Aug
18

Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

By

(Photo Credit: Flickr user steffofsd via Creative Commons license)

As a Yankees fan, is there anything you’d rather see more than a four-game series against the Twins? I suppose it would be better if they were in the Bronx, but that’s just nitpicking at this point. The Yankees have won two of the three games they played against the Twinkies this season, and the one loss was that Rafael Soriano, four-run eighth inning gem way back in April. You remember, this game. Anyway, the Yankees are 59-19 against the Twins in the Ron Gardenhire era (including playoffs), and they’re 7-1 in new Target Field.

What Have The Twins Done Lately?

Minnesota just took two of three from the Tigers, but before that they had lost eight of nine and 11 of 13. Their 54-68 record is the third worst in the AL, besting only the Orioles (47-74) and Royals (51-73), but their -113 run differential is second worst to the O’s (-138). It’s been a pretty rough year for the Twins, who usually do a fine job of fielding competitive teams.

Twins On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

The Yankees are likely to welcome Alex Rodriguez back to the lineup at some point in this series, and the Twins have been getting some important pieces back as well. Justin Morneau returned from his latest round of concussion problems five games ago, and is hitting just .226/.281/.338 in 253 sporadic plate appearances this year. Jason Kubel (.294/.344/.460) missed nearly two months with a foot sprain before returning earlier this month. Rhett Bollinger reports that Kubel will be out for at least tonight’s game due to family reasons, however.

Bollinger also reports that either Michael Cuddyer (.295/.360/.485) or Denard Span (.263/.331/.342) will be placed on the DL before tonight’s game. The former has a neck strain that has kept him on the shelf for the past six games, the latter concussion-like symptoms. Losing Cuddyer would be a huge blow since he’s been their best hitter all season long; he leads the team in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, ISO, wOBA, wRC+, HR, RBI, R … basically every significant offensive category whether you’re a stathead or a traditionalist (min. 250 PA).

Despite all those injury problems, the Twins still have Joe Mauer, who has hit .325/.395/.390 over his last 36 games to bring his season line to .281/.346/.340. It has not been a banner year for Mr. Mauer, who missed time with injury as well. Jim Thome is still mashing taters, with a .259/.365/.513 batting line in limited playing time. With Kubel and possibly Cuddyer out tonight, there’s a chance he’ll play even against the lefty CC Sabathia. Danny Valencia (.244/.288/.381) crashed back to Earth after last year’s stellar rookie campaign, and the rest of the lineup is filled out by guys like Ben Revere (.253/.301/.298), Trevor Plouffe (.206/.289/.373), Rene Tosoni (.215/.279/.342), and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.214/.256/.240). Luke Hughes (.233/.296/.317) will be called up to take Cuddyer’s/Span’s spot, and the backup catcher is Drew Butera (.167/.208/.256. Yeah, they’re offensively challenged up in Minnesota.

Twins On The Mound

Thursday, LHP Brian Duensing (vs. CC Sabathia): A rematch of Game One of the 2009 ALDS, the Yankees typically hit Duensing very hard whether it’s the playoffs or regular season. His FIP (4.00) looks a lot better than his ERA (4.53), and his strikeout rate (6.54 K/9) is surprisingly good this year. Duensing will give up some homeruns though (1.04 HR/9), in part because he’s just not much of a ground baller (42.8%). The 28-year-old southpaw lives off his low-90′s two-seamer, throwing it just about half the time. He’ll also mix in a straight, low-90′s four-seamer, a low-80′s changeup, a low-80′s slider, and a low-70′s curveball. Duensing has a huge platoon split both this year and for his career, so it’s a good night to stack the lineup with righties.

Friday, RHP Kevin Slowey (vs. Phil Hughes): Slowey will be making his first start of the season after being banished to the minors in part because the team doesn’t seem like him all that much. He made six relief appearances earlier this year, got hurt, came back and was immediately sent to Triple-A where he’s started for the last two months or so. Slowey’s calling card has always been his control. His career unintentional walk rate is just 1.44 uIBB/9, and he misses enough bats to post respectable strikeout numbers (career 6.79 K/9). He’s a huge fly ball guy though (just 32% grounders for his career), so he’s definitely prone to the homerun (career 1.41 HR/9). Slowey will throw a low-90′s two-seamer, a high-80′s slider, a mid-70′s curveball, and the occasional low-80′s changeup.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Saturday, LHP Francisco Liriano (vs. A.J. Burnett/Freddy Garcia): Liriano could have won the Cy Young Award last year, but his numbers are down across the board this season, whether you want to look at ERA (5.12), FIP (4.63), xFIP (4.45), tERA (4.47), SIERA (4.39), K/9 (7.39), BB/9 (4.90), HR/9 (1.02), ground ball rate (47.9%), whatever your heart desires. He’s throwing more low-90′s four-seamers (33.2%) than last year (just 6.6%), and has scaled back the usage on his low-90′s two-seamer (18.1% after 42.7%). Liriano still has that big wipeout slider, and he’ll also throw a power changeup. It’s a roll of the dice every time out these days, he could be dominant or a disaster.

