Oct
04

Don’t overlook these under-the-radar Twins

By

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Like every other team in the postseason, the Twins are only going to go as far as their best players take them. Francisco Liriano needs to match the opposing team’s ace pitch-for-pitch, Joe Mauer needs to take advantage of whatever opportunities he’s given, and Jim Thome has to be that second offensive force. It’s imperative that those three do their part, but like everyone else the Twins are also going to need contributions from other players as well.

The Yankees certainly benefited from some unexpected contributions during last season’s title run, whether it be Damaso Marte‘s shutdown relief work or Jerry Hairston spot starting in rightfield, so we know how important complimentary players can be. Here’s a few names that they shouldn’t overlook when preparing for the ALDS, because if they do, chances are they’ll regret it…

Delmon Young

The Twins’ lineup certainly features plenty of dangerous lefty bats, but the Yanks are going to be able to counter that somewhat with CC Sabathia in Game One and (more than likely) Andy Pettitte in Game Two. Minnesota hasn’t had too many righthanded power bats beyond the good, but not holy crap good Michael Cuddyer to help balance out their lineup over the years, but now they have that extra power righty in Young.

A former first overall pick who didn’t turn 25 until just three weeks ago, Young finally started to deliver on his immense promise this season, hitting .298/.333/.493 with career bests in wOBA (.352), homers (21), doubles (46), and strikeout rate (14.2%). He’s done a huge chunk of his damage against lefthanded pitchers, posting a .390 wOBA against them in 2010 and .352 for his career. Young will still expand the zone and have poor at-bats on occasion, but he’s growing into some more power and mistake pitches are leaving the yard more often than ever before. Sabathia and Pettitte are going to have to make sure they’re careful with Minnesota’s best righthanded threat.

Brian Fuentes

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

I’m sure at least some of you snickered when you read Fuentes’ name, because we all remember him being pretty shaky in the closer’s role over the last two seasons or so. Well, Fuentes isn’t a closer now, instead shifted to a role that’s much more suited to his skill set: lefty specialist. Fuentes crushed lefthanded batters this season, holding them to a .128/.222/.149 batting line and just a single extra base hit. Over the last three years, his dinosaur arm delivery limited lefties to a .196/.258/.234 line, and he’s surrendered just two (!!!) extra base hits to same-side batters since 2007 and one homerun since 2006.

Laugh at him for his failures as a closer or for Alex Rodriguez‘s game-tying blast in last year’s ALCS, but the guy is shutdown lefthander that will create some matchup havoc late in games. Marcus Thames, and even … gulp … Austin Kearns are going to have to pull their weight against Fuentes this series.

Danny Valencia & J.J. Hardy

Young isn’t the only righthanded bat worth worrying about, the Twins new left side of the infield improved their team immensely in that area as well. Hardy, acquired from the Brewers in the offseason, brings what amounts to a league average bat from the shortstop position, an upgrade over what Orlando Cabrera gave them last season. The defensive improvement is considerable as well.

Valencia, the second half rookie sensation, looks like Alex Rodriguez compared to the dreck Minnesota has run out at the hot corner over the last few seasons. He brings a .351 wOBA from the right side, and like Young he murders lefthanded pitching (.424 wOBA this year). Compare that to Brendan Harris, who (mostly) started at third last year and was lucky to get his slugging percentage over .351, forget wOBA. Automatic outs like Harris, Nick Punto, and Carlos Gomez are nowhere to be found this year, so Yankee pitchers are going to have to be much more careful once they get past the heart of the order.

Categories : Playoffs
  • Joe P

    The Alex game tying blast was in last year’s ALCS, not ALDS as it says here.

    • CBean

      I think you mean the opposite. It was in the ALDS. Mike has it as ALCS.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Nah, I had it wrong in the post them corrected it once I saw the original comment.

        • CBean

          Yeah, I just remembered which awesome Alex moment you meant. :) I was on a flight during this so I don’t remember it as well as the ALDS moment.

    • Poopy Pants

      Please send them personal emails with corrections!

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

    No Pavano mention?

