Most exciting series of the week will determine Yanks’ fate

Fan Confidence Poll: September 28th, 2009
Chemistry? Yeah, chemistry

The Yanks settled almost every playoff issue yesterday when they clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Red Sox and the Angels have magic numbers of two for the Wild Card and AL West, both over the Rangers, so with just six games left those races are about over. Only one playoff spot remains undecided: the AL Central, where the Twins have rallied to pull within two of the Tigers after being seven games back at the end of play on September 6. It has led up to this week’s four-game set, one which should decide the division.

It will also decide the Yankees ALDS opponent. A few weeks ago it seemed like the Tigers without question, as they had that seven game lead. But the Twins have gone 15-9 this month, and even more impressively have gone 11-2 since Justin Morneau last played in a game on September 12. He will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his lower back. His teammates have more than picked up the slack, and this week they get a real chance to once again steal the AL Central from the Tigers, as they did in 2006.

The Twins, for their part, will have to take three out of four. Splitting would make things tougher in the final series, where the Twins would have to take two of three from the Royals and the Tigers would have to drop two of three to the White Sox, forcing a one-game playoff. It would be the second straight year in which the Twins would play a 163rd game. They dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to the White Sox last year on the season’s final (and bonus) day.

While the Twins make a great baseball story, we’re still focused on what this will mean for the Yankees. Would they prefer Detroit or Minnesota? The question might sound like a no-brainer at first. The Twins are without their slugging first baseman and have generally been the inferior team during the season. But they’re the hot team, and hot teams can be hell on any team in the playoffs, even the team with the best record in baseball.

Joe Mauer, a near lock for MVP because of the Twins’ recent run, heads the offense. He not only leads the AL in OPS, but does it from a squatting position, making the production even more valuable. The catcher with the next highest OPS is Jorge Posada, and the two aren’t particularly close. Beyond that the Twins don’t have much, especially without Morneau, though they’ve seen a number of guys step up in the first baseman’s absence. Delmon Young is OPSing above .800 since the 12th, and Mike Cuddyer has a Pujols-esque 1.152 OPS in that span. Beyond those guys, both Jason Kubel and Denard Span have had solid seasons, with OPS+s of 137 and 120, respectively.

The reason the Yanks want to face the Twins is their pitching. It is a far cry from the 2006 staff which featured Johan Santana and a dominant Francisco Liriano. This year their best pitcher, in terms of ERA, has been Nick Blackburn, who sports a Wang-esque 4.2 K/9 rate. There’s also Scott Baker, whose 4.48 ERA has to be the highest ever for a pitcher with a 1.18 WHIP. Following those two is Carl Pavano, who has pitched well since the mid-season trip from Cleveland to Minneapolis. The one reason these three have pitched well: each has a BB/9 rate at or below 2.0. That helps make up for the lack of strikeouts.

The story with the Tigers revolves around one pitcher: Justin Verlander. After a rough 2008 he’s bounced back into his ace role. His dominant stuff makes him an undesirable playoff opponent, though he’d match up against CC Sabathia, no slouch himself. Edwin Jackson is having a fine season, though he’s fallen back to earth lately. After holding the Yankees to two runs over seven innings on July 19, Jackson has allowed 42 runs in 80.1 innings, a 4.71 ERA. His strikeout to walks ratio in that span is just barely over 2.00. So while he seemed like a tough playoff opponent the last time the Yanks saw him, he’s been something less over the past two months. After that it’s Rick Porcello, rookie extraordinaire, who boasts a 4.14 ERA over 158.2 innings this season. He’ll be the third starter in the playoffs, which is all the Tigers will need in the first round.

On the offensive side the Tigers are no great team. They rank 10th out of 14 AL teams in runs scored and 9th in OPS. Their only real weapon is Miguel Cabrera, though he is quite the hitter. His .951 OPS leads the team by far. The only other starter above .800 is Ryan Rayburn, and even that is over less than half a season. He’s been hot as can be in September, posting a .348/.404/.652 line in 42 PA. He’ll need to stay hot if the Tigers are going to have a chance.

(Also, is Brandon Inge’s .409 SLG the lowest ever for a guy with 27 homers? It has to be, right?)

Overall, the Twins are probably the weaker team. Their pitching lacks the top of the rotation arm that is Justin Verlander. When presented with the choice of facing Verlander, Jackson, and Porcello or Baker, Pavano, and Blackburn, it’s the latter in a landslide. They do have more offensive weapons, but a few of those guys — Cuddyer and Young, notably — are riding hot streaks that far exceed their season production. If one or both cools down before the 7th, it could be death for the Twins. Then again, the Tigers have Miggy and little else. Yet a few of their guys — Granderson, Inge, Rayburn — could be trouble in the playoffs if they’re hot.

