Oct
07

The big, position-by-position Yankees-Twins breakdown

By

You knew it was coming, so let’s cut the formalities and get right to it.

Catcher

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA UZR
Joe Mauer 600 .364 .442 .586 .437 n/a
Jorge Posada 438 .285 .363 .522 .378 n/a

Jorge Posada is a good catcher. Of American League catchers with at least 400 plate appearances, he has the second highest wOBA. Compared to any other catcher in the league, he’d get the edge (or, in the case of Victor Martinez, it would be even). Against Joe Mauer he doesn’t stand a chance. The MVP apparent not only led all catchers in wOBA, but also led the AL by a wide margin. That he fit 600 plate appearances into five months only helps his case. And, if that’s not enough of an edge, the Yanks will start Jose Molina at least one game in the series, even further separating Mauer.

Edge: Twins

First base

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA UZR/150
Michael Cuddyer 644 .276 .342 .520 .369 -5.7
Mark Teixeira 707 .292 .383 .565 .402 -0.7

On September 12, Justin Morneau took his final swing of the season. A stress fracture in his back put him on the shelf for a few months, and seemingly put the Twins’ outside AL Central hopes on life support. But then the Twins went on a six-game streak and ended up winning 15 of their final 19 to force a one-game playoff. They got there with Mike Cuddyer manning first and he went on a tear, hitting 10 homers in September and October. While Cuddyer had a fine season, it was not quite as good as Mark Teixeira’s. While the MVP is out of the question, Tex still finished fifth in the AL in wOBA. It’s pretty clear that Teixeira has the edge here, and he would even if it were Morneau.

Edge: Yanks

Second base

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA UZR/150
Nick Punto 435 .228 .336 .285 .295 6.5
Robinson Cano 674 .320 .352 .520 .370 -5.0

Some capsules write themselves. Punto has never been known for his bat, but plays his position well. Robinson Cano is a born hitter who appears to play good defense, though the numbers say otherwise. Punto will save a run or two with his glove, but Cano has a chance to create quite a few with his bat.

Edge: Yanks

Third base

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA UZR/150
Matt Tolbert 226 .228 .301 .306 .276 7.8
Alex Rodriguez 535 .286 .402 .532 .405 -8.2

Other capsules aren’t really worth writing. Alex’s UZR is ugly, but his bat more than makes up for it. Also, his defense has seemed better lately, so maybe that bad number is more reflective of his early season struggles. In any case, there’s no question which third baseman has the edge here.

Edge: Yanks

Shortstop

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA UZR/150
Orlando Cabrera 650 .285 .318 .386 .308 -11.6
Derek Jeter 716 .334 .406 .465 .390 6.4

O-Cab started the season with Oakland in hopes that Billy Beane built a winner in the off-season. That didn’t happen, but the Twins needed a shortstop. Cabrera’s numbers aren’t great, but it seems he has the knack for getting timely hits against the Yanks. Yes, that’s a completely subjective and biased statement, but that’s what sticks in my craw about Orlando Cabrera. On the other side is Derek Jeter, who has exuded awesome this season. He was ninth in the AL in wOBA this season, and along with Jason Bartlett absolutely dominated all other AL shortstops. Combine that with a defensive turnaround, and it’s an easy edge for Jeter. If Joe Mauer had for some reason missed this season, Jeter might be the front runner for MVP right now.

Edge: Yanks

Left field

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA UZR/150
Delmon Young 410 .285 .307 .428 .313 -18.8
Johnny Damon 626 .282 .365 .489 .376 -11.8

Johnny Damon has regressed on defense faster than most of us imagined. It was clear in 2007 that he wasn’t reliable in center, but I don’t think many of us thought he’d turn so bad in left so quickly. Still, bad as Damon may be, Delmon Young is worse — though at least Delmon has an arm, and a good one at that. On the offensive side, it remains all potential for young Delmon. He stampeded through September and October, hitting .347/.365/.561, and really hit a lot better in the second half — .303/.322/.501 vs. .266/.292/.344 in the first half. Damon was kind of the opposite, recording a better first half than second, though his bad second half was pretty much attributable to a terrible September and October. Damon is as well rested as he’s ever been at this point in his career, but if Delmon can keep up his second half pace this isn’t such an uneven matchup.

