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ALDS Preview: Yankees vs. Twins

Oct 5, 2010, 12:01 PM EDT

The Guild sent out a memo saying that I'm obligated to write playoff previews. I think simply waiting for the games to happen and observing what happens is better, but I'm behind in my dues and don't want to make trouble.

Here at HardballTalk we pride ourselves on writing dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing possible. We’re told, however, that some of you have lives and thus not all of you are able to read dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing possible.  That’s a shame, but for that reason, we’ve put together a few previews covering the broad strokes of each of the four Division Series matchups, which will pop up between now and first pitch on Wednesday afternoon. Let’s begin, shall we?

The Matchup: New York Yankees (95-67) vs. Minnesota Twins (94-68)

How’ve they been doing?
Both teams enter the playoffs stumbling, with the teams losing six of ten and seven of ten, respectively. The Yankees are 13-17 in September and October. The Twins, 18-12.  It’s worth noting, of course, that neither team had a ton to play for down the stretch. The Twins more or less had the division sealed up in early September. The Yankees were theoretically challenging for the AL East title, but a playoff spot had been assured for several weeks, if not longer. Both teams are better — and will play better — than they did down the stretch.

Haven’t I seen you before?
The Yankees won the season series 4-2. Since Ron Gardenhire took over the Twins in 2002, the Yankees have owned him, going 54-18 against the Twins, including wins in the 2009, 2004 and 2003 Division Series.

Who’s pitching?
For the Yankees it will be CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte out of the gate. Minnesota counters with Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing. Each team likely fears having to go with their fourth starter — AJ Burnett for New York and Nick Blackburn for Minnesota. The Yankees have ruled Burnett out. Like New York, if the straits are dire, look for Minnesota to think about heading back to their top guys on short rest for games 4 or 5.

The storyline which doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
but which TBS will nonetheless beat to death

Probably that stuff from above about the Yankees recent dominance of the Twins. Yes, I understand why it’s something worth mentioning and I even mentioned it myself in HBT’s Playoff Power Rankings. But baseball should come with the same disclaimer that comes on the mutual funds in your 401k: past performance is no guarantee of future results. While interesting, recent history is not exactly illuminating. As they say, momentum is only as good as your next day’s starter. And given that Andy Pettitte’s back and Phil Hughes’ stamina at this point of the season is in question, the next day’s starter for the Yankees is not as strong as it used to be.

The storyline which actually does matter but about which TBS won’t spend a lot of time
talking

Less of a storyline than a dynamic: unlike the previous three playoff meetings between these clubs, the Twins should be considered the favorites. I don’t care about seeding: bet your bippy that we’ll hear a lot about the allegedly plucky Twins and the Big Bad Bronx Bombers. The betting lines and even smart guys like Aaron Gleeman disagree with me, but I think the Twins are a better team. At least on paper. Their starters are better right now. Their bullpen is stronger than most people think. The differences between the team’s offense are not that great. If you tell mystique and aura to go down the street and get you a box of chicken or something, you’ll be able to see clearly enough to realize that the Twins should be favored here. That said . . .

What’s gonna go down?
Favored is one thing. That’s an objective, intellectual concept. We’ve lived with the Jeter-era Yankees so long by now, however, that it’s impossible to ignore gut feeling.  As I sit and think about the components of each team, I can make a case for the Twins taking the series. To actually pick them, though, would force me to ignore all of the times that the Yankees seem to have simply willed themselves to victory over the past 15 years.

When I told Gleeman that I was thinking about picking the Twins, he told me that the betting line had them as +170 underdogs, and that if I felt so strongly about it, I should put some money on them. I don’t bet on baseball, but even if I did, I don’t think I could bring myself to do so. My head says Twins but my gut says Yankees.

If Francisco Liriano can pitch a deadly efficient Game 1 and set himself up nicely to come back on short rest later, I think the Twins can do it. If Delmon Young can draw on some of that early-season magic and not muff a bunch of fly balls, I think the Twins can do it.  Every time I try to imagine the ultimate outcome of this thing, however, I see Jeter getting clutch hits, Pettitte coming up bigger than he should and Brett Gardner making some crazy diving catch to rob Joe Mauer of a bases loaded double. In short, I see the Yankees taking it.

Yell at me all you want, objective thinkers, but I’m going with my gut: the Yankees in 5.

