7/1-7/4 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

A-Rod will begin minor league rehab assignment tomorrow
Game 82: Crunch Time
Joe West gives zero f**ks. (Leon Halip/Getty)
Joe West gives zero f**ks. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Whenever the Yankees have needed a few wins over the years — and they certainly need a few right now — they could always count on the Twins. New York has won 67 of 87 (!) games against Minnesota during the Ron Gardenhire era (including playoffs), and four of those 20 losses came against in-his-prime Johan Santana. The Bombers are also 12-3 at Target Field, which is where these four games will be played. Hopefully the domination continues.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Twinkies just split a four-game series against the Royals and have won just three of their last nine games. They sit in fourth place in the AL Central at 36-42 with a -28 run differential.

Offense
At 4.2 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+, the Twins are pretty close to a league average offense. They are currently without CF Aaron Hicks (57 wRC+), OF Darin Mastroianni (51 wRC+), and OF Wilkin Ramirez (57 wRC+), all of whom are on the DL and will not return in time for this series. OF Josh Willingham (113 wRC+) has been dealing with a knee issue and is day-to-day. He should return at some point this week if not tonight.

Mauer. (J. Meric/Getty)
Mauer. (J. Meric/Getty)

As usual, the centerpiece of the Minnesota offense is C Joe Mauer (144 wRC+), who quietly continues to be one of the best hitters in the world. 1B Justin Morneau (107 wRC+) is still productive even if he isn’t the hitter he once was. Rookie OF Oswaldo Arcia (126 wRC+) has had a nice start to his big league career and 3B Trevor Plouffe (118 wRC+) has bounced back well after missing time with concussion and leg issues earlier this year. OF Clete Thomas (115 wRC+ in limited time) has stepped in as the leadoff hitter with Hicks on the DL and DH Ryan Doumit (92 wRC+) has been his typically okay but not great self.

The rest of the lineup is a bit of a mixed bag. OF Chris Parmelee (91 wRC+) has some power and SS Pedro Florimon (71 wRC+) has some speed while IF Brian Dozier (87 wRC+) has a little of both. IF Eduardo Escobar (69 wRC+) and IF Jamey Carroll (46 wRC+) round out the lot of position players. The Twins are currently using a three-man bench even with Willingham banged up.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Scott Diamond
The Twins struck Rule 5 Draft gold with the 26-year-old Diamond in 2011 — technically, they traded for his rights in Spring Training that year and didn’t have to jump through the Rule 5 hoops — as he pitched to a 3.54 ERA (3.94 FIP) in 27 starts a year ago. He opened this season on the DL after having offseason surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, and he’s since posted a 5.40 ERA (4.48 FIP) in 14 starts. His walk (1.88 BB/9 and 4.9 BB%) rate is excellent and he gets plenty of grounders (47.8%), but he misses no bats (4.23 K/9 and 11.0 K%) and will give up the long ball (1.17 HR/9 and 10.8% HR/FB). Diamond is the pitch-to-contact philosophy personified. He’ll throw his upper-80s four-seam fastball almost two-thirds of the time, using it to set up his low-80s curveball and changeup. It’s worth noting he’s had a reverse platoon split during his entire big league career. The Yankees didn’t see Diamond at all last year, but they crushed him for five runs on ten hits in a four-inning start in 2011.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
Deduno. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Sam Deduno
Deduno, who turns 30 tomorrow, was called up a few weeks ago and has pitched to a 3.32 ERA (3.79 FIP) in seven starts. His strikeout rate (4.98 K/9 and 13.0 K%) is terrible, but he limits walks (2.91 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) and doesn’t give up any homers (0.42 HR/9 and 6.9% HR/FB) because he gets a freakin’ ton of ground balls (60.7%). That’s not just a small sample size thing, he has a 59.0% career ground ball rate in parts of four big league seasons. Deduno lives off his low-90s four-seamer and cutter, but he also throws a ton of low-80s curveballs and a handful of low-80s changeups. It’s worth noting he has a decent-sized reverse platoon split — lefties have gotten him for a .307 wOBA in his career, righties a .351 wOBA — which might have to do with the cutter. Deduno started a game against the Yankees late last year, but he was forced from the game after just 1.2 scoreless innings with an eye issue.

Wednesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP P.J. Walters
The Twins have really had to scrape the bottom of the pitching barrel this year. The 28-year-old Walters has a 6.03 ERA (5.24 FIP) in seven starts, and he comes with the low strikeout rate (4.98 K/9 and 11.8 K%) required of all Minnesota starters. He doesn’t really limit walks (3.93 BB/9 and 9.3 BB%) and he has been homer prone (1.31 HR/9 and 11.6% HR/FB) because he doesn’t get a ton of grounders (42.4%). A trio of upper-80s fastballs — two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter — set up a mid-70s slider that he throws more than 30% of the time. He’ll use a low-80s changeup on occasion. Walters has never faced the Yankees despite spending parts of each of the last five seasons in the show.

Thursday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Kyle Gibson
Minnesota called up their top pitching prospect last week, and he held Kansas City to two runs in six innings while striking out five and walking zero. A fine debut, to be sure. Before the call-up, the 25-year-old Gibson had a 3.11 ERA (2.96 FIP) in 15 Triple-A starts with good peripherals: 7.67 K/9 (21.3 K%), 2.72 BB/9 (7.6 BB%), 0.39 HR/9, and 58% grounders. He works primarily off a low-90s four-seamer that sets the stage for his mid-80s changeup and nasty low-80s slider. That’s the pitch that got him drafted 22nd overall in the 2009 draft. Obviously the Yankees have never faced Gibson before, but I suppose it’s worth noting Zoilo Almonte and David Adams saw him in Triple-A back in April.

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Royals roughed up Kevin Correia yesterday, so Gardenhire had to get four innings from his bullpen. Closer LHP Glen Perkins (1.88 FIP) did not pitch but setup man RHP Jared Burton (3.91 FIP) did. Long man RHP Ryan Pressly (3.27 FIP) threw two innings and middle man RHP Josh Roenicke (5.22 FIP) threw one as well. LHP Brian Duensing (2.95 FIP) and LHP Caleb Thielbar (2.74 FIP) are the matchup guys while RHP Anthony Swarzak (3.25 FIP) and RHP Casey Fien (3.09 FIP) round out the eight-man bullpen. It’s a sneaky good pen. Not great, but effective.

The Yankees are in good shape as far as their relievers go, and in fact we’ve reached the point where Mariano Rivera and David Robertson need get some work in. Neither guy has pitched since last Tuesday, and Rivera hasn’t even warmed up since then. Robertson warmed up on Wednesday, that’s it. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact recent reliever usage details. For the latest and greatest on the Twins, check out Twinkie Town and Aaron Gleeman.

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A-Rod will begin minor league rehab assignment tomorrow
Game 82: Crunch Time
  • Pat D

    Stupid Yankees. Not even playing in the right location.

    The Yankees are supposed to be in Gettysburg playing the Rebels.

  • Gonzo

    WBC Sam Deduno!

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Doom? DOOOOOOOM.

    And yes, Gonzo, it’s THAT Sam Deduno.

    • Pat D

      You know I’m just realizing that “doom” has to be one of my favorite all time words.

  • jjyank

    Plouffy returns!

    • MannyGeee

      This feels like the perfect week for the triumphant return of The Plouffinator to the RAB comments thread… someone find our boy!

  • Just Another Name

    This series looks like a great opportunity for the Twins pitchers to lower their ERAs.

    • Pat D

      I enjoy your handle name very much.

  • trr

    11 of the next 14 are agianst MINN / KC.
    This may be the last stand for us – if we don’t win these series, and yes I’ll throw the one against Balt in, too – we may dig a whole too deep for this team to climb out of

  • http://www.nra.org Guns

    The Twins struck Rule 5 Draft gold with the 26-year-old Diamond in 2011

    Love what you did there.

    • vicki

      another axisa gem.

  • forensic

    Reverse split for the lefty Diamond? Guess we’ll get to see Wells whiff over and over to single-handedly get him past his K/9 average.

    Reverse split for the righty Deduno? Guess we’ll get to see Hafner help him along the way toward his K/9 average.

    • MannyGeee

      Or…. wait for it… Pronk hits 3 dingers off Diamond and Wells looks not as useless against Denuno. Jus Sayin

      • forensic

        That would mean I would have full faith in Girardi actually following the reverse splits, which I don’t.

        And, checking the lineup, Wells is in there tonight. Not for Hafner, but for Ichiro. And of course, he’s still batting cleanup…

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

          C’mon now. Everbody knows if you do the same thing over and over again, you should expect an entirely different result.

