Archive for Minnesota Twins
The non-waiver trade deadline is now one week and one day away, and we’ve got a pretty good idea of which teams will be sellers and which will be buyers. The Yankees, like or not, will be buying. Yesterday’s Chase Headley trade confirmed that. They’re 1.5 games out of a playoff spot in Derek Jeter‘s final season and selling just isn’t something they’ve done during the Steinbrenner era. Rotation help is a clear need, ditto an upgrade in right field. Possibly second base too, though they might be able to solve that internally.
At 47-53, the Twins have the ninth worst record in baseball, and GM Terry Ryan recently told Rhett Bollinger he is planning to listen to trade offers for his veteran players over the next eight days. “We’re in a tough spot right now and we’ve been in a tough spot for four years, so you have to listen. And that’s what we do,” said Ryan. Outside of Brian Dozier, hometown guys Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins, and probably the resurgent Phil Hughes, I’m not sure Minnesota has any untouchables.
I’ve been splitting these Scouting The Market posts up into position players and pitchers by team, but the Twins have an amazingly thin roster, so I’m going to lump all of their trade chips together into one post. Prying Dozier and his right-handed pop/above-average defense at second base loose would be an amazing get for the Yankees, but I just don’t see it. Here’s a look at the Twins players who are actually available and possible fits for the Yankees.
OF Josh Willingham
The 35-year-old Willingham has consistently been an above-average hitter since breaking into the league full-time in 2006 — his 117 wRC+ in 2007 was his lowest from 2006-12 — and his best season came in 2012, his first in Minnesota. He hit .260/.366/.524 (142 wRC+) with 35 homers that year, which was the first covered by his three-year contract worth $21M. In hindsight, the 2012-13 offseason was the perfect time to trade him. His value was never getting any higher.
Willingham dropped down to .208/.348/.368 (102 wRC+) with 14 homers in 471 plate appearances last season while missing a month and a half with cartilage damage in his left knee. This year he is sitting on a .212/.358/.412 (116 wRC+) batting line with nine homers in 215 plate appearances around a hairline fracture in his left wrist that sidelined him for almost two months. (He suffered the injury on a hit-by-pitch.) As the batted ball data at Baseball Heat Maps shows, the average distance of the balls Willingham has hit in the air is holding steady, which is encouraging:
The Yankees have only gotten 16 homers out of their right-handed hitters this season and right-handed power is Willingham’s best tool. He might not ever hit 35 homers like he did two years ago again, but his .200 ISO is in line with his career average (.214). He’s actually hitting more balls in the air than ever before (29.1% grounders), which helps explain his career worst .250 BABIP. Fly balls are often easy outs. Willingham has always drawn a ton of walks (16.7% this year and 12.0% career) and, frankly, that’s something the Yankees need in addition to his righty pop. He isn’t going to hit for much average, but if healthy he’ll hit the ball out of the park and still get on base at a respectable clip.
Willingham has played left field exclusively the last five years, which is a problem. He has only 264.1 career innings in right and they all came way back in 2009. The Yankees would be asking him to play an unfamiliar position by sticking him in right. Willingham’s contract is a non-issue since he’s in the final season of his deal and similar rental outfielders like Ryan Ludwick and Shane Victorino have not cost much in recent years, so the left field/right field thing is the only problem. He’d be a fantastic addition to the lineup. It’s just a question of where he’d play.
3B Trevor Plouffe
Plouffe, 28, made a name for himself by hitting 24 homers two years ago even though it came with a less than impressive .235/.301/.455 (105 wRC+) batting line. Leg and wrist problems limited him to 14 homers and a .254/.309/.392 (93 wRC+) line last year, though this season he’s rebounded to hit .243/.315/.413 (102 wRC+) with seven homers and an already career-high 29 doubles in 355 plate appearances. Plouffe did miss time with a ribcage/oblique problem last month.
Like Willingham, Plouffe’s calling card is his right-handed power. He owns a .170 ISO this year and a career .171 ISO, which is solidly above-average, though he has actually hit for more power at home in spacious Target Field (.187 ISO) than on the road (.153 ISO) over the years. The spray charts show Plouffe does the most damage when he pulls the ball to left, which fits well with Target Field but not Yankee Stadium. Teaching a guy to go the other way to hit for power is not something that is easy or can happen overnight.
