The 2019 Twins were a pleasant surprise in both years-later retrospect and even while they were playing. While there were signs of optimism based on the roster, few could have predicted they would win 101 regular-season games — 17 victories more than the 84 wins that betting markets set as their over-under total before the year started.
The 2021 Twins, by contrast, were a disappointment. Projected to win in the high 80s, they managed just 73.
It might seem odd, then, to try to justify the following statement, but I'm going to try anyway: The 2022 version is the hardest Twins team to predict in a long time.
The logic: Those two other recent seasons ended up being far different than we imagined, but there was a basis for expecting each of those teams would end up winning somewhere in the neighborhood of 85-90 games. Even if we didn't know what we were getting, we knew what we thought we were getting.
With the 2022 Twins, the level of volatility feels high from the beginning — strange, yes, since betting markets suggest they will finish right around .500.
It would not shock me if they won 91 games. It would not surprise me if they won 71 games. The are, in all ways, a great unknown.
It starts with starting pitching. All five members of the expected starting rotation are different this season after the 2021 group of Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker and Michael Pineda was injured, ineffective or traded.
The Opening Day starter is Joe Ryan, a rookie with five career starts who wouldn't even be here if 2021 hadn't gone sideways and the Twins hadn't acquired him for Nelson Cruz. The starters could be awful. They could be decent. We just don't know.
The starters on the left side of the infield last season on Opening Day were Josh Donaldson and Andrelton Simmons. Mitch Garver was the catcher. Alex Colome was the closer. They're all gone, too.
The Twins shocked baseball by signing Carlos Correa. They extended Byron Buxton. If those two combine to play at least 260 games, the Twins have a chance. But if they end up injured for long stretches, losses will follow.
When you win just 73 games and finish last in a bad division, change is smart and necessary. But change also means unpredictability.
And if we're being honest, there's no way to know how these Twins are going to fare.