Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, where the seasons are undoubtedly changing Let’s get to it:
*The Wild provided the latest microcosm of its season by getting blanked by Arizona in a must-win game Sunday. Minnesota’s playoff odds are down below 1 percent now. It’s pretty much over, except for the math.
Per Hockey Reference, the Wild has the third best percentage in the NHL of scoring chances for vs. scoring chances against. But the Wild is second-to-last in the NHL in shooting percentage, converting just 8.2 percent of shots on target into goals. That has led to the biggest negative gap — minus-42 — in the league between expected goal differential and actual goal differential.
*The Wild, by the way, is in danger now of finishing in last place in the seven-team Central Division. Minnesota is in sixth right now, just two points ahead of last-place Chicago. The Blackhawks have four games remaining, and the Wild has just three — and Chicago won the season series 3-1. The Wild hasn’t finished in last place in its division since 2005-06, back in the old five-team Northwest Division.
*The Wolves have a chance of catching the Wild in the mythical championship I like to crown every year. The Wolves have 34 wins with six left to play, while the Wild has 36 with three to play.
I’d say both teams, despite missing the playoffs this season, could be championship contenders in 2019-20.
*I’d also say if you believe that last paragraph, you should check today’s date. And be wary of any stories you see on social media today. Like this one, which was very well-played:
*I’ve been known to dabble in advanced numbers, but I won’t attempt to look up just how rare the Twins’ treatment of the catcher spot has been so far through three games.
But I would assume, at least, that in MLB history there haven’t been too many instances where a team has used three different starting catchers in the first three games of the season.
The Twins did just that, though, against Cleveland. Jason Castro started Thursday’s opener, Mitch Garver worked Saturday and Willians Astudillo got the assignment Sunday.
All three presided over strong pitching performances, while Astudillo provided an offensive spark Sunday with a pair of doubles and two runs batted in.
The unique situation makes sense given Castro’s return from significant injury, Garver’s ascent as a possible starter in the future and Astudillo’s wild card status as a folk hero who barely ever walks or strikes out but doesn’t have a true place to play. It’s worth finding out how he can handle occasional — or maybe more — catching duties, and the best way to find out is in a game.
It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how the catching duties get divided going forward. Injuries are inevitable, and Astudillo’s versatility should get him spot starts at other positions. A three-way divide with each guy playing 54 games at catcher is not the answer, but I don’t know what is. It’s not a bad problem to have.