Head or Heart? Twins/Yankees – Here We Go Again!

4 Oct

Also available at http://www.SethSpeaks.net -

On Sunday night, I was a guest on MLB Roadtrip on XM 175/Sirius 210 with host Mike Ferrin. Then I was joined by Travis Aune and Fanatic Jack on this week’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. It was fun to look back at the regular season and ahead to the playoffs. Starting now, the show will be on Tuesday nights at 10:00 throughout the offseason.

Good morning everyone! Well, the 2010 regular season has come to an end. The Twins lost 2-1 to the Blue Jays to fall to 94-68 on the season. They finished 26 games over .500 and six games ahead of the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. The Tampa Bay Rays won home field advantage throughout the ALCS by having the league’s best record at 96-66. The Yankees finished with the second best record in the AL at 95-67 and are the Wild Card. The Twins have the third-best record and will have the #2 seed. The Texas Rangers finished at 90-72 to win the AL West.

The Twins will have home field advantage against the Yankees in the ALDS. Games 1 and 2 will be at Target Field with Games 3 and (potentially) 4 in Yankees Stadium. If a Game 5 is necessary, it would be back at Target Field. On the season, the Twins went 53-28 at Target Field and 41-38 on the road. Meanwhile, the Yankees went 43-38 on the road and 52-29 at Yankees Stadium.

Today, I’ll line up for you the Yankees/Twins matchup, position by position. Of course, on some level, this is a silly exercise as there will never be a 2B versus 2B matchup. But at this point, it’s just fun to get a sense of what positions the Twins have advantages or disadvantages. In the end, you can decide what it means, if anything.

CATCHER

 Twins – Joe Mauer – .327/.402/.467 (.869) with 42 doubles, 9 HR and 75 RBI

 Yankees – Jorge Posada – .250/.358/.458 (.816) with 23 doubles, 18 HR and 57 RBI

Mauer is one of the best players in baseball, in the prime of his career. He is playing well offensively and defensively. Posada was a tremendous hitting catcher for a lot of years. He is still a very good hitter, but he is someone that even the Twins should be able to run against. (+3)

FIRST BASE

 Twins – Michael Cuddyer – .271/.336/.418 (.754) with 37 doubles, 14 HR and 81 RBI

 Yankees – Mark Teixeira – .258/.366/.484 (.850) with 36 doubles, 33 HR and 108 RBI

The notion that Cuddyer is an MVP candidate for the Twins is silly, but his versatility in the field, right-handed bat in the middle of the order and leader in the clubhouse and as a voice. Teixeira has had a down season by his standards, but I encourage you to take another look at his numbers. And recall that not only is he a Gold Glove winning first baseman, but he is also a very good defensive first baseman. (-3)

SECOND BASE

 Twins – Orlando Hudson – .267/.337/.372 (.709) with 24 doubles, 6 HR and 37 RBI

 Yankees – Robinson Cano – .320/.382/.535 (.917) with 41 doubles, 29 HR and 108 RBI

In the season’s first half, Orlando Hudson did everything the Twins had hoped. He admirably filled the #2 spot in the Twins batting order and at second base. He is statistically at the top of the list defensively at 2B. He really struggled in the second half though. A very good argument could be made that he should be the AL MVP this year. He has done it all in the middle of the Yankees lineup and worked to greatly improve his defense. (-5)

THIRD BASE

 Twins – Danny Valencia – .314/.354/.453 (.807) with 18 doubles, 7 HR and 40 RBI

 Yankees – Alex Rodriguez – .270/.341/.508 (.848) with 29 doubles, 30 HR and 124 RBI

Valencia was ten years old when Alex Rodriguez made his first postseason appearance. Now, he will be playing against the Miami native. Valencia has been everything that the Twins and their fans could have wanted, and more. He is a clear top three candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year. Rodriguez has over 600 career home runs and has experienced a lot of success during his career, including in the postseason. A-Rod’s numbers are down across the board, yet he remains a very productive hitter. (-2)

