As you stare outside at this gray, drizzly, chilly day in the Twin Cities, it might be hard to believe that Opening Day for the Twins — which is at Target Field this year, a rarity — is only 10 days away.
Whether you view that as a threat or a reason to be excited, it will be here before you know it. As such, here are five facts you should know as we count down to the start of the 2017 Twins season:
1) The Twins open the season on Monday, April 3, with a 3:10 p.m. game against the Royals. They will open the season at home for just the second time since they moved into Target Field in 2010. The extended forecast — a tricky thing this far out — calls for a sunny day in Minneapolis on April 3 with a high of 47. That would be a few degrees cooler than the average high in Minneapolis on April 3, but I think the Twins and fans could live with the upper 40s and sunny that day.
2) Even more rare than opening at home for the Twins? Winning the season opener. Owing perhaps to a combination of often starting on the road, where it is generally tougher to win, and having some poor teams of late, the Twins have not won their opener since 2008. In three of those seasons (2011, 2012, 2016) the Twins were never above .500 the entire year. In the 2008 victory, Livan Hernandez was the opening day starter and got the victory, tossing seven innings and allowing two runs to outduel the Angels’ Jered Weaver at the Metrodome. Yes, that seems like forever ago.
3) Twins opening day starters since their last opening day win: Francisco Liriano (2009), Scott Baker (2010), Carl Pavano (2011 and 2012), Vance Worley (2013), Ricky Nolasco (2014), Phil Hughes (2015) and Ervin Santana (2016. That’s an eclectic mix, to be sure, but it wasn’t all the fault of the pitchers. In losing eight consecutive openers, the Twins have been outscored 45-16 — scoring an average of two runs per game and never scoring more than three in any of the eight.
4) Hey, the Twins have been pretty good this spring. They have a 14-10 record in these tune-up games, tied for third-best among American League teams. ByungHo Park leads the team with four spring home runs and has a 1.140 OPS. Of course, we can’t read too much into spring training results. Last year’s Twins, after all, went 19-11 in the spring and felt good about themselves heading into the season. They then proceeded to lose 103 games, the most they’d ever lost since moving to Minnesota.
5) All that said, let’s leave here with a little optimism. Baseball Prospectus projects the Twins will win 78 games in 2017. While that wouldn’t put Minnesota in playoff contention, it would be a 19-game improvement over last year and restore some hope that the team could contend in the future. Getting off to a good start would help that become a reality. With 19 consecutive games at the start of the season against AL Central foes, we will know where the Twins stand pretty quickly.