          • forensic

            He hit well that first week in April, so we know it’s in there, we just have to find it again…

        • Tom

          Did you really have to check the lineup? I assume Nix is 2nd?

          The Ichiro thing is probably Giardi giving him a day off and thinking “best to get him a day off against a lefty”

          • forensic

            Yes, Nix is 2nd. Just had to confirm and make sure exactly what was in there. Last night he had a slightly different lineup which was the best he could do (imo), so I thought maybe he was finally making some little changes. Apparently not…

        • LK

          Well, it’s possible Ichiro just needed a day off. Playing a 39-year-old 20 days in a row probably isn’t an option.

          And, if you look at the splits vs. LHP (SSS alert), Vernon is 7th on the team in wRC+, behind Chris Nelson (RIP), Mark Teixeira (RIP), Curtis Granderson (RIP), Ichiro (maybe needed a day off?), Gardner, and Hafner. Cervelli (RIP) is 8th and Nix 9th. Neal (RIP) and Cano are 10th and 11th.

          So if you buy that Ichiro needed a day, Girardi has in fact put the best 5 available hitters on the roster against LHP at the top of the lineup. Yes, the offense is just that bad.

          • Tom

            Of course this is a lefty with reverse splits… so basing the order on lefty splits would be exactly the wrong thing to do.

            • LK

              Oh I’m not saying that’s the lineup he should’ve made. Was anyone here really expecting Girardi to utilize the reverse split information? I was just pointing out that in a vacuum the lineup is basically as good as this team can field vs. LHP if Ichiro isn’t playing.

              • Tom

                They have a 3 man bench…. if you put the constraint that Ichiro isn’t playing, here’s what your statement comes down to – By sitting Romine and Alberto Gonzalez, Girardi has put out the best lineup.

                I know the bar is pretty low for Girardi but are we really applauding him for not playing Romine or Gonzalez.

                The issue of course is the batting order and sticking two 600ish OPS hitters in the first 4 spots because guy on hill throw white object with left hand.

                • LK

                  I get what you’re saying. If you expected Girardi to utilize reverse splits, you’re just going to frustrate yourself. As far as I know there’s exactly one manager in all of MLB who does that. If you get upset with anything lest than the very best in all of baseball, you’ll always be upset. If you accept that Girardi’s not going to use the reverse splits, his lineup is fine.

                  Also, pretty much everyone on this team has a .600-ish OPS. Ichiro’s is .674, and he just had a hot streak. They have 8 hitters over .700 on the season, and 3 are Cervelli, Boesch, and Granderson. One’s Almonte who has basically no track record and was terrible against LHP in the minors. Overbay is just over .700 and has been bad against lefties this year. What do you want Girardi to do? He can’t turn chicken shit into chicken salad.

                  • Tom

                    The lineup is chicken shit – order doesn’t matter.

                    Fine – then bat Cano 9th and Gardner 8th… throw your hands up in the air and say “fuck it”, it’s not like it matters with this lineup.

                    • LK

                      I think there’s a difference between “fuck it” and “the manager has put the 5 best hitters in the lineup against LHP in the first 5 spots and expecting him to account for the pitcher’s reverse split is a pipe dream.” But neat strawman.

                    • Tom

                      The weaker the batting order the more important using the optimal lineup matters as the margin for error is closer to zero. Also merely mixing the top 5 is pretty arbitrary…. why not say he has his 9 best hitters in the 9 top spots in the lineup? How about best 3 hitters in the top 3 spots? (this is more rhetorical – it’s clear why you drew the line at 5)

                      Girardi has taken his very best bat against lefties out of the lineup. If the batter splits were indeed so important, wouldn’t Girardi be giving Ichiro a rest day against a righty instead?

                      Why is Ichiro and his wRC+ of 59 against righties batting 2nd when there’s a righty on the mound? He has a 122 against lefties and that is more of a drop off than playing Well against a right when Ichiro needs a day off (since 1 year splits are so fun)

                    • forensic

                      If the batter splits were indeed so important, wouldn’t Girardi be giving Ichiro a rest day against a righty instead?

                      Especially since tomorrow night there’s a righty on the mound with a reverse split, which would be the ideal type of matchup to give him the day off and play Wells.

                    • LK

                      Ichiro has a reverse split for his career, so I think it’s fairly safe to conclude he just hits lefties better. Obviously the lineup is better with Ichiro in it, but I can’t really kill the manager for giving a 39-year-old a day off.

