ALDS Tale of the Tape: Yankees vs Twins

By now, we've heard all about recent postseason history between the Twins and the New York Yankees. In 2003, New York beat the Twins 3-1 in the ALDS. In 2004, the Yankees again took out the Twins 3-1. And last year the Yankees swept the Twins 3-0 on their way to a World Series title. Based on this recent history, most national experts seem to be writing off the Twins this year. But we've seen all year that this is not the same type of Twins team that we've seen during the last decade. In addition to top flight talent, there's much more depth to this year's squad. And even though the Yankees have the enormous payroll, there appear to be more holes this time around than in years past. So before this series gets underway, let's take a good look at the matchup on paper, advanced sabermetrics style, with a twist. Instead of the standard "advantage Twins" type of statements you'll see in other "tale of the tape" articles like this, I'm going to break down by net runs one way or another. Obviously, over a total of five games there's a minimal difference in run scoring between two players. For example, five full games means somewhere between 20 and 25 plate appearances. Let's say 25 for the sake of argument. Looking at wOBA for the Twins catchers, Joe Mauer (.373) and Drew Butera (.237) have about as large a difference as anyone. Using the standard formula for expected runs scored based on wOBA, the difference between Mauer and Butera offensively is about 3 runs over a five game series. For pitchers, the difference is more straightforward based on runs allowed over a 5-7 inning start (two starts for the aces), but the difference between playoff starters isn't that great either, from an overall runs allowed standpoint, on the order of 4-5 runs over two starts. As I break this down, position by position, I'll note the net run advantage or disadvantage from the Twins perspective. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Starting Pitchers: Game 1 (Advantage Yankees, -2 runs)


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - CC Sabathia 21-7 34 34 2 0 0 0 237.2 209 92 84 20 74 197 3.18 1.19

vs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Francisco Liriano 14-10 31 31 0 0 0 0 191.2 184 77 77 9 58 201 3.62 1.26

Over a five game series, we would expect both Game 1 starters to pitch two games. In the case of CC Sabathia, his second start would likely be Game 4 (on short rest) in New York. For Liriano, he would pitch a potential Game 5 in Minnesota. I've also seen a few reports that talk about how much better Sabathia has been at home this season. But the numbers don't support this, as Sabathia's ERA (3.00 home vs 3.34 away) and win-loss records (11-2 vs 10-5) are comparable regardless of the location. I know Liriano's got the second best xFIP (3.06) in the Majors, but he seems to be one of those pitchers who, due to lapses in concentration or who knows what, consistently end up giving up more runs than FIP would suggest. About a half run difference means about a run advantage in Sabathia's favor over two starts. Because the Twins are susceptible to left handed pitching (.736 OPS versus LHP, compared to .775 against RHP - Yankees are .790-.784 respectively) and given Sabathia's experience on the big stage, I'm calling this a 2 run advantage for the Yankees.

I'll look at the rest of the starting pitchers, lineups and bench after the jump.

Starting Pitchers: Game 2 (Advantage Twins, +1 run)


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Andy Pettitte 11-3 21 21 0 0 0 0 129.0 123 52 47 13 41 101 3.28 1.27

vs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Carl Pavano 17-11 31 32 7 2 0 0 221.0 227 95 92 24 37 117 3.75 1.19

It seems like Andy Pettitte has been a Twins killer over his career, and while an 11-5 record with a 3.46 ERA over 21 career starts is nothing to sneeze at, it's not as if he's been Sandy Koufax either. This season, Pettitte sat out two months from mid July until mid September with a groin injury, and since returning he's had some issues with his back. So there's a lot of uncertainty here for the Yankees probable Game 2 and 5 (regular rest, gotta love all the off days during the postseason) starter. Pavstache, on the other hand, has been everything the Twins could hope from their veteran starter. And he's got a chip on his shoulder facing the Yankees, remember last year's ALDS gem, where Pavano struck out 9 over seven strong innings. I give the slight advantage to the Twins here in Game 2, mostly due to the questions about Pettitte's health.

Starting Pitchers: Game 3 (Advantage Yankees, -1 run)


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Phil Hughes 18-8 31 29 0 0 0 0 176.1 162 83 82 25 58 146 4.19 1.25

vs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Brian Duensing 10-3 53 13 1 1 0 0 130.2 122 42 38 11 35 78 2.62 1.20

At first glance, Phil Hughes' sparkling 18-8 record is really impressive. But he's gotten an amazing 9.60 runs of support per nine innings (just more than Kevin Slowey's 8.85), and his 4.19 ERA (in line with 4.29 xFIP), while above average, does not scream out "Cy Young". The Yankees have done a good job of limiting Hughes' innings this season, but I could see this backfiring in the postseason, as he has only made three starts since Sept 5th. Brian Duensing, on the other hand, has been outstanding for the Twins. But nine runs allowed over his past two starts concerns me going into a hostile postseason environment in Yankee Stadium. In the end, I have to give a slight advantage to Hughes, solely because Game 3 will be in New York.

