Larry will be providing a comprehensive ALDS preview tomorrow, which I look forward to with bated breath. However, if you’re like me, when playoff time comes around you want your analysis, and you wanted it yesterday! With immediate gratification in mind, I wanted to take a look at some overlooked (and possibly overhyped) members of the Minnesota Twins’ team.
Francisco Liriano Fangraphs has some explaining to do. It says that Francisco Liriano was worth 6.0 WAR over 191.2 innings of 3.62 ERA, 2.66 FIP baseball. It says that CC Sabathia, on the other hand, was worth 5.1 WAR over 237.2 innings of 3.18 ERA, 3.54 FIP baseball. The difference in FIP is due to Liriano’s strikeout and homer rates, both of which are better than CC’s, but FIP isn’t THAT important. In the future, Fangraphs has to readjust its pitcher WAR estimates because any stat that says that Liriano was better than CC in 2010 is broken. If you assume that Liriano didn’t pitch to his ERA, which is considerably worse than CC’s, but actually pitched to his inflated FIP, of 2.66, CC would still be the better pitcher because he pitched 46 more innings than Francisco, more than five full baseball games. The Yankees would have won at least three and possibly four of those games, but Francisco is almost a full game better than CC, according to Fangraphs. And I’m the President.
All this is a long way of saying that Liriano may be a touch overrated. Joba Chamberlain pitched to an excellent FIP and worse ERA this season. He serves as solid evidence that ERA matters. At the end of the day, Liriano didn’t give the Twins consistent length in ball games, only had a 115 ERA+, and the Yankees beat him both times he pitched against them, collecting 17 hits along the way. Liriano is a good pitcher, but he’s not the one I’m afraid of in the ALDS.
Carl Pavano This guy is. Before I dive into the numbers, I just want to ask if anyone else agrees that Carl shouldn’t be allowed to play baseball? I know this is America, land of the free and all that, but if our government can ban people for life from the securities industry when they steal gross sums of money, can’t they at least banish Pavano to Pirates or the Nationals for his grand theft?
If I had to choose between Liriano’s 191.2 innings of 3.62 ERA and Pavano’s 221 innings of 3.75 ERA I’d take Pavano and the 30 extra innings in a heartbeat. Larry has done this topic more justice than I ever could, but Pavano is precisely the kind of finesse pitcher that gives the Yankees fits. He walks only 1.51 batters per nine innings (CC gives up 2.8 free passes per nine), and has a changeup worth 11.7 runs above average, a Yankee-Kryptonite™ complement to his plus slider. He has a below-average fastball, but with his excellent control he should be able to keep it away from the Yankee hitters.
The smart move for Ron Gardenhire would be to start Pavano in Game One and Liriano in Game Two, messing with the Yankees’ rotation and giving the Twins their best chance to win both games at Target Field. Fortunately no one in baseball is smart enough to mix it up like this.
Jim Thome Full disclosure: I hate this guy. I’ve hated Thome since he was an Indian. I don’t care how good a guy he is. There is no way, repeat NO WAY Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez worked their magic with an assist from PEDs while Thome and his Dudley Do Right chin are totally clean. I could administer a clean test to him myself and I would still refuse to believe it.
Anyway, over only 340 plate appearances he hit .284/.412/.627 this year, with 25 home runs, good for a 178 OPS+. To put things in perspective, A-Rod has never had a 178 OPS+ season in his entire career.
Delmon Young Young will always have a special place in my heart for hitting an umpire with a bat when he was still a minor leaguer. There aren’t a lot of players in baseball who are that angry and stupid, and John Rocker played this game.
After laboring for years in the Rays system, Tampa sent him to Minnesota where Delmon has finally begun realizing his considerable hype. His line of .298/.333/.493 with 21 home runs and 46 doubles isn’t great, but demands respect from Yankee pitchers. I could easily see Girardi over-managing to get around other hitters in Minnesota’s lineup, and forgetting about Young.
The entire Minnesota bullpen 134, 159, 131, 137, 127, 122, 210. No, those aren’t A-Rod’s RBI totals over the years. Those are the ERA+’s of the following Minnesota relievers: Jon Rauch, Brian Duensing, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares, Ron Mahay and Matt Capps. These guys are good. Fortunately, Rauch has been hurt and only Guerrier and Crain have given the Twins length. Like everyone on the Twins staff, they walk no one (a league-leading 2.95 BB/9), don’t miss many bats (6.74 K/9) and pitch to contact (.254 BAA). While the lack of walks may disrupt the Yankees’ typical patient approach, pitching to contac
t could end up being a problem for the Twins’ bullpen, given its relatively high BABIP against (.294) combined with the Yankee offense’s above-league average .300 BABIP.
Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer These guys aren’t secret weapons, nor are they overrated, but they are made of glass. Morneau has missed significant playing time each of the past two seasons. This year the injury loomed larger because Morneau was in the middle of a no-doubt MVP-caliber season. Instead, he’s suffering from the longest concussion recorded in medical history and has been shut down for the playoffs. Can you say Nick Johnson?
Mauer is more durable than Morneau, but not by much. He too has missed significant time with injury, and his most recent injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Twins had to shut him down during the last couple weeks of the season with a knee injury. There is little chance he’ll have recovered fully in time for the ALDS.
The pitching in this series is pretty much a wash, but the offense favors the Yankees. Over the course of the season the Twins had an excellent offense, but apart from Young, Thome, Mauer and Danny Valencia, the rest of the lineup is average to worse than average. Additionally, Thome is pretty much a platoon player who may not see time against left-handed pitching while Mauer is banged up. Those are two weapons the Twins cannot afford to lose. So long as the Yankees can avoid one of their patented team-wide slumps it is hard not to like their chances in the series.
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