The Twins rotation will be groundball heavy, with Scott Baker continuing to battle elbow soreness and Kevin Slowey on his way to the bullpen. The impeccable Francisco Liriano, the infamous Carl Pavano, the unheralded Brian Duensing, and the predictable Nick Blackburn will start the games for the American League Central Champions throughout at least the Divisional Series. This could lead to some frustration for opposing teams as each of those guys has a groundball rate of at least 50% this season. Their groundball dominance goes beyond this season, too:
Pitcher Career GB Rate
Duensing 50.0% (starting and relief)
Part of the benefit in generating ground balls is the raised possibility of a double play. The league average this season is a twin killing in 12% of the opportunities. Liriano (9%) is the only starter who falls well below that mark with Pavano (11%) close and Duensing (16%) along with Blackburn (17%) well above the mark. These fellows will be pitching to one Derek Jeter, who happens to be amongst the tops in the league when it comes to rolling into double plays.
Twenty-two times in 120 opportunities results in 18%. That is a double play opportunity every six plate appearances. An absurd rate from a leadoff hitter and a tribute to how often Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson reach in front of The Captain. Only Lance Berkman has a higher GIDP rate than Jeter on the Yankees, and his comes in a small sample size and without support from his past to legitimize this as a chronic issue. Robinson Cano and Austin Kearns are the other two Yankees with above league average GIDP rates.
It’s not unreasonable to think that at some point in this series Jeter will come up with Gardner or Granderson on first base and less than two outs against the Twins’ starting pitcher. Do not be surprised if the end-result is a decrease in the Yankees’ run expectancy and an increase in Jeter-related snark.