Yes, I’d rather see the Yanks face the Twins, but it’s a tough call. Either way, the Yanks will be playing an inferior team. That doesn’t mean they’ll breeze through the first round, but it’s usually preferable to play the weaker team that got hot at the end. As we’ve seen in many years past, a late-season hot streak, or even a late-season cold skid in the case of the 2006 Tigers, carries over the break into the mid-week playoff start. It’s a fresh slate there, and because of that I’d rather have the Yankees face the weakest team overall. That would be the Twins.

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Fan Confidence Poll: September 28th, 2009
Chemistry? Yeah, chemistry
  • Bob Stone

    Great post. The differences between the two teams is less than I thought. But due to Verlander, I prefer the Twins.

  • Bob Stone

    *difference

  • Bo

    Verlander alone makes the Tigers dangerous. He can win 2 games by himself.

    • cor shep

      Yea, go Twins. How have they been so good without Morneau tho?

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Is he hitting too?

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siYKRL4I3UA JobaWockeeZ

        No, but his team rallying is the best in the league.

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona

          Point taken. The Yanks should just give up then. :)

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Kind of like the Buccaneers, who just demoted Byron Leftwich to third string and are starting Josh Johnson next week at the Redskins?

            • Andy In Sunny Daytona

              Agreed. There is nothing you can say about the Buccaneers that will get me riled up. I expect a 2-14 season easy.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                Thus making it all the more embarrassing when they take Tim Tebow with the #2 pick in April.

                (I say #2, because the Chiefs are still in the driver’s seat to go 0-16.)

                • Andy In Sunny Daytona

                  My prediction is whoever gets Tebow between Jax and Tampa, make a pitch to Urban Meyer to go to the NFL too.

                • jsbrendog

                  my money is on the brown’s

                • jsbrendog

                  going 0-16 that is

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  Here’s my spur of the moment, not taking the time to see if this is even possible schedule wise, top 10 of the 2010 NFL Draft:

                  1.) Chiefs (1-15) – DE/DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
                  2.) Buccaneers (2-14) – T Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
                  3.) Rams (2-14) – QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
                  4.) Browns (3-13) – S Eric Berry, Tennessee
                  5.) Lions (5-11) – DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida
                  6.) Bills (5-11) – S Taylor Mays, USC
                  7.) Texans (6-10) – CB Joe Haden, Florida
                  8.) Dolphins (6-10) – DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
                  9.) Raiders (6-10) – T Anthony Davis, Rutgers
                  10.) Redskins (7-9) – QB Colt McCoy, Texas

                • Andy In Sunny Daytona

                  You’re giving Jacksonville WAY too much credit.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  I have them in the 7-9 mix as well, just think the Redskins have a better shot for that 10th pick.

                  Let’s say:

                  11.) Jaguars (7-9) – LB Sergio Kindle, Texas

  • Jack

    (Also, is Brandon Inge’s .409 SLG the lowest ever for a guy with 27 homers? It has to be, right?)

    Yep.

    http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/JErZe

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Just think, this guy almost won the home run derby. He and I were tied.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        I really like Brandon Inge. I really, really like Brandon Inge.

        /Francesa’d

    • Accent Shallow
      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        Wow. Burroughs and Inge are having basically identical seasons.

  • currambayankees

    I tend to agree with you. I’d rather the Yanks face the Twins. One thing though, it seems not matter who the Yankees face those teams always seem to play at their best against the Yankees while they play like crap against some other teams.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Crazy Fact of the Day: Joe Mauer’s lead in wOBA over the second best catcher, Jorge Posada (66 points of wOBA) is almost as big as Jorge’s lead over Jason Varitek (73 points of wOBA).

    Mauer: .445
    Posada: .379
    The Supercaptain: .306

  • CountryClub

    Verlander would pitch on Sunday if the race goes down to the wire. That would set him up to pitch game 3 unless they want to pitch him on short rest in game 2. My guess would be they would pitch him on short rest so he can be lined up to pitch game 5 on regular rest. Regardless, I hope he has to pitch on Sunday.

    • Dela G

      this would be excellent.

      If this were the case, then i might just take the short series to give him much less rest

    • CountryClub

      Actually, I was wrong here. He would be lined up to pitch in game 2 on normal rest (in either series). He would then be able to pitch game 5 on normal rest too.

