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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

.500 by the Break?

As a result of the way the Twins have been playing in June, and of the way the rest of the AL Central has been merely treading water, any talk about the Twins giving up on 2011 and being sellers at the trade deadline seems, at least now, quite premature. In June, the Twins are 15-3, which translates to an .833 winning percentage. Pretty impressive; also an impossible pace to keep. After last night's exciting win against the Giants, the Twins' record is 32-39. On the one hand, it's much better than it was a month ago; on the other hand, it's sad that it has taken a 15-3 June to get the Twins to within single digits of a .500 record.

I'm curious whether it's possible for the Twins to end up at .500 by the All-Star break. This would be great in the standings, especially as Cleveland and Chicago are scuffling. Mentally, a .500 record at the break would put a close to the first half of the season, much of which was awful and marred by a strange confluence of injuries to several players. .500 at the break means a fresh start, essentially. It would also give great momentum to the second half, which is loaded with divisional play.

Beginning tonight in San Francisco, the Twins have 18 games before the mid-summer classic in Arizona. Here's the schedule: 2 games @ San Francisco; 3 games @ Milwaukee; 3 games at home versus the Dodgers; 3 games at home versus Milwaukee; 3 games at home versus Tampa Bay; 4 games @ Chicago White Sox. This is not an easy schedule by any means. Additionally, there is only one day off: June 30. We know that the Giants are scuffling now, but they are not a bad team (just a shade out of first place), and the Twins have to face Tim Lincecum on Thursday. Milwaukee is very good baseball team, currently with a record of 41-34, and they play pretty well at home. The Dodgers are not having a great year, currently in 4th place in their division. As we all know, Tampa Bay is a very tough team, one the Twins do not historically play well against. Then, it ends at "The Cell" against the White Sox, in what hopefully will be 4 very important games against a team that the Twins have had great success over lately.

To finish at .500 (actually, if all scheduled games get played from now until the break, the Twins will have played 89 games, so an even record is impossible), the boys will have to go 13-5. That's a .722 winning percentage. This is down from their current .833 winning percentage in the month of June, but .833 is ridiculous and impossible to do for a long stretch, especially when you play good, healthy teams.

The way the Twins have been playing, and the fact that more players are expected to return to the club over the next several days, weigh in their favor. Moreover, the franchise historically has been successful at interleague play. The fact that the Twins have to play the Giants, the Brewers 6 times, and Tampa Bay, does not weigh in their favor. Those are all decent teams, and the Twins will lose some games there. It's necessary, then, to dominate the series against the Dodgers and the White Sox. Further, the Twins are going to have to sweep at least one series in order to win 13 of the 18 remaining games. Is it likely they they will go 13-5 in this stretch? Probably not. But am I going to count them out? Absolutely not. The way they have been playing has been beyond impressive, and I wouldn't put anything past them right now.

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