If you're a fan of Cleveland, your team has about 1 chance in 100 of not making the postseason.

If you're a Twins fan, your team has slightly better than a 1 in 5 chance of making it.

So there's really more than five games of separation between the teams as they begin a three-game series at Target Field.

The playoff projections on MLB.com come from the fabulously geeky Fangraphs.com web site, which is one I tend to avoid for good reason: if I dive in when I should be doing something else, it is very, very difficult to get back on task. (OK, back to this post. I just got sidetracked by an article about baseball's drug testing program called "Better playing through chemistry ... Still.")

So how are those playoff projection chances computed? Here's the boilerplate explanation from MLB.com: "Postseason projections are courtesy of FanGraphs and indicate each team's probability of winning the division or wild card, or any postseason berth. Projections are based on thousands of Monte Carlo simulations of the remaining seasons' schedule. They incorporate up to date player projections, current roster composition, playing time projections and the remaining schedule."

If you want to go down another rabbit hole, you can read up on Monte Carlo simulations here. The too-short definition is that a Monte Carlo simulation takes into account as many variables as possible in a situation that can't be easily predicted.

The easiest way to explain why the Twins have only a 22.2 percent chance of being in the postseason -- even though they are only a half-game behind right now -- is the number of teams currently crowded around the second Wild Card spot in the American League. There are four teams within two games of the spot, with the Angels currently in the lead, and four more within 3 1/2 games.

So one hot week, like the Twins just had, can boost a team significantly -- or it can mean very little if other teams keep winning. The Twins made up ground because while they went 8-2 (and the Angels went 7-3) in their last 10 games, they picked up from two to six games on the other six games in the cluster. And while 22.2 percent may sound skinny, it's a better chance than all of the other hopefuls except for the Angels (32.4) and Royals (26.9). Baltimore, for example, trails the Twins by only 1 1/2 games but its chances right now are only 7.8 percent.

In the National League, things are much clearer because the top two Wild Card teams -- Arizona and Colorado -- have pulled clear of their pursuers.

So what do the Twins have to do to overcome the odds? Here are three things to ponder:

*The pitching staff needs to improve. Can general manager Thad Levine work the waiver trade deadline between now and the end of the month well enough to add another starting pitcher and an arm or two that would reinforce the bullpen? The Twins have overcome pitching adversity in their recent hot streak in a way that can't be sustained for the final 6 1/2 weeks of the season. No way.

*Can Miguel Sano return to pre-All Star Game form? In the 24 games since Miami, he's batting .250/.309/.430, compared with .276/.368/.538 when Sano was one of the forces carrying the Twins through the first half of the season. Even when the Twins have played well recently, Sano has struggled at bat.

*Will the defense play up to the high standard it has set for most of the season? The awful inning on Sunday in Detroit -- an error, three passed balls, a wild pitch and a hit batter that somehow only resulted in two runs scoring against them -- was especially jarring because it looked like it was out of the 2016 playbook. (One other thing: Don't take Byron Buxton's defense for granted, even if his hitting doesn't stay at current levels -- .326/.388/.442 in 14 games since the All-Star break. He provides value in the field even when his batting touch doesn't,)

Keep in mind that we're setting some higher standards here that we would have anticipated before the season started, when it wasn't anticipated that the Twins would be playing meaningful games this late into the season. Also keep in mind that it's perfectly fine to lament when things go wrong because Twins are proving themselves worthy enough of being taken seriously. High expectations are good.

It may be only a 1 in 5 chance. But back on the first day of the season, when hopes were low, that chance was a whole lot skinnier.

Older Post

'Bob McDonald Court' dedicated to Chisholm coaching legend