SHORTSTOP

 Twins – JJ Hardy – .269/.320/.396 (.716) with 19 doubles, 6 HR and 38 RBI

 Yankees – Derek Jeter – .259/.340/.369 (.709) with 30 doubles, 10 HR and 66 RBI

Take away the games that Hardy played in between DL stints, when his wrist was still not healthy, and his numbers would look significantly better. Jeter has had a very down year for himself, and yet we will spend the entire Yankees postseason listening to how that means nothing because he’s a great, clutch hitter in October. Defensively, there is no comparison, Hardy is much better. (0)

LEFT FIELD

 Twins – Delmon Young – .299/.334/.495 (.829) with 46 doubles, 21 HR and 112 RBI

 Yankees – Brett Gardner – .275/.383/.377 (.760) with 19 doubles, 5 HR and 47 RBI

These two are greatly different types of players, so the comparison is not great. Gardner is a slap hitter who takes pitches, gets on base and steals a lot of bases (47) while playing very good defense. Young is an extra base machine, a run producer who is against taking pitches and plays some really bad defense. (+1)

CENTER FIELD

 Twins – Denard Span – .266/.333/.427 (.683) with 24 doubles, 3 HR and 58 RBI

 Yankees – Curtis Granderson – .247/.325/.469 (.794) with 17 doubles, 24 HR and 67 RBI

Granderson is a good home run hitter. Other than that, Span is better in most categories. Defensively, Granderson makes Span look like a Gold Glove winner. Span’s ability to put together good at bats against left-handed pitching make him a little better all around, and yet, Span has had a year that did not come close to what he did his first two seasons. (-1)

RIGHT FIELD

 Twins – Jason Kubel – .250/.324/.427 (.751) with 23 doubles, 21 HR and 92 RBI

 Yankees – Nick Swisher – .288/.358/.506 (.864) with 33 doubles, 28 HR and 88 RBI

In 2009, Kubel hit .300 with 100+ RBI. It was a breakout year. Unfortunately, he took a step backward in 2010. Kubel had solid power numbers, but overall it was a frustrating season. Swisher had a really strong season for the Yankees in 2010. He hit for average, got on base at a great clip, and posted a ton of extra base hits. Defensively, neither is going to be winning awards, but play a solid defense. (-2)

DESIGNATED HITTER

 Twins – Jim Thome – .280/.410/.625 (1.035) with 16 doubles, 25 HR and 59 RBI

 Yankees – Marcus Thames – .288/.352/.495 (.847) with 7 doubles, 12 HR and 33 RBI

Jim Thome has done wonders for the Twins in 2010. He has been forced to play more th

 Twins – Drew Butera, Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, Jason Repko

 Yankees – Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli,

For Twins fans, you just have to hope that there aren’t any more injuries to starters because this is about as weak a bench as possible. Yes, they want speed to pinch run, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bat off the bench to pinch hit for a pinch runner? I guess not.  Yikes!! Let’s go, Training Staff!!

GAME 1 STARTERS

 Twins – Francisco Liriano (14-10, 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .252 BAA)

 Yankees – CC Sabathia  (21-7, 3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .239 BAA)

Liriano has had a really good year, but Sabathia has again been tremendous and durable. Yes, he gets some run support with the Yankees, but he has really good peripherals too. Liriano has that first inning issue, as well as needs to be calmed down frequently throughout the game. Sabathia will be cool. (-2)

GAME 2 STARTERS

 Twins – Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.75 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .266 BAA)

 Yankees – Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .244 BAA)

Pavano was tremendous most of the season for the Twins, and despite hit recent struggles, he has shown Twins fans the value of having a crafty veteran, capable of pitching successfully while pitching to contact. Hughes was terrific in the first half, but he has really struggled in the second half. So, aside from an extra win for Hughes, Pavano has been better overall. (-1)

GAME 3 STARTER

 Twins – Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.62 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .247 BAA)

 Yankees – Andy Pettitte (11-3, 3.28 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .257 BAA)

Duensing was arguably the Twins best pitcher in the second half, but he has really fought control problems his last few starts. And now came this tightness in his arm situation which has many nervous. Pettitte has certainly pitched well in a ton of playoff games and has the Twins number, but he is less than 100% as well. This should be a very good matchup.

GAME 4 STARTER

 Twins – Nick Blackburn (10-12, 5.42 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, .306 BAA)

 Yankees – CC Sabathia  (21-7, 3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .239 BAA)

The Twins will not push Liriano, so it would shock me if, regardless of the situation, Nick Blackburn was not the Game 4 starter. Since his return from AAA, he has been terrific. With AJ Burnett and Javier Vazquez both pitching so poorly, and the fact that the Yankees would not use Ivan Nova in an elimination game, it is likely that Sabathia would have to be pushed ahead a day from his normal rest.