Sunday, RHP Nick Blackburn (vs. Burnett/Garcia/Ivan Nova): Blackburn is the quintessential Twins pitcher. He doesn’t strike anyone out (4.65 K/9), keeps the walks in check (2.76 uIBB/9), and gets a ton of ground balls (53.2%). They like him so much, they threw $14M at him last year by way of a four-year contract. Crazy. Blackburn doesn’t miss bats with his high-80′s sinker or his high-80′s cutter or his low-80′s curveball or his mid-80′s changeup. Pitching to contact works great in theory, but not so much when you’re facing a powerhouse offense like the Yankees (especially with men on base).

The Yankees’ rotation is a little up in the air for Saturday and Sunday. It all depends on Garcia’s finger, if it’s healed and allows him to throw his splitter, then he’s likely to start Sunday with Burnett going the day before. If not, then Freddy might hit the DL with Nova filling in. No one will be on short rest regardless of what happens, so don’t worry about that.

Bullpen: It took more than half-a-season, but Matt Capps (4.78 FIP) finally lost the closer’s job. Joe Nathan (4.70 FIP but much better of late) gets his old gig back, and his primary setup man is left-hander Glen Perkins, who’s been one of the very best relievers in baseball this year (9.92 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 0.18 HR/9, 50.9% GB, 2.39 ERA, 2.11 FIP, 2.81 xFIP). The only other non-Perkins reliever in Minnesota’s bullpen that has been above replacement level this year is Anthony Swarzak, who’s pitching to a 4.00 FIP in 29.1 IP. The rest of the crew is filled with guys like Jose Mijares (4.80 FIP), Alex Burnett (4.52), and Phil Dumatrait (5.80). Yeah.

Recommended Twins Reading: Twinkie Town, Aaron Gleeman, and Nick’s Twins Blog

Categories : Series Preview

57 Comments»

  1. HulkHeyman says:

    We’re technically playing their triple A team

  2. Yank The Frank says:

    We should be able to take 3 out of 4 if the umps don’t screw us.

  3. Xstar7 says:

    When was the last time the Yankees lost a series against the Twins? 2008?

  4. Monteroisdinero says:

    So we don’t let Mauer beat us and we win 3/4 but ycpb. Scott Proctor mentioned on the old game thread from April! Also-that Swish muff in RF was painful in that game. To his credit, his sliding in the OF to stop and cut off hard hit balls has improved.

  5. theyankeewarrior says:

    It’s great that CC is on the bump tonight, but he needs to get pushed back somehow so that he faces Boston.

    As of right now, he is guaranteed to miss that series.

    • Bartolo's Colon says:

      I know cc is by far the yanks best pitcher, but given his struggles against boston this year, it might not be the end of the world if he misses them. that being said, i hope he still pitches in that series, he is outrageously due for a good game against them

      • Jerome S. says:

        I don’t see why people continue to cite his stats against Boston this year. It’s the definition of a small sample size.
        It’s also kind of an arbitrary endpoint, considering Sabathia’s been pretty good against them for his career.

        • MattG says:

          I would not call four starts against the same hitters the “definition of a small sample size.” Two starts against the same hitters, sure. Four arbitrary starts against all different hitters, sure. Call it not especially trustworthy, as it is not a lot of data, sure. But to completely right off four consecutive interchangeable starts against the same group of players as irrelevant? No, its relevant, if only to seriously suggest he might want to vary his game plan.

          • CP says:

            It’s 3 starts, not four. In his first start he went 5.2 innings and gave up just 1 run.

            • Freddy Garcia's 86 mph Heat says:

              And he pitched 6 shutout innings in that one start before imploding in the 7th.

              • CP says:

                That’s a good point. He’s allowed 20 runs against the Red Sox this year, and 16 of them have come in just 3 innings:

                7th inning on May 14 he allowed 4 runs
                7th inning on June 9 he allowed 7 runs
                4th inning on Aug 6 he allowed 5 runs

              • MattG says:

                OK, but, I still don’t think dismissing his performance against Boston as small sample is appropriate, right? There is enough data here that it should be investigated, so see if he might do something different the next time, right?

                I mean, maybe when you are done investigating, you come to the conclusion that, yeah, he’s just been unlucky against these guys, no need to change a thing. But the results being what they are should not just be dismissed as SSS…I guess that’s my point.

        • theyankeewarrior says:

          Exactly. If I could pick one pitcher in the entire AL to face to Sox, I would choose CC.

          Power, lefty arm with quality breaking pitches to face their lefty-heavy lineup.