The various defensive stats say Plouffe is a below-average defender but not a disaster at third base, though that position is no longer a problem with Headley on board. He also has experience at first base, second base, and in the two corner outfield spots, so there would be ways to get him into the lineup, plus he’d give the team third base protection next year. Plouffe is what he is, a low batting average third baseman with some power and just enough walks (7.5% career) to get on base three out of ten times. He’s making $2.35M this year, his first of four years of arbitration-eligibility as a Super Two, so there’s a good chance he’ll be a non-tender candidate soon. Mark Reynolds was traded for two Triple-A relievers at a similar point in his career, and he hit 44 homers the year before the trade, so yeah. The price shouldn’t be high.
RHP Kevin Correia and RHP Samuel Deduno
The Yankees need some innings, right? Well, these two can given them. I’m not saying they’ll be quality innings, but they’ll be innings. The 33-year-old Correia has a 4.76 ERA (4.35 FIP) in 20 starts and 113.1 innings this year, and over the last few seasons he’s been consistent 4.40-ish FIP guy who misses zero bats (4.29 K/9 and 10.8 K%) but limits walks (2.30 BB/9 and 5.8 BB%). His ground ball rate (41.2%) isn’t anything special either. Correia would be a pure rental (owed another $2M or so), but, in addition to not being very good, he doesn’t really fit what the Yankees look for in a pitcher, namely grounders and/or strikeouts.
Deduno, 31, has been a swingman for Minnesota this year, pitching to a 4.32 ERA (4.05 FIP) in 73 innings across eight starts and 13 relief appearances. Last season he managed a 3.83 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 108 innings as a full-time member of the rotation (for half the year). Unlike Correia, Deduno has some bat-missing ability (7.15 K/9 and 18.1 K%) and really excels at getting grounders (55.2%) thanks to his heavy upper-80s sinker. The pitch runs all over the place (4.07 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) and he backs it up with a hard low-80s curveball. The Yankees just brought in Brandon McCarthy for his ground ball heavy ways and adding Deduno would be along the same lines, though he doesn’t offer the same name value. Both Deduno and (especially) Correia figure to come cheap. Deduno is still in his pre-arbitration years, by the way.
The Twins seem to have a knack for rostering relievers I’ve never heard of. Their primary setup men ahead of Perkins are righty Casey Fien (2.34 ERA and 3.23 FIP) and lefty Caleb Thielbar (2.81 ERA and 3.26 FIP), who bounced around waivers and signed out of an independent league, respectively. Lefty Brian Duensing (2.35 ERA and 3.90 FIP) has been around a while and been used in every role imaginable, but this year he’s settled in as a one-inning reliever. Not necessarily a matchup guy either. Veteran retread Matt Guerrier (3.86 ERA And 3.92 FIP) and long man Anthony Swarzak (4.34 ERA and 3.37 FIP) don’t excite anyone. Meh. I don’t think you could convince me any of these guys would be a real help going forward, but more pitching never hurt anyone.
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Willingham is the best fit for the Yankees among players on the Twins roster who figure to actually be available, though acquiring him would mean someone would have to play out of position in right field. It would either be him or Brett Gardner. That’s not ideal. His right-handed power would be a huge help for the offense though. Plouffe is an expensive utility man who can hit the ball out of the part and, as always, the Twins really don’t have many interesting pitchers. They continue to shoot themselves in the foot with that “okay stuff, no strikeouts, pitch-to-contact” profile. I’d be all for a Willingham trade if I only knew how they’d get him into the lineup defensively.
The homestand from hell is finally over and the Yankees are heading to a place that has been very kind to them over the years. The Bombers are 73-24 against the Twins during the Ron Gardenhire era, including 13-3 all-time at Target Field, where they will play their next four games. The Twins did take two of three in Yankee Stadium about a month ago.
What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Ron Gardenhire’s team just lost two of three to the Royals and they’ve dropped seven of their last nine and 23 of their last 38 games overall. At 38-45 with a -30 run differential, they’ve settled into last place in the AL Central.
The Twins average 4.17 runs per game despite a team 94 wRC+, so they’re below-average at the plate but about average in scoring runs. Timing is everything, I guess. The Yankees will not see 1B Joe Mauer (94 wRC+) this weekend — he was placed on the disabled list with an oblique strain yesterday. He’s having a disappointing year anyway. UTIL Danny Santana (129 wRC+) is out with a knee injury and isn’t expected to return this series.
With Mauer hurt, Gardenhire’s lineup revolves around 2B Brian Dozier (116 wRC+), OF Josh Willingham (137 wRC+), and 1B/DH Kendrys Morales (55 wRC+ in limited time). Morales, like Stephen Drew, has not yet gotten it going at the plate after sitting out the first two and a half months of the season. 3B Trevor Plouffe (100 wRC+) has been fine and C Kurt Suzuki (113 wRC+) has been good overall but not as good since taking over as the everyday catcher when C Josmil Pinto was sent down.
