October 6, 2010

Twins Notes: Before the storm

I'll be in attendance at Target Field tonight--in the stands with a Twins hat and a beer rather than in the press box with a laptop--so while anxiously counting down the seconds until 7:37 p.m. here are some notes before Game 1 of the ALDS ...

A.J. Burnett is in the second season of a five-year, $82.5 million contract, but he's been so bad while going 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA in 12 starts since August 1 that the Yankees have decided to bump him from the playoff rotation. Instead of using Burnett in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium they'll bring back CC Sabathia to start on short rest, followed by Andy Pettitte on full rest in Game 5. Here are the new game-by-game matchups:

Game 1: CC Sabathia (238 IP, 3.78 xFIP) vs. Francisco Liriano (192 IP, 3.06 xFIP)

Game 2: Andy Pettitte (129 IP, 4.05 xFIP) vs. Carl Pavano (221 IP, 4.01 xFIP)

Game 3: Phil Hughes (176 IP, 4.33 xFIP) vs. Brian Duensing (131 IP, 4.11 xFIP)

Game 4: CC Sabathia (238 IP, 3.78 xFIP) vs. Nick Blackburn (161 IP, 4.68 xFIP)

Game 5: Andy Pettitte (129 IP, 4.05 xFIP) vs. Francisco Liriano (192 IP, 3.06 xFIP)

Sabathia was scheduled for two starts either way, so the rotation shift mostly just alters his matchups, but by giving Pettitte a second start in place of Burnett the Yankees dramatically increase his role in the series. Pettitte is MLB's all-time leader in playoff wins and innings, but he's also 38 years old and has allowed 11 runs on 22 hits in 13.1 innings since spending two months on the disabled list with a groin injury.

So far New York and Philadelphia are the only playoff teams committed to using a three-man rotation in the first round, although thanks to an extra off day in the NLDS schedule the Phillies can do so without starting anyone on short rest. Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1995, pitchers starting games on short rest are 21-31 with a 4.65 ERA. Sabathia has made just six career short-rest starts, but he's 4-1 with a 1.52 ERA.

• Burnett getting bumped from the Yankees' rotation means the Twins will face a left-handed starter in four of five games, which is a definite advantage for New York. In the regular season the Twins had a .776 OPS versus right-handers compared to a .736 OPS versus left-handers, in large part because Jim Thome and Jason Kubel both struggle against lefties and the Twins don't have a good right-handed bat to sub for them.

Sabathia and Pettitte starting four times lessens Thome's likely impact, because for as great as he's been this season his OPS is 400 points lower versus lefties than righties. Thome just isn't JIM THOME against southpaws, and that's been true for his entire career. Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, and Danny Valencia need to step up as the lineup's top right-handed bats with Thome, Kubel, and Joe Mauer all at a big disadvantage in four of five games.

• On the other hand, the Yankees' lack of southpaw relievers plays into the Twins' strengths in the late innings. New York's bullpen has the potential to be extremely good, but Boone Logan is the lone left-handed option. He's held lefties to a .190 batting average and .501 OPS this season, but also has a 5.10 career ERA. Even if Joe Girardi trusts him in key spots the Twins' lefty heavy lineup will eventually get opportunities to face righties late in games.

• As expected, the Twins are going with 14 position players and 11 pitchers on the first-round roster. They don't have to submit an official list until this afternoon, but Scott Baker reportedly will be the odd man out in favor of Kevin Slowey unless Jon Rauch is deemed unavailable due to his knee injury and they both make the cut.

Matt Tolbert, Jose Morales, and Ben Revere were the candidates to fill the final bench spot and Tolbert is expected to get the nod. I think that's a mistake, because he's redundant with Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla on the roster and Revere offers far more playoff uses as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for Young in left field. With that said, because the Twins are unlikely to pinch-hit for anyone in the lineup the bench's impact figures to be minimal.

• Last week Justin Morneau expressed a bit of optimism about potentially being available for the ALCS or World Series, but after some of his post-concussion symptoms returned following vigorous workouts the Twins have officially shut him down until 2011.

Francisco Liriano was named the Comeback Player of the Year for the American League, as voted by MLB.com's beat writers. Tim Hudson won the NL version over R.A. Dickey.

• Twins fans will be happy to see that Phil Cuzzi is not umpiring the ALDS and in fact is absent from MLB's first-round assignments along with Joe West and Bob Davidson. Jerry Crawford, Hunter Wendelstedt, Greg Gibson, Brian O'Nora, Gary Darling, and Chris Guccione are the crew for the Twins-Yankees series. Ron Gardenhire has a history of run-ins with Wendelstedt.

• I received a lot of e-mails, comments, and tweets from Twins fans upset about the New York Daily News' front page Monday, but the whole thing seems pretty silly to me. Don't confuse the people who write headlines for newspapers with the people who play for the Yankees.

• Released by the Indians in July after hitting .206 in 22 games, Mike Redmond announced his retirement. He's long been touted as a potential future manager and surely has a job waiting for him with the Twins if he wants it.

Terry Ryan is said to be on the Mets' initial list of targets to replace general manager Omar Minaya, although given his stated reasons for stepping down as the Twins' general manager in September of 2007 it seems unlikely that Ryan would want the same gig in New York.

• My primary regret about choosing to attend Game 1 sans press pass? Not getting a copy of the Twins' postseason media guide and its awesome cover photo.

• I'll have some Game 1 thoughts posted here by tomorrow morning, but if you're interested in reading my real-time babbling live from the Target Field stands tonight follow me on Twitter.