                      While I know you say the question was rhetorical, the reason for the top 5 being mentioned specifically is because those are the 5 most important spots. In general it’s not true that the top X spots are the X most important spots. 3rd, for instance, is actually the 5th most important spot since it comes up with bases empty and 2 outs most often (though *no* MLB managers actually treat it this way).

                      “The weaker the batting order the more important using the optimal lineup matters as the margin for error is closer to zero”

                      I think I get the intuition here, but I’m not sure this is necessarily true. Each batting order has a certain distribution of runs/game, and then each distribution of runs/game has a corresponding expected winning %. If a certain change to the batting order reduces the runs/game by X% that would reduce the expected winning % by Y%. In this case, the non-optimal batting order for an awesome team might drop the winning % from .600 to .590, whereas it drops the shitty team from .450 to .440. Using those hypothetical numbers it “matters” the same amount for both types of teams. The situation you describe might in fact be true, but I’d need to see some numbers first before I’d be convinced. I think it’s more a case of when your team is awesome you enjoy the winning, and when your team sucks you bitch about the batting order, but the mistakes take the same toll.

                    • Tom

                      LK… couple of things…

                      1) You are applying the batter order optimization incorrectly. It is based on overall league aggregates.

                      A better lineup might have higher OBP’s at the bottom of the lineup which in turn changes you runner on base states that the model expects the 1,2,3,4,5 hitters to face the 2nd time through the lineup (and beyond)

                      Similarly if you have an extremely poor lineup (which I think the Yankees would qualify as) then the # of PA’s you get starts to trump the runner on base state the 2nd time through the lineup (and beyond)

                      In short just like run expectancy you can’t simply apply league aggregates to any individual situation without adjusting accordingly.

                      2) The optimization within the top 5 is all messed up even if you use your model. Then there’s also the question of using regressed vs unregressed split data (for guys with less than 1100 PA’s against a lefty)

                    • LK

                      The optimization within the top 5 using the standard batting order model is always messed up for every MLB team at all times because managers do not follow it – hence the point that I made about no MLB managers actually hitting their 5th best hitter 3rd.

                      Do you have anything to cite about how a lineup with poor OBP’s actually causing the number of PA’s to trump the dynamics of the lineup at the start of the game? You are of course right that it’s a factor, and you might very well be right that it defeats standard lineup optimization in the Yankees’ case, but I’d want to see a source on that.

                    • Tom

                      Just think about it for a second… the reason the #2 spot is ranked so high is the # of PA’s. The reason the # 4 is higher than the #3 is the base state. At some point the lower the base state, the more important the raw # of appearances matters.

                      On the flip side, if you had extremely high OBP 8, 9 guys then the # 1 spot would arguably become the most important spot in the lineup as that person would be getting the most PA’a and also hitting with men on base the multiple times through the lineup.

                      —-

                      The other real obvious factor is Scott Diamond is not likely going complete game (I hope), once a righty is brought in, Nix and Wells in the 2/4 spot blows all of your optimization out of the water. Especially when the lefty you have on the bench is actually below average against righties (not that Girardi would care). This should clearly be a factor when you have a 3 man bench with 2 guys who can’t hit.

                    • LK

                      I’ve thought about it. I know exactly what your point is. But there is threshold you have to reach before the bulk number of PAs outweighs the standard Markov model. I’m not going to accept the Yankees are at that threshold because you say they are.

                      Don’t be so sure Scott Diamond isn’t throwing a CG against this offense.

                  • vicki

                    (bad is not the word for loverbay against lefties. i don’t know what the word is but bad doesn’t cover it.)

          • forensic

            I understand periodic days off, but Girardi usually goes well beyond that much and he even said himself a day or two ago that Ichiro never gets tired out there and needs a day off. Plus, in my opinion, they’re nearing the point where he needs to start pushing guys rather than being scared of the unknown, especially guys like Ichiro who have no injury history and are in terrific shape.

            But, regardless of that, I’m basing his reverse split on Mike saying it’s been throughout his career, which is a touch more than SSS. Also, as with just about anything involving Wells, those numbers were likely almost exclusively accumulated months ago.

            • LK

              As I said above, I was going into the explanation assuming Girardi would never actually follow the reverse splits. I was also assuming that Ichiro needed a day, though I agree that we’re past the point of being proactive about rest.

