Major League Baseball released its truncated 2020 schedule on Monday, a 60-game slate for each team that still reads more like a wish list than a concrete plan given the threat that COVID-19 could still wreak havoc on baseball’s ability to play this year.
But we can only go with what we know at the moment. And the schedule says the Twins are playing real baseball in a little over two weeks, opening July 24 at the White Sox. Here are five things to know about that and the rest of the Twins’ slate — including some quite peculiar quirks:
*The road less traveled: According to Baseball Savant, the Twins will travel 5,999 miles this season. In a normal year, they travel between roughly 25,000 and 30,000 miles criss-crossing the country; last year, for instance, it was 30,365 miles.
The sheer number of miles traveled would have been less in any truncated season, but it has been reduced even more by the modified schedule in which the Twins only play games against AL Central and NL Central teams.
As the image from Baseball Savant shows, this really benefits Central teams because of how bunched together they are — even the Twins, who are the farthest north and second-farthest west on that 10-team map.
If their 6,000 miles traveled this year was projected over a normal 162-game schedule it would work out to about 16,000 miles — just a little more than half of last season. I’m not sure if that means a whole lot less virus exposure, but it should help Twins players stay rested during an otherwise short but grueling season. Speaking of which …
*August is a sprint: From July 28 through Sept. 2, the Twins have exactly one off day. Let’s hope those players enjoy Thursday, Aug. 13 as their one chance to catch their breath in the midst of 36 games in 37 days.
There are stretches like this in every season, and it tends to happen in the later months when school is out, the weather is warm and there are less concerns about rain outs than there are in April and May. Make hay while the sun is shining, as they say (and cram those games in before the weather and, perhaps, the pandemic takes a turn for the worse).
Still, it’s jarring to see such a stretch almost immediately at the outset of a season. Three-fifths of the schedule is slated to be played with only one total off day in its midst. It can’t help but test depth, particularly if the Twins have injuries, short pitching outings or — and let’s be realistic — positive coronavirus tests during that span.
*A touchdown to a field goal: One of the weirdest things about the schedule is that the Twins have seven home games against Cleveland — which figures to be Minnesota’s primary rival for the division title — and just three road games in Cleveland.
Without fans in the stands, of course, the notion of home-field advantage is diminished quite a bit. But there is still the idea of home comfort, ballpark familiarity and other things to consider. If the Twins end up edging out Cleveland for the AL Central title by a game or two, there will be some legitimate schedule gripes to be had in Ohio.
*The schedule is very much made for TV: The Twins have 39 games on non-holiday weekdays. Only three of them are day games; the rest are at night, when presumably a television audience has a better chance to watch them after work. (Then again, SOME of us might relish some day baseball to distract us during work-from-home days).
It makes sense. Reduced travel means the reduced need for “getaway” days that often necessitate midweek day games. If you can schedule games during warmer months at night, when the heat isn’t as much of a factor — while also capitalizing on the only audience you have, on TV — you should do it.
*A strange good-bye: The Twins end the season with three home games against bitter rival … Cincinnati? Yeah, that’s weird. Then again, maybe it’s a sign of things to come? Twins fans would like nothing more than to finish the postseason against a National League team, too — in the World Series, for the first time in 29 years.