    He’s improved from a 5.10/4.00/3.96 E/F/x last year to a 3.75/4.02/4.01 this year. He’s averaging a solid 6.90 IP/S as well.

    • Joe P

      Good point. I’m going to cry if Pavano beats us in the playoffs.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      We’re going to cover the pitchers, don’t worry.

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

        Gotcha, copy.

        And for the record, I don’t worry. I root for the Yankees, I leave the worrying to the fans of inferior teams.

        • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

          And for the record, I don’t worry. I root for the Yankees, I leave the worrying to the fans of inferior teams.

          Line of the decade. Everyone should read this and take note.

    • nsalem

      and he’s playing for a new contract.

  • larryf

    They outhit us in 2 of the 3 games last year and got a big unlucky call on a fair ball double. I don’t think we will sweep this time but I hope we do!

    No way Kearns should pinch hit for anyone in our starting lineup. Girardi will put him up to pinch hit for Curtis of course.

    Sigh

  • Jerome S

    there’s small speculation that Morneau could be back for the ALCS – that is, if the Twins live to see the day.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

      Nope, there was, but they just announced he’s shut down for the entire rest of the season. All three games that are left for the Twins, anyway. ;) (joke blatantly stolen from Ben on Twitter. And no I am not writing off the Twins, it’s a joke.)

      • Jerome S

        Damn, I feel so sorry for him.

    • Yank the Frank

      It’s been announced that he is out for the entire post season.

  • Yank the Frank

    We tend to beat the Twins like a drum in the post season. But the law of averages tends to sneak up on you and take a bite. You just can’t explain baseball Suzyn. I don’t know why, but lately my glass always seems to be half empty. I’ll feel alot better when we get by the Twins.

    • Poopy Pants

      Twins will also be much improved from last season IF the umps simply don’t screw things up too badly.

    • http://www.paychex.com chris c.

      “We tend to beat the Twins like a drum in the post season. But the law of averages tends to sneak up on you and take a bite.”

      See Red Sox, Boston.

      “I don’t know why, but lately my glass always seems to be half empty.”

      I bet I know why……..you’ve been watching Yankee games lately.
      Now go watch Derek Jeter’s Yankeeography, and you’ll soon feel better.

      • RL

        Now go watch Derek Jeter’s Yankeeography

        I think I just saw that while I was in Japan. Of course, it was in Japanese, so I couldn’t understand it, but what I saw was pretty neat. Also got to see a replay of the Sunday Yankees/O’s game. It was certainly better listening to the broadcast in Japanese than listening to some of the US broadcasters. :-)

  • https://twitter.com/Carcillo_ Carcillo

    Automatic outs like Harris, Nick Punto, and Carlos Gomez are nowhere to be found this year,

    Minor nitpick, but Nick Punto was far from an automatic out when the Yankees played the Twins last year. Pretty sure he was on-base more than half the time in the playoff series, and would’ve had the game winning hit in Game 2 if not for ARod.

    Hell, Harris, Punto, and Gomez all nearly played huge roles in the Twins winning Game 2 of that series.

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

      Punto in the 2009 ALDS:

      .444/.583/.556

      http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com

      • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

        Jeff Mathis in the 2009 ALCS:

        .583/.583/1.000

        http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com

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

          Punto and Mathis in the 2009 World Series:

          .000/.000/.000, 0 games played

          http://www.mystiqueandaura.com

          • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

            That isn’t .000/.000/.000, it’s —/—/—

            /nitpick’d

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

              I liked the poetic roundness of the .000. But yes, you’re correct.

      • https://twitter.com/Carcillo_ Carcillo

        BUT, his fuck up in the 8th inning of Game 3 saved the Yankees bacon from possibly losing that one, so I guess it all evens out.

        • Not Tank the Frank

          Epic baserunning fail by Punto. In fact, I’m starting to remember just how poor “fundamental baseball” the Twins and Angels played last year. The Yankees were far and away the best team but they sure did get their share of breaks. Reminds me just how much luck does play a factor in the postseason. The Yankees could use a bit more of it.

