9/24-9/26 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

Gardner will take live batting practice today
Yanks need more out of Cano down the stretch
(Tim Umphrey/Getty)

The fourth series of the Yankees’ season was a four-gamer against the Twins in Yankee Stadium, but the two clubs have not faced each other since. They split those four games and since the start of the Ron Gardenhire era in 2002, the Yankees are 65-19 (!) against Minnesota (including playoffs). Four of those 19 losses came against in-his-prime Johan Santana. The Bombers are 10-2 at the new Target Field as well, where these three games will be played.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Twins swept the Tigers in a doubleheader yesterday, which I can’t imagine went over well in Detroit. They had lost two straight prior to that, and have dropped nine of their last 17 games. Overall, the Twinkies are 64-89 with a -119 run differential. Only the Indians have a worse record in the league.

Offense

(Tim Umphrey/Getty)

Despite the pitcher friendliness of Target Field, Minnesota averages 4.4 runs per game with a team 99 wRC+. They’re a league average offense, and that’s pretty good. Their two best hitters this year have been Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham (both 142 wRC+), who go about it very differently. Mauer hits for a sky-high average (.323) and leads the league in OBP (.416) while Willingham has 35 homers and a .265 ISO. They shouldn’t be underestimated, they’re right behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder as the best three-four combo in the AL this year.

Setting the table for Mauer and Willingham is leadoff man Denard Span (107 wRC+) while Justin Morneau (114 wRC+) bats fifth behind them. Ryan Doumit (106 wRC+) and the powerful Trevor Plouffe (103 wRC+) add length behind the middle of the order. Ben Revere (95 wRC+) and Jamey Carroll (83 wRC+) play everyday, and the recently recalled Pedro Florimon (71 wRC+) is getting regular reps at shortstop. Darin Mastroianni (103 wRC+ in limited time) plays more than the typical fourth outfielder and brings a lot of speed to the table. The September call-ups include former Yankees farmhand (and former RAB Lifetime Achievement Award honoree) Matt Carson, infielders Eduardo Escobar, Alexi Casilla, and Chris Parmalee, and catchers Drew Butera and Chris Herrmann.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Liam Hendriks
Hendriks, 23, has been up-and-down all season and has pitched to a 5.88 ERA (5.38 FIP) in 72 innings. He’s a classic Twins pitcher in that he doesn’t walk anyone (2.88 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%) and doesn’t strike anyone out (5.38 K/9 and 13.2 K%), but he doesn’t get many ground balls either (41.7%). Hendriks is five-pitch pitcher, using two upper-80s/low-90s fastballs (two- and four-seamer) to set up an array of offspeed pitches: low-80s slider, low-80s changeup, low-70s curveball. Lot of separation between those pitches. The Yankees have never faced Hendriks, who has pitched decently against the Royals and Indians the last two times out.

(Jason Miller/Getty)

Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Esmerling Vazquez
A former reliever with the Diamondbacks turned starter for the Twins, the 28-year-old Vazquez has pitched to a 6.75 ERA (5.36 FIP) in four starts and 20 innings since being recalled. He’s walked 15 and struck out just eight in that time with a 31.8% ground ball rate. Vazquez is offspeed heavy, throwing his low-90s four-seamer and sinker just ~45% of the time. A low-80s changeup is his top offspeed pitch, and he’ll also mix in a mid-70s curveball. The Yankees scored five runs in zero innings (!) against Vazquez back when he was pitching out of the Arizona bullpen, but otherwise they haven’t seen him. They’ll also be the first above-average team he faces as a starter after four games against the dregs of the AL Central.

Wednesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Sam Deduno
Deduno, 29, has made 14 serviceable starts since being recalled from Triple-A at midseason (4.54 ERA and 5.54 FIP) in 77.1 innings. He gets a ton of ground balls (57.9%) and won’t miss a ton of bats (6.40 K/9 and 16.1 K%), typical Twins stuff, but he will walk himself into trouble (5.94 BB/9 and 15.0 BB%). Deduno sits right around 90 with two fastballs (four-seamer and cutter), and will throw his hard, low-80s curveball almost one-third of the time. A low-80s changeup is a distant third offering. He makes it three starters the Yankees have never faced before, for all intents and purposes.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters soaked up some innings as the two starters yesterday, so Gardenhire’s bullpen is in decent shape. Left-hander Glen Perkins (3.00 FIP) has assumed closer duties with Matt Capps on the DL, and he’s being setup by splangeup specialist Jared Burton (3.26 FIP). Both of those guys pitched an inning last night but otherwise had two days off beforehand.