UTIL Eduardo Nunez (124 wRC+ in limited time) has been leading off lately. Get ready for a lot of “shoulda kept him!” talk, because we all know everyone felt the Yankees should have kept him and given him another chance back in Spring Training. OF Oswaldo Arcia (83 wRC+) put on an outfield arm clinic in Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago. 1B/OF Chris Colabello (82 wRC+), IF Eduardo Escobar (99 wRC+), OF Sam Fuld (69 wRC+), 1B/OF Chris Parmelee (111 wRC+ in limited time), and former Yankees farmhand C Eric Fryer (-9 wRC+ in very limited time) round out the active roster.
Thursday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (vs. NYY)
Hughes, 28, is going to be an All-Star in two weeks and not as the token Twin. He deserves to be there. Hughes has a 3.58 ERA (2.60 FIP) in 16 starts and 103 innings, mostly because he’s cut his homer rate all the way down to 0.61 HR/9 (5.5 HR/FB%). It’s not just the ballpark either — Hughes has actually allowed more dingers in Target Field (0.76 HR/9 and 6.3 HR/FB%) than on the road (0.49 HR/9 and 4.6 HR/FB%) this year. His strikeout (7.69 K/9 and 21.0 K%) and ground ball (36.9%) rates are a bit below-average, but he doesn’t walk anyone (0.87 BB/9 and 2.4 BB%). Hughes always threw a lot of strikes, but now he’s taken it to the extreme. Righties (.347 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.245 wOBA) for whatever reason in 2014. Hughes brought back his upper-80s cutter this year, replacing that awful low-80s slider. He’ll throw a few mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start, but for the most part it’s straight heat, low-90s fastballs in the zone. Phil held the Yankees to two runs in eight inning at Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago.
Friday: RHP Chase Whitley (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (vs. NYY)
I can’t believe it’s been five years since the 26-year-old Gibson was drafted (22nd overall). I remember absolutely loving him at the time of the 2009 draft and hoping he’d fall to the Yankees, but alas. Gibson has a 3.77 ERA (3.77 FIP!) in 93 innings across 16 starts this season, though his strikeout rate (4.84 K/9 and 13.0 K%) is terrible. He does it by limiting walks (2.61 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%), getting grounders (55.5%), and keeping the ball in the park (0.58 HR/9 and 7.0 HR/FB%). Classic Twins pitcher, really. Lefties (.303 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.264 wOBA) and he’s been much better at home in Target Field (.240 wOBA) than on the road (.320 wOBA). Gibson works in the low-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs and in the mid-80s with his slider and changeup. He’ll throw one or two upper-70s curveballs per start. The slider is his go-to secondary pitch. The Yankees did not face Gibson in New York earlier this season.
Saturday: RHP David Phelps (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Yohan Pino (No vs. NYY)
Pino is a 30-year-old rookie who will be making his fourth career start this weekend. He has allowed eleven runs on 19 hits and three walks in 15.2 innings in his first three games, striking out a dozen with a 26.9% ground ball rate. That all works out to a 6.32 ERA and a 2.97 FIP. Hooray for small sample sizes. Lefties (.399 wOBA) have clobbered him in his very limited time as a big leaguer (.293 wOBA by righties). Pino has exactly the kind of repertoire you’d expect from a 30-year-old rookie: upper-80s fastball, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, mid-70s curveball. He knows how to pitch, he served his time in the minors, he’s been waiting his entire life for this this, blah blah blah, cliche cliche cliche. Obviously Pino has never faced the Yankees before.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (vs. NYY)
A few weeks ago the 31-year-old Nolasco came into Yankee Stadium with the second highest ERA in baseball and held the Yankees to one run in six innings. His 5.49 ERA (4.40 FIP) is currently the highest in baseball among qualified pitchers, so he’ll probably throw a no-hitter this weekend. Nolasco’s strikeout (6.37 K/9 and 16.1 K%), walk (2.39 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), and ground ball (42.0%) numbers aren’t all that different from the last few seasons, but he has become incredibly homer prone (1.33 HR/9 and 12.0 HR/FB%). Both lefties (.400 wOBA) and righties (.367 wOBA) have hit him hard, but lefties slightly harder. Nolasco has also been much better at Target Field (.321 wOBA) than on the road (.430 wOBA). He’s a kitchen sink guy, throwing upper-80s/low-90s two and four-seam fastballs, an upper-80s cutter, low-80s changeups and sliders, an upper-70s splitter, and a mid-70s curveball. Seven different pitches and he uses five of them regularly (the cutter and changeup are show-me pitches).