              As far as Wells, I’m never a fan of discounting a guy’s season numbers because of when they occurred unless there’s an injury we can point to as part of the explanation. The larger sample size is virtually always the one that’s going to offer the better guide. In Vernon’s case, the large sample size is fucking awful, but specifically against LHP he’s actually one of the best hitters on the roster. That says more about the roster than it says about him, but I don’t think we can pin anything about what’s happening on Girardi. He’s batting a shitty hitter cleanup. That would be true whether Wells were hitting there or not for the most part.

            • Winter

              If the team is relying on 39-year-old as much as the Yankees are relying on Ichiro right now, I’d hope the manager is making sure he stays healthy.

              • forensic

                This is a guy who has no injury history and is in terrific shape. Sitting guys like that so often because you’re worried about the unknown or injuries that may happen in the course of a game defeats the purpose of keeping them healthy and relying on them. He hasn’t quite reached that point with Ichiro yet, but I wouldn’t put it past him to get there. They’ve had days off each of the last 3 weeks. He now needs another one already?

                It’s like when people say Hafner can’t PH one AB earlier because he might get injured. Guys aren’t going to spontaneously combust out there standing at the plate one additional AB. Eventually, you’re going to reach the point where you’re sitting him so much by managing scared that you take away any value or purpose of keeping him healthy (especially since he’ll probably get hurt anyway even with the lesser playing time).

                • LK

                  Ichiro is part of the best lineup the Yankees can field right now, but giving a guy with .6 fWAR in 75 games a day off isn’t determining if this team sinks or swims.

                  • forensic

                    No, but he is one of the few guys on the team who is actually hitting a bit, and one of two who can contribute defensively and on the bases as well.

                    Hell, until last night’s game, he had out-OPS’ed Cano in June. I know, people will never give him the bit of credit he deserves, even when hitting well, but they actually do need him in the lineup right now.

                    • LK

                      He’s a good 4th OF. I’d say that’s the credit he deserves. Granted, being a good 4th OF makes you the 2nd-best OF on the Yankees’ roster.

                      He’s got an 80 wRC+ on the season. I know he’s been hot, but good luck trying to predict when hot streaks are going to start and stop. This just isn’t that big of a deal.

                  • trr

                    LK is correct. And regardless of what good shape Ichiro is in, EVERY player needs a blow occasionally. Especially every 39 y/o player.
                    At least there’s a bat on the bench now, if needed.

                    This is the same issue again: Injuries have decimated the lineup, the replacements that were brought in quickly flamed out, and now we need to replace the replacements. People, there’s only so much you can do…

                    • forensic

                      *resisting a TWSS reply*

                    • vicki

                      i admire your restraint and will undertake to follow your example.

                    • Robinson Tilapia

                      Everyone needs a blow every now and then.

                    • Tom

                      Then give him a night off…. against a right handed pitcher! I’m all for giving Ichiro a day off.. why not give him a night off against the pitchers who he has most trouble with?

                      Ichiro has a wRC+ of 122 against lefties this year, 143 the last 3 years, 143 the last 5 years. Against righties this year wRC+ 59, last year 97, year before that 76… so it’s not exactly a 1 year fluke.

                      Why in the hell would you sit him against a lefty (who your lineup is most susceptible to) unless you are a caveman who thinks – he hits lefty, so if he needs a day off it obviously should be a lefty. Easy peasy…

                    • LK

                      You’re absolutely right; it would be better to sit Ichiro against a RHP than a LHP. But this isn’t how MLB managers operate. With the exception of Maddon, this is what ALL of them do. I get the desire to have the best manager in baseball, and I get not understanding why more than one MLB manager can’t figure these things out. But this isn’t what’s going to determine how far the Yankees go this season; MLB managers make very little difference in a team’s success with their on-field moves. Girardi decisions (good or bad) aren’t what’s deciding the fate of this club.

  • forensic

    On another note, it’s kind of depressing that we have to be jealous of a Twins offense. And of course, several of their worst players have to be out this weekend.

  • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

    When facing a lefty with a reverse platoon split, the prudent course of action is to sit the player who’s had the most success vs. LHP this year because he’s a lefty.

    • forensic

      There must be some sort of logic to it in his head, so I can’t argue with it…

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

        lmao

    • vicki

      the left-handed pitcher with a reverse platoon split and the left-handed hitter with a reverse platoon split. sounds like something from koan literature.