6/16 to 6/19 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The eleven-game stretch against the Rockies and Twins has not gone well so far. Not at all. The Yankees were just swept in two games in Colorado, and now they’re in Minnesota for four against the Twinkies. The good news? The Yankees are 18-5 all-time at Target Field. The Twins always seem to cure whatever ails the Yankees.

What Have They Done Lately?

Believe it or not, the Twins played a night game on the West Coast last night. They were in Anaheim to play the Angels. The Yankees were probably already checked into their hotel in Minneapolis before that game even started. Minnesota lost last night’s game and they’ve lost eight of their last 12 games overall. They come into this series with the AL’s worst record (20-45) and run differential (-109). Only the Braves have a worse record in all of baseball, and they’re only one game worse than the Twins.

Offense & Defense

Manager Paul Molitor’s team doesn’t have the worst record in the league by accident. They don’t do anything well. They’re averaging only 3.88 runs per game with a team 88 wRC+, so offense is hard to come by. It doesn’t help that RF Miguel Sano (115 wRC+), who is definitely their best power hitter and arguably their best hitter overall, is out with a hamstring injury. We won’t see him this week. OF Darin Mastroianni and UTIL Danny Santana are also on the DL.

Buxton. (Getty)
Buxton. (Getty)

Minnesota’s token All-Star this season is probably going to be ex-Yankee SS Eduardo Nunez (126 wRC+), who is having himself one heck of a season. Good for Nunie. He leads off for the Twins with LF Robbie Grossman (185 wRC+), 1B Joe Mauer (116 wRC+), 3B Trevor Plouffe (65 wRC+), and 2B Brian Dozier (93 wRC+) falling in line behind him. DH Byung-Ho Park (94 wRC+) hasn’t worked out quite as well as Jung-Ho Kang did for the Pirates last year, at least so far. He’s typically the No. 6 hitter behind Dozier.

Top prospects CF Byron Buxton (61 wRC+) and RF Max Kepler (63 wRC+) roam the outfield with Grossman. Buxton got off to a terrible start (29 wRC+), went to Triple-A for a few weeks, mashed (188 wRC+), then returned. He’s done better since coming back (88 wRC+). C Kurt Suzuki (65 wRC+) is the regular catcher — ex-Yankee C John Ryan Murphy is currently in Triple-A — and ex-Yankees farmhand C Juan Centeno (60 wRC+) is backing up. IF Eduardo Escobar (59 wRC+) and OF Oswaldo Arcia (78 wRC+) are the other bench players.

In the field, the Twins have above-average defenders in all three outfield spots as well as second base. Plouffe is okay-ish at third and Mauer is fine at first. Nunez? He still has his Eduardo Scissorhands moments at short for sure. Suzuki has long had a reputation for being a good defender even though he’s never been particularly adept at throwing out runners or framing pitchers.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (8:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (vs. NYY)
Boy oh boy did I think Gibson was going to be a star back in the day, when he was drafted out of Missouri in 2009. It hasn’t happened, partly due to injuries. The 28-year-old has a 6.49 ERA (5.33 FIP) in five starts and 26.1 innings around arm problems this year, and he’s walked exactly as many batters as he’s struck out (10.5%). That is never good. Gibson is getting grounders (54.2%) and doing an okay job keeping the ball in the park (1.03 HR/9), and lefties are just destroying him. He works in the low-90s with his sinker and four-seamer, and his go-to pitch is a mid-80s slider. Gibson also throws some low-80s changeups and a few low-80s curveballs per start as well.

Friday (8:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. MIN) vs. LHP Pat Dean (No vs. NYY)
Dean, 27, finally made his big league debut this season after spending parts of seven seasons in the minors. He has a 4.17 ERA (4.36 FIP) in 36.2 innings spread across five starts and two relief outings. Dean has decent enough peripherals across the board: 18.1% strikeouts, 7.7% walks, 40.9% grounders, and 1.23 HR/9. Righties have had more success against him than lefties. Dean is a finesse guy with a fastball in the 88-91 mph range, and when he cuts it, it comes in around 86 mph. A mid-80s changeup is his main offspeed pitch, and he also throws a mid-70 curve. Dean fits the “general lefty” mold to a T.