Edge: Yanks

Center field

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA UZR/150
Denard Span 670 .312 .393 .417 .361 -3.1
Melky Cabrera 540 .274 .336 .416 .331 1.5

While Melky is the best worst hitter in the playoffs, he’s not quite at his counterpart’s level. For the second straight season he’s hit for average and shown good plate discipline. He also has some speed, as he led the league with 10 triples and also swiped 23 bags — though his 30 percent caught stealing rate suggests he should cut down on that. After Melky’s rookie season (.280 BA, .360 OBP), I thought he could turn into a player like the one Span has turned into. There’s still time, but until then…

Edge: Twins

Right field

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA UZR/150
Jason Kubel 574 .300 .369 .535 .383 -32.9
Nick Swisher 607 .249 .371 .498 .375 1.3

Both Jason Kubel and Nick Swisher are good offensive players. Kubel hits for a much better average, but Swisher makes slightly fewer outs and hits for a bit more power (.249 Iso for Swish vs. .235 for Kubel). Swish also makes his .249 average count: his SLG is exactly double his BA, meaning each of his his is roughly equivalent to a double. Kubel’s UZR/150 is a bit skewed because he spent just 212 innings out there, but it’s pretty clear that Swisher is better with the glove out there. This one could probably go to Swish, but if it did it wouldn’t be by much.

Edge: Even

DH

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA UZR/150
Jose Morales 132 .316 .386 .368 .339 n/a
Hideki Matsui 526 .274 .367 .509 .378 n/a

Jose Morales has had a nice run since being recalled on September 1, hitting .280/.373/.320. I doubt that lasts. Even if it does, Hideki Matsui has a clear edge. Brendan Harris has gotten a few at bats at DH, but he’s pretty terrible, too. Matsui? Matsui’s good.

Edge: Yanks

Game 1 starter

IP ERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/BB GB% tRA
Brian Duensing 84.0 3.64 5.7 3.3 0.8 1.71 45.5 4.10
CC Sabathia 230.0 3.37 7.7 2.6 0.7 2.94 42.9 3.99

A pair of lefties will duel in Game 1, but their handedness may be their only similarity. CC is an enormous veteran, while Duensing is a 5’11″ rookie. CC averages 94 with his fastball and slows that down with a slider and change. Duensing averages around 91 with the fastball and mixes in a slider (which is actually faster on average than CC’s), change, and occasionally a curve. The numbers clearly favor Sabathia, so we’ll leave it at that.

Edge: Yanks

Other starters
It’s unclear how the Twins rotation will unfold, so here are their three options, plus the two that will start for the Yanks.

IP ERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/BB GB% tRA
Nick Blackburn 205.2 4.03 4.3 1.8 1.1 2.39 45.8 4.66
Carl Pavano 199.1 5.10 6.6 1.8 1.2 3.77 43.4 4.50
Scott Baker 194.0 4.36 7.4 2.1 1.3 3.48 33.9 4.33
A.J. Burnett 207.0 4.04 8.5 4.2 1.1 2.01 42.8 4.79
Andy Pettitte 194.2 4.16 6.8 3.5 0.9 1.95 42.9 4.74

There should be no shortage of fly balls in this series. That’s good for the Yankees, who tend to turn fly balls into home runs, especially at home. The Yankees have the edge in ERA by a small margin, but the Twins pitchers have good peripherals, especially in walks. Talk about a difference in staffs. Scott Baker walks the most of the three Twins regulars (Duensing was a late addition) at 2.1. The X factor in this A.J. Burnett, who can dominate any time he takes the hill. The trade-off is that he can also bomb. And then there’s always the in-between setting. If he’s on, it’s a clear Yanks edge. So I’ll give it to them.

Edge: Yanks

Bullpen
Phil Hughes and Mariano River make up the best setup man – closer combination in the game. Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan aren’t far behind. The Twins have some decent options beyond them, including Jon Rauch, who has pitched well since arriving in a trade. Jesse Crain isn’t as bad as his ERA suggests, though his walk rate is alarming. Jose Mijares fares well as the Twins’ token lefty — kind of like Phil Coke but without as many homers. The Yanks will carry strikeout artist David Robertson, will move Al Aceves into a short-relief role, and will have Joba Chamberlain, the X factor in the bullpen. It’s not a blowout, but the Yanks seem to have the edge in both the back-end and the other options.