Gardenhire’s bullpen is relatively fresh coming into the series. No one has pitched in back-to-back days or three out of four, anything like that. Closer LHP Glen Perkins (1.88 FIP) is one of the five or six best relievers in baseball regardless of handedness. RHP Casey Fien (3.62 FIP) and LHP Caleb Thielbar (3.44 FIP) handle most of the setup work. Thielbar was pitching in an independent league not too long ago.
The rest of the Minnesota bullpen includes RHP Matt Guerrier (3.29 FIP), RHP Jared Burton (4.87 FIP), RHP Anthony Swarzak (3.59 FIP), and long man RHP Samuel Deduno (4.30 FIP). Not exactly the most intimidating group but they are generally effective. Check out the status of the Yankees bullpen with our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Twinkie Town for everything you need to know about the Bombers’ opponent through the end of the weekend.
The Twins have agreed to a contract with free agent first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales, according to Jon Heyman. That came out of nowhere. The Yankees were said to have interest in Morales but not until they took some more time to evaluate Carlos Beltran (elbow) and Mark Teixeira (wrist), so now they’ll have to find lineup help elsewhere. Right field and second or third base seem like obvious spots to upgrade.
Even as the Yankees struggled last season, their dominance over the Twins remained. They took five of seven from Minnesota and have won 72 of 94 games against the Twins during the Ron Gardenhire era, including the postseason. Four of those 22 losses came against peak Johan Santana. Gardenhire’s team is in the Bronx for a three-game weekend set.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Twinkies lost a close game to the Rangers yesterday afternoon and have dropped two in a row. They’ve also lost six of their last seven games. Minnesota is 24-27 with a -27 run differential overall, which has them sitting right smack in the middle of the AL Central.
Despite one of the highest walk rates in baseball (10.1%), the Twins are a slightly below-average club offensively, with a team 95 wRC+ and an average of 4.24 runs per game. They are currently without OF Sam Fuld (87 wRC+) long-term due to a serious concussion, but otherwise Minnesota is perfectly healthy on the position player side.
As always, Gardenhire’s lineup is built around 1B Joe Mauer (96 wRC+), who had the tools of ignorance taken away this offseason in an effort to keep him healthy. 2B Brian Dozier (122 wRC+) has been very good (11 homers and 12 steals) and the catching platoon of C Yosmil Pinto (120 wRC+) and C Kurt Suzuki (114 wRC+) has been excellent. 3B Trevor Plouffe (108 wRC+) has had his moments and OF Josh Willingham (147 wRC+ in limited time) is just returning from a wrist injury. SS Eduardo Escobar (134 wRC+) has been awesome since taking over as the starter a few weeks ago.
OF Aaron Hicks (74 wRC+) stopped switch-hitting like four days ago and is still going through the adjustment of facing right-handed pitchers as a right-handed batter. OF Jason Kubel (83 wRC+) got off to a crazy start but has really cooled off of late. OF Chris Parmelee (62 wRC+), OF Oswaldo Arcia (108 wRC+), and IF Danny Santana (151 wRC+ in limited time) are also on the roster. Oh, and they’re carrying UTIL Eduardo Nunez (82 wRC+) too. He’s on outfielder now. Yep, playing left field. How about that?
Pitching Matchups (Pitcher GIFs is still down for whatever reason)
Friday: LHP Vidal Nuno (No vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (vs. NYY)
The Twins spent a lot of money this winter to improve their rotation, and most of that money went to the 31-year-old Nolasco. He signed a four-year deal worth $49M. The early returns: a 6.12 ERA (4.67 FIP) in ten starts and 60.1 innings. Ouch. Nolasco has a very good walk rate (2.39 BB/9 and 6.0 BB%), but he isn’t missing bats (5.97 K/9 and 15.0 K%), getting ground balls (41.7%), or keeping the ball in the park (1.49 HR/9 and 12.7% HR/FB). Lefties (.431 wOBA) are hitting him hard and righties (.358 wOBA) aren’t being so kind either. Nolasco is basically a kitchen sink guy these days. He throws upper-80s/low-90s two and four-seam fastballs, an upper-80s cutter, low-80s changeups and sliders, an upper-70s splitter, and a mid-70s curveball. Seven pitches. The cutter and changeup are show-me pitches more than anything, but he uses the other five regularly.
