This is the fifth and final piece of The Yankee U’s 2010 ALDS Preview.
In the first piece, we examined Twins’ ace Francisco Liriano. After detailing how spectacular Liriano has been this season, and he’s really been quite good, I noted that Liriano is very reliant on his slider, especially when ahead in the count. The question will be how the Yankees attack him tonight. Will they be aggressive and try to attack the fastballs that he throws early in the count, or will they be able to work the count and lay off the deadly slider that he throws when he’s up in the count? The other question is how Liriano will do this series. Is he fatigued, and will it show?
After examining Liriano from every possible angle we moved on to the rest of the Twins’ rotation in the second piece. We saw that the Twins would be relying on ~4.00 FIP pitcher Carl Pavano in Game 2, and noted two distinct advantages for the Yankees: he’s struggled down the stretch and he pitches to contact. Beyond Pavano is Game 3 starter Brian Duensing. While Duensing has been a revelation for the Twins in the past few months, he has several factors working against him: righties hit him well, and he had trouble getting his left shoulder loose in the cold weather. Finally, we looked at Nick Blackburn. Blackburn started the season about as bad as any pitcher could, and ended up spending a solid month in AAA. When he returned he pitched better, but he still didn’t show any ability to strike batters out. He’s the ultimate pitch to contact type pitcher. Additionally, we saw that 3.16 ERA in 9 appearances after returning from AAA had come largely against weak-hitting teams.
In the third piece of the series we looked at every batter in the Twins’ starting lineup. The Twins have plenty of offensive strength in Mauer, Young and Thome, and there is upside with Kubel and Cuddyer. However, there are significant questions about the ability of Span and Hudson to get on base ahead of the heavy hitters, as well as whether Valencia can keep his magic going into October. Finally, we looked at the bullpen, bench and defense of the Twins in the fourth piece of the series this morning. The Twins have a good bullpen with plenty of tools and more depth than the Yankees, but lack the type of shutdown reliever that the Yankees have in spades this year. Their bench is adequate, and they are an overall solid defensive team, albeit one with a few holes.
In forming my prediction for this series I’m well aware of the vagaries of a short series. When you’re dealing with teams as good as the Twins and the Yankees, anything can happen in a 5 game set. If Sabathia is cold and Andy is rusty, it could be an early exit for the Yankees this year. Yet, in the course of this series preview I’ve written over 5,500 words in an attempt to best understand the roster that the Twins bring into the playoffs. The longer I’ve spent analyzing them, the more confident I’ve gotten about the Yankees chances. Maybe it’s only natural to amplify the faults of the opponent. Maybe it’s only natural to see more weakness the longer you spend staring at something, turning it over in your head, and taking it apart and putting it back together. Maybe I just want the Yankees to win. I can’t say.
What I can say is that I like our starters more than the Twins starters. I would rather have CC in Game 1 of the ALDS than Liriano. I’d rather have Andy and Phil than Pavano and Duensing. I’m certain that I’d rather have CC on short rest than Nick Blackburn. With all the questions surrounding Pettitte’s health and Hughes’ home/road splits, I think the Yankees rotation can get it done in the ALDS. I’m very happy about the fact that 4 of 5 games will be started by quality left-handed pitchers. I respect the Twins’ bullpen. They have a slew of good arms and they’ll probably use them properly. The two lefties are a particular advantage. I like our bullpen just as much, though, and I agree with Gleeman that there’s greater upside and shutdown potential in Robertson, Wood, Logan, Chamberlain and Rivera than in the Twins bunch. I prefer our offense to Minnesota’s. The Twins have Mauer and Thome and they’re formidable forces to be sure. But it seems to me that we have more slugging potential, better on-base skill, more speed, more firepower, more patience and more depth in our lineup than Minnesota. I like that.
Maybe it’s because I love the Yankees and I desperately want them to win. Maybe it’s because I’ve avoided reading and listening to any playoff preview other than the good stuff done over at Yankeeist and River Ave Blues, thereby avoiding the those that make their living off criticizing New York’s better team. Maybe it’s because I’m not a bridge-jumper. But I don’t think that’s it. I think this team can win without home field advantage. I think the Yankees are fundamentally better than the Minnesota Twins and for that reason I feel confident with my prediction:
Yankees in 3.
I also have the predictions from Moshe and Matt, and I’ll update this post if EJ, Steve S. and Eric post their predictions in the comments.
Moshe: Yankees in 4
Matt: Yankees in 4.
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