I’m not positive that major league baseball and its players truly settled their COVID-19 differences, but no matter: baseball is back. Summer training begins soon, followed by a 60-game season that gets underway later this month. At first glance, the shorter and geographically condensed season would appear to work in the Twins favor.
Or does it?
The Twins play 10 games each against their AL Central rivals and 20 games against the NL Central. This means the Twins don’t have to face the always-tough AL East and archenemy, the New York Yankees, or the AL West and team on the rise, the L.A. Angels.
Despite the shorter season, the Twins have historically been a slow-to-start team, which might work against them over a mere 60 games. The one clear exception would be 2019 when the club burst out of the gates and was 40-20 after 60 games. Historically, though, that has not been their pattern.
First-half records for the Twins in playoff-bound seasons, 1965-2017.
Although the Twins have shown they don’t exactly get off to the warmest of starts, the fact that every team has had an extended layoff away from the game means a slow start might be the new normal for 2020. No one has seen major league pitching and hitting in a long time.
-On June 29, 1969, the Twins’ Tony Oliva went 5-for-5 against the Kansas City Royals, hitting a double and two home runs in a 12-2 win. Pitcher Jim Kaat went the distance for the win.
— Tom Thompson (@seyheytt) July 20, 2019
The 1969 team was another strong club. With Billy Martin at the helm, the Twins won the AL West by nine games. They were helped in large part by Harmon Killebrew, who had a monster season and won the AL MVP award. The Killer hit 49 home runs with 140 RBI. He also walked 145 times for an on-base percentage of .427. Jim Perry and Dave Boswell each won 20 games, and Ron Perranoski came out of the bullpen to save 31 games with a 2.11 ERA.
And yet the Twins faced an even bigger monster in the postseason. The Baltimore Orioles won the AL East that season by 19 games, finishing with a record of 109-53. The Twins were swept in three games.
However, the long-suffering New York Mets became giant killers in the World Series. The Amazins beat the O’s in five games, 4-1.
Sources: MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com.