Dean. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Dean. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Saturday (2:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (vs. NYY)
A few years back the Twins decided to spend some money on pitching, and that led to them spending $49M across four years on Nolasco. Not the wisest decision. The 33-year-old has a 5.12 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 13 starts and 77.1 innings, so he’s still doing that FIP underperforming thing he’s done his entire career. People kept waiting and waiting and waiting for a breakout because his FIP was considerably lower than his ERA each season. The breakout never came. That’s just who he is. Nolasco has impressive strikeout (20.7%) and walk (4.3%) numbers, though he’s nothing special in the grounder (42.6%) and homer (1.05 HR/9) departments. His platoon split is small, mostly because he’s a kitchen sink guy with something for everyone. He sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, in the low-80s with his splitter and slider, and the mid-70s with his curveball. Nolasco throws all five pitches regularly too.

Sunday (2:10pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (vs. NYY)
That decision to spend money on pitching? It also led the Twins to Santana. They gave him four years and $54M. Forfeited a draft pick too. And then Santana failed a performance-enhancing drug test during his first Spring Training with the team. So yeah, this signing hasn’t gone according to plan either. Santana, 33, has a 5.10 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 12 starts and 65.1 innings this season. His peripheral stats look like they always have: 17.3% strikeouts, 7.4% walks, 43.3% grounders, and 1.38 HR/9. The homer rate is higher than usual, I guess. Righties have hit him harder than lefties, but that is exact opposite of the rest of his career. Santana still sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and he still throws a ton of mid-80s sliders. He’ll chuck a few mid-80s changeups per start. Santana’s the same guy he’s always been.

Bullpen Status

Remember how I said the Twins struggle to score runs and they don’t really do anything well? Well, thanks in part to their bullpen, Minnesota is on pace to allow 900 runs this season. That would be the most allowed by any team since the 2008 Rangers allowed 967 runs. Egads. Like most teams these days they’re carrying eight relievers. Here is Molitor’s bullpen crew:

Closer: RHP Kevin Jepsen (5.40/5.31)
Setup: LHP Fernando Abad (0.79/1.99), RHP Brandon Kintzler (2.65/4.67)
Middle: RHP Buddy Boshers (0.00/1.37 in 5.2 IP), RHP Ryan Pressly (4.17/4.31), RHP Neil Ramirez (5.11/6.95), LHP Taylor Rogers (5.28/5.55), RHP Michael Tonkin (3.27/3.50)

Regular closer LHP Glen Perkins has thrown only two innings this season because of an ongoing shoulder issue. Turns out he had a tear in his labrum and needs season-ending surgery. That’s a shame. Ramirez (39 pitches) and Rogers (30 pitchers) both threw a lot yesterday. Everyone else should be good to go tonight.

I strongly recommend taking those roles with a grain of salt. Outside of Jepsen, who has been a constant in the ninth inning, and Abad, the high-leverage lefty, no one seems to have a set role. Molitor mixes and matches and sort of brings guys in whenever. It was tough to find a pattern when looking over his bullpen usage.

As for the Yankees, you can head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s top relievers. Right now they’re in “use the big relievers in games the Yankees are losing because they need work” mode. Sucks.

Berardino: Twins made an “aggressive” offer for Justin Wilson in the offseason

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Mike Berardino, the Twins made what they consider an “aggressive” trade offer for left-hander Justin Wilson over the winter. The Yankees shipped Wilson to the Tigers for Triple-A righties Luis Cessa and Chad Green during the Winter Meetings. Brian Cashman cited the team’s need for rotation depth as the reason for making the trade.

Details about Minnesota’s offer are pretty scarce. Here’s more from Berardino:

“We were aware of (Wilson’s availability),” (GM Terry) Ryan said flatly, choosing not to elaborate.

Not only were the Twins aware, a person with direct knowledge subsequently confirmed they were deeply disappointed their own offer for Wilson was not accepted.

Dealing from a much deeper pool of prospects than the division-rival Tigers could, Twins officials never could quite figure out how their offer, which they deemed to be fairly aggressive, was rejected in favor of 24-year-old right-handers Chad Green and Luis Cessa.

Making an aggressive offer and making the best offer are necessarily the same thing. Prospects are like children, everyone loves their own more than they love everyone else’s, so it’s no surprised the Twins felt they made a better offer than the Tigers. Of course they’re disappointed. They have a very good strong farm system and I’m sure they like they player(s) they offered a whole bunch.