  • Dela G

    cmon twins, i want to batter carl pavano in game one of the playoffs

    that whiny beetch deserves to get served

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Statistical Dominance Fact of the Day: If the Yankees win at least 2 of 3 against the Royals, they’ll finish with an aggregate record v. the AL Central of either 25-9 or 26-8.

    That would make them the only team in all baseball to have single digit losses against another intraleague division. In fact, we would be the first team to lose less than 10 games against an entire division since the Phillies went 22-9 against the NL West in 2005.

    We’ve owned the AL Central this year like the Giants owned the Buccaneers yesterday.

    Tigers? Twins? Who gives a crap. We’ll fustigate either of them.

    • Dela G

      Not so fast my friend

      [/corso’d

      The yankees were undefeated against the indians in 2007

      we don’t need to remember how that turned out

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Touché. My retort: Our manager is no longer asleep at the wheel.

        • Bob Stone

          Yeah – That really bugged me.

        • Dela G

          good point

          you are a smart man

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Well, genius is a pretty strong term, but, if you insist on using it, I can handle it.

    • Nigel Incubator-Jones

      Ok, I had to look this up:

      fustigate:
      1. To beat with a club
      2. To criticize harshly

      I assume you were using definition number 1?

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Yeah, but after we do #1, we’ll do #2.

        (TWSS)

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          And after that, we’ll work up a Number 6 on ‘em.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Daddy loves froggy. Froggy loves daddy?

  • Bob Stone

    The Twins/Detroit game is on MLB TV tonight.

    • chriskeo

      do you mean mlb network?
      every game is on mlb.tv (minus espn and fox games)

      • Bob Stone

        I mean on the MLB Cable TV Channel – not mlb.com. I know all games are on mlb.com.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Yankees combined results v. Tigers and Twins, 2009:

    12 wins, 1 loss
    71 runs scored, 40 runs allowed

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    More Fun Facts:

    Remember how YankeeHaters like to point out that CC may be a horse, but he struggles in the postseason:

    Justin Verlander, career postseason: 1-2, 5.82 ERA

    • Bob Stone

      After 2009 – 1-3, 7.03 ERA

    • Dela G

      wow i didn’t know that

      let’s hope the yanks crush him and his 97-101mph fastballs

    • Zack

      dont come in here and clog my mind with your facts and figures

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siYKRL4I3UA JobaWockeeZ

      IETC.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Wait, how about this one:

        Joe Mauer, Postseason, Career:

        .182/.250/.182

  • mryankee

    I think the Twins would be a better matchup, weaker overall offense and pitching. The Tigers offense could be tricky with Granderson,Polanco, Cabrera and Carlos Guillen. Howeever I do think the twins bullpen might be better. This Kid Duensing looks pretty good.

    • Zack

      Granderson hits .178/.243/.237 against LHP. He’ll disappear is 3 of the 5 games

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      “The Tigers offense could be tricky with Granderson,Polanco, Cabrera and Carlos Guillen.”

      Cabrera – .329/.399/.552 (145+)

      Yes.

      Granderson – .250/.328/.454 (102+)
      Polanco – .250/.328/.454 (92+)
      Guillen – .258/.344/.449 (105+)

      No. Color me unimpressed.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Sorry, that Polanco line should be .288/.335/.405. Cut and paste FAIL.

      • mryankee

        Either is very winable of course but in The Tiger’s favor at the very least is experience(2006) now again before I get jumped on the Yankees should win this series if it comes to pass. I have seen enough from CC to believe he will match up well with Verlander. Edwn Jackson has struggled in the 2nd half. The Twins to me are the poor man’s Angels with a better bullpen. No Morneau though and except for Duensing who has been pretty good no dominant starters. I guess you would take the Twins.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      No, Duensing looks pretty terrible. He has the results, but his strikeouts and walks are pretty bad. I have a feeling he’ll fall right back down to earth soon enough.

      • mryankee

        I suppose the numbers would point to a preferred matchup against Minnesota as opposed to Detroit. Are there any factors that would change that feeling>?

        • Zack

          Are there any factors that would change that feeling>?

          If Cabrera and Verlander get injured and are unavailable for the series, other than that then no.

      • andrew

        His K’s have gone up over the past month and his walks are limited to 1 or 2 per start. Pretty manageable. I think he’s pitching a bit over his head right now, but it wouldn’t be impossible if he stayed hot for another few weeks.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

          The problem with his Ks rising is that he never attained that level in the minors. Sure, there are guys who greatly outperform their minor league numbers in the majors, but they’re the exception. I wouldn’t count on this sticking for Duensing.

  • mike

    At one time we all prayed to see Kenny Rogers in the playoffs too….

