Yankee Fan vs. Jim Crikket, ALDS Pitching

With close to 70 different Twins-related blogs floating about in the cyber-cloud and almost all of them posting an analysis of the upcoming Twins/Yankees ALDS, it’s not easy to set your blog apart from the others. But here at Knuckleballs, we’re fortunate to have a legitimate fan of the Yankees (who conveniently goes by the nick “Yankee Fan”) as a regular reader. We asked Yankee Fan if he would be willing to go head-to-head with Jim Crikket in a little pre-ALDS analysis. To our surprise, he agreed!

Here, in Part 1 of Yankee Fan vs Jim Crikket, they discuss the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the Yankees and Twins pitching. Later, they’ll give their takes on their respective teams’ gloves and hitters and provide their personal predictions concerning the utlimate outcome of this ALDS series.

 

JimCrikket: I would imagine that we’ll start off with something we can quickly come to an agreement on… that CC Sabathia is clearly the number 1 rotation arm in this series. Since he’s likely to pitch two of the four games (if the series goes that far), he’s arguably both the first AND second best pitcher in the series. But forgive me if I haven’t been impressed with what I’ve seen of Andy Pettitte since his return or Phil Hughes since… I dunno… June? It’s hard to predict which versions of the Jekyll/Hyde Twins starters will show up on any given day, but I think their depth is better than the Yankees. When he’s “on”, Liriano is as good as anyone in the league and Pavano has been very reliable, but I think Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn could play key roles in determining who wins this series. Overall, I give a slight advantage to the Yankees  just because Captain Cheeseburger can be THAT good.

Francisco Liriano

 Yankee Fan: CC is absolutely a great pitcher but calling him the top two pitchers in the series borders hyperbole (unless that’s a veiled reference to his weight, in which case I concede).  There’s an argument to be made that Liriano is the better pitcher (2.61 ERA, 10 K/9 vs. CC’s 3.21 ERA, 7.46 K/9 against playoff teams) and that the Yankee bats are responsible for the difference between Sabathia’s 21-7 record and Liriano’s 14-10.  At the very best, I would call it a wash on Game 1.  There will be no surprises as either pitcher can “bring it.”

As for Games 2 and 3, can someone please show me where the average Yankee fan (and Daily News’) confidence comes from?  Pettitte has been worse than Burnett since coming off the DL (seriously, 6.76 ERA!) and Hughes’ 1.63 WHIP over his last 3 starts doesn’t strike fear in my son’s little league team right now.  Then again, Pavano and Duensing haven’t been lighting it up either, so I think that Games 2-5 (if necessary) will be determined by the hitters instead of the pitchers.  Without boring you and your readers with the statistics, it would appear that beyond CC and Liriano the series will be decided by non-strikeout pitchers — that means a lot of batted balls in play.  I know that traditionally playoff games are dictated by pitching and defense, but here the hitters will determine the outcome (and the series).  Then again, don’t discount the Pavano factor — if I’ve learned one thing over the past 5 years it’s that if Carl can screw the Yanks, he will.

Jim Crikket: Wow, I’m shocked… it sounds like you’re going to make all my points for me! You want to do my job and tell me how great the Twins’ bullpen is too?

Yankee Fan: Well you started off praising CC so I guess I felt the need to reciprocate – in retrospect I may have overcompensated.  Now you have to say something nice about Derek Jeter.  As for bullpen comparison, it is my humble opinion that the Twins’ bullpen is the best in baseball.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the Yankee bullpen very much — I still think Joba can get key outs, Wood has been excellent, and despite the chatter, Mariano is still Mariano.  My biggest issue with the Yankee bullpen is that they may need 4-5 innings of relief pitching for every non-CC outing to even get to Mo.  Over a 5 game series that bullpen is bound to turn out like the Yankees’ signing of Pavano — overspent and underwhelmed.  The good news?  I think that Minny might need 4-5 innings of relief pitching as well (especially with Pavano and Duensing pitching to contact).  The bad news is I think they can handle it.  Agree?

