ALDS Game 3 Preview: Minnesota

Tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium, the Twins will face their first true must-win game of the season. It doesn’t matter what the pundits said during the regular season; it doesn’t matter who wrote an alarmist column after a losing streak. In the regular season, there was always a next game for the Minnesota Twins. If they come up short in New York on Saturday night, the next game for the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club will be on April 1st, 2011, and that will surely be a different team, with certain moving parts shuffled out and new acquisitions inserted. This is not a “must-win” game in terms of some sort of abstract momentum or for team morale. No, this is about survival, about an entity that will cease to exist if the game is lost.

The Twins will send relatively unknown lefty Brian Duensing to the mound. Despite a lack of exposure, Duensing has had a solid season. In only 130 innings, Duensing picked up 1.7 WAR, mostly thanks to great control but also an ability to keep the ball on the ground. Duensing doesn’t strike out many batters – only 5.4 per nine innings – but he walks fewer than 2.5 per nine and his 53% ground ball rate keeps the ball in the yard. Duensing has a pretty basic repertoire, using a low-90s fastball, a slider, a changeup, and, sparingly, a curveball, and according to our pitch type values, they were all relatively successful, at or above league average. Particularly deadly was the slider, which came in at a whopping 14.3 runs above average for the whole season and +3.9 runs per 100 thrown. The raw total is 13th among all MLB pitchers; among starters, only Mark Buehrle tops Duensing’s per-pitch mark.

The slider is typically a powerful pitch against same handed hitters, and so, unsurprisingly, Duensing does exhibit a marked platoon split. Lefties have only a .231 wOBA against a .327 wOBA for righties. This comes in only 243 and 651 batters faced respectively, and so we should expect a platoon split somewhere between the league average of 20 points and the nearly 100 points observed so far. Still, Duensing’s reliance on a nasty slider does suggest that he may be a lefty killer, and the fact that his slider wouldn’t work as well against right handed batters would support a large platoon split.

That means that neutralizing righties will likely be a key for Duensing, and that means neutralizing Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher, and Marcus Thames.

With that kind of lineup, even though Duensing is talented, the Twins will have to score some runs. They finally will get a game against a right handed pitcher in Phil Hughes, which should help Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Denard Span, and Jason Kubel. Of course, Hughes is a good pitcher himself, but the Twins lineup is designed to hit right handed pitchers, and at the New Yankees Stadium, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a home run or two from the Twins powerful lefties, particularly Thome.

The bullpen for Minnesota should be well rested. Nobody threw multiple innings on Thursday, and Brian Fuentes, who threw 1.2 IP on Wednesday, will have two full days of rest. Jon Rauch, Matt Capps, Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, and Fuentes – the key pieces of this Twins bullpen – should all be good to go tomorrow.

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16 Responses to “ALDS Game 3 Preview: Minnesota”

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  1. phoenix says:

    brett gardner is not a righty, but point taken. even though that slider is so deadly against lefties, cano has been hitting slider like mad this year. i don’t know the exact number, but he has been slightly above average against FB, well above average against changeups, well above average against curves and he absolutely kills sliders. maybe the left on left slider will have better results, but someone had better tell duensing not to get too slider happy with cano…

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  2. Levi says:

    I was surprised at how big Duensing’s platoon split is; even with the small sample I didn’t realize it was that huge.

    Brett Gardner bats lefty though, so while Duensing still has to neutralize him, I don’t think you meant to group him in with the other guys who will be batting righty tomorrow.

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  4. nick says:

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  5. Noseeum says:

    Here’s a dilemma for you: Yankee fan. Someone calls you with two free tickets to game 4. “Hell yeah!!!!”

    Up 2-0, you gotta root for the sweep, but it’s going to be tough to be really upset tomorrow night if the end result is a visit to Yankee Stadium on Sunday night to watch CC attempt to close it out.

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    • Carcillo says:

      Could be a bigger dilemma, if you will.

      You could have tickets to Game 6 of the World Series, but you’re team is up 3-1 heading into the 5th game, leaving you in the position to root like hell that you WON’T go to a World Series game.

      That’s tremendous.

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  6. NotDave says:

    Fun stat for Yankee fans: with Hunter Wendelstadt behind the plate over the past 3 years, the Twins are 1-11. They have given up 109 runs in those 12 games while scoring 34. Their normally walk-stingy staff has issued 97 bases on balls, while drawing 29. And yet there’s Hunter Wendlestadt behind the plate for game two of the ALDS, and surprise, surprise, he refuses to call a Yankee hitter out on strikes late in the game, while Yankee pitchers suddenly can’t throw a ball.

    Be proud, Yankee fan. Be proud.

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    • Lee D says:

      why not look at one of the 100 pitch fx graphs that shows pavano was getting more calls than andy throughout the game, dumbfukc

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      • NotDave says:

        “Useful idiots” was a coin phrased by Vladimir Lenin. How appropriate for Yankee fan. You don’t even realize how big a tool you are, do you?

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      • kgm says:

        This lesson in lacking self-awareness has been brought to you by NotDave, with a grant from the Corporation for Public Nonsense.

        NotDave, teaching his pony one trick since 2010.

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  7. awayish says:

    notdave is some kind of reverse troll

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    • Bill says:

      He’s a llort. I love you NotDave, you adorable llort, and the Corporation for Public Nonsense that funds you.

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