ALDS Game Two: Twins @ Yankees

2009 American League Division SeriesSo here we are, the day everyone’s been talking about. The day Jorge Posada will sit in favor of Jose Molina. This move has been debated more than enough in the last week, so instead of rehashing it, I’m just going to focus on tonight’s starting pitchers.

You see, AJ Burnett and Nick Blackburn as essentially polar opposites. Among pitchers that threw at least 200 innings this year, Burnett posted the seventh highest K/9 at 8.48. Blackburn? The second lowest at 4.29. What about walks? Burnett’s 4.22 BB/9 was second worst in that group, Blackburn the fifth best at 1.79. The one thing the two guys have in common is nearly identical FIP’s (Burnett checks in at 4.33, Blackburn 4.37) and tRA’s (4.74 for Burnett, 4.68 for Blackburn). Despite residing on completely opposite ends of the spectrum in how they get it done, Burnett and Blackburn have pretty much been each other’s equal in terms of production. Of course one guy is making $16M, the other close to the league minimum.

The weather isn’t looking great, but there seems to be enough of a window to get the game in. Here’s each club’s starting nine:

Minnesota
Denard Span, RF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Carlos Gomez, CF
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Nick Punto, 2B

Nick Blackburn, SP (11-11. 4.03)

Yankees
Derek Jeter, SS
Johnny Damon, LF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Hideki Matsui, DH
Nick Swisher, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Melky Cabrera, CF
Jose Molina, C

AJ Burnett, SP (13-9, 4.04)

TBS and Chip Caray have the broadcast, with first pitch set for 6:07pm ET. Enjoy the game.

Update: We disabled the “show unread comments” feature, so you won’t get that little interlocking NY telling you which comments are new. Sorry, but they slow down the site too much with all the extra traffic during the game. It’ll be back once the game’s over.

Dissent in the ranks over Molina-gate

For 12 years, the stories about Derek Jeter and Joe Torre told a tale of deference. Jeter, a rookie during Torre’s first year in the Bronx, had a special bond with his manager. He would call him Mr. Torre and rarely, if ever, questioned his decisions in public.

While Torre was managing the Yanks, Jeter played with a back-up catcher named Joe Girardi. Jeter and Girardi captured three rings together, but for Derek, Girardi’s presence on the team and his amount of playing time must have raised an eyebrow or two. After all, the Yankees had Derek’s very good friend Jorge Posada, a far superior offensive catcher to Joe Girardi. In the end, of course, it mattered little, as the Yanks plowed through the opposition during the latter half of the 1990s.

Today, Joe Girardi is Derek’s manager, and for the first time in a while, Jeter is publicly questioning the man who holds the Yanks’ reins. When asked about Girardi’s decision to start Jose Molina in A.J. Burnett‘s starts, Jeter had a diplomatically loaded answer. As Jim Baumbach first reported yesterday, Jeter called the situation strange. “It will be kind of awkward not having Jorge in the lineup,” he said.

For Derek, the Yanks’ loyal solider and all around good guy at handling the media, that statement amounts to sheer mutiny. As Baumbach and others have pointed out, Jeter’s statement is also a bit hyperbolic. Posada wasn’t the only catcher during the Yanks’ World Series years, and as recently as 2005, Joe Torre used John Flaherty to catch the ornery Randy Johnson. The Unit lasted just three innings in a disastrous Game 3 start, and Jorge quickly entered the game in the 4th.

I have to wonder then if Joe Girardi is risking his respect by making an unpopular and questionable decision. Does Derek Jeter think Girardi is off his rocker? What about the other younger players who look to Jeter for leadership? Ken Davidoff claims all was calm at Yankee camp yesterday and offers us some translations of the players’ sound bites. Derek, he claims, is just trying to keep Jorge happy while not offending his manager, and Jorge has accepted it.

In a way, then, this move is certainly an experiment. If Burnett comes out and dominates the Twins and the Yanks handily win as they did on Wednesday, Joe Girardi will look good — or at least he won’t be subject to rampant first- and second-guessing. But if Burnett struggles through a start, those around the club — those whose respect Girardi needs — may wonder about the decision. Ken Davidoff doesn’t expect Molina-gate to “blow up these Yankees.” Here’s to hoping.

ALDS Game One Thread: Red Sox @ Angels

Six games into the 2009 postseason, the Angels and Red Sox will finally start their series tonight. John Lackey (11-8, 3.83) and Jon Lester (15-8, 3.41) are your starters, and you can check out KLaw’s series preview here if you’re an Insider. Like all the others, this game will be on TBS. First pitch is set for 9:37pm ET. Feel free to chat about the game here if you want.

Sherman: In ALCS, Gaudin starts with Joba in the pen

Joel Sherman of The Post is reporting news out of Yankee camp I had feared would come. If the Yankees reach the ALCS, they will probably ask Chad Gaudin to start Game 4 while leaving Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen. Writes Sherman:

The Yankees would not finalize plans unless they beat Minnesota. But in informal planning sessions there is a growing consensus to keep Chamberlain in the pen throughout the playoffs.

That reflects how precious each win is in the postseason, and that Chamberlain could be used in nearly every winnable game as part of a late-game lockdown trio with Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera. But it also has to do with the Yankees’ internal belief that Gaudin outperformed Chamberlain as a starter down the stretch…If the Yankees and Red Sox met in the ALCS, the Yankees might reconsider. But even under that scenario the sentiment is to start Gaudin.

The Yankees want Chamberlain available to impact multiple games as a reliever rather than be a questionable starter for one game. Even if Gaudin were to have a short start, the Yankees have Alfredo Aceves and possibly even Chamberlain to eat up innings in long relief.

When Chamberlain appeared in last night’s game in his old 8th inning role and Joe Girardi used him for two pitches to get one out, I said to myself that Joba would not be leaving the pen. As long as he gets outs and throws strikes, the Yankees will be seduced by his mentality out of the bullpen, and as Sherman notes, the pen can take on added importance in a short series.

I would prefer to see Joba Chamberlain start in the ALCS. It’s part of his development as a starter, and he’s slated to go just one game. I also fear that he this move may reignite the debate over Joba’s proper role. If he has a lockdown post-season, the fans, those that cover the team and even some of the players and coaches may very well clamor for a misguided return to the pen for the Yanks’ young arm.

For tonight’s Cardinals-Dodgers NLDS Game Thread, please click here.

NLDS Game Two Thread: Cardinals @ Dodgers

Not only did the Dodgers manage to limit Albert Pujols to just two walks (both intentional) in five plate appearances last night, but they also managed to grab a 1-0 series lead against Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter. Ho hum, the Cardinals will just trot out another Cy candidate today, this time in the form of Adam Wainwright (19-8, 2.63). Los Angeles will counter with the young sensation Clayton Kershaw (8-8, 2.79), who managed to strike out 18 batters in his final 12 innings of the season despite battled a separated non-pitching shoulder. First pitch is scheduled for 6:07pm ET, and as usual you can check it out on TBS (TNT until the Phils-Rox is over).