Edge: Yanks

While it’s neat to compare the combatants based on their season numbers, it all gets tossed out for the playoffs. It’s all about how they play from now on, now how they played leading up to this. Of course, how they played before will give us an idea of what to expect from the future. But in a small sample, anything can happen. The Yanks have a clear edge in this series, but then again so would any team that finished with 103 wins. It guarantees them nothing at this point. The Yanks know as well as any team what can happen when you run into a hot team.

Prediction: None. I regret the last playoff prediction I made. Now’s not the time to make another one.

Categories : Playoffs

74 Comments»

  1. Jersey says:

    So do we know the bullpen composition for the series? Marte, Gaudin?

  2. Prediction: None. I regret the last playoff prediction I made. Now’s not the time to make another one.

    Prediction: WE’RE GONNA KILL THEM! EVERYONE’S BLITZING, EVEN YOU, DIRTY CHIMICHANGA!

    (passes out bayonets)

  3. Mike Pop says:

    So…. what you’re saying is we should be pretty confident?

    I’m down.

  4. Nady Nation says:

    We better win this series. That’s all I’m going to say.

    /Jorge’d

  5. Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

    Prediction: A-Rod gets his lazy Dominican ass handed to him and beats -554 with -10 HR’s and -40 RBI’s, and singlehandedly ensures that the Yankees lose.

    Yeah, I said it.

    [Now that I've bashed him he's gonna hit 400, right? Right?]

  6. Sam says:

    Have they announced the playoff roster yet?

    • I haven’t seen it anywhere.

      Here seems to be the consensus of the MSM and blogosphere:

      Pitchers (10)
      CC, AJ, Andy, Mo, Hughes, Ace, DRob, Joba, Coke, Gaudin
      Position Players (13)
      Posada, Tex, Canó, Jeter, ARod, Damon, Melky, Swisher, Molina, Hinske, Hairston, Gardner

      with the final two spots going to two of the following threesome:
      -third catcher Cervelli
      -second pinchrunner Guzman
      -second LOOGY Marte

      I’d say smart money is on Guzman and Marte.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

      From the YES blog:

      http://yes.mlblogs.com/

      • Ugh.

        I still fail to see the wisdom of Cervelli over Guzman.

        Can anyone help me out here? Lil’ devil’s advocate?

        • Nady Nation says:

          Posada can PH for Molina in Game 2, and they’ll still have a backup catcher in case anything happens. We already have Gardy as a PR specialist, so do we really need 2 when we’re going to be up 3-5 runs in the 8th of every game?

          • Right… Although the answer to your question about having another PR specialist on the roster is probably yes if not for the fact that Molina is starting Game 2.

          • Jerry Hairston is a suitable emergency catcher for a single game, and if something catastrophic happens (like a big injury to one of the two catchers) we can add Cervelli at that point.

            • A.D. says:

              I mean Jerry Hariston has never caught in the pros, so I really don’t want to see him catching all of a sudden in the playoffs.

              Basically if shit hit the fan, I’d rather see Cervelli playing in the infield than Hariston catching.

              • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                But this is for the absolute worst case scenario, I mean e would only be catching for a few innings, and I like having such a good pinch runner on the roster.

                Could Cervelli pinch run if we need him too/ I mean, he does have some speed. Not Guzman speed, but speed.

                • But this is for the absolute worst case scenario, I mean e would only be catching for a few innings, and I like having such a good pinch runner on the roster.

                  Exactly. We’re using a worst case scenario that would only last like 2-3 innings tops (since we can add Cervelli after said game featuring said theoretical injury) to bar us from having Guzman’s speed available as a late-inning pinch-runner for ALL THE GAMES.

                  That seems like an overreaction to a theoretical injury that hasn’t happened.

                  We should only be carrying two catchers for all three levels of playoffs. This is dumb.

                • A.D. says:

                  I agree that Guzman should be on the roster, but not because Hariston is a “viable” back-up/emergency catcher.