It’s impossible to know what Minnesota offered the Yankees for Wilson. Here is their MLB.com top 30 prospects list, if you wish to peruse. Triple-A rotation depth was an area of need and the Yankees clearly prioritized that in the Wilson trade. Maybe the Twins offered righty Tyler Duffey? Because beyond Jose Berrios and Alex Meyer, neither of whom was coming over for Wilson, there are no upper level rotation prospects in the Twins’ system.

I’m certain the Yankees shopped Wilson around and took what they felt was the best offer. They’re not idiots. They know they had a valuable commodity in Wilson — left-handed relievers are always in demand — and used him to acquire some much-needed rotation depth. In a world where Ian Kennedy and Mike Leake are getting $70M+ contracts, turning a reliever into two Triple-A starters makes an awful lot of sense to me.

Cessa pitched well in Spring Training and actually made the Opening Day roster before the Yankees decided to send him down to Triple-A so he could get stretched out and work as a starter. At this point I think he and Green are seventh and eighth on the rotation depth chart behind the five starters and Ivan Nova. Green’s not on the 40-man roster yet, however.

Wilson, by the way, is having a very nice season for the Tigers, pitching to a 0.00 ERA (0.87 FIP) with 15 strikeouts and two walks in eleven innings. The Yankees aren’t a seventh inning reliever away from contention, but there’s no doubt they could use someone like Wilson right now. Every team could.

The Rest of MLB [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The new season is upon us. Opening Day is Monday, which means it’s time to wrap up our annual Season Preview series. As always, we’ll end the series with a quick look around the league. Some of this is serious, most of it isn’t. Enjoy.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Why They’ll Suck: The middle infield is a mess and their corner outfield defense is going to be pretty bad if Yasmany Tomas plays left everyday. Also, they’ll probably trade some good players to unload a bad contract again.
Bold Prediction: Shelby Miller actually pitches well. I have no idea why so many analysts think he’s bad.

Atlanta Braves
Why They’ll Suck: Because they are trying to suck. Rebuilding is just a nice way of saying tanking.
Bold Prediction: Nick Markakis beats his ZiPS projection and slugs .370.

Chicago Cubs
Why They’ll Suck: They’re going to strike out way too much. It’s also only a matter of time until someone gets bit by some wild animal Joe Maddon brings into the clubhouse.
Bold Prediction: Adam Warren is their best starter. Boom!

Chicago White Sox
Why They’ll Suck: They lost their leader, Drake LaRoche.
Bold Prediction: We find out Adam LaRoche was the one who complained about Drake LaRoche being in the clubhouse all the time.

Cincinnati Reds
Why They’ll Suck: Their rotation is Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Jon Moscot, and John Lamb. No, wait, that’s the list of their injured starters. Now they have to turn to the B-team.
Bold Prediction: Joey Votto finally loses his mind, but in a polite, Canadian way. He’s already doing this between pitches:

Joey Votto

Cleveland Indians
Why They’ll Suck: In all seriousness, their entire starting outfield is either hurt (Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall) or suspended (Abe Almonte). They’re a Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco injury away from 85 losses. Beware.
Bold Prediction: Francisco Lindor leads all shortstops in WAR.

Colorado Rockies
Why They’ll Suck: The Rockies exist in a perpetual state of suck. Fun Fact: They have never once won a division title. They’ve finished as high as second place only three times in their 23 years of existence.
Bold Prediction: They finally trade Carlos Gonzalez. I’m thinking … Orioles.

Detroit Tigers
Why They’ll Suck: They’ve punted defense at the four corner positions and, inevitably, the relievers they acquired this winter will stink.
Bold Prediction: Justin Verlander bounces back and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting.

Houston Astros
Why They’ll Suck: Karma for doing very little in the offseason outside of adding a new closer and fifth starter. The rebuild is supposed to be over.
Bold Prediction: Carlos Correa is more Alex Gonzalez than Alex Rodriguez.

Kansas City Royals
Why They’ll Suck: They replaced Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist with Ian Kennedy and Christian Colon. Like, on purpose.
Bold Prediction: Kennedy wins 18 games and Colon hits .310. Eff the Royals, man.

Los Angeles Angels
Why They’ll Suck: The Angels have surrounded Mike Trout with as little position player talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: Jered Weaver’s fastball hits 84 mph once or twice.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Why They’ll Suck: The Dodgers have surrounded Clayton Kershaw with as little pitching talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: It becomes clear Yasiel Puig peaked early.