Middle relief duties belong primarily to right-handers Casey Fien (2.18 FIP) and Alex Burnett (4.22 FIP), as well as left-handers Brian Duensing (3.86 FIP) and Tyler Robertson (3.86 FIP). Robertson is the specialist while Duensing is the multi-inning guy. Burnett was the only one of those four not to pitch in either of yesterday’s games. The lot of September call-ups is righties Luis Perdomo and Anthony Swarzak, that’s it. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details on the Yankees’ relievers, then check out Aaron Gleeman and Twinkie Town for the latest and greatest on the Twins.

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Gardner will take live batting practice today
Yanks need more out of Cano down the stretch
  • Robinson Tilapia

    Where have you gone, Minnesota Twins? I’ve never even heard of any of three guys starting. Yipes.

    • tomaconda

      They are a mess

      • Kosmo

        SP is terrible but they can still rake.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      No Cesar Tovar?

    • goterpsgo

      My thoughts exactly.

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    Yankee bats need to give starters a cushion, bullpen a break.

    I’ve always wanted the Yankees to have a less rigid lineup, so for me its been nice to see Swisher at 1B and some switching around.

    Would love for the Yankees to have their own version of Zobrist, playing everyday at different spots. Makes the season more interesting.

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

      Not even Ben Zobrist does that. That player doesn’t exist.

      • RetroRob

        …and the players who can multiple positions well, a Zobrist and a Tony Phillips, are few and far between, hence the mention of Phillips.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Bert Campaneris once played all nine positions in a single game!

          In the Commodore 64 days, on a once-great game called Pure Stat Baseball, I created a team called “All-Bert” in which the entire lineup and rotation consisted of Bert Campaneris off the ’75 Reds. They weren’t very good.

          Love me some Tony Phillips.

        • MannyGeee

          Chone Figgins…. you know, back when he didnt suck so bad…

          and also, Eduardo Scissorhands.

          • Kosmo

            Hector Lopez a former Yankee- OF,3B,SS,2B and if i remember correctly 1B

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Listed as 2B, 3B, and LF, according to Baseball Reference. .269 career hitter, .262 with the Yankees. Good, not outstanding, but better than I expected knowing that teams were still trotting out .215 hitting starting shortshops on a regular basis into the 80’s.

              Also gets points for still showing up at Old Timers Day almost every year.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                He was playing more than 100 games a season most years, and just about played every day early on. Don’t know if he was switching positions or not back then, but he was.

                I only mention this because Axisa’s original reference was that a guy who could play EVERY DAY at a different position doesn’t exist.

                Tony Phillips played just about every day for a pretty long time, I will say. I also, gun to my head, would have insisted he had a brief Yankee stint, and it turns out he didn’t.

            • Jose M. Vazquez

              Lopez was one of those guys who did well in KC. KC was said by many tongue in cheek to be a Yankee farm club. Hector played well and helped in the 61 WS. As you said, he could play anywhere but catch and pitch.

      • bpdelia

        WHAt???!!! Tony Phillips died? seriously though it doesnt happen much. i atill believe that in both basketball and baseball pistional flexibility is a market inefficiency. No one wants to “mess” wuth top prospects but it would be interesting to see teams take slightly below avg defendersvwith league avg bats and develop them multi-pisitionally early on. say if the yankees had taken corban Joseph from day one and played him two days at 3rd two at 2nd two at firstm then left then right and back to third. this is without a doubt a skill that could be acquired through reps. having one avg bat player able to fill that role allows a team to carry an extra all bat no glove or speed and defense pkayer on the roster,

        on that note taking a limited cieling avg bat type and teaching him catcher, of corner infield from 17 years old on would be a very interesting and potentionally hugely beneficial experiment. could bea way to wring value from a certain type of athlete that typicslly is a AAAA player. if brandon laird could catch as well as play the of? he is suddenly a useful major leaguer. seems a worthy experiment with low stakes since we are taljibg about doingbit with fringey prospects

        • Laz

          Usually it is middle infielders that can’t really hit that become super utility players. Remember players want to become ml regulars so they stick with one position trying to master it, nobody really dreams of being a super utility player.

      • Darren

        Velarde used to be a pretty good fill in at just about every position…

        • Kosmo

          the Twins Doumit can play C, 1B ,LF and RF. He may be only adequate at each position but he is a decent hitter.

