Entering this season, we all knew that the Twins had one team to beat in the AL Central: Cleveland. With tanking efforts underway in Kansas City, Detroit, and the south side of Chicago, only two teams would have a realistic shot at taking the division in 2018.
I saw a lot of takes that stated the Twins would have a good chance at winning the Central because they could beat up on the weaker teams in their division. Of course, those takes seemed to ignore that the reigning AL Central champions would get to face those same teams throughout the season.
Following Tuesday’s games, Cleveland sits atop the division at 23-23, while the Twins are just one game behind at 21-23. This has been a golden opportunity for Minnesota to capture the division lead and put some distance between them and their rivals, yet here we are and they’re still in second place.
At first glance, this would seem to be a missed chance with the AL Central being led by a .500 team. However, if we go back to the opponents these two teams have faced, it doesn’t look quite so bad. There are quite a few have-nots in MLB this year as Baltimore, Kansas City, Chicago, and Texas are all playing worse than .400 ball in the AL while the NL cellar is occupied by Miami and Cincinnati. If you toss in Detroit (20-28, .417 winning percentage), Cleveland has played 20 games against these teams, winning 14. Meanwhile, the Twins have played just 13 games against that group while winning 8 times.
Part of the deficit is from losing three games against the White Sox due to the coming of second winter back in April, but good news comes in the form of knowing the Twins have seven more winnable games in the future compared to the Tribe. Additionally, we can still look forward to the returns of Miguel Sano, Ervin Santana, and Jorge Polanco. Looking further into the future, there are the wild cards of Trevor May and Michael Pineda. While the Twins haven’t yet taken advantage of the gift that they’ve received in the AL, it’s possible for them to find their stride before it’s too late.