The Twins enter the All-Star break at 56-33, five-and-a-half games ahead of their rivals from Cleveland. The other AL Central teams have most dropped to also-ran status already, but Chicago is close enough to make things a little interesting, in a scenario most bizarre.
Through the first half of the season, the Twins won at a .629 pace. If they could match this for the second half, they will finish with 102 wins. In order to just tie the Twins, and force a game 163, Cleveland would need to win 52 of their remaining 74 games, a .703 winning pace—possible but not easy, when your schedule includes four games with the New York Yankees, three each with Boston, Tampa, Texas and Houston; and another ten with the Twins. Add in a pair of interleague series with the Phillies and Nationals for six more games, and 32 of those 52 games end up against teams that are currently over .500. Cleveland also faces the Angels, who are only one game under, another six times.
The Twins schedule is a bit easier—besides the ten games with Cleveland they play the As and Rangers in a four game set, and three game series with the Yankees, Nationals, and Braves. That’s only 27 games against teams above .500. Remember how I said the White Sox could make things interesting though? The Twins and Sox meet another thirteen times (Chicago and Cleveland clash seven more times.)
If we take an optimistic approach, let’s say the Twins can win at a .700 clip through the second half. That would mean going 51-22 through the rest the season. Hey, I said optimistic. The Twins would finish at 107 wins. In order for Cleveland to catch up, and tie the Twins, they would need to win 57 games of their 74 remaining, or .770 for the rest the season. That is probably just not possible.
In the inverse, if the Twins only win at a .400 rate for the rest the season, that would mean an additional 29 wins, and a season record of 85-77. Most of us would have been okay with that outcome before the season started. Cleveland would need 35 more wins to hit 85, or a .448 winning percentage. This is more plausible than our optimistic scenario, but I truly believe the Twins can win at least half their upcoming games, especially since only 37% of those games come against teams currently over .500.
If the Twins did win exactly half of the remaining games, that is an additional 37 wins, for a total of 93 wins. In order to get to 93, Cleveland needs to win 43 of 74, or a .581 percentage.
The most realistic scenario, I think, has the Twins cooling a little bit, but still winning over half their games. Call it a .600 winning percentage. Three wins out of every five games. All but the most extremely pessimistic fans should think this is reasonable based on what we have seen from this team. This adds 44 wins to the Twins current total of 56, for an even hundred wins. Cleveland would need to win 50 more games to tie the Twins, which means they are winning basically two-of-every-three. Possible, yes, plausible, no.
With ten meetings left between the two teams, let’s assume they split those games down the middle, five wins apiece. That leaves Cleveland with 64 games, instead of 74, to get to the requisite numbers of wins. Can Cleveland win 45 out of 64 games, with the schedule they have remaining?
While teams have come back from bigger deficits than Cleveland is currently facing, they have a very steep hill to climb. With most of baseball’s best teams appearing on their schedule, and ten games with our Twins, they will have to play very good baseball to have a shot at taking the AL Central crown from Minnesota. Meanwhile, all the Twins need to do is keep taking care of business. Anything better than a total meltdown will keep them in the catbird seat for the divisional race.
What do you think the Twins second-half winning percentage will be?
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