  • jjyank

    The return of teh Plouffenator!!

  • RetroRob

    They’re a mess, but they’re still a MLB club, even if it’s not a good one that’s to that ugly starting pitching.

    They just took two from the Tigers yesterday, so hopefully that’s not a sign they’re about to start a hot streak. They can hit, scoring roughly 60 runs less that the Yankees. Not a tremendous amount taking into account the home parks of both teams. Outside of the Yankees, Rangers and Angels, their offense can hang with most in the A.L. Mauer’s been hitting and the duo of Mauer and Morneau always seem to have their days against the Yankees.

    In other words, the Yankees starting pitching in this series needs to be on its game, otherwise these games will be tougher than expected.

    • Jim Is Bored

      “In other words, the Yankees starting pitching in this series needs to be on its game, otherwise these games will be tougher than expected.”

      Well, yes, but this is the case in 95% of the games the Yankees will ever play.

      • RetroRob

        True. My point is most Yankee fans believe a series win and a sweep if almost their birthright when playing the Twins. A correction is coming one of these days. Hopefully not these days! Their starting pitching is awful.

        • Jim Is Bored

          I’m excited for the game thread when the Yankees go down 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning.

          I mean I’d be more excited if the Yanks scored 4 runs, but the chaos will be a good consolation prize.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            All the trolls would be out in the first inning. We should have a welcome banner ready.

          • MannyGeee

            even better, they will go down 1-2-3 in EACH GAME! A-Rod will bat 3rd in all of them and stuart a will get all moist in his 501s…

            • Robinson Tilapia

              stuart rocks a button fly?

              • MannyGeee

                doesnt seem the type, but I am going out on a limb. Mom got him a pair for xmas, and he only wears them on special occasions…

                you know, like when he wants to start an A-Rod based holy war. That, and the 4th of July.

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  I will go out on a limb and say he hasn’t been able to hold it in trying to unbutton at the urinal more than once.

    • Laz

      Scott Diamond who started the first game is actually pretty good. He is the only twins starter of any value. They just lucked out their 2nd game the starter threw really good.

  • Laz

    It better be a sweep. They don’t have to face either of the twins best 2 starters,

  • Better off Eddard

    Andy, Phil and CC vs Nobody, Never heard of him, and Who? Series sweep.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      If only it was that easy. We may have never heard of them (and I can honestly say I’ve NEVER heard any of those three names), but they are pitching in the starting rotation of an MLB team for a reason. We always tend to forget that.

      • Kosmo

        in this case desperation.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          True. I’m just saying that no pitcher wearing an MLB uniform is a 100% pushover.

          …in other words, I’m pretty much just saying exactly what Jim is Bored said above somewhere.

          #Ihavenoopinions

          • Cris Pengiucci

            “#Ihavenoopinions”

            Yes, but we already knew that. :-)

            • Robinson Tilapia

              :)

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    In the past few days we have been making secondary and tertiary pitchers look like aces. I surely hope that this trend does not continue as we face unknowns in Minn.

    • NJ_Andy

      Good point. It’s been forever since the offense has scored 10 runs, won a walk-off victory, or given the pitching a 6 run lead.

      • MannyGeee

        i see what you did there…

    • Robinson Tilapia

      In the past few days, the New York Yankees have also won a ton of ballgames.

      Just win, baby.

      • vicki

        i thought ‘just win, baby’ was just against the A’s, an oakland nod.

  • Joe

    Sweep or bust.

  • this space for rent

    I wish this was a 10-game series.

  • MannyGeee

    In a bubble, the game plan is simple… jump on Hendriks and Vazquez early, let Denudo get himself into trouble.

    That said, this team has the tendency to swing away when they shoulc be sitting and sitting tight when they should be hacking…

    this could be a VERY frustrating series. Here’s to hoping Freddy and DLowe can log some meaningless innings… in the good way.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkely Drew

    Well this has “Trap Series” written all over it.

  • jim p

    If Balt wins its doubleheader today, and we lose in Minn we’re out of first by half a game.

    If the opposite, we have 2.5 game lead, and pick up three on the countdown.

  • Frank

    This is a dangerous series. Yanks should dominate but likely won’t. I say they lose 1 game, but it wouldn’t shock me if they lose 2.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Why is it likely that they won’t? Why would this series be any more dangerous than Oakland, a team that is actually good at baseball?

  • vicki

    enjoyed the link to the 2008 minor league awards; coments section is priceless.