23 Comments »

  1. CC starting game #4…hmmm…who would have thought…

    Comment by Pat — October 6, 2010 @ 3:04 am

  2. Randy Moss..yea or nay?

    Comment by Pat — October 6, 2010 @ 4:05 am

  3. We will see if the Twins are able to stay confident in a focused way on the mound, at the plate & in the field. That’s Yankees strongest asset. That balanced arrogance thay pays off..

    Comment by Peter — October 6, 2010 @ 4:41 am

  4. Aaron – You have your opinion about Tolbert being the last one, but not about Slowey getting the nod over Baker. You must think this preposterous that Baker is the odd man out. Gardy even said he likes his ability to miss more bats than Slowey, so he may be useful in the bullpen. He goes out and throws a decent game his last start, K’s 9 or 10, then doesn’t make the post season roster. What is Gardy’s reasoning?

    Comment by Kurt — October 6, 2010 @ 6:43 am

  5. **** GAVE your opinion ****

    Comment by Kurt — October 6, 2010 @ 6:43 am

  6. Can anyone find a quality scan of that media guide? The Google hasn’t helped me.
    What a great shot!

    Comment by Joe — October 6, 2010 @ 7:12 am

  7. SECOND best Twins’ photo of the month…next to the one on the cover of SI week before last, right? :)

    Comment by Nealcp — October 6, 2010 @ 7:57 am

  8. That picture was featured in the Thome/Twins SI story, and it was even better all glossy and in your hands. So if you’re looking for it, go buy the magazine.

    I’m a ‘Yea’ on 84 donning purple once more. But for now, back to baseball.

    Comment by prhb — October 6, 2010 @ 8:35 am

  9. Kurt: Baker practically ruled himself out because he still has trouble getting his elbow loose, and wasn’t confident that he will be able to pitch with that elbow out of the bullpen. It was reported last weekend by LEN in the Star Tribune.

    Comment by adjacent — October 6, 2010 @ 9:35 am

  10. I’m glad to hear about the Twins using their locker room poster board. Yes, as Aaron points out, it is a silly thing to put much thought into how a NY tabloid bills this series, but…

    on the other hand, the Twins need to get fired up about beating the Yankees! We have a relaxed manager and a quiet superstar, both of whom I love, but the Twins need to come out and play with intensity right away. Last year’s MIN-NYY series was filled with fraidy cat, swing at the 1st pitch at-bats (Punto & Delmon, especially), base running errors, and missed opportunities to advance runners. This year, will someone step up and create the “us against the world” mentality on the Twins? I know it’s a cliched trope, but I sure hope we come out firing. Some early hits would go a long way in preventing the Twins from getting tight.

    Comment by Dubby — October 6, 2010 @ 9:42 am

  11. Liriano escapes the first with no runs. Span leads off with a single. Steals 2d. Pushed over to 3rd by as Hudson grounder. Mauer fly ball scores him. Twins cruise to a series sweep from there.

    Comment by BR — October 6, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  12. “Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that’s what you have here, tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game. If we played ‘em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we play with them. Tonight, we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can! Tonight, we are the greatest baseball team in the world. You were born to be baseball players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great baseball team the Yankees have. Screw ‘em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”

    Comment by Dome Dog — October 6, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  13. C. C. Sabathia career stats vs. Twins playoff roster.

    Player X 9 for 13, .692/.692/.846
    Others 32 for 167, .192/.242/.317

    Who is Player X? I’ll post the answer a little later. Here’s a hint. He probably won’t be in the starting lineup.

    Here’s something else to contemplate. Jim Thome has indeed struggled against CCS: 4 for 27 with 14 K’s! But all 4 hits have been HR’s! I say start him.

    Comment by James M. — October 6, 2010 @ 11:09 am

  14. Aaron – What section are you in tonight? I’m a vendor at Target Field and a long time fan of your blog. I would love to buy you a hot dog as thanks for all your great work over the course of the season.

    Comment by Chris — October 6, 2010 @ 11:52 am

  15. Dome dog – Love it, but “If we played them ten times they might win nine” doesn’t really work in baseball playoffs.

    Comment by Matt B — October 6, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

  16. I’d have voted for Marcum for Comeback Player in the AL. Liriano was in his 2nd season after the surgery and plain sucked last year. Marcum missed all of 2009 and put up very good numbers this year.

    Comment by Dose of Thunder — October 6, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

  17. Sory about the game reference…it was a rushed attempt at work. I’ll try to do better next time : )

    Comment by Dome Dog — October 6, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

  18. Player X is Casilla.

    One more fun fact about CC. Batters who put either the first or second pitch in play against him hit .348 with a .504 slug. From pitch 3 on they hit only .188 and slug .287. So go up there hackin’, boys.

    Comment by James M. — October 6, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  19. DD – I changed “game” to “series” and it’s now my FB status.

    Comment by Matt B — October 6, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

  20. Matt B – Awesome. Anyone going to the game tonight? Let’s make it loud out there (isn’t it great to say out there instead of in there?). Maybe a little pregame “Let’s go Twins” chant to get the boys fired up?

    Comment by Dome Dog — October 6, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

  21. James M.-

    Keep that small sample crap where it belongs on Seth Stoh’s blog.

    Comment by Brian — October 6, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

  22. different year, same dang results..sigh..now I know how the Brooklyn Dodgers felt

    Comment by Pat — October 7, 2010 @ 1:38 am

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