The Minnesota Twins are fighting for a Wild Card playoff spot. What type of performances have Wild Card teams given their fans in the past?
As of today, Labor Day, the Minnesota Twins hold down the 2nd Wild Card spot with a 1.5 game lead on the Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles. After a hot August and a 17-0 game over the weekend, the Twins’ run differential somehow currently sits at 0. As much as many watching the game want to count the Twins out, the Twins continue to win games and look like a playoff team.
After losing a series to the Kansas City Royals, everyone was reminded the Twins are not without weak spots. There is still plenty of hope as Kyle Gibson is looking like the pitcher we have been waiting for. Byron Buxton has settled in as a potent bat in the middle of the order filling a void while Miguel Sano recovers from injury. Those are a few reasons the Twins and their fans are thinking about the playoffs.
As the Cleveland Indians run away with the AL Central Division, any playoff participation for the Twins will likely start with that one-game playoff “series” of Wild Card teams. With 5 years of the expanded playoff format to look back on let’s see what the Twins may have in store for them.
Home Field Advantage
In sports, home field advantage is king, especially come playoff time. Every team wants to play at home in front of their fans. In Minnesota, fans want to dust off another version of the Homer Hanky as they pack Target Field with playoff baseball for the first time since 2010.
In the small sample size of 10 Wild-Card games, home field advantage has meant nothing. In fact, the visiting team has won the matchup seven of the ten times. This may even out over time, but for now, it looks like if you are one of the Wild-Card teams the value comes in the fact that you made the playoffs. Not whether or not you get to host a game. Catching the New York Yankees would be fun but doesn’t look essential with the volatility of the one game playoff.
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Wild Card Playoff Success
Making the playoffs is great. Especially for the Twins who were not expected to be close to competing in 2017. Now that they are close, do they have a chance of making any real playoff run as a Wild Card team?
Since 2012, five times the Wild Card game winner has gone on to lose in the next round, the Divisional Series. Three Wild Card game winners have advanced to the League Championship Series and had their playoff runs end there. Last, twice a Wild Card team has made it to the World Series, and one of those teams won the World Series.
The banner year for Wild Card teams was 2014 as the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals both made the World Series as Wild Card teams. The Giants went on to win the World Series as the second Wild Card team from the National League, giving hope for years to come to every team who is battling for that final playoff spot.
As the Twins fight for one of the final playoff spots, history proves that their successful 2017 doesn’t have to end with simply making the playoffs. While we can’t be certain that the Twins could be the next 2014 Giants team and win the World Series, there is the hope that a Wild Card team has done it before. The way this team has surprised all season it may be foolish to count them out based on their playoff position.