GAME 5 STARTER

 Twins – Francisco Liriano (14-10, 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .252 BAA)

 Yankees – Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .244 BAA)

So, if it came to it, the Twins would send Liriano with full rest to the mound against Hughes on short rest. Liriano has struggled some of late, but not as much as Hughes has.

CLOSER

 Twins – Matt Capps

 Yankees – Mariano Rivera

Rivera remains baseball’s best, most intimidating closer. Capps is good for a couple of base runners per outing, but he has typically been successful. Clearly the advantage here is with the Yankees.

BULLPEN  

 Twins – Brian Fuentes, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, Jon Rauch, Scott Baker

 Yankees – Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood, Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Chad Gaudin

The Twins may not have the shut-down types in the bullpen, but they have terrific depth to get the ball to their closer. The Twins depth is definitely an advantage.

SUMMARY

So, there you have it, a look at the Twins/Yankees series and all of the players that could be counted upon to contribute to their team’s efforts. The most important thing to remember about all of the above, all of the regular season numbers, is that they mean nothing. The playoffs are a crap shoot. Anything can happen in a Best of Five series. No-hit #9 hitters can play hero for three or four games. Starts can go three games without a big hit. You just never know. And that’s what makes it equal parts fun and frustrating.

My head tells me that the Yankees have enough offensive weapons to overcome the Twins pitching depth and strength. This is still a tremendously talented team who won the World Series just one year ago. They have the advantage at most of the positions. Due to Target Field’s revenue streams, the Twins have been able to add payroll as needed and increase payroll. They have added significant pieces. They easily won their division and got significant rest of their key personnel who needed it.

I will say: Twins in Four Games.

So, what do you think? Where do the Twins have advantages? Can the Twins overcome the mystique of the Yankees in the playoffs?  It will be fun to watch. It’s your turn. What are your predictions? Who wins the series? Why? And, what will the storylines be? Leave your comments here.

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13 Responses to “Head or Heart? Twins/Yankees – Here We Go Again!”

  1. Matt T. October 4, 2010 at 6:21 am #

    Nice breakdown. With the rate the Twins pitchers have been spinning around watching another ball fly out of the ballpark, the Yankees’ homerun numbers are a little bit scary. They don’t hit for average that well, but who needs it when every hitter can put the ball out of the park.

    And I have to admit, I knew Jeter had a down year, but didn’t know he was only at .259. Little disheartening to see that he had one more HR & only nine fewer RBIs than our boy Mauer. Feel Mauer needs to hit .370 for the Twins to even have a chance in the series. He needs to be on base for the guys behind him.

  2. mike wants wins October 4, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    Why would any team need three utility infielders on their roster, ever? I don’t get it, I don’t get it at all.

  3. gobbledy October 4, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    mike gardy can never have enough scrappy, get after it utility guys. they are his security blankie.

  4. BD October 4, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    I like your breakdown of the position players. There’s honestly not a lot to quibble about there (except I don’t understand why you seem to think Granderson is poor/mediocre defensive CF; he’s terrific, and has a UZR/150 that’s approximately twice as good as Span’s).

    There does seem to be some kind of typo/formatting error when you get to the discussion of the DH and the bench. For one thing, the points are missing for the DH (I assuming you’re giving the edge to Thome, which is reasonable).

    Unfortunately, after assigning all those points for the position players and the first two starters, you suddenly decide to abandon that approach beginning with the game 3 starters.

    From what I can see, you have the NYY up by about 10-12 points (I’m not sure exactly, because I think you may have meant to make Span a 1-point favorite over Granderson, not vice versa). That’s without taking into account the DH, the bench, the starters after game 2, or the BP. Still, it’s pretty clear, based on your numbers, the Yankees have the better team on paper.

    That’s why I don’t understand your prediction of the Twins in 4. You don’t provide any reason in support of it. You may be right, of course; anything could happen. But I’d like to know why you think the Twins will win so comfortably given your analysis of the player and pitcher matchups.

