ALDS Game One Spillover Thread

For luck.

(and the sake of having a fresh thread)

ALDS Game One: Yankees @ Twins

We’ve all been here before, haven’t we? Yeah, we have. Just last year these same two teams matched up in the American League Division Series, though the circumstances we’re quite the same. The Yankees had won the AL East by a considerable margin and were opening at home while Minnesota eked in after a Game 163 win against the Tigers, forcing them to throw rookie Brian Duensing in Game One with all of nine big league starts to his credit.

Things are slightly different this year. The Twinkies were the ones to coast in the postseason with a huge division lead while the Yanks had to sweat a little down the stretch. Ron Gardenhire’s team is much stronger this season thanks to a deeper and much improved lineup (last year they started Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, and Nick Punto in Game One), but more importantly they now have a bonafide ace. Francisco Liriano was arguably the best pitcher in the league this year, striking out 9.44 batters per nine innings while walking just 2.72 in the same time frame. He gave up nine homeruns all season (three in his last start though), all to righthanded batters. Three years out from Tommy John surgery, Liriano threw a career high 191.2 innings in 2010 and seemed to tire down the stretch (4.69 ERA, .346 wOBA against in his last ten starts). Let’s hope that trend continues today.

There are no fatigue concerns about who the Yankees are sending to the mound, and that’s CC Sabathia. Sabathia eats 191.2 inning workloads for breakfast – over the last four years he’s averaged (averaged!) over 254 innings per season, including playoffs – so as far as I’m concerned he’s just starting to get warmed up this time of year. He gave his team a win in Game One of the ALDS last year with six and two-thirds strong innings, holding the Twinkies to just one earned run while striking out eight and walking zero. CC is very important to the Yanks’ World Series hopes, but then again what ace isn’t?

Joe posted his Game One preview at FanGraphs with some sweet charts earlier today (Jack Moore did the same for the Twins), so make sure you check that out between now and first pitch. Here are your lineups…

Yankees
1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robbie Cano, 2B
6. Marcus Thames, DH
7. Jorge Posada, C
8. Curtis Granderson, CF
9. Brett Gardner, LF

CC Sabathia, SP (21-7, 3.18 ERA)

Twins
1. Denard Span, SP
2. Orlando Hudson, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Delmon Young, LF
5. Jim Thome, DH
6. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
7. Jason Kubel, RF
8. Danny Valencia, 3B
9. J.J. Hardy, SS

Francisco Liriano, SP (14-10, 3.62 ERA)

First pitch is scheduled for 8:37pm ET, and the game can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.

Teixeira received cortisone shot last month

Via Marc Carig, Mark Teixeira received a cortisone shot in his injury thumb at some point last month. Tex bruised the thumb on a diving play against the White Sox in late August, though the soreness lingered and it affected him at the plate for much of September. We don’t when exactly he received the shot, but he really started crushing the ball around the 21st or 22nd of last month, so a day or two before that is a good bet. Tex hit .293/.388/.585 with three homers in the last two weeks of the season, so it would be nice if he maintained that pace this month.

Joe Girardi’s not-so-big dance

For much of the last six weeks, Joe Girardi and his decisions have unwillingly grabbed the New York media spotlight. The Yankees, after all, had their playoff spot wrapped up in early August, and the sports writers, radio screamers and obsessed fans needed something to dissect as the season whiled away the final few weeks. So Joe Girardi and his moves came under fire.

On the one hand, questioning Girardi’s approach made sense. He didn’t seem to manage with much urgency over the final few weeks and often make lineup decisions and pitching moves that left the Yanks on the wrong side of a lopsided score and left many scratching their heads. But on the other hand, Girardi had a plan, and despite protestations that he truly wanted to win the AL East, he stuck with his plan. He made sure that his bullpen arms weren’t burned out; he rested Nick Swisher and his ailing knee; he gave aching Mark Teixeira time off. The team is well rested heading into its impending ALDS match-up with the Twins, and that is all thanks to Girardi.

Still, the murmuring about Girardi’s future continues to bubble. The Yankees have a policy that they keep in place for everyone: The team does not extend contracts before they run out. Derek Jeter will hit free agency. Mariano Rivera will hit free agency. Joe Girardi will hit free agency.

Girardi’s free agency brings with it intrigue. Joe’s hometown Chicago Cubs also have a managerial vacancy, and as everyone knows, GM Jim Hendry salivates at the thought of a Girardi homecoming for the hapless Cubs. As Buster Olney said last week, “Cubs remain intent on taking a run at Joe Girardi, partly to learn about him, and partly to placate fan base; they want to at least try.”

In today’s Chicago Tribune, Phil Rogers ponders the Cubs’ relationship with Girardi. He believes the Cubs have Girardi atop their list, but no one he has spoken with thinks the Yanks will jettison their skipper or that the skipper will leave New York. He writes:

As the Yankees worked out to face the Twins in their American League Division Series, I polled a dozen people who either work for the Yankees or deal with them on a regular basis.

Asked to rate the chances Girardi will change jobs after the playoffs on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the least chance, the New York insiders gave replies ranging from a -1 to a 3.5. “The door’s open,” one said, “but just a crack.”

None among those surveyed thinks there is even a 50-50 chance Girardi is sufficiently weary of New York and all that life there entails to pull the plug. That could change if something goes very bad against the Twins, but one person close to the Yankees’ brain trust offered a take that must be the worst fear for anyone who covets Girardi in the Cubs’ dugout. “If he does go somewhere, it won’t be (to Chicago),” he said.

Similarly, in idle chatter on Twitter, I’ve asked Ken Davidoff and Mark Feinsand about Girardi’s future, and they both think he will return as the Yanks’ manager. Fans though are divided. They see a guy too married to match ups and fringe role players. They claim he can hurt the Yankees more often than not despite his .591 winning percentage as the Bombers’ helmer. In New York, even winners can’t win.

So in a few hours, Girardi and his A-lineup behind CC Sabathia will take the field, and while many think this is a big series for Girardi, it isn’t. He has his team as healthy as any can be on October 6 after 162 games, and he’s lined up his rotation so that his ace pitches two of five games and lefties face a lineup vulnerable to southpaws in four of five contests. His bullpen too is rarin’ to go with a Hall of Fame closer and four legitimate set-up man in front. That’s what the manager is supposed to do, and even though the pressure is on Girardi to win because that’s what we do in New York City, this ALDS will not make him or break him. Unless he doesn’t want to be, he’ll return to the Yankees in 2011 and beyond, and that’s as close to a sure thing in baseball as you’ll find.

NLDS Game Thread: Reds @ Phillies

Roy Halladay vs. Edinson Volquez. I like Cincinnati to steal this one, but what do I know? Game’s on TBS starting at 5:37pm ET, talk about it here.

Ryan Pope headed to Arizona Fall League

Via Josh Norris, righthander Ryan Pope will be the seventh Yankee farmhand headed to the Arizona Fall League this summer. He joins Manny Banuelos, Craig Heyer, George Kontos, Austin Romine, Jose Pirela, and Brandon Laird (who will play the outfield).

Pope is in an interesting spot; he’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if not added to the 40-man roster after the season, and he really gave the Yanks something to think about this year. He moved to the bullpen after seven poor starts, then struck out 62 batters against just 14 walks in 57.1 innings. The 2007 third round pick had been an afterthought for most of his career, but the relief version of Pope is intriguing and probably one the Yankees will decide to protect. He is definitely on the fence though.

ALDS Preview Chat