Saturday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kevin Correia (vs. NYY)
Correia, 33, is the prototypical Twins pitcher in that he doesn’t strike anyone out (5.04 K/9 and 12.6 K%). It’s amazing a pitcher can have a strikeout rate that low. Then again, Correia has a 6.34 ERA (3.86 FIP) in ten starts and 55.1 innings, so it’s not like it’s working either. His walks are low (2.11 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%) and he hasn’t had any homer problems (0.81 HR/9 and 6.0% HR/FB) despite a low ground ball rate (42.2%). He actually has a reverse split so far this season: righties have a .373 wOBA while lefties are at .340. Correia is another kitchen sink guy, and believe it or not, he uses his upper-80s two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter fewer than 40% of the time combined. A hard upper-80s slider is his top pitch, and he’ll also throw mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs. I get the sense PitchFX might be misclassifying some of his cutters as sliders.
Sunday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. MIN) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (vs. NYY)
After years of watching Hughes give up dingers and struggle to put hitters away, we’ll finally get to see how the other half lives. Hughes, 27, has actually been very good this year, with a 3.23 ERA (2.61 FIP) in ten starts and 61.1 innings. His strikeout (7.34 K/9 and 19.8 K%) and ground ball (32.6%) rates are right in line with his career norms, but he isn’t giving up as many homers (0.59 HR/9 and 4.7% HR/FB). Spacious Target Field certainly has something to do with that (1.9% HR/FB at home, 8.9% on the road). The biggest improvement in Hughes’ game is his walk rate. He always limited walks, but now he’s taken it to the extreme: 0.88 BB/9 and 2.4 BB%. Phil hasn’t walked a batter in his last 44.2 innings (!), a span of 125 batters. His streak of six straight walk-less starts is the longest in baseball since Stephen Strasburg also went six straight back in 2011. Go figure. Righties (.353 wOBA) have hit him much harder than lefties (.232 wOBA) so far. Hughes has always been a tinkerer and he again changed his repertoire this year, bringing back his upper-80s cutter and shelving his low-80s slider. He’ll throw a few mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start, but for the most part it’s straight heat, low-90s fastballs in the zone. What do you think, two runs in seven innings or seven runs in two innings? I feel like there’s no middle ground. Hughes will either dominant on Sunday or get hammered.
Gardenhire quietly has a strong back end of the bullpen, led by closer LHP Glen Perkins (1.33 FIP). He might be the second best lefty reliever in baseball behind Aroldis Chapman. Top five for sure. RHP Casey Fien (2.41 FIP) has been very good in a setup role and LHP Caleb Thielbar (3.63 FIP) gets the call to face the toughest left-handed batters.
RHP Jared Burton (5.62 FIP) is having a terrible year after being very effective the last few seasons. RHP Anthony Swarzak (3.17 FIP) is the long man while perpetual Twins RHP Matt Guerrier (2.93 FIP) and LHP Brian Duensing (4.62 FIP) round out the rest of the bullpen. Duensing, Swarzak, Fien, and Guerrier all pitched yesterday and Guerrier has pitched in each of the last two days. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees bullpen, then check out Twinkie Town and Aaron Gleeman’s Blog for everything you need to know about the Twins.
Via LaVelle E. Neal: The Twins have agreed to sign Phil Hughes to a three-year contract worth $24M. I thought he would take a one-year deal, hope to rebuild value in 2014, then try to land a big contract next winter, when he would still only be 28. Hughes appears to have gone for the biggest payday instead, which is never a bad idea. Target Field should help his homerun problem, at least somewhat. The Yankees will not receive a compensation draft pick because they didn’t make Hughes a qualifying offer.
I couldn’t think of a better way to finish off the traditional first half than with three games against the Twins at Yankee Stadium. Following last week’s four-game sweep in Target Field, the Yankees have won 71 of 91 games against Minnesota during the Ron Gardenhire era. That includes the postseason and is completely ridiculous.
What Have They Done Lately?
Since getting swept by the Yankees, the Twins lost two of three to the Blue Jays and four straight to the Rays. They’ve lost their last five games and ten of their last eleven games overall. Gardenhire’s team is 37-52 with a -55 run differential, the third and fourth worst marks in the league, respectively.
At 4.1 runs per game with a team 93 wRC+, the Twins are a bit below the league average offensively. They are withing OF Josh Willingham (112 wRC+), who will miss several weeks following knee surgery. OF Darin Mastroianni (50 wRC+) and OF Wilkin Ramirez (57 wRC+) are both on the DL as well. None of the three will return in time for this series.