          Forget this last three starts.

        • Tom says:

          They take that view because, probably, they are indifferent to the statistical world-view and are trusting–again, perhaps–to their hunch that something ain’t working right now in the CC/Boston relationship. I.e., maybe they view themselves as antennae of the fan base.

    • As of right now, [CC] is guaranteed to miss that [Boston] series.

      (thinks)

      I don’t give a shit.

      • theyankeewarrior says:

        (thinks)

        I do.

        Keeping players rested (aka pushing pitchers back as much as possible) should be a top priority right now.

        That makes pushing CC back to that series a win-win.

        • But you didn’t say CC should be pushed back so that he gets extra rest, you said, and I quote,

          he needs to get pushed back somehow so that he faces Boston. As of right now, he is guaranteed to miss that series.

          Clearly, your emphasis is on the importance of CC pitching against Boston, not CC getting more rest.

          Not buying it.

          • theyankeewarrior says:

            You’re right. I did put an emphasis on him getting pushed back in order to face Boston. But the logic still applies. I would never move him up to face them, but moving him back just makes too much sense. It’s ideal for our ace to face the one team that we are actively competing for a division title.

            I understand that the difference between CC pitching and not pitching in one regular season game vs. Boston is pretty insignificant, but pushing him back in order to have a better chance at beating them seems like a win-win.

            So I would have made it a two-part comment from the beginning.

  6. Kilgore Trout says:

    Let’s take 3/4 and maintain or extend our lead over the Sox. Sox are playing KC so I expect them to take 3/4 as well. Make up some ground while we’re playing Oakland and they’re at Texas. That’ll give us a litle cushion going into our series at the end of the month. Win that series and we’re in good shape to take the division.

  7. Drew says:

    I hope some drunk Yankee fan bothers Kim Jones during her pointless 3rd inning interview again.

  8. JT says:

    14 million over 4 years for any baseball player isn’t that big of a deal, especially when it’s buying out free agent years.

  9. Sarah says:

    I was thinking that Gardy might sit tonight, let Jones do the LF thing to get the right bat, but then I thought “who would DH if Jones plays LF?” So maybe if ARod is back tomorrow, then Gardy gets the night off?

  10. Will says:

    Anything but 3 out of 4 or a sweep is unacceptable. The Twins are at the cellar of the AL. These are the games we have to win. In an ideal world we sweep the Twins and pray the Red Sox lose at least 2 to the Royals.

    • MattG says:

      Except this is baseball, and sometimes you lose games because you are flat out unlucky.

    • jsbrendog says:

      unacceptable? so you’ll stop being a yankee fan if it doesnt happen?

    • Frank says:

      replace “unacceptable” with “disappointing.”

      But you are correct, Yanks should win 3 of 4.

    • Kilgore Trout says:

      I agree. Good ballclubs take 3/4 from these cellar dwellars. It’s how they accumulate so many wins. We have the vastly superior club. Burnett is going to pitch one of the games and that will likely be our one loss but our lineup should be able to pound bad pitching. Pound bad pitching. Couldn’t pound Bruce Chen for the life of us. Pound bad pitching.

    • In an ideal world we sweep the Twins and pray the Red Sox lose at least 2 to the Royals.

      In an ideal world, people stop giving such a massive shit about the Red Sox all the damn time.

      Things that matter: whether or not we make the playoffs, whether or not we win the World Series

      Things that don’t matter: against whom and how well the Red Sox play in August

  11. Anyway, the Yankees are 59-19 against the Twins in the Ron Gardenhire era (including playoffs), and they’re 7-1 in new Target Field.

    That’s child abuse.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      So we should expect Brett Pedroia at the game as well.

    • Jim S says:

      For all the whining about how much better LAA plays against NY than Boston, I’d love to see(and will attempt to find) how much better Minnesota’s played against Boston than us. 19-59 for anyone, against any team, is ridiculous.

      • Jim S says:

        Meh, 23-27 vs Boston since 2004. Didn’t feel like checking too much further back than that, couldn’t find an easy way to do it besides manual schedule checking.

        Still.

      • For all the whining about how much better LAA plays against NY than Boston, I’d love to see(and will attempt to find) how much better Minnesota’s played against Boston than us. 19-59 for anyone, against any team, is ridiculous. have people stop whining about how much better LAA plays against NY than Boston.

        Fixed.

        • The Fallen Phoenix says:

          It’s almost as if the Yankees don’t have more postseason and world series wins than the Red Sox since 2008.

  12. JohnC says:

    Kim Jones returns to the place where she got “porked”

  13. amr5026 says:

    Stupid question time!!! What’s uIBB/9? I tried googling it but apparently I suck at the internets. Is it unintentional walks per nine?

  14. boogie down says:

    Poorly-played, Mauer.

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.