Miami Marlins
Why They’ll Suck: The fans and players are doomed to pay for Jeffrey Loria’s evil villian-ness. Fun Fact: They’ve never won a division title either. They’ve also never lost a postseason series.
Bold Prediction: Christian Yelich breaks out and puts up Andrew McCutchen numbers. I’m serious about that one.

Milwaukee Brewers
Why They’ll Suck: They’re another team that is going to suck on purpose. Before long they’re going to trade Jonathan Lucroy too.
Bold Prediction: Ramon Flores hits 15 dingers with a .350 OBP.

Minnesota Twins
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know, but I’m sure Twins fans will blame it on Joe Mauer.
Bold Prediction: Miguel Sano plays right field better than Torii Hunter did last year.

New York Mets
Why They’ll Suck: They’re still the Mets. Case in point: the recent Matt Harvey bladder story. Last year’s pennant didn’t change anything in that regard.
Bold Prediction: They have to trade for a starting pitcher at the deadline.

Oakland Athletics
Why They’ll Suck: No joke, I can name only one A’s starter (Sonny Gray) and one A’s infielder (Marcus Semien). Is Bobby Crosby still playing?
Bold Prediction: Josh Reddick gets traded for a holy crap package at the trade deadline. I’m thinking … Royals.

Philadelphia Phillies
Why They’ll Suck: Still reeling from the 2009 World Series, obviously.
Bold Prediction: Someone not named Maikel Franco or Ryan Howard hits a home run.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Why They’ll Suck: The baseball gods will not let John Jaso’s hair go unpunished.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Bold Prediction: Mark Melancon is traded at the deadline. I’m thinking … Dodgers.

St. Louis Cardinals
Why They’ll Suck: The Cardinals will never suck. The only thing they suck at is sucking. Their ace made four starts and their highest paid position player hit four home runs last season, and they still won 100 games. The Cardinals, man.
Bold Prediction: Three years after learning to play second base and one year after learning to hit for power, Matt Carpenter picks up pitching and saves 46 games.

San Diego Padres
Why They’ll Suck: I’m not entirely convinced the Padres exist at this point. Are we sure MLB still lets them into the league? What an amazingly nondescript franchise.
Bold Prediction: Someone throws the first no-hitter in franchise history. I’ll go with Colin Rea, who is a real player and definitely not someone I just made up.

San Francisco Giants
Why They’ll Suck: They buy into the “even year trend” a little too much and give Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner weeks off at a time this summer.
Bold Prediction: Bumgarner out-slugs the starting outfield.

Seattle Mariners
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know how it will happen exactly, but they’ll suck. The Mariners are the Wile E. Coyote of MLB. Every time they looked poised for success, they crash into the mountain with a tunnel painted on the side of it.
Bold Prediction: Bob Cano mashes 30 taters and finishes in the top three of the MVP voting. I’m expecting a big year from Robbie.

Texas Rangers
Why They’ll Suck: They won’t suck. They’ll be just good enough to get thisclose to winning something meaningful before having it ripped away again. Think Game Six of the 2011 World Series, or the seventh inning of Game Five of last year’s ALDS. That’s how the Rangers roll.
Bold Prediction: Josh Hamilton leads the team in home runs.

Washington Nationals
Why They’ll Suck: They’re the NL version of the Red Sox. They have talent and everyone buys the hype. It should work! But it doesn’t.

Homer Simpson

Bold Prediction: Bryce Harper is even better this year.

2015 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Thursday

The return of MFIKY? (Presswire)
The return of MFIKY? (Presswire)

The final day of the 2015 Winter Meetings is upon us, thankfully. I’m really for them to be over. The Rule 5 Draft will take place at 10am ET this morning and the Yankees will lose outfielder Jake Cave, in all likelihood. Maybe some others. There are some rumblings New York will make a pick of their own. They do have two open 40-man roster spots.

Here are Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Wednesday’s open threads. Thursday is typically the slowest day of the Winter Meetings — most folks head home after the Rule 5 Draft — but I’m sure there will still be plenty of news and rumors out of Nashville. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here. All time stamps are ET.