Obviously, the centerpiece here is C Joe Mauer (138 wRC+), who remains one of baseball’s great pure hitters. 1B Justin Morneau (102 wRC+) doesn’t have the same power he once did, and C/OF/DH Ryan Doumit (90 wRC+) isn’t having a great year. 3B Trevor Plouffe (107 wRC+) and OF Oswaldo Arcia (104 wRC+) have been productive though. OF Clete Thomas has had his moments as well (95 wRC+ in limited time).
There’s not much to see on the rest of he roster. IF Brian Dozier (92 wRC+) get regular reps at second base and IF Pedro Florimon (65 wRC+) is the starting shortstop. IF Jamey Carroll (46 wRC+) and IF Eduardo Escobar (62 wRC+) are the seldom-used reserves. OF Aaron Hicks (71 wRC+) was banged up the last two times these teams played but has since returned to the lineup full-time.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Scott Diamond
Diamond, 26, has become a rotation mainstay after being plucked from the Braves in the Rule 5 Draft a few years ago. He’s got a 5.52 ERA (5.08 FIP) in 16 starts with classic Twins peripherals, meaning a low strikeout rate (4.30 K/9 and 11.1 K%), a low walk-rate (2.15 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%), a high homer rate (1.53 HR/9 and 14.4% HR/FB), and a solid ground ball rate (46.8%). Diamond sits in the upper-80s with his four-seamer and in the low-80s with his curveball and changeup. The Yankees scored three runs in 6.2 innings off the southpaw two weeks ago.
Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Samuel Deduno
The 30-year-old Deduno was a star for the Dominican Republic during the World Baseball Classic and has been pretty good for the Twins in nine starts (3.90 ERA and 4.13 FIP). He’s a big-time ground ball guy (61.1%) who doesn’t miss bats (4.55 K/9 and 11.9 K%) but will limit walks (2.77 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) and homers (0.65 HR/9 and 10.5% HR/FB). Deduno’s bread-and-butter is his low-90s four-seamer, but he also throws low-90s cutters, low-80s curveballs, and low-80s changeups. You might remember all those ground balls he induced from the Yankees the last time these two clubs met, when he held New York to three runs in six innings.
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Kyle Gibson
This will be the 25-year-old Gibson’s fourth career big league start, and in the first three he owns a 7.27 ERA but a 3.12 FIP. He hasn’t struck many batters out (5.19 K/9 and 12.8 K%) but he has gotten grounders (54.1%) and kept the walks to a minimum (2.60 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%). Gibson has yet to allow a homer. He is a three-fastball guy, with upper-80s two-seamers, four-seamers, and cutters setting up a mid-70s slider and rarely used low-80s changeup. The Yankees punished Gibson for eight runs in 5.2 innings two starts ago.
The Twins and Rays played a 12-inning game on Wednesday that wrecked the Minnesota bullpen. Closer LHP Glen Perkins (1.84 FIP) is fresh, but LHP Brian Duensing (3.10 FIP), RHP Casey Fien (2.88 FIP), and RHP Josh Roenicke (5.10 FIP) have each appeared in two of the last three games. RHP Jared Burton (3.73 FIP), RHP Anthony Swarzak (3.40 FIP), RHP Ryan Pressly (3.21 FIP), and RHP Michael Tonkin (1.57 FIP in very limited time) round out the eight-man bullpen.
The Yankees are in fine bullpen shape heading into the weekend; no workload concerns here. With the All-Star break coming up, I’m sure Joe Girardi won’t have any trouble using guys a little more than normal. Three days in a row, maybe four or five outs instead of three, stuff like that. Our Bullpen Workload page has all the details. Twinkie Town and Aaron Gleeman are my Twins blogs of choice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Twins and Yankees had a very one-sided rivalry in the mid-to-late-aughts, a rivalry that included four ALDS matchups from 2003-2010 and two wins by Minnesota. Not series wins, individual game wins. New York took all four of those ALDS meetings by a total of 12 wins to two.
The Twins have run off a pair of 95+ loss seasons since last getting bounced from the postseason by the Yankees, so they’re in something resembling a rebuilding phase. I say “something resembling a rebuilding phase” only because they’re still signing free agents and trying to piece together a contender given their weak division, yet they’re still closer to another 95-loss campaign that a playoff berth.