          • https://twitter.com/Carcillo_ Carcillo

            I thought the Angels were the most fundamentally sound team in baseball history.

  • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

    Danny Valencia went to the U.

    /obligatory Miami reference’d

    • Hughesus Christo

      Da U*

    • nsalem

      apples and oranges

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

        (confused)

        • nsalem

          Comparing Brendan Harris to Danny Valencia.
          (sweet oranges are grown in Valencia)
          bad fruit humor.

          • Not Tank the Frank

            Wow.

          • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

            idgi.

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

            Oh. Okay.

            (backs away slowly)

  • Ivan

    Well on thing is for certain who I definitely won’t miss since the last time the Yanks and Twins met in the postseason:

    http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.....-Caray.jpg

    • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

      FISTED!

  • Avi

    Brian Duensing
    125.2 Innings
    115 Hits
    31 Walks
    75 K’s
    2.44 ERA
    This guy’s pretty good!

    • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

      5.4 K/9 is not very good, and he spent the first half of the year as a reliever, and he has gone seven innings just once since the middle of August.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Especially when he has a sore shoulder too.

        http://www.startribune.com/spo.....1&c=y

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

          It’s no use, Mike. Avi and his ilk will find something to obsessively fret over no matter how much you talk them off the ledge.

          • Avi

            What did I say that indicates that I’m fretting?

            • Avi

              Minnesota was the team I wanted. I was actually rooting for the yanks to LOOSE this weekend so we’d get them.
              Anyone can loose a five game series to ANY team. But I feel good going into this series.

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

              (thinks)

              About 85-90% of the comments you’ve ever made on here.

            • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

              Your handle

  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

    People seem to be overlooking Thome just a tad. Obviously Mauer is the big name in the lineup but Thome has destroyed RHP to the tune of a .302/.455/.698 line. The old man still has some pop in that bat.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

      I assume Thome will be covered later, in a bigger preview. Don’t think too many people overlook him, also HOLY SHIT THAT SLASH LINE MY GOD.

      • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

        Jim Thome is ridiculous vs righties. Therefore the only righties he should be allowed to face are as follows:

        Mariano Rivera
        Whoever starts game 3
        Kerry Wood (if Booney has been used already)
        David Robertson (if Booney has been used already)
        The Experience (if and only if the Yankees are up or down 5+ runs.)

    • FIPster Doofus

      True that Thome can still rake, but his line against lefties during the season was .241/.298/.471, and the Yankees will probably start a lefty in four of the five games (if necessary). Thus, he doesn’t really worry me as of now.

      • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

        Plus Boone Logan and Mariano Rivera.

        • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

          Has Mariano learned to throw the cutter with his left arm so he can pitch another 15 years?

          (p.s. I get what you’re saying)

          • Pete

            Mo’s epic against lefties, I think that’s what TZ meant

            • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

              Yeah I know, that’s why I said that I get what he’s saying.

              Mo’s epic against everyone though.

              • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

                Thome is probably the last guy I want to face Mariano with a chance to tie the game, though.

            • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

              That is what I meant, but Kiersten got the point, she was just screwing around.

    • vin

      Which is why the only righties he will probably face are among the Yankees’ best pitchers – Hughes, Mo and Wood.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      .241 AVG/.298 OBP/.471 SLG/.769 OPS vs Lefties

      Jim Thome’s #s vs lefties are very similar to Ryan Howard’s career #s vs lefties and not far off his own career #s vs lefties.

      • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

        A .471 slugging % against lefties is actually pretty good. He’s not great by any means, but he’s not completely neutralized by a LHP either.

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

          The other two parts of his vital line are pretty craptastic, though.

          Against lefties, he doesn’t hit well and can’t get on base, but on the few times he does hit the ball, he hits it hard.

          It’s better than nothing, but not by much.

        • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

          His slugging % is so high because 6 of his 21 hits off lefties have been HRs.

    • Ivan

      Expect to see a lot Boone Logan.

    • Ivan

      Is it me, or is it kind of hard to believe that Thome is 40 Years old?