  • 10:00am: Following yesterday’s trade, Brian Cashman told reporters he’s not done making moves yet. “I’m also not done. I’ve got a lot of other conversations in play and we’ll see where that takes me,” said the GM. I mean, duh. It’s December 10th. Of course he’s not done. [Peter Caldera]
  • 10:00am: The Yankees are among the teams to check in on Rafael Soriano. Soriano, 35, threw 5.2 ineffective innings for the Cubs this year and was released at midseason. At this point of his career, Soriano’s a non-roster invite guy, not someone you guarantee a roster spot. [Jon Heyman]
  • 10:00am: The Yankees have their eyes on Astros lefty Reymin Guduan, Astros righty Chris Devenski, and Cardinals righty Luis Perdomo in the Rule 5 Draft. Guduan is a lock to be selected today because he’s a southpaw who throws 100 mph on the regular. [George King]
  • 10:26am: The Dodgers have moved on from Aroldis Chapman, understandably so, and they’re now “weighing” a run at Andrew Miller. With Ken Giles traded and Chapman persona non grata, Miller is by far the best available reliever on the market. [Jon Heyman]
  • 10:31am: The Twins were one of the other teams after Justin Wilson prior to yesterday’s trade. If they’re looking a lefty reliever, the Yankees still have plenty to offer. [LaVelle Neal]
  • 12:18pm: Cashman said he considers the bullpen and the roster in general “incomplete.” I’d say. “I’m intending to do more,” he added. [Bryan Hoch, Brendan Kuty]
  • 12:45pm: The Astros worked “extensively” on an Andrew Miller trade with the Yankees before turning to Giles. They gave up a pretty nice package of players for Giles. The Yankees really seem to be asking a ton for Miller. [Buster Olney]
  • 2:45pm: Talks between the Yankees and Dodgers about Andrew Miller have “no legs.” The Yankees continue to see a good young starter in return and Los Angeles doesn’t have one of those to offer. [Jon Heyman]

(Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.)

Twins win posting for Korean slugger Byung-Ho Park with $12.85M bid

The Twins have won the negotiating rights to Korean first baseman Byung-Ho Park, MLB announced earlier today. Multiple reports say the winning bid was $12.85M, the second largest ever for an Asian position player (Ichiro Suzuki, $13M) and the second largest for a Korean player overall (Hyun-Jin Ryu, $25.7M). The Twins and Park have 30 days to work out a contract.

The Yankees were said to be among several teams scouting Park this past season, though it’s unclear if they even placed a bid. Jon Heyman said they were out of the race over the weekend. Park is a right-handed hitting first baseman, and while the Yankees could use a righty bat, pretty much the last thing they need right now is another first baseman/DH. Mark Teixeira, Greg Bird, and Alex Rodriguez are plenty.

Park, 29, hit .343/.436/.714 with 53 home runs for the Nexen Heroes this past season. He hit 52 home runs last year in the offense happy Korea Baseball Organization. Remember Eric Thames, the former Blue Jays and Mariners outfielder? He hit .381/.497/.790 with 47 home runs in Korea this past season. So yeah, it’s a great place to hit.

The Yankees figure to continue looking for a righty bat to balance their lineup this offseason. They need to replace Chris Young on the bench, at the very least. Second base is really the only open position player spot, though a trade is always possible. Brett Gardner would be rather easy to move if the Yankees wanted a righty hitting outfielder.

Yankeemetrics: Bird goes boom, sweep Twins (Aug. 17-19)

(Elsa/Getty Images)
(Elsa/Getty Images)

Thank you, NunEEEEEE
In what might turn out to be one of the wildest and most bizarre games of this 2015 season, the Yankees walked off with a 8-7 win over the Twins on Monday night.

Brian McCann put the Yankees on the board first with a three-run homer in the opening frame, and then after the Twins rallied with four runs of their own, he put the home team back on top again with a two-run single in the third. McCann finished with five RBIs, becoming the first Yankee catcher to drive in at least five runs in a game against the Twins franchise since Yogi Berra on April 17, 1956 (when they were known as the Washington Senators).

Because of Bryan Mitchell’s scary injury in the second inning, the Yankees were forced to use a parade of relievers to finish the game, with none pitching more than 2 1/3 innings. This is the only time in the last 100 seasons that the Yankees have won a game using at least seven pitchers, who each got no more than seven outs.

The Yankees won the game when Eduardo Nunez muffed a grounder with the bases loaded and threw to first base anyways for the out, thereby allowing Brendan Ryan to trot home from third for the victory. Oh Nuneeeee, the gift that keeps on giving for Yankee fans.

Per the play-by-play data at Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index, this is the first time the Yankees won on a walk-off RBI ground out (that’s how it was scored) since May 16, 1985 against the Rangers. That victory 30 years ago was courtesy of a bases-loaded ground out by Dave Winfield that scored pinch runner Rickey Henderson from third base.