If Minnesota does decide to commit to a rebuild this winter (unlikely but possible), they would have several pieces of interest to the Yankees. I’m not talking about Joe Mauer, whose contract is prohibitive and days behind the plate are numbered, or even Ryan Doumit, who just signed a contract extension. Yesterday I wrote about utility man Jamey Carroll, now here are two outfielders who might fit in New York…
When you hit .260/.366/.524 (143 wRC+) with 35 homers and a 12.4% walk rate, you’re going to generate some buzz like the soon-to-be 34-year-old Willingham did this season. The Twins reeled him in with a three-year contract worth $21M last offseason, a deal that sure looks like one of the biggest bargains of the winter at this point.
The Yankees need to replace Nick Swisher and Willingham is one of the few outfielders who can provide similar offensive production. This year was a career year for him and I don’t expect him to repeat it, but he still hit .257/.360/.476 (127 wRC+) with an average of 23 homers per year from 2009-2011. He’s consistently offered power (.233 ISO since 2010) and patience (12.2 BB%), plus his right-handed bat would help balance out a lineup short on righty power given Alex Rodriguez‘s decline.
Willingham, however, is an atrocious defensive outfielder who has only gotten worse following 2010 knee surgery. His best position is probably first base or even DH at this point. You’re also getting nothing on the basepaths and usually a stint on the DL at some point during the season as well. His value stems exclusively from his bat, but luckily for Willingham he can really hit.
The 28-year-old Span is generally considered to be more attainable than Willingham because the Twins already have his center field replacement lined up — Ben Revere put together an 88 wRC+ and stole 40 bases while playing stellar defense this summer. Span is signed to a long-term contract that will pay him $4.75M next year and $6.5M the year after before a $9M club option ($500k buyout) comes into play for 2015. For luxury tax purposes, the average annual value is a friendly $3.3M.
The concern for the Yankees is that Span is basically Brett Gardner with half the stolen bases and half the called strike threes. He broke out during the 2008-2009 seasons (119 wRC+ in 1,087 plate appearances) but has hit just .271/.334/.397 (95 wRC+) in 1,584 plate appearances since. Concussion and shoulder problems have hampered him the last two years and could be to blame for the declining offense, but he was perfectly healthy in 2010 and still managed an 89 wRC+ in over 700 plate appearances.
What Span does provide is crazy good contact skills from the left side (10.9 K% and 92.0% contract lasts three years) and some patience (8.5 BB%) to go along with dynamite defensive ability. He ranks ninth in UZR (+21.9) and tenth in DRS (+24) among all outfielders over the last three seasons, but he hasn’t played anywhere other than center since 2009. Although it would create a stellar defensive outfield, Span and Gardner are completely redundant. The Yankees would be lucky to get ten homers out of the duo combined.
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One of the oddest trade discussions to (reportedly) take place in recent years involved Span and the Nationals at last year’s deadline, when the Twins were willing to trade him for a reliever (Drew Storen) but Washington haggled over which reliever (offered Tyler Clippard instead). Given their lack of a long-term center fielder, it seemed like an easy call for the Nats. I highly doubt the Yankees would be lucky enough to pry Span away with just a reliever now that Minnesota has revamped their bullpen (3.77 ERA and 4.09 FIP in 2012), but even if they wanted to replace Swisher with a contact-and-speed, defense-first outfielder, they’d probably just re-sign Ichiro Suzuki. They know him and it would only cost money.
Willingham is a different case since the only free agent outfielders who could match his offensive production are Josh Hamilton and Swisher. Normally bringing a dead pull right-handed hitter to Yankee Stadium would give me pause, but Willingham has the kind of power to overcome Death Valley in left-center. I’m not too concerned about that with him. Considering his luxury tax friendly contract (just $7M average annual value through 2014), maybe the Yankees have to overpay a bit to get the production they need at affordable rates. The Twins appear to be very disinclined to move him however, so chances are this is all moot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Having watched the Twins play over the last week and a half, I’m pretty sure they’re not going to win 62 games this season. They’re that bad. The Yankees also completely own them, winning 63 of 80 games during the Ron Gardenhire era (including playoffs). They’re also 10-2 in new Target Field, but this series will be played in the Bronx.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Twins have won just two of their nine games this season, both against the same Angels team that just left the Bronx. They were swept by the Orioles in the season-opening series, and they were just swept by the Rangers over the weekend. Their 28 runs scored are the fewest in the league and their 48 runs allowed are the fourth most. That -20 run differential the worst in baseball. Yeah, they’re awful.
