playing well (Cleveland is 13-3 in their last 16 games), but the Twins will have to beat good teams to remain relevant. Look at it as an opportunity to gain ground against an AL Central rival. These head-to-head games are going to be Minnesota's best chance to get back in the race. Going 3-2 on this road trip is the bare minimum. Sweeping in Anaheim and taking two of three in Cleveland would be preferable.
The big opportunity
- Three games vs. Orioles (May 24-26)
- Three games vs. Royals (May 28-30)
- Three games at Orioles (May 31 to June 2)
- Four games at Royals (June 3-5)
This is it, right here. If the Twins are going to have any chance at getting back into the postseason, this 13-game stretch against the Orioles and Royals will be their best opportunity to rack up wins. Kansas City started the season very well, but they've since lost 11 straight games because the offense has cooled and the pitching has crashed back to Earth. To their credit, the O's are no longer a total pushover. They'll give you a tough game. They're a team you have to beat to contend though.
There is no such thing as easy wins -- any team can beat any other team on any given night in this sport -- but if you're a struggling team looking to get your season on track, I'm not sure what more you could want than 13 straight against the Royals and Orioles. If the Twins can get through these next 11 games against the Athletics, White Sox, Angels, and Cleveland with their head above water, then take care of business against the Royals and O's, the postseason race could look very different.
And, of course, if the Twins sink further back these next 11 games before failing to capitalize against the Royals and Orioles, then it'll be time to seriously consider moving veterans the deadline (Cruz? Michael Pineda?) and building for next season. For now, the Twins still have enough games remaining to get back in the race, but these next three weeks are critical. Slip up here, and it might be time to turn out the lights on the 2021 Twins.