                  Personally I take 10 pitchers, leave off Gaudin, add Guzman.

            • But the “catastrophic injury” situation places more emphasis on what happens in the game during which the injury occurs, not the game after (because the Yanks can just replace the injured player with another catcher for the game after). The question is whether it’s more important to guard against possibly having Hairston catch in a playoff game or to have Guzman on the bench. I have no problem with Guzman being on a postseason roster as yet another speed threat, but if Molina is going to start a game or possibly 2 games, I don’t have a problem with carrying Cervelli instead of Guzman. You still have Gardner as a pinch-running SB threat, and you’ve still got Hairston and, even, Cervelli, on the bench as guys who maybe won’t come in and steal late in a game but can certainly run better than some of your regulars and therefore can come in as pinch runners.

            • steve s says:

              Hairston as “emergency” catcher is the kind of thinking that landed Sheffield on first base. Keeping Cervelli on roster permits Posada to DH or pinch-hit or get pinch-run for. Guzman was a pickoff in a crucial situation waiting to happen. If Yanks are so concerned about another pinch-runner keep Pena and go with 10 pitchers but what Yanks actually did with the ALDS roster is just fine by me as well.

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

          Okay:

          I agree with you, but I think the idea is that in the middle of a game if A.J is in a rhythym but there’s a big spot, you can pinch hit Posada then take him out and put in Cervelli, who is apparently a better game caller (go figure). Also, I’m sure they’ll try to avoid having JoPo catch Burnett.

          I’m against the whole concept, but I think that’s what Girardi’s thinking.

          • I don’t think so. Nady Nation had it right, above, Cervelli’s on the roster to be the backup catcher after Molina is lifted from Game 2. He’s there just in case, Mo forbid, Posada suffers an injury after Molina is already out of the game. Nobody’s using Posada as a pinch hitter for one at-bat and then taking him out of the game. That’s a terrible waste of Posada, it makes no sense.

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

              Then it’s a bad move because Hairston can be a suitable emergency catcher as TSJC said.

              • A.D. says:

                Is there actually any support or fact that Hariston is a suitable emergency catcher?

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  He played catcher in High School and has said he could catch if needed.

                • In my eyes, that doesn’t make him a suitable option to catchfor the Yankees in a playoff game.

                • From Moshe, quoting the Old Gray Lady:

                  Since the Yankees acquired Hairston from the Cincinnati Reds on July 31, he has batted .382 with two homers, nine runs batted in and six walks in the 11 games that he has started. Manager Joe Girardi said he would not hesitate to use Hairston at any infield or outfield position, and also called him an emergency catcher.

                  http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/?p=7030

                  Also, this tweet claims (unverified) that Hairston was in the bullpen catching guys mid-game at at least one point this season:

                  http://twitter.com/CliffCorcor.....3627462351

                • In my eyes, that doesn’t make him a suitable option to catchfor the Yankees in a playoff game.

                  I agree, but he wouldn’t be catching. He’d be serving as the emergency catcher. There’s a difference.

                • But he would be catching if Molina started, Posada took over, and then Posada got hurt. I know this isn’t likely, but it’s certsainly not a crazy scenario that definitely won’t happen. Guzman would have been the absolute last guy off the Yankees bench in the ALDS. They’re trading him for the assurance that they will not have Jerry Hairston, a guy who has never caught a pitch in MLB, play catcher for them in the playoffs.

                  The fact that Girardi called Hairston his emergency catcher, in the regular season, does nothing to persuade me that he should be the backup catcher for even one inning of postseason play. Being the emergency catcher in the regular season means he’s the guy who will catch some innings, in a regular season game, if both your starting catcher and your backup get hurt in the same game, and then the next day you’ll have another couple of catchers called up from the minors and Hairston won’t be catching anymore. That’s a hell of a lot different than letting Hairston catch in the playoffs

                  This is the right move.

            • Nobody’s using Posada as a pinch hitter for one at-bat and then taking him out of the game. That’s a terrible waste of Posada, it makes no sense.

              Agreed. Furthermore, there will be way more opportunities to pinch-run with Gardner than there would be need to keep a third catcher for that one (or two) games.