Only twice in nine games have the Twins managed to score more than three runs. They’ve mustered no more than two runs in six of ten games, and their team .311 wOBA is the fifth worst in the league. Joe Mauer (.307 wOBA) and Justin Morneau (.276 wOBA) are shells of their former selves due to injury, though they recently homered in the same game for the first time ever at Target Field. Jamie Carroll (.276 wOBA) is either going to walk or make an out, while Chris Parmalee (.262 wOBA), Danny Valencia (.238 wOBA), Ryan Doumit (.212 wOBA), and Alexi Casilla (.182 wOBA) have contributed next to nothing.
Only two regulars in Minnesota’s lineup are doing anything with the sticks. Josh Willingham (.579 wOBA) has four of the team’s seven homers while Denard Span (.433 wOBA) has been setting the table as the leadoff hitter. Recent waiver claim Clete Thomas took over the right field job from Ben Revere (.160 wOBA) and hit a homer in his first game as a Twin yesterday. You still have to respect Mauer and Morneau because of what they were, but this lineup isn’t scaring anyone.
Monday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Carl Pavano
Pavano has a special place in the hearts of Yankees fans thanks to his hilariously injury-riddled and ineffective stint in pinstripes back in the mid-aughts. Ironically enough, he’s turned into a innings eater since leaving New York, though he hasn’t always been effective. He owns a 4.39 ERA (4.05 FIP) over the last three years, ranking 12th in innings (656) but 35th in fWAR (9.8) among all starters. Pavano’s velocity has dropped off in a big way recently, as he now sits in the mid-80s with his sinker and low-80s with his slider, changeup, and splitter. He relies on ground balls and not strikeouts per team philosophy, and he is stingy with ball four. At 36 years old, Pavano is a junkballing righty.
Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Francisco Liriano
The Twins have one guy in their rotation — really on their entire pitching staff — that can miss bats consistently, and that’s Liriano. He’s injury prone and enigmatic, two traits that are very likely to be related. On any given night he’s capable of a ten-run stinker or a two-hit shutout. Liriano relies very heavily on his offspeed pitches, specifically his wipeout mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup. His two fastballs — two and four-seamer — are more low-90s now than the mid-90s they average two years ago. Liriano has traditionally piled up a ton of strikeouts and ground balls, but walks have been an issue in recent years. He’s been very hit or miss against the Yankees, with a few strong games and a few duds.
Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. Jason Marquis
Marquis, a Staten Island-native, will be making his first start of the season after leaving the team to be with his family after his daughter suffered a near-fatal injury in a bicycle accident. She is recovering well, thankfully. Marquis threw a simulated game as a tune-up on Tuesday, and believe it or not, this will only be his second career start against the Yankees in his 12-year career. That’s what happens when you spend all 12 years in the NL. Marquis is a classic Twins pitcher, getting ground balls with an upper-80s sinker and no strikeouts with his mid-80s slider and low-80s changeup.
Thursday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Nick Blackburn
It’s a matchup of disappointing right-handers in the finale, though at least the Yankees don’t owe Hughes over $10MM from 2012-2013 like the Twins owe Blackburn. Like Pavano and Marquis, Blackburn is the prototypical pitch-to-contact back of the rotation dreck the Twins love so dearly. He gets ground balls (career 48.3%), doesn’t miss bats (career 4.33 K/9), and rarely walks anyone (career 2.20 BB/9). I feel like I’m repeating myself here. An upper-80s sinker, low-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball are Blackburn’s weapons of choice. The Yankees have hit him very hard just about every time they’ve faced him through the years.
For what it’s worth, Blackburn left his last start due to shoulder discomfort, but the tests came back clean and he’s not expected to miss a start. There’s always a chance he could, however.
Minnesota’s bullpen has taken a bit of a beating over the last two days, with standout setup man Glen Perkins getting spanked for three runs in two-thirds of an inning over two games. He threw 23 pitches on Saturday and ten pitches yesterday, so it’s unlikely he’ll be available tonight. Right-handers Alex Burnett and Jared Burton have each pitched in three of the last four days, so I wouldn’t count on seeing either guy tonight barring an emergency.
The rest of the Twins’ bullpen is pretty well set. Closer Matt Capps is both terrible and well-rested, plus they have righty Jeff Gray and lefties Matt Maloney and Brian Duensing in reserve. Overall, their bullpen ranks 23rd in baseball with a 4.50 ERA, though their 3.83 FIP paints a rosier picture (13th in MLB). For the latest and greatest on the Twins, we recommend Aaron Gleeman and Twinkie Town.