Opening day for the MLB is quickly approaching as teams convene for their version of “spring training” amid the pandemic. On July 23rd, teams across the country will begin their play of a shortened 60 game regular season and expanded playoffs. But what exactly will the season look like?
First, spring training will be operating mostly as normal, with 60 players invited to camp. There is no minor league season this year, so the 60 players are mostly anyone who has a chance to play this season. The Twins will have two sites, Target Field for the top 30-40 players and CHS Field for the bottom 20 or so minor leaguers.
Testing will be done every other day all season long in order to catch any potential COVID cases. Anyone who tests positive or is showing symptoms will have to sit out until they are clear. Four Twins have already tested positive.
This could be quite the roadblock to a successful season. For example, if three of your best starting pitchers all get sick in the same week and have to sit out, things become a lot more complicated when it comes to the rotation. This year, more than any other year before, depth will be essential to a successful season.
With the shortened season, there are also some different rules in place regarding the game itself. First, all National League games will be using the designated hitter. Finally, awkward pitchers who bat twice a year can sit out of batting practice and save themselves from the embarrassment.
Also, in extra innings, each half-inning will begin with a runner already on second base. Due to cramming more games into less days, this will likely prevent any marathon 15 inning games from occurring.
There will also be a special COVID-19 injured list, allowing teams more roster flexibility in the case of an outbreak among the team.
Lastly, the 60 game schedule will involve 40 games against divisional opponents and 20 games against the same division in the opposite league. That’s great news for the Twins as the bulk of their games will be against their division rivals (who are generally on the weak side right now) of the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals. In the NL Central, they will face off with the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. This will limit the travel for teams, making the hectic season a little more bearable.
Coming off a franchise record 101 wins, how do the Minnesota Twins stack up this season? Currently, the over/under on the season win total is 34.5, which is good for 4th in the league behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Houston Astros.
In the new 16 team playoff format, where the three division winners are the top three seeds and there are five wildcard teams, the Twins would be in a great position to at least win a series. In the first round, the series will be a three game series, with all three games at the home stadium of the higher seed. The good news is that this would make it much less likely that the Twins would have to get swept by the Yankees in the first round again.
In a weird, hectic, and shortened season where players will be in and out of lineups based on injuries, fatigue and COVID, this might be the trickiest and flukiest World Series that a team could ever win. Nothing about it is going to be predictable as there are way too many unknowns to even consider.
The beauty is that instead of the slow burn of 160 games, the season is going to fly by. Each game will have a major impact on the standings and the playoff picture. Even the playoffs, with shortened three game series, will be wild and unpredictable… So who is to say that this can’t be the Twins year?