  1. John_Michael - Oct 5, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    And This Will Happen: Playoffs Edition?

  2. SadPandaRevolt - Oct 5, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    Clever.

  3. Trevor B - Oct 5, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    I’m calling Twins winning this in 4.
    Game 1-Yankees jump all over Liriano for a bunch of runs while C.C. shuts down the Twins
    Game 2-Pavano holds the Yanks to 1 or 2 runs while the Twins jump all over the old man with the sore back
    Game 3-Duensing pitches a fine game allowing 2 or 3 while the Twins jump all over the exhausted kid
    Game 4-Bloodbath, Blackburn gets lit up but C.C gets lit up as well and gets decided by a run or two with 15 or more total runs scored in the game. Twins win.

  4. Mr. Heyward - Oct 5, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    I perhaps, just maybe, half-agree with you Craig that the Twins could take it, thinking objectively, but I can’t say they match up so nicely w/o Morneau. Put M&M in there and there’s a fightin’ chance. I say Yanks in four, so put all your money on that.

  5. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 5, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    You “half-agree” that the Twins could take it…meaning that the other half thinks the Yankers could take it? LOL…Pick a side, Cerrano!!!!! p.s. I picked the Braves in 4, so that might just be the kiss of death for your team.

  6. Mr. Heyward - Oct 5, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    One more prediction: I bet ARod goes on a serious big hit streak and tears it up as long as the Yanks are around. I’ve seen his power skyrocket in Sept and I think he gets better through October. Remember when it was questioned in late Aug/early Sept on here whether ARod would keep the 100+ RBI and 30+ HR seasons streak alive???

  7. Mr. Heyward - Oct 5, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    “I say Yanks in four” sounds pretty decisive to me. Although I do appreciate the argument for sake of arguing. I pick the Phils to lose every game ever for eternity.

  8. FrankZappa - Oct 5, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    +170 is good action on the twins, way better than -175 on the yanks…as far as betting value, im laying action on the twins all day…if it was +120/-120 or something that might be different…

  9. Utley's hair - Oct 5, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    Well, contrary to their history and their current place in history as the losingest team in pro sports, that projection is somewhat unlikely to happen.

  10. Cincy Sam - Oct 5, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    Could be Twins in three. CC MUST win first game, or else it is all over.

  11. Utley's hair - Oct 5, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    Agreed. Pettitte was kinda shaky after he came back, and hasn’t Hughes already surpassed his Hughes Rules parameters?

  12. Buccofan - Oct 5, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    You left out a conveniently pro-Yankees fair/foul call.

  13. RichardInBigD - Oct 5, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    I think A-Rod’s overall performance record in October points in a different direction…

  14. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 5, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    The true thoughts of a jealous, hating Braves fan. Wonder if Craig will call out the haters…doubt it.

  15. dprat - Oct 5, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    Really? What part of Rodriguez’ .977 career post-season OPS leads you to that conclusion?

  16. Trevor B - Oct 5, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    Cincy, see my post earlier. I don’t think the Twins will get the best of C.C but in game 4 with C.C. on short rest I have a feeling they’ll edge him out, especially having just seen him a few days prior.

  17. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 5, 2010 at 2:57 PM

    I think Richard forgot about last year or something…

  18. Samira - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    There’s always that. Generally teams have to play the umps as well as the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.

  19. Pete leary - Oct 5, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    AROID will get the APPLE in the throat again and Mr. 258BA Teixeira will prove that money cant buy you love or the Series! There is no way the Yankees will win in 2010.The Phillies will dismantle them if Minnesota doesn’t! They are the classic overpaid underachievers.Heres a contest they could win: the most hated team in baseball!

  20. RichardInBigD - Oct 5, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    I didn’t forget about anything. His OPS is great, but what about his OPS with RISP? With him, it’s always been a drought with RISP in the post-season…

  21. saftgek1149 - Oct 5, 2010 at 11:06 PM

    What a wonderful event it would be for the Twins to sweep the Juiced-Up Pinstripe Products of the Satanic Steinbrenner in 4 Games!
    I would – literally – dance in the street in my neighborhood to celebrate the trouncing of the arrogant “athletes” and send them to wherever they hang out when not contaminating the Divine Diamond on which baseball is played!

  22. Kelly - Oct 6, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    Even if Brett Gardner doesn’t rob Joe Mauer, the umps will call an obviously fair ball foul. We’ve been here and seen this and THIS year is different. Twins in 5.

  23. basedrum777 - Oct 6, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA,
    I could’ve sworn it was your invincible closer who gave up the ghost to Arod last year….

  24. basedrum777 - Oct 6, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    Twins fans should get ready for hockey season

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