    Also, even though some guys have picked up where Morneau left off, I always think its easier to plan to not let “one guy beat you” – ie pitch around Mauer and let the other Twinkies beat you.

    Plus, I like the Yankees offense inside a building where the weather is not a factor for an older team.

    However, Nathan is a monster and Span is tough too….nonetheless I’ll take the Twinkies!

    • Accent Shallow

      Nathan is a monster, but a dominant closer just isn’t that worrisome if the Twins lack great SP or a solid rest of the ‘pen.

  • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

    My instinct is to root for the Twinkies, but my gut is telling me Detroit.

    • GoTerpsGo

      I’d go for the 163rd game option where they play 18 innings and both sides use up their benches and bullpens. :D

  • mryankee

    Another factor that might be worth mentioning, if the Twins and Tigers go down to the wire that would force either to stretch their starting pitching to the wire. Verlander for example would pitch Tuesday and then Sunday if needed. Same scenario for Minnesota. I f this is the scenario and lets say Verlander can only pitch once in the series, does that change the desired opponent?

    • Mike bk

      ur math escapes me because if the yankees take the long series game 1 is wed, game 2 is friday which would be normal rest for verlander even if he pitches sunday and then normal for game 5.

      that might be even scarier than having him head to head with CC in the hypothetical game 1, game 4.

      • mryankee

        I did not have that information at my hands. I thought the playoffs were like the next day or two after the last day of the season.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        How is that scary? Verlander might not even see a Game 5.

  • Accent Shallow

    Baseball reference query in re: Scott Baker

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/shareit/A3zzp

    • Accent Shallow

      Spoiler: he does not have the lowest ERA+ of someone with that WHIP.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Yes, but of the 6 people in front of him, four are relievers (entirely different scenario) and two play in the sissy-boy league.

        Baker is the only AL starter with an ERA+ to WHIP discrepancy that stark in recent memory.

      • andrew

        Interesting seeing Coke on that list. Bodes well for next year.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona
    • mryankee

      Lots of Cubs-Rays bandwagoners-and some picked the A’S as teh breakout team. I have to say I have been impressed with the A’S in the last month or so. All in all alot of very incorrect “experts”

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        I always love it when “experts” pick the exact same World Series as the year before. It shows some original thinking.

    • Accent Shallow

      Yankees to win division: Kurkjian, Neyer, and a lot of “who?”

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        Brendan Roberts just about nailed the American League. Let’s hope he’s not completely correct.

        • Accent Shallow

          He’s a fantasy guru. What the fuck does he know?

    • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

      Who actually predicts the Cubs to win the World Series??? And these are the “experts.”

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Peter Gammons’s “Dark Horse” team: The Royals

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Pedro Gomez’s AL playoff teams:

      Angels – CHECK
      Twins – maybe
      Rays – oops
      Indians – RUH ROH, RAGGY.

      Yankees and Sox: Staying home for the fall.

      Looks like you need to stick to your strengths, Pedro: trying to get Jay Bell in the Hall of Fame.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        Has he ever explained why he voted for Bell?

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        Clearly, Pedro Gomez’s strength was following Barry Bonds.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        Also see: stalking Barry Bonds and thinking San Francisco is a “fabulous” place to be.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      The Reds, Enrique Rojas?

      THE REDS?

      MULTIPLE INTERROBANGS!?!??!?!?!?!??!

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        Psh, I predicted the A’s to win the West.

        http://sadtrombone.com/

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I have more respect for you picking the A’s to win the West than for someone picking the Reds to not only win the Central but MAKE IT TO THE WORLD SERIES.

          • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

            Yeah, that’s pretty bad. On the Reds:

            Dear Jay Bruce,

            I can has plate disciplines? Please don’t become Jeff Francoeur Part Two.

            Sincerely,

            Matt Imbrogno

    • Rick in Boston

      Ouch, 14 picked the Mets to win the NL East? Almost as bad as Jim Caple picking Randy Johnson and Francisco Liriano winning the Cy Youngs.

      • Zack

        yeah but no one predicted losing Delgado, Reyes, Beltran for large parts of the season. Ollie being THIS bad, and Wright’s power disappear.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          No, people predicted Ollie being that bad.

  • Sal

    I wouldn’t hope for Min Or Det . The thing we need is a one game lead with one to play for either one of them. Best thing for the yankees is a non rested pitching staff for both of them coming into game one.

  • Brian Harvey

    “Nick Blackburn, who sports a Wang-esque 4.2 K/9 rate”

    I think I would have preferred “Wangian” here instead of “Wang-esque”

  • matthew brooke

    How do the bullpens stack up against ours?
    (have to believe the Yanks view Nathan as a formidable factor…)