ALDS Preview: Minnesota Twins

Last night’s thrilling four and a half hour game capped a magical run for the Twins to clinch the AL Central title. In so doing they earned the right to fly to New York and play the Yankees less than 24 hours after finishing off the Tigers and burning through seven relief pitchers and their best starter.

As Dave touched on earlier since the Yankees had the best record they could choose to force the Twins to play the longer series that starts today. The Twins have been playing meaningful games up to just hours ago, so they had no chance to set their rotation up going into the playoffs. Scott Baker, obviously, cannot go, Carl Pavano pitched Sunday, Nick Blackburn pitched Saturday and would be going on three days rest, so the Game One start–opposite CC Sabathia, the first playoff game in the HR-haven New Yankee Stadium, facing a lineup with eights hitters who have wOBAs above 0.370–falls to Brian Duensing.

Duensing is 26 and got his first taste of the bigs in mid-August and has been in the rotation ever since. He had underwhelming strikeout numbers in the minors and his success so far in the majors seems to be dependent on a LOB% much higher than in any stop in the minors. Against CC Sabathia this is a serious mismatch.

After that the Twins will go Blackburn in game two, Pavano in game three, Baker in game four and back to Blackburn in game five if necessary. Unfortunately this means they might not get to their best pitcher, Baker, at all and Blackburn rather than Pavano or Baker gets two starts. All three of these guys limit walks really well, so they will make an OBP-heavy Yankee’s team do some hitting (not that the they have any problem in that department). Pavano turned out to be a major pickup for the unusually pitching-starved Twins and it will be interesting to watch him pitch to his old friends, some of whom have less than stellar memories of his time with them.

With Justin Morneau the Twins had a solidly above average offense. And even without him they have five great to above average hitters: Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Denard Span and Jose Morales. Thought Kubel has trouble with lefties, who they will face in two of three, three of four or three of five games. The main problem for the Twins is the huge drop off after those five guys. The other four spots in the lineup feature guys with wOBAs ranging from 0.318 to 0.278, too many easy outs.

People say that baseball playoff series are crapshoots and five games is a small sample, but I think the crapshootness is overstated. This series features the best team in MLB by a significant margin versus a good, but far from great, team. You have to think the Yankees will be favored in every game, even Pavano versus Andy Pettitte and Baker versus Sabathia in games three and four at the Metrodome. Still all of the intangibles-momentumy kind of stuff points in the Twins direction, if you believe in that kind of stuff.

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

16 Responses to “ALDS Preview: Minnesota Twins”

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  1. Bill says:

    Yeah, I remember how far the intangibles-momentumy stuff carried the Rockies in the ’07 series. Once they ran into a vastly better team, the momentum suddenly disappeared.

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  2. Logan says:

    Nice article. I also think the crapshootness is overstated, there’s certainly a degree of it, but I’d be fairly surprised if this even went 5. The Yankees have the Morneau-less Twins solidly covered in pretty much every aspect.

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    • Jon says:

      Even with Morneau hes about an even match with Teix

      The only place the twins have an advantage over the yankees is in their catcher

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      • Logan says:

        With Morneau there, Cuddyer moves to the OF, Kubel to DH, and the Twins have 4 hitters with wOBA’s over .370, and Denard Span at the top of the lineup. Obviously that’s not the Yankees lineup, but it’s reasonably close (probably a difference of less than half a run per game).

        The big gap is the pitching. The Twins are gonna need a lot of luck w/ BABIP and LOB%.

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  3. Rob in CT says:

    Also, haven’t the Yankees tended to pound Blackburn? Maybe the sample is too small to really mean much, but I have warm fuzzy feelings when I see Blackburn’s name.

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  4. Not David says:

    Jose Morales has no business being mentioned along side those other hitters.

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    • Bryz says:

      I agree, he is basically a singles hitter and frustrating is bringing back memories of Jason Tyner as the primary DH.

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      • Not David says:

        Don’t remind me, I’m still trying to forget.

        Even when Morales had a .450 BABIP he barely managed an .850 OPS. He’s simply a very limited offensive player.

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  5. Thank You Michael Lewis says:

    Anyone think that it would be optimal to start Burnett tonight over CC? The Twins rotation is in shambles, sending out a back-of-the-rotation guy, the bullpen is fried, and the team is a little tired. Why not save CC for game two when the Yankees will face a better pitcher and a rested bullpen?

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  6. Bryz says:

    Just so you know Dave, Duensing’s “first taste of the bigs” actually was when he started the season with the Twins and made 1 relief appearance of 3 innings on April 10th. Unless your comment means Duensing first became a full-time major-league starter in mid-August (he had a spot start at the end of July), he had 15 appearances totaling 35 1/3 IP before his Aug. 22nd start.

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  7. Bill says:

    The word is that game 3 is “TBA” for the Twins. If they’re down 2-0, it’s almost certain to be Baker rather than Pavano. I think it ought to be Baker regardless, but whatever.

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    • Alex JN says:

      Is this right? I mean, if they’re down 2-0, they have to win three games – might as well ensure optimal rest for all three, since they’re all equally important in they’re planning on winning the series.

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      • lookatthosetwins says:

        Agreed. They should give the team the best chance of winning the series. Whether Baker pitches game 3 or 4, he’s only pitching one game, so it might as well be with full rest. No reason to pitch a guy on 4 days rest so you can pitch a guy on 7 the next day.

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  8. David says:

    No love for Denard Span?

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