The Twins' penchant for gut-punching losses this season has sent fans scurrying in two opposite directions:
1) A vocal (and larger) group angry or frustrated about pretty much everything, with the bullpen and Rocco Baldelli's decisions at the top of the list. That group is convinced this will be a lost season;
2) A measured (smaller) group urging patience, noting that seemingly all that could go wrong has gone wrong and imagining a final 134 games in which the Twins get back on track and contend as expected at the start of the year.
Both groups were represented on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast, as I ran through some listener opinions after a disheartening bullpen meltdown Tuesday dropped the Twins to 11-17.
Where I tend to land is here: The Twins are better than their record indicates. But spotting their competition 28 games with just 11 wins puts them in a bind even if they improve as the year goes on.
It's just a matter of math. Let's take a brief look at eight years of history, from 2012-2019:
*In those years, to win the AL Central by a reasonable margin — three games was my definition — a team would have have had to win, on average, 89 games. Sometimes the winning team won way more than that (like 2019 when the Twins won 101 games), But 89 wins would have been enough on average and it could even be enough this year.
*In those years, the average second AL Wild Card team won 91 games. So if some team goes and wins 100 games this year and puts the division out of reach, that's the standard for at least getting into the postseason for an AL team.
So let's say 90 wins is a target for a reasonable chance to make the postseason if you're the Twins based on the last eight full seasons of history.
FanGraphs is reasonably optimistic that the "they will be fine" crowd is more or less right about the Twins — that they will not continue to play at their current pace, which would amount to a 64-98 season over a full year. That site has the Twins pegged to play at a .534 clip the rest of the way — 72-62 — which doesn't seem outlandish.
The problem is even that vastly improved pace only gets the Twins to an 83-win season, probably not enough to make the playoffs.
To get to 90 wins this year, the Twins would need to play the rest of the season at a 79-55 clip. That's a .590 winning percentage, which would amount to a 95 to 96 win pace over a full season. That's not completely out of the question. But that pace, which would have seemed reasonable at the start of the year, seems far less so now after seeing numerous flaws of depth and pitching exposed in 28 games.
And remember: They have to play that well over the last 134 games just to win 90 games, which only might be enough to make the postseason. What if there's a repeat of 2019 and it realistically takes 95 wins just to win the division or be in Wild Card contention?
The Twins would need to go 84-50 over their last 134 games to win 95 this season. That's a .627 clip, about what the Twins had in 2019 for the full year when they won 101 games. Is this year's team as good as that team? It sure doesn't feel that way.
The Twins' best hope is either for a hot streak very soon that turns these long-term projections into more manageable numbers ... or for the AL Central to be weak/balanced (choose your euphemism/term) enough that somewhere in the 85-88 win range is enough to win it.
If you want any good news, FanGraphs says the White Sox, with a projected 86 wins, would finish with the most in the division given their current pace and how they see the season playing out — just three more than it pegs the Twins to win at this point.
But with barely one-sixth of the season gone, the Twins have already greatly reduced their margin for error to the point that even if they are much better the rest of the way it still might not be enough.