HOLY CRAP REAL BASEBALL IS HERE!!!!
Okay, it might not be baseball-as-we-know-and-love-it, but the CoronaSeason is set to start for the Twins in just a few hours, as they open against the White Sox in Chicago. With that being said, here is what I will be watching for in the sixty-game abbreviated 2020 slate.
The Return of the Bomba
The Twins set a record for home runs last season, and every major offensive piece is back. Furthermore, adding Josh Donaldson and a “full” season of Luis Arraez should more than replace the production of C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop. If the Twins can get to 114 home runs this summer, they’ll beat their old record on a per-game basis. Given the line-up they’re boasting, this seems very doable
Can the Bullpen repeat their performance
Last season, from the all-star break into September, a bunch of relative nobodies put together an outstanding bullpen performance. With Sergio Romo resigning in the off season (thanks chili-sharing neighbors!) the Twins return everyone from that stalwart crew. They also added Matt Wisler, who will likely be on a short-ish leash with Jake Odorizzi only out for the first ten days, Michael Pineda set to return 2⁄3 of the way through the season, and Jorge Alcala and Caleb “Meatraffle” Thielbar on the taxi squad.
Homer Bailey, Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda
The Twins rotation last season was a bit of a weak spot, despite a career year from Jake Odorizzi, another solid season from Jose Berrios, and the meteoric rise of Randy Dobnak. Adding these three guys in the offseason has to be considered a coup, and as much as I loved him, losing 2019 Kyle Gibson is probably addition-by-subtraction. Bailey threw against the Cubs the other day, and didn’t have the hottest performance, so the microscope will be on him a bit. The two former Dodgers will both be improvements in the rotation. Hill is among the best pitchers in the game when healthy, and Maeda is a sneaky-good type. Most importantly, both of them want to be in Minnesota (no Ricky Nolasco scenarios here.) The rotation options also include Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe, meaning that all three can be put on a short leash, and again, Pineda will be back eventually. This is a new-look Twins rotation that could be very good.
Hot streaks and cold streaks
With only sixty games, this season, more than usual, will be decided by which team can get hot and stay hot, and avoid a slump. Even a 5-game losing streak is magnified. With expanded playoffs, the Twins are virtually guaranteed a spot (no way they can be bad enough to miss now, right) but seeding becomes much more important.
In addition to the usual risks of a baseball season, this is the CoronaSeason. Now, instead of just worrying about Byron Buxton running into walls or our pitchers bowel problems, we have to worry about an outbreak. With the league policies, a positive test likely means a player missing at least a quarter of the season—and an outbreak is likely a season-altering event, as you could be missing four, five, or more of your key players for that period or longer. Even minor, day-to-day injuries are magnified though. Every game a player misses this season is basically missing 2.7 games in a regular season. If you lose a guy to a minor issue for ten days, that’s 1/6 of the season. I’m actually surprised the MLB didn’t put in a 3 day IL or something, to allow you to replenish your roster, but then again, the commissioner’s office doesn’t care about the game.
What about you?
What are you watching for this season? What do you think will be the keys to a successful Twins season?