Starting Pitchers: Game 4-5 (Tie)


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Nick Blackburn 10-12 28 26 1 0 0 0 161.0 194 101 97 25 40 68 5.42 1.45

Nick Blackburn's overall stats aren't very good, but he's been great in eight starts since being recalled from Rochester in August. And he's been money in big games, whether 2008 Game #163 in Chicago (1 run over 6.1 innings), or Game 2 of last year's ALDS in New York (1 run over 5.2 innings). Since I've already accounted for two Sabathia starts, I'm comparing Blackburn to a Pettitte Game 5 in Minnesota. And Pettitte's health and Target Field offsets one of the better pitchers in postseason history.

Closers: Advantage Yankees, -2 runs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Mariano Rivera 3-3 61 0 0 0 33 5 60.0 39 14 12 2 11 45 1.80 .83

vs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Matt Capps 2-0 27 0 0 0 16 2 27.0 24 7 6 1 8 21 2.00 1.19

Nothing against Matt Capps, he's been very good since coming to Minnesota. But Mariano Rivera is the best relief pitcher in postseason history, hands down. Assuming two appearances for each closer, I expect Capps gives up a run while Rivera probably shuts things down. Although Jason Kubel may have something to say about this. Since we're talking about ultra high leverage 9th inning runs here, it bumps the advantage up a bit.

Setup Men: Tie


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Kerry Wood 2-0 24 0 0 0 0 1 26.0 14 2 2 1 18 31 0.69 1.23


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Joba Chamberlain 3-4 73 0 0 0 3 4 71.2 71 37 35 6 22 77 4.40 1.30

vs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Matt Guerrier 5-7 74 0 0 0 1 6 71.0 56 28 25 7 22 42 3.17 1.10


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Jesse Crain 1-1 71 0 0 0 1 3 68.0 53 27 23 5 27 62 3.04 1.18

Kerry Wood has been lights out since joining the Yankees, giving up only 2 runs and 14 hits over 26 innings down the stretch. But he's also given up 18 walks against 31 strikeouts, so patience will be a key. Joba Chamberlain's overall numbers aren't great, but he's turned it around with a 2.36 ERA in August and September. On the Twins side, Guerrier and Crain have been rock solid in the 7th and 8th innings, but not lights out like Wood. In all, Wood and Joba are the #1 and #4 bullpen arms among setup men, so it's a wash.

LOOGY: Advantage Twins, +1 run


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Boone Logan 2-0 51 0 0 0 0 0 40.0 34 13 13 3 20 38 2.92 1.35

vs


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Brian Fuentes 0-0 9 0 0 0 1 0 9.2 3 0 0 0 2 8 0.00 .52


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Jose Mijares 1-1 47 0 0 0 0 0 32.2 34 14 12 4 9 28 3.31 1.32

I have to give the Twins an advantage here with Brian Fuentes and Jose Mijares from the left side, especially Fuentes.

Overall Pitching Staff: Advantage Yankees, -3 runs

When you consider that the Yankees pitching issues with rotation and bullpen depth are largely hidden during the postseason due to off days and aces being able to pitch deeper into ball games, this more than negates a slight advantage in overall ERA (3.95 versus 4.06) during the regular season.

Catcher: Advantage Twins, +2 runs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Jorge Posada 120 383 49 95 23 1 18 57 59 99 3 1 .248 .357 .454

vs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Joe Mauer 137 510 88 167 43 1 9 75 65 53 1 4 .327 .402 .469

Joe Mauer didn't have nearly as dominant a season as he had during his 2009 MVP run, but he was still quite valuable, producing +49.3 runs above replacement (RAR). Jorge Posada showed patience and power, but his batting average continues to decline. Based on wOBA alone, there's about a one run gap between Mauer and Posada over a five game series. I'm adding a run to this because Posada can't throw anyone out at this point in his career. The Twins may not have a ton of speed in the lineup, but expect Alexi Casilla and the bench crew to run wild late.

First Base: Advantage Yankees, -1 runs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Mark Teixeira 158 601 113 154 36 0 33 108 93 122 0 1 .256 .365 .481

vs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Michael Cuddyer 156 609 93 165 37 5 14 81 58 93 7 3 .271 .336 .417

Mark Teixeira had a down year by his standards, batting only .256. But he's still one of the best slugging first basemen, and managed +33.3 RAR. Michael Cuddyer has stepped in for Justin Morneau admirably at first base, but on the season he's been around replacement level, +4.4 RAR. So a one run advantage for New York. Although, off the left handers I think we'll see a resurgence from Cuddyer in the ALDS.

Second Base: Advantage Yankees, -1 runs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Robinson Cano 160 626 103 200 41 3 29 109 57 77 3 2 .319 .381 .534

vs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Orlando Hudson 125 497 80 133 24 5 6 37 50 87 10 3 .268 .338 .372

Robinson Cano has had an MVP-caliber season, with an OPS over 900 from the second base position. His defense is about average, but he's managed to produce +61.5 RAR. Orlando Hudson has solidified second base for the Twins, producing +30.8 RAR on the season, but he comes out a good run behind Cano in the matchup.