#BAEROD
“Home runs are great, grand slams are awesome.” – Mr. Alexander Enmanuel Rodriguez

Another night, another comeback win for these 2015 Yankees. This time the hero was a slumping A-Rod (3-for-37 in his previous nine games), who drilled a home run with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead and an eventual win over the Twins on Tuesday night.

It was his 25th career grand slam, extending his major-league record, and the fourth time A-Rod has hit a grand slam in the seventh inning or later to give the Yankees a lead. In the last 75 seasons, no other Yankees has hit more than two homers like that with the bases loaded.

The four-run homer was also A-Rod’s 25th home run of the season, the 15th time in his career he’s reached that mark. The only other players in major-league history with at least 15 25-homer seasons are Babe Ruth, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.

The win guaranteed a series victory for the Yankees, their first in the Bronx against the Twins since 2011. In that span, the Yankees had won at least one home series against every other AL team.

Bird droppings
The Yankees comeback train kept on chugging along on Wednesday afternoon as the team rallied for yet another win over the Twins, sweeping them at home for the first time since May 2009.

Greg Bird had himself a day, hitting his first two career homers and driving in all four of the Yankee runs. He’s the third Yankee in the last 100 years with a multi-homer game within his first five career games, joining Jesus Montero (2011) and the immortal Shelley Duncan (2007).

In that span, he’s also the third Yankee first baseman with two or more homers in a game at the age of 22 or younger. The others you might have heard of: Joe Pepitone (1962, 1963) and Lou Gehrig (1925).

Since RBI became an official stat in 1920, Bird is just the second major-leaguer to have at least four RBI in a game this early into his career (first five games), and drive in all of his team’s runs. The other was Vada Pinson, who tallied four RBI in his second career game, a 4-1 win for the Reds over the Pirates on April 18, 1958.

Bird’s sixth inning two-run blast was the game-winner, and put him in some more good company, too. The only other Yankee first baseman in the last 40 seasons with a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later against the Twins are Tino Martinez (1996) and Don Mattingly (1993, 1985).

8/17 to 8/19 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Home sweet home. The Yankees start a three-game series against the Twins tonight, and they will play their next ten and 20 of their next 26 (!) games at home in Yankee Stadium. They’ve been much better at home (32-21, +48 run differential) than on the road (32-31, +15) this season, so this 20-in-26 stretch is a golden opportunity to increase the lead in the AL East. The Yankees took two of three from the Twins in Target Field late last month, thanks in part to Alex Rodriguez‘s three home-run game.

What Have The Twins Done Lately?

The Twins are going down in flames. They had a nice little start to the season but they have lost 18 of their last 27 games, getting outscored 157-105 in the process. They are who we thought they were, as Dennis Green once said. Minnesota has fallen out of wildcard position (they’re 1.5 games back) and are 59-58 with a -24 run differential overall in 2015. Don’t overlook this series though. The AL East title is in doubt and the Twins are one of about six teams vying for a wildcard. This series as some postseason implications.

Offense & Defense

With an average of 4.22 runs per game and a team 90 wRC+, the Twins are a below-average offensive club. (They’re actually slightly better than average in terms of runs per game, but that wRC+ …. yikes.) That doesn’t mean they don’t have any individually dangerous hitters, of course. Manager Paul Molitor’s team is healthy on the position player side. No one on the DL or even day-to-day.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Right now, Minnesota’s most dangerous hitter is DH Miguel Sano (156 wRC+ in limited time), who is absolutely terrifying at the plate. I’ll be happy if he hits only one homer in the three-game series. 2B Brian Dozier (120 wRC+) is quite dangerous and both OF Aaron Hicks (105 wRC+), OF Eddie Rosario (104 wRC+), and 3B Trevor Plouffe (107 wRC+) are strong supporting players. 1B Joe Mauer (93 wRC+) and OF Torii Hunter (94 wRC+) are both on the downside of their careers.

C Kurt Suzuki (60 wRC+) is the everyday catcher and lately UTIL Eduardo Escobar (78 wRC+) and former Yankees UTIL Eduardo Nunez (92 wRC+) have been splitting time at short. C Chris Herrmann (52 wRC+) is the backup catcher and OF Shane Robinson (78 wRC+) is the other bench player. Only a three-man bench for the Twinkies these days.

