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Can the Twins Dig Out of This Hole?

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On the morning of June 2nd, the Tigers had just finished a three game sweep in Detroit, and the Twins overall record fell to 17-37, a total of 16.5 games behind the division leading Cleveland Indians.. With nine wins in their last eleven games, the Twins have begun what most of us hope is a long climb out of the AL Central and back into contention. This morning, the Twins have improved to 26-39, and have cut the division deficit to single digits, nine games. Although Cleveland's mirror image 2-9 record over the same stretch has certainly helped the Twins get within the same zip code of the division lead, did they dig a hole that is too deep to climb all the way out this season? As we head into the All Star Game break, the next month will be key to determining whether the Twins become buyers or sellers when the trade deadline hits.

To illustrate just how difficult it will be to contend for a division title, let's look at a semi-realistic "best" case scenario where the Twins finish out the remaining 97 games by playing the same type of winning baseball we saw last season. I'm by no means claiming this is a likely, or "mean" scenario for projection purposes, but if the various injured regulars like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span come back healthy and productive, I could see this happen even with major question marks in the middle infield and bullpen. My gut tells me this is about a 10% scenario at best, where the Twins repeat last season's .580 winning percentage, in other words roughly 10-to-1 odds against. Over the remaining 97 games to be played, a .580 winning percentage would result in a 56-41 record from here on out and an 82-80 record overall. Just to finish above .500, the Twins have to recapture that 2010 "magic" we saw from the division winners. And as weak as the AL Central appears to be this year, I don't see 82 wins being enough.

However, we should consider that the Twins have 56 games remaining at Target Field, versus 41 games left on the road. So far this season, the Twins have not played very good baseball at home, to the tune of a 9-16 record. But let's assume for the sake of argument that the 2010 performance is repeated from here out. Last year, the Twins posted a 53-28 (.654) record at home and a 41-40 (.506) record on the road. If we apply these winning percentages to the remaining home and road games, we get a 58-39 finish and 84-78 overall record, a two game improvement over simply using the overall winning percentage.

Frankly, I don't see 84 wins being enough to win the AL Central this season, but stranger things have definitely happened. Two weeks ago, I was ready to write this team off and clean house. Now, I say give it another month and see how the team responds with a healthy lineup. Where do you project the Twins will end up this season, both in overall win-loss record and games ahead or behind the division lead?