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Detroit Versus Minnesota: Matchups, Part II

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This is a continuation from Part One, posted just below.  This is the pitching portion.

Starting Pitching
Name             Age    IP   H HR   K BB  ERA   K/9 WHIP  AVG  DERA VORP

Francisco Liriano 22 107.0  75  8 125 29 1.93 10.51 1.10 .197  1.96 48.0
Brad Radke        33 125.1 159 22  65 26 4.74  4.67 1.48 .317  4.49 13.8
Johan Santana     27 151.0 125 18 158 28 3.04  9.42 1.01 .224  2.88 49.2

Zach Miner        24  48.2  53  5  30 15 4.07  5.55 1.40 .275  4.44  8.8
Nate Robertson    28 129.0 124 17  87 42 3.70  6.07 1.29 .255  4.14 28.0
Jeremy Bonderman  23 137.2 123 12 132 38 3.66  8.63 1.17 .237  3.72 36.7

DERA is ERA adjusted for defense.  A DERA of 4.50 is considered to be what an average pitcher would do with an average defense.  So, if Brad Radke pitched in front of an average defense all season, his ERA would be about 4.74.  Savvy?  Alright then, moving on...

Even though we're not getting Kenny Rogers or Justin Verlander, we're still facing better Tiger pitching than we have in years.  Zach Miner is still a big question mark, but Robertson is much improved over his history.  Jeremy Bonderman is have a stellar season by most counts, but is being overshadowed by better pitchers around the league...including one on his own team.

Any time you have to face both Liriano AND Santana in a three-game series however, even if Rogers and Verlander were included in this group, there's really no question as to who has the better starters in this series.  Francisco Liriano has had exactly ONE game where he wasn't nasty and lights out while he was in the game, and Johan Santana is putting up typically intimidating numbers.  Both are early Cy Young candidates, and it's hard to match up against even one of those.

The thing is, it's Radke as well.  He pitched well again in his last outing, and it's safe to say he's become the pitcher we need him to be.  The three hurlers we're matching up against the Tigers are the top three in our rotation, and I'd match them up against anyone's top three in all of baseball.

Advantage:  Minnesota

Bullpen
Name            Age   IP   K BB  ERA WHIP  AVG VORP

Joe Nathan       31  43.0 63  6 1.47 0.79 .181 22.5
Juan Rincon      27  50.2 46 16 1.95 1.14 .228 18.7
Pat Neshek       25   8.1 10  2 1.08 0.48 .074  4.7
Jesse Crain      25  48.0 39 11 4.31 1.42 .286  8.8
Dennys Reyes     29  27.0 23  6 1.33 0.96 .208 12.5

Todd Jones       38  39.2 15  8 4.99 1.34 .285  4.7
Joel Zumaya      21  50.2 62 27 2.31 1.16 .175 20.5
Fernando Rodney  29  44.1 43 23 3.86 1.26 .199  4.9
Jason Grilli     29  35.2 20 16 4.29 1.37 .244  6.0
Jamie Walker     35  30.0 24  2 1.20 0.77 .191 16.5

Both of these lists comprise what are effectively the top five relievers in each bullpen.  Top to bottom, there's only one reliever with the Twins who seems out of place, and that's Jesse Crain.  In spite of this, I have faith in him, especially since his strikeout numbers are holding steady.  I said it recently, but he's pitched better than his numbers indicate.

Glancing at the Tiger bullpen, you get the idea there isn't much that's irreplaceable.  Joel Zumaya, Jamie Walker and to a lesser extent Fernando Rodney hae been effective enough, but even Rodney isn't someone you'd like to call upon with the game on the line.  Todd Jones, he of the slow, arching curve, is the Tiger closer, and he's one of the worst in the league.  Every time he comes into the game, if I'm a Tiger fan I'm closing my eyes.

It's been a trait of the Twins throughout this period of competetive baseball:  a solid core of relief pitchers.  Getting a starting pitcher through the sixth inning effectively shuts the door on opposing offenses, which is invaluable.  Six innings to score instead of nine is a big difference.

Advantage:  Minnesota

Conclusions

On paper, these teams are pretty evenly matched.  Each team has solid starting pitching, a fairly weak bench, and enough punch to keep their offense effective, even if that means effective in different ways.  With personnel, the Tigers have bigger weapons in the batter's box, but the Twins have a superior bullpen.

But baseball isn't a game played on paper.  You have to go out and play 162 games to prove you deserve your hype.  Playing Chicago this past week gave us a taste of a playoff atmosphere, and that aura will continue through the weekend at the Metrodome.  Be sure to get out there and support our guys; they've been playing one hell of an amazing game after another.

For the Twins to take the series from the present AL Central Division leaders, they're going to need to continue to pick up timely hits. This includes more than the home runs we picked up in Chicago; relying on that type of power to keep us in and win games is foolish, considering the makeup of the team. Joe Mauer is going to have to come back with a good series, and Rondell White needs to get back on the horse he fell off of against the White Sox.

As far as pitching goes, the Twins just need to do what they do best: suppress opposing offenses. By going Liriano/Radke/Santana, the Tigers won't be sitting on similar pitchers on consecutive days. They go from power pitcher, to location pitcher to strikeout pitcher, and hopefully this should play to our advantage. If the Twins can take a lead into the 7th inning, we should have little problems coming away with the game.

Let's hope it's as easy as all that, shall we?

Category     Advantage
Catcher      Minnesota
First Base   Minnesota
Second Base  Detroit
Third Base   Even
Shortstop    Detroit
OF & DH      Detroit
Starters     Minnesota
Bullpen      Minnesota

Be sure to check out the hitter's matchups, just below...