The good news for the Twins through roughly the first two months of the season — which have been filled with slumps, underachievers, injuries and general misfortune — is that if they were ever going to waste close to a third of a season that way, they sure picked the right time and right division in which to do it.
About the only thing worse than the Twins' play in 2018 has been the overall plight of the American League Central. And within that statement lies the biggest glimmer of hope in this otherwise disappointing Twins season to date.
How bad is the Twins' division? Well, entering play Monday the Indians, Tigers, Twins, Royals and White Sox were a combined 58-104 when playing against teams outside the American League Central.
That's a nice tidy number since it adds up to 162 games, a full MLB season. Remember the awful 2016 Twins? They were 59-103 — better than the AL Central this year when not playing the AL Central.
AL Central teams have a combined .362 winning percentage this season outside the division. ESPN's Dave Schoenfield notes that the mark is even worse than the awful American League West was in 1994 before the labor stoppage ended that season. The Rangers led the division at 52-62 at the time. Buteven the West teams were a combined .417 against other foes outside the division.
The top four teams in the American League East this year (Boston, New York, Tampa Bay and Toronto) are a combined 30-8 against the Central so far. Only two AL teams outside the Central — Baltimore and Texas — have losing records against AL Central teams this year. Baltimore and Texas happen to be the two worst teams in the AL that aren't in the Central.
And the Twins? Well, they have certainly contributed. They are 8-3 against foes in their division but 14-24 outside the Central. It adds up to a 22-27 record, but only 3½ games behind first-place Cleveland.
So here's the glimmer of hope: the Twins have played only 11 of their 49 games so far this season vs. the Central, including Monday's 8-5 victory at Kansas City. A whopping 65 of the last 113 games are against division foes (57.5 percent). They will gobble up a good chunk of them in the coming weeks, with their next 10 games and 17 of 20 overall against AL Central opponents.
Being mediocre-to-bad against everyone else while dominating a weak Central is perhaps not the best formula once you reach October, but it has proved to be an effective method for reaching the postseason for past Twins teams.
The 2002 Twins — the first of six division winning teams in a nine-year span — went 50-25 against Central foes and just 44-42 against everyone else.
The division-winning 2009 Twins were 46-27 against the Central but just 41-49 outside the division. Even last year's wild-card squad feasted on the White Sox, Royals and Tigers (34-23) while being sub-.500 against the rest of baseball.
Even if the Twins aren't playing like they are worthy of it, the opportunity is there. We'll see if they can take advantage of a historically weak division.