              • whozat says:

                I agree with you, but I still think this is what Girardi decided. PH Posada in, say, the bottom of the 6th, and if his AB comes around again in the bottom of the 8th/9th you can PR and not have to put Hairston in if, god forbid, you don’t score the go-ahead run.

                It’s very conservative and, I think, follows from a misguided premise, but…I can see the logic, given that you assume Molina MUST start games where Burnett pitches.

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

          Guzman is so fast, that he loses his balance when he runs because the atmosphere is pushing so hard against him.

        • whozat says:

          I don’t agree with it, because I think it’s stupid to start Molina in a playoff game, BUT, here is the logic I think was followed:

          We’ll want to PH Jorge for Molina at the first opportunity. We’ll also want to PR for Posada, probably in that same game because we didn’t score earlier because Molina bounced into a DP in an important spot (ed: I may have added that snark. sue me.)

          That’s why. So they can start Molina and still pinch-run for the catcher later in the game.

        • pete says:

          also guzman is crazy fast but doesn’t get the greatest jumps by the look of it. i wouldn’t be surprised if the yanks consider pena a better basestealing option

  7. Axl says:

    In this comment, Axl asked for reinstatement and it was granted. The comment he left was obviously off-topic, so I edited it. This is his last chance, so please don’t bait him.

  8. Mac says:

    Everyone favors the Yanks here for obvious reasons. And that always scares the crap out of me. For some reason the hot Twins, with their pitcher that the Yanks have never started against have me worried.

    Someone please tell me to not be worried.

  9. Zack says:

    I’m going to love how Jeter’s UZR is better than Cabrera- yet all we’ll hear all series is how Cabrera is such a defensive genius

  10. Mario Speedwagon says:

    While Mauer is better than Jorge overall in a large sample-size…both are capable of being as good as one another in any given game. Which is something you can’t exactly say with other catchers (i.e. Molina).

  11. [...] Confidence Poll « The big, position-by-position Yankees-Twins breakdown Oct [...]

  12. Mario Speedwagon says:

    The only thing stopping this team (besides absolutely nothing) is perhaps some psychological aspect. Arod and CC just need to block out the “negative expectations” and just play the way they’ve played. Both of which could have actual reasons behind them though – CC pitching 260 regular season innings and several on 3 days rest carrying teams on his shoulder into the post season…and Arod having a lot of pressure to drive in the majority of the runs. Neither seems to be a factor this year.

    Arod seems as loose as ever. It’s like he’s a different person out there. No bad stories, no stupid statements, nothing. He just goes out and plays baseball and you don’t hear much from him or about him. I like it a lot.

    The team should steamroll through everybody.

  13. Whitey14 says:

    Can’t really foresee any problems for the Yankees in the first round. Twins are coming off a three week high, but let’s be honest, they probably peaked last night. The Yanks simply have too much firepower for them to overcome. Here’s hoping Boston still has LA’s post season number so I can burn the rest of my Vacation time on a Red Sox/Yankees ALCS.

  14. yanksfan23 says:

    Hey I’m sick and tired of LoHud blog since Pete banned me from commenting out of his insecurity of everyone turning on him after he supported Selena Roberts.

    I have an interesting question for you guys. I’m in an office in NY and you can hear the violent winds constantly. I checked the weather and there’s a wind advisory all throughout tonight. How will that affect tonight’s game? Does anyone know if we can forecast whether the wind will be blowing in or out? If the wind is as strong as it is now I think it can factor into the game, fly balls will become homeruns. Is Brian Duensing a flyball pitcher?

  15. My momma makes the best feet balls says:

    Here’s my playoff prediction — I’m going to hate Bon Jovi even more than I do now and will wind up watching the games with the sound off. Also, the yanks will win but Carl Pavano will shut them down.

  16. [...] team that just spent 12 innings fighting for their season last night. We’ve already posted a long series preview earlier today, as well as a look back at what happened between these two teams this season, so [...]

  17. [...] composing the ALDS preview, two things stood out. FIrst, that Joe Mauer got to 600 plate appearances despite missing almost a [...]

  18. [...] be coming into town Wednesday evening. It was a favorable matchup for the Yankees both in terms of how each team’s roster stacked up, as well as in previous meetings this [...]

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.