The defensive stats are not fans of the Twins. Hicks and Dozier are excellent, and Rosario is fine in left, but Hunter and Plouffe are not the rangiest of fellows. Mauer’s fine around the bag at first but also doesn’t offer much range. Nunez at short? We’ve seen that movie before. (Escobar’s fine there.) Suzuki is solid behind the plate.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (No vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (vs. NYY)
The 27-year-old Gibson is finally starting to settle in as a solid big league starter, pitching to a 3.75 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 23 starts and 141.2 innings this year. I thought he was going to be star coming out of Mizzou back in 2009 (22nd overall pick), so that shows what I know. Gibson has a below-average strikeout rate (17.3%), but both his walk (7.5%) and homer (0.95 HR/9) rates are good, plus he gets a ton of ground balls (52.8%). Righties (.334 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.293 wOBA), which is the opposite of what happened last year. Also, it’s worth noting Gibson has been much more successful at home in spacious Target Field (3.12 ERA and 4.15 FIP) than on the road (4.57 ERA and 4.06 FIP) this year. He works in the low-90s with two and four-seam fastballs and also throws mid-80s sliders and changeups. Gibson has used all four pitches at least 18% of the time this season. The Yankees saw Gibson last month and scored six runs in 5.1 innings.

As for the Yankees, tonight was supposed to be CC Sabathia‘s turn, but last night various Twins beat reporters said Minnesota had been informed Bryan Mitchell will start instead. Sure enough, Brian Cashman confirmed this morning Mitchell will start tonight. Sabathia will start tomorrow. The Yankees had been talking about using a spot sixth starter at some point during this stretch of 16 games in 16 days to give the rest of the rotation extra rest, and tonight’s the night.

Tuesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (vs. NYY)
Big Pelf has a 3.70 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 22 starts and 129 innings this year, though this has really been a tale of two seasons for the ex-Met. He had a 2.28 ERA (3.84 FIP) in his first eleven starts and has a 5.23 ERA (4.06 FIP) in the eleven starts since. Pelfrey has the second lowest strikeout rate among qualified starters at 11.3% — Jeremy Guthrie has the lowest at 11.1% — so he instead relies on limiting walks (6.9%), getting grounders (53.7%), and keeping the ball in the park (0.49 HR/9). Lefties (.340 wOBA) have hit him a bit harder than righties (.310 wOBA). The 31-year-old Pelfrey lives off his low-to-mid-90s sinker but will also throw some straight low-to-mid-90s four-seamers to keep hitters honest. Low-80s splitters and sliders are his two offspeed pitches. The Yankees did not face Pelfrey when they visited Minnesota a few weeks ago.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Wednesday (1pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (vs. NYY)
Santana, 32, returned a few weeks ago after serving an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension to start the season. Not the best way to kick off a four-year contract, eh? Santana has a 5.66 ERA (5.59 FIP) in eight starts and 47.2 innings since coming back and he has been incredibly homer prone (1.70 HR/9). His walk rate (8.4%) is in line with his career norms but his strikeout (13.0%) and grounder (37.6%) rates are way down. Left-handed batters (.358 wOBA) have had more success against Santana than righties (.336 wOBA) this year. A low-to-mid-90s four-seam fastball is his primary weapon and he’ll also throw a ton of mid-80s sliders each time out. Santana has thrown his slider at least 33% of the time every year since PitchFX was fully put in place in 2008. He has started throwing his mid-80s changeup a bit more often in recent years but it is still a distant third pitch. Santana shows you can carve out a pretty long career as a starter as a two-pitch pitcher, as long as one pitch is mid-90s heat and the other is a wipeout slider. The Yankees did not see Santana the last time these teams played.

Bullpen Status
Molitor is stuck with one of the league’s worst bullpens (4.08 ERA/4.16 FIP) despite having a shutdown closer in LHP Glen Perkins (2.49/3.39). RHP Casey Fien (3.89/3.73) has been his primary setup man alongside trade deadline pickup RHP Kevin Jepsen (2.79/4.06). LHP Brian Duensing (4.54/4.06) is the main matchup southpaw.

RHP A.J. Achter (10.13/6.49 in very limited time), RHP Trevor May (4.15/3.26), LHP Ryan O’Rourke (3.38/3.19 in limited time), and Rule 5 Draft pick RHP J.R. Graham (4.50/4.61) fill out the rest of the bullpen. Duensing, Fien, Jepsen, and Perkins all pitched yesterday. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page, then head over to Twinkie Town and Aaron Gleeman’s site for updates on the Twins.