Admittedly it feels a bit goofy to subtitle a series preview for the second series of the season “Gardenhire’s revenge,” but I imagine the Twins wouldn’t mind kicking the Yankees to the curb this week after yet another ALDS sweep back in October.
I previewed the Twins a few weeks ago, and concluded that Minnesota was likely once again in for a typically strong year, but that the Central was probably pretty up-for-grabs. However, a healthy and productive Justin Morneau could go a long way toward distancing the Twins from their division rivals.
Since we only have three games worth of statistics at our disposal, I will once again use the 2011 CAIRO projected numbers for both the hitters and pitchers.
In tonight’s game, Ivan Nova (5.24 ERA, 5.03 FIP) and Scott Baker (4.44 ERA, 4.12 FIP) make their 2011 debuts. It’s only been three games thus far, but Baker will look to try to turn around the Twins’ rather wretched start, as Toronto rocked Minnesota’s pitching to the tune of a 7.20 ERA/7.59 FIP over their opening series. Only two MLB pitching staffs posted worse FIPs during the first three games of the season — the Tigers (7.63), and the 2011 World Champion Boston Red Sox (9.69).
For the Yankees, all eyes will be on Nova to see if the apparent strides he made during spring training were for real. If Nova can be a useful component of the Yankee rotation it would go a long way toward quelling some nerves in Yankeeland. For a more comprehensive look at Nova, make sure to check out the always-excellent Lucas Apostoleris’ analysis.
Tuesday’s tilt features CC Sabathia (3.54 ERA, 3.68 FIP) going against Brian Duensing (3.91 ERA, 4.24 FIP) in what is clearly the biggest mismatch of the four-game set, and which also probably means Duensing will somehow outpitch Sabathia. Kidding aside, I’m pumped for this one, as it’s going to be my first game of the year at the Stadium. Between Sabathia being a beast, and the Yankees having lit Duensing up in his one career start against them (2010 ALDS Game 3, 3.1 IP, 5ER), this seems like a pretty near-guaranteed Yankee win. I suppose it’s always possible Duensing does the typical soft-tossing-lefty-against-the-Yankees-thing and completely shuts them down, but given the way the Yankees are swinging the bat thus far, this seems unlikely.
Wednesday’s game will be the battle of slow vs. slower, as Freddy Garcia (4.86 ERA, 4.90 FIP) takes on old friend Carl Pavano (4.37 ERA, 4.25 FIP). This game could get ugly — between not knowing what to expect from Garcia to begin with, along with the fact that Freddy faced the Twins more often than any other team except Detroit last season, and they put up a .337/.396/.641 line against him over 102 plate appearances, I can’t say I’m terribly optimistic about Garcia’s chances. Combined with Pavano’s propensity to lull the Yankee bats to sleep with his array of strike zone-pounding slow crap, I’d certainly favor the Twins in this match-up.
And the Thursday afternoon finale (by the way, longtime readers are well aware of this, but I once again need to point out how much I hate weekday afternoon games. I know the teams need travel time and all, but still, BOO weekday afternoon games. Nothing says annoying like having to follow a Yankee game along via Gameday. Not only that, but Friday’s game is ALSO an afternoon game, starting at 2pm up in Boston. I know it’s their home opener and all, but still. BOO.) features A.J. Burnett (4.66 ERA, 4.50 FIP) against Francisco Liriano (4.26 ERA, 3.68 FIP). Neither pitcher was great in their season debuts, and this one seems fairly even on paper, unless Burnett implodes.
Here are the projected lineups with 2011 CAIRO-projected numbers.
1 LF Brett Gardner – .270/.358/.372
2 SS Derek Jeter – .290/.360/.406
3 1B Mark Teixeira – .276/.377/.515
4 3B Alex Rodriguez – .281/.372/.526
5 2B Robinson Cano – .306/.355/.511
6 RF Nick Swisher – .260/.354/.470
7 DH Jorge Posada – .267/.355/.460
8 CF Curtis Granderson – .252/.335/.462
9 C Russell Martin – .263/.362/.380
1 CF Denard Span – .279/.353/.382
2 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka – .273/.346/.400
3 C Joe Mauer – .317/.399/.471
4 1B Justin Morneau – .289/.375/.509
5 LF Delmon Young – .288/.326/.444
6 DH Jason Kubel .267/.338/.461
7 RF Michael Cuddyer – .266/.334/.436
8 3B Danny Valencia – .273/.322/.392
9 SS Alexi Casilla – .250/.308/.335
The Twins offense is probably a tick or two worse this year than last, although they haven’t hit a lick yet (.242 team wOBA is 29th out of 30 MLB teams through the first three games of the season), and Yankee Stadium is as good a place as any to get the lumber going again.
Of course, on the flip side, the Yankee bats have been lightning-hot, with a .394 team wOBA through their first three games, though amazingly two AL teams have hit even better — the Rangers, with their insane MLB-leading .469 wOBA, and of course, the Toronto Extra-Base Hits.
It’s always tricky to call a four-game set one way or another — especially this early in the season — and so I’m going to go the safe route and call a split; however, the steamrolling Yankee offense combined with a steady diet of slower stuff near the strike zone should bode well for the Bombers’ bats, and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees emerge having taken three of four from the Twins this week.
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