    Full disclosure: I’m a Yankees fan. However, I don’t think this year’s team is particularly strong in relation to the rest of the competition (unlike last year, when they looked like the obviously superior team among all the playoff contenders). That said, I do think the Yankees should take the series against the Twins in 4 or 5 games.

    Why do I say that? First, the starting pitching after Liriano is very iffy. In Pavano (K/9 = 4.76), Duensing (5.49), and Blackburn (3.80), you have three out of four starters who can’t strike anybody out. You don’t want to “pitch to contact” against a team like the Yankees. By comparison, the NYY K/9′s are solid at 7.46 (Sabathia), 7.45 (Hughes), and 7.05 (Pettitte).

    Second, the Yankees are very strong defensively, with several “plus” defenders (Gardner, Granderson, Cano, and Teixeira) and only one seriously deficient defensive starter (Posada).

    Finally, they have Rivera. Capps has had an impressive season, but he’s never been in a position to save a playoff game before. Rivera may not be all he was 5-10 years ago, but after all these years, he is completely incapable of being rattled. Last year, he was practically the only closer in the playoffs who didn’t have a significant meltdown at some point.

    Anyway, thanks for the good read.

  5. JimCrikket October 4, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    From what we’re reading elsewhere, it sounds like you may have the Yankee Game 2 & 3 starters reversed, with Pettitte likely for Game 2 and 5, if necessary.

    I’m concerned about Game 1. Young, Cuddyer and Mauer are going to need to get to Captain Cheeseburger, because I just don’t see the others doing so. Even then, Liriano is going to have to somehow calm himself and survive his normal “big game” jitters the first inning or two.

    The Yankees can hit, without a doubt, but they haven’t been having to try to hit the ball out of Target Field all year. The new Yankee Stadium was apparently designed to assure that Yankee HR numbers continue to be inflated for the next 50 years. On cool Minnesota nights, I hope they just keep launching the ball up in the air because not many are going to fly out between LCF and RCF.

    I’d feel better if the Twins had more speed on the bases to take advantage of Posada, but with 2/3 of the Yankees rotation being lefties, it’s probably not a big deal anyway.

    I’ve seen nothing to indicate Pettitte should be expected to be his “normal” effective self this post-season and Hughes doesn’t scare anyone. I would predict the Yankees winning games 1 and 4 behind CC, leading to a Game 5 at home with Liriano or Pavano, whichever was most effective in their first game, vs Pettitte. I like the Twins’ chances in that match up.

    I’ll take the Twins in 5 games.

  6. mike wants wins October 4, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    I’d say the teams are probably about even in Target Field. Like most games, these will come down to a hit dropping or not, or a close strike being called or not, I think.

  7. gobbledy October 4, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    is phil cuzzi umping this series? if not we may have a chance!
    seth looking at the umps for the series may be good blog fodder!

  8. Jana Loring October 4, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    Twins better bring their swagger if they want to go head to toe with the Yankees. They must believe that they deserve to win and that they have what it takes. Confidence is key. Go Twins!

  9. Rick October 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    My fear is that the Twins will be trying to rally from 2-0 or 3-0 after the 1st top inning. Liriano always starts slow. Pavano gives us a chance. Duensing is lefthanded and that is about the only advantage he has against the Yanks. Pettite ALWAYS shuts down the Twins. And Blackburn will be eaten up by the Yanks. 5-0 by the 3rd inning, advantage Yanks. Simply put, this will be a rewrite of the Toronto series that ended the season. Many Yankee Home Runs. Twins always trying to eek out a run here and there. Yankees win 3 games to 1. Outhomer us 12-2 in the series.

  10. Sam Millitello October 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    The season is just getting started for the yankees. This is what they live for, winning the world series.

  11. JA October 4, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    Seth, thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts, great read. I see it as plain and simple. The Twins need to play with more energy, do the unexpected. If they play a normal game of sit back and let the opposition make a mistake so we can expose it, the outcome will be familiar. We need a surprise, surprise.

  12. Dan October 5, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    Game #1 strategy…BUNT & Run. I want CC panting on the mound. Force him into a mental error.

  13. jjswol October 5, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    If the Twins win game 1 and that is a big if, you are looking at a sweep. If the Yankees lose game one they will fold like like a tent in a wind storm. GO TWINS!

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