Mariano Rivera at Target Field in May

Jim Crikket: I certainly do (but I’m going to have to give some thought about saying something nice about Jeter).

I realize it borders on heresy to suggest that Mariano Rivera is remotely human, but it sure looks like age may finally be catching up to him. I also haven’t been impressed with the rest of the Yankees bullpen, though I readily admit that I’m surprised at just how effective Kerry Wood has been. Matt Capps has been reliable and just for good measure, the Twins have two more 20-save arms in their bullpen in the persons of Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch (assuming he’s healthy). Remarkably, none of those three is even the Twins best reliever. That would have to be Jesse Crain. Nobody wants to have to go in to the ninth inning down and try to beat Rivera, but I think the Twins overall depth gives them the advantage at this position. It sounds like we agree on that anyway.

Next: Who’s going to flash the best leather?

Twins History Lesson: October

We are going to wrap up this season’s “Twins History Lesson*” series of posts with one final look in to the franchise’s past. Today we’ll cover the rest of the month of October.Obviously, we could fill a lengthy post with game-by-game summaries of every Twins post-season game. But instead, we’re just going to cover the events with the most historical significance.

October 4, 1969: Many of today’s Twins fans don’t remember a time when there were no “playoffs”… only a World Series between the AL and NL standings champions. But 1969 was the first year of Divisional play and the Twins were among the first four Division champions. On this date, the first Division playoff games in MLB history were played when the Mets beat the Braves 9-5 and the Twins dropped a close game to the Orioles, 4-3.

October 4, 1986: Alright, I’m not really sure how “historically significant” this is, but I thought it was very cool. On this date, Greg Gagne hit not one, but TWO inside-the-park HRs against the White Sox… the only time that’s been done by a Twin.

October 6, 1965: Jim “Mudcat” Grant became the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game as the Twins beat the Dodgers and Don Drysdale 8-2 in the first World Series game at Metropolitan Stadium and the first since the Twins moved to Minnesota from Washington. Dodger ace Sandy Koufax refused to pitch the opening game because it was played on Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. Don Mincher and Zoilo Versalles homered for the Twins and Tony Oliva set a WS record for a right fielder with 7 put-outs.

October 6, 2009: Alexi Casilla drove in Carlos Gomez with the winning run in the 12th inning of Game 163 to lead the Twins to a 6-5 win, the AL Central Championship and a date with the Yankees in the ALDS. It was, without a doubt, the most exciting game I have ever attended in person. It was the final regular season game played at the Metrodome.

October 7, 1925: Yes… 1925. The Washington Senators, behind pitcher Walter Johnson, beat the Pirates in Game 1 of the World Series in Pittsburgh. The franchise has not won a road World Series game since, losing 14 straight since this date.

October 7, 1965: The Twins took a 2-0 lead in the World Series, as Jim Kaat beat Sandy Koufax 5-1. The highlight of the game for the Twins was an amazing Bob Allison diving catch down the left field line.

October 9, 2002: The largest home crowd in Twins history, 55,990, were on hand to see the Twins fall to the Angels 6-3 in game 2 of the ALCS.

October 11, 1900: Washington, DC was awarded a franchise in the soon-to-be-formed American League. In another 60 years, this franchise would become our Minnesota Twins.

October 12, 1987: The Twins beat Detroit 9-5 at Tiger Stadium to claim their first AL pennant in 22 years behind pitcher Bert Blyleven. Upon arriving back in Minnesota, the Twins find 50,000 fans at the Metrodome waiting to show their appreciation and celebrate with the team.

October 12, 2001: Manager Tom Kelly retired with the most wins (1140) of any manager in Twins history.

October 13, 1965: After dropping 3 games to the Dodgers in Los Angeles to fall behind 3 games to 2, the Twins tied the series and sent it to a seventh game. Once again, Mudcat Grant was the winning pitcher. This time, however, he also added offensive support with a home run. Bob ALlison also homered.

October 13, 1991: The Twins claimed