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

124 Comments»

  1. Joe P says:

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

  2. 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.

  3. larryf says:

    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

  4. Jerome S says:

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

  5. Yank the Frank says:

    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 says:

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

    • chris c. says:

      “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 says:

        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. :-)

  6. Carcillo says:

    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.

  7. Kiersten says:

    Danny Valencia went to the U.

    /obligatory Miami reference’d

  8. Ivan says:

    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

  9. Avi says:

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

  10. 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.

  11. Not Tank the Frank says:

    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 says:

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

    • Kiersten says:

      Things you read at ESPN still shock you?

    • vin says:

      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 says:

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

  12. Pete says:

    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?

  13. Poopy Pants says:

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

  14. Avi says:

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

  15. alex bob says:

    Morneau ruled out for the post season…woohoo!

  16. Hall and Nokes says:

    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.

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