Shortstop: Advantage Twins, +0.5 runs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Derek Jeter 157 663 111 179 30 3 10 67 63 106 18 5 .270 .340 .370

vs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - J.J. Hardy 100 340 44 91 19 3 6 38 28 54 1 1 .268 .320 .394

Derek Jeter has lost a step. His .320 wOBA was the lowest since his 1995 rookie season, and after two decent defensive seasons (according to UZR), he slipped down to about -5 runs this year. J.J. Hardy has provided about the same overall value (+23.0 to +23.5 RAR) this season, with a comparable offensive line (.313 wOBA). But Hardy's defense has been much better, around +13 runs over an entire season according to UZR. Looking over a full season, Hardy grades out about a run ahead of Jeter (for a five game series), but I'm going to downgrade it to a half run advantage since Jeter always seems to come up big during the postseason.

Third Base: Advantage Yankees, -0.5 runs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Alex Rodriguez 137 522 74 141 29 2 30 125 59 98 4 3 .270 .341 .506

vs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Danny Valencia 85 299 30 93 18 1 7 40 20 46 2 0 .311 .351 .448

This is an interesting one. A-Rod had a very good year, but it's one he has to consider below his usual norms. His +37.3 RAR is the lowest of his career (behind 2009's +45.0), and his defense continues to grade a little below average according to UZR. In just over half the plate appearances, Danny Valencia has provided quite a bit of value (+25.3 RAR), much of it due to his excellent defense. But Valencia appears to be returning to earth, as his .340 batting average on Sept 18th has now fallen to .311, and rumors of A-Rod's postseason struggles are vastly overrated after he hit six home runs last postseason (including two clutch shots against the Twins in the ALDS). In the end, I give an advantage to New York, but it's small.

Left Field: Advantage Yankees, -1 run


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Brett Gardner 150 477 97 132 20 7 5 47 79 101 47 9 .277 .383 .379

vs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Delmon Young 152 570 77 170 46 1 21 112 28 81 5 4 .298 .333 .493

This is where defense and base running gives a clear advantage to New York. Brett Gardner has been perhaps the most underrated player in baseball, producing an outstanding +52.2 RAR due to a high OBP and excellent outfield defense (UZR has him at over +20). For the Twins, while Delmon Young has had the best season of his career, his poor range (-10 UZR) and low OBP more than offset a large power advantage. In all, a roughly 30 run gap in RAR corresponds to a one run advantage for New York.

Center Field: Advantage Yankees, -0.5 runs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Curtis Granderson 136 466 76 115 17 7 24 67 53 116 12 2 .247 .324 .468

vs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Denard Span 152 629 85 166 24 10 3 58 60 74 26 4 .264 .331 .348

Center field is an interesting comparison. Both Curtis Granderson and Denard Span grade out above average defensively, but Span regressed this year in his ability to take walks while Granderson has shown quite a bit more pop. I call this as a half run advantage for New York.

Right Field: Advantage Yankees, -1 run


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Nick Swisher 150 566 91 163 33 3 29 89 58 139 1 2 .288 .359 .511

vs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Jason Kubel 143 518 68 129 23 3 21 92 56 116 0 1 .249 .323 .427

Add Nick Swisher to the list of underrated Yankees. He's had an outstanding season (+40.3 RAR, better than anyone not named Joe Mauer in the Twins lineup), even grading out around average in right field. Jason Kubel has regressed this season, ending up right about replacement value in right field. A one run advantage for the Yankees.

Designated Hitter: Advantage Twins, +1 run



G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Marcus Thames 82 212 22 61 7 0 12 33 19 61 0 0 .288 .350 .491


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Lance Berkman 37 106 9 27 7 0 1 9 17 15 0 0 .255 .358 .349

vs


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Jim Thome 107 276 48 78 16 2 25 59 60 82 0 0 .283 .412 .627

I expect the Yankees will go with a platoon of the Big Puma and Marcus Thames, while the Twins ride Jim Thome as far as he can take them. Berkman has struggled since joining the Yankees, while Thome has been better than any Twins fan could have hoped before the season. I grade this as a clear advantage for the Twins, but if Berkman gets on track, watch out.

Overall Lineup: Advantage Yankees, -1.5 runs

I really expected the Twins to come out on top offensively and defensively here, given the Yankees stars' struggles relative to past performance. But the Yankees outfield really surprised me, and it gave them a decent advantage over a five game series.

Overall: Advantage Yankees, -4.5 runs

We may not want to admit this as fans, but the Twins are clearly an underdog on paper for the ALDS. From an intangibles perspective, while many of the players have not been around for the previous three losses, I expect it will be in the back of a few minds leading up to (and during) the game. With what I consider an approximately one run advantage per game over the series, it's going to be critical that the Twins get off to a good start in Game 1 against Sabathia. And we're going to need Cuddyer and Kubel to step up and slug. If these two things happen, we could see a 2-0 advantage for Minnesota going back to New York.

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