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

        THAT’S RACIST!!!!

        • Ivan

          /Rick Sanchez’d

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

            (golf clap)

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      Yup, dude is Country Strong!

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

        /BrittFarr’d

    • Not Tank the Frank

      Mauer has struggled against LHP this season to a surprising .711 (!!) OPS compared to .910 OPS last season. I think it’s an abberation but we’ll get the chance to see.

  • Not Tank the Frank

    Overlook the Twins? It seems to me from the stuff I’ve been reading that they’re the favorites in this series. At least that’s what the polls say over at ESPN…which shocks me personally.

    • larryf

      This is good. I like the world champs to be underdogs to the DOMINANT Twins. We might sneak up and surprise them.

    • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

      Things you read at ESPN still shock you?

      • Not Tank the Frank

        No I know. I was being sarcastic. I’ve been a rabid hater of all things ESPN for a long time. I’m on the “ESPN has an anti Yankees bias” bandwagon.

        • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

          Ah, sarcasm is tough to detect on the interwebs.

    • vin

      One thing I’ve learned in my life is that ESPN polls mean absolutely nothing. The fan polls are far too biased to mean anything other than who has the most fans/haters. And the “expert” polls are irrelevant just because these guys would rather go on BBTN and say any team will beat the juggernaut. No one likes to pick Goliath (except fans of Goliath).

      If you pick the better team and they win, then you get no credit. But if you pick the underdog and they win, then you’re a genius. It’s a worthwhile gamble for those publicity hounds.

    • nsalem

      Plus they (and their stadium) got the SI cover.

      • Not Tank the Frank

        Well then they’ll all die of plague and we won’t have to worry. :-)

  • Pete

    Delmon Young’s always been a bit of an enigma to me. People have always said he’s got “all the talent in the world”, but I could never see it. He’s got great contact ability, and he’s big and strong, but he’s always had more of a line-drive swing than a true HR swing, he’s never shown an inkling of patience before this year, and even this year’s improvement bought him a .035 IsoD, and his defense has slightly-above-average-corner-OF potential at best.

    I always figured that if everything panned out for him he could be at best a 20+ homer, 40+ doubles guy with a .310/.350/.550 line and adequate RF defense (slightly below avg. range, great arm). That’s excellent, sure, but a .900 OPS corner OF with average defense and no basestealing advantages doesn’t really seem worthy of the superhero status he had as a prospect. I certainly never thought he could be a 40 HR guy and/or a .400 OBP guy, he never had the defensive ability to be a CFer, and there were always big holes in his game on both sides of the ball that he is just now starting to close, and only barely. Was I missing something? What were people so insanely psyched about when he was a prospect?

    • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

      He threw a bat at an umpire once when he was in the minors. If that doesn’t show his intensity, I don’t know what does (or does intensity, or grit, only matter for white guys).

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

        It’s only intensity if he’s white. Since he’s black, throwing a bat is a clear sign of a mental imbalance and a disrespect for the game.

        • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

          That’s a lesser crime than murdering baseball history though.

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

            Oh, don’t state the obvious.

        • nsalem

          unless your chasing someone on the Cross Island Parkway

        • Ivan

          He’s a gang banger…

        • Avi

          Throwing at bat at an umpire doesn’t show grit, just an uncontrollable temper.

      • nsalem

        did he hit or miss the umpire?

        • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

          Pretty sure it hit him

        • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack
          • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

            Love it that Darnell McDonald and BJ Upton were on base at the time.

          • Avi

            Wow that’s crazy! Never saw that video.

    • Esteban

      a .310/.350/.550 line. Only 14 players had an OPS over .900 or better this year. That’s certainly deserving of top prospect status.

      • Pete

        Yeah, I realized as I was writing that a .550 SLG was pretty monstrous. Still, I thought of that as his peak possible performance. I feel like in his prime he’ll average a line more like .290/.330/.500. Still good, no doubt, but he’s not the .300/.400/.600 Gold Glover people made him out to be

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

      Well, not only was he the first overall in the draft after demolishing prep ball, in his first two minor league stints he hit a Heyzeusian .320/.386/.536 at Hi-A at 18 and .336/.386/.582 at AA at 19.

      There’s that.

      • Pete

        ah. I guess I just put too much thought in his likely pedestrian defensive and HR outputs, along with his lack of patience. He just never struck me as a Heyward-type dynamic player.

  • Poopy Pants

    So we shouldn’t overlook the Twins, but anyone who doesn’t overlook the Twins is rabidly attacked? The internet is a cesspool.

    • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

      There’s a difference between not overlooking a team and saying OMGZ WE SUCK AND HAVE NO CHANGE!

      • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

        chance*

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

      Oh, if only every site was as clever and pithy as NoMaas!

      If only!

      • Not Tank the Frank

        IETC

      • Esteban

        tommie, now there’s REALLY gonna be some mocking comments about you at NoMaas tonight. Watch out!

    • Esteban

      What are you talking about? The title of the article also means to say don’t overlook these four players.

  • Avi

    Danny Valencia: ZERO homers in 185 Triple A at-bats this year.
    His offensive outburst is Bautistaesque

    • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

      STEROIDS!!!!!!11!

      • Avi

        Yep. I mean look at his career minor league stats. This production has come out of nowhere!

  • alex bob

    Morneau ruled out for the post season…woohoo!

    • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

      Shrug–he had already been ruled out for the ALDS. Plus, concussions really suck. Get better so we can kick the crap out of a fully healthy Twins team next year.

    • http://www.paychex.com chris c.

      Oh, good LORD!

      The Twins have around a 5 hunderd dollar payroll, and your thrilled that their top hitter can’t see straight?

      • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

        Please, they’re not a small market team any more. I don’t think anyone’s happy he has a concussion, just that he won’t be playing.

        (If people are happy he has a concussion that’s kinda messed up.)

      • http://www.twitter.com/jordan_smed JGS

        Fun fact: This year, Minnesota’s payroll was $97M, and after this season Mauer’s salary jumps from 12.5M to 23M.

        The Twins: not small market

      • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

        People don’t want to face Morneau the baseball player, we all wish Morneau the person the best of health.

        The small market twins have a 97m payroll this year

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

        Ooh, which response to choose from?

        I could go with:

        the point
        ———–

        your head

        or

        Chris C: 1
        Strawman: 0

        or

        The Twins have around a 5 hunderd dollar 97M payroll, one of the 8 highest in the bigs

        Fixed.

        or

        http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/your.html

        or

        So many options… so many options…

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          I’m a fan of the strawman myself.

        • Not Tank the Frank

          A virtual “taster’s choice” of classic TSJC responses.

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

            And it’s not even Two-fer Tuesday yet.

    • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

      “Woohoo”ing a concussion – classy.

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

        Was he “woohooing” the concussion, or the resultant fact that the Twins are weaker?

        There’s a subtle difference.

        • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

          Meh, am I happy that Morneau is out? Yes. But I’d rather he be playing and not have a concussion. If he had a broken wrist or something, I’d be all for it.

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

            I find it interesting (not wrong, per se, just interesting) that you’d feel somehow less guilty if a wrist injury kept him from playing rather than a brain injury keeping him from playing.

            • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

              From a human nature standpoint I’d much rather see Morneau out with a broken wrist as well. Those heal. His brain might not. I’d rather him not be out at all and just have the Yankees crush the Twins at full strength though.

            • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

              Just that I’ve read some scary things about concussions. Brain injuries are much more serious than bone/muscle injuries. I realize this comment was somewhat hypocritical because I have been happy when a player has gotten hurt, but IMO, a concussion is a whole different ballgame.

              • alex bob

                i dont recall saying anything about being happy that morneau has a concussion, im just happy that the yankees won’t have to face one of the best hitters in the AL which every yankee fan should be happy about.

  • Hall and Nokes

    My question is should the Yankees consider starting Swisher on the mound in games 2 and/or 3? Because Hughes and Pettitte may well be the two worst pitchers in postseason history.