From LEN we get word that the Twins will carry 12 pitchers on their postseason roster, with the following 8 relievers making the cut:
Closer Joe Nathan and lefthanders Francisco Liriano, Ron Mahay and Jose Mijares and righthanders Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Bobby Keppel.
Let’s run through these names so that you know what to expect come the late innings in the ALDS.
The Lefties: ?????? ????? ???? It is important to note that most of the lefties on the Yankees roster have no problem with hitting against lefty pitching. That being said, I am sure Ron Gardenhire will play matchups regardless of that fact, so let’s break it down.
Jose Mijares has been used as the primary lefty specialist by the Twins, with lefties hitting .155/.228/.252 against him. Righties have an OPS of .791 against him, so I doubt we see him face anything but lefties and possibly some switch hitters. I could see him being used against Johnny Damon in a big spot, with the Twins then being forced to decide whether to let him pitch to Teixeira or not. His xFIP is 4.63, which suggests that his low 2.34 ERA is a product of luck.
Ron Mahay was having an awful year in KC before coming to Minny and putting together a solid run over 9 innings of work. However, at this point he is a specialist who is not great against lefties (.743 OPS) and awful against righties (1.005). He has allowed 10 homers on the season, and is averaging almost 4 walks per 9 innings. Imagine Phil Coke without the really low WHIP, allowing plenty of homers but not compensating by getting very many outs. As with Mijares, he will likely be used as a LOOGY, which illustrates why the Twins need to take 12 pitchers.
Francisco Liriano has had an awful year, and his numbers are not significantly better as a reliever than they were as a starter. He is an immense talent, but is unlikely to see important moments in this series. He will be used as a long man or possibly for a lefty or two, and will likely be the mop up guy in the event of a blowout.
Matt Guerrier is the set up man, although the acquisition of Jon Rauch has muddied the waters a bit. Guerrier has actually been better against lefties (.525 OPS) than righties (.645), but he is going to be used for full innings and is unlikely to be pulled for a specialist in a big spot. He does not walk very many hitters (less than 2 per 9), keeps home runs down, and does not allow much in the way of baserunners (.97 WHIP). His only flaw is a low K rate (5.5 K/9), which may hurt him against a Yankee club that generally handles non-power pitchers.
Jon Rauch has had a very solid career since moving to the bullpen, and 2009 was no exception. He leads the Twins in strand rate (91.4%), and is equally solid against lefties and righties. Like Guerrier, he does not allow very many home runs, but he walks more hitters and allows more hits, making him the second best righty in the pen outside of the closer. Rauch, Guerrier, and Mijares constitute the bridge to closer Joe Nathan, and they make for a pretty solid late inning combination.
Jesse Crain has seen his numbers drop precipitously since his excellent rookie campaign in 2004, to the point where he is currently a below average pitcher. He walks too many batters (4.7 per 9) and gets destroyed by lefties. That being said, his numbers against righties are very good (.220/.291/.280), meaning he can be used together with the LOOGY’s to piece together an inning or so.
Bob Keppel, last night’s winning pitcher, is the last man out of the pen for Ron Gardenhire. He walks too many hitters, is equally mediocre against lefties and righties, and does not strike anybody out. If he is the game, it probably means the game is not very close.
Joe Nathan is about as close to Mariano Rivera as a pitcher can get, with his numbers since arriving in Minnesota rivaling those of the great Mo. Steve touched on this in the post breaking down the starters, and a look at the numbers he posted illustrates how close a comparison it really is. The one caveat is that the Yankees have fared pretty decently against Nathan, with the second highest OPS (.715) against Nathan of all AL Teams. If the Twins reach the 9th inning with a lead, the Yankees will have their work cut out for them.
In sum, the Twins have a good bullpen highlighted by a stellar closer and very good set up man. They also have a number of solid options to use in matching up, although most of the Yankee hitters do not have extreme splits to take advantage of. Like the rest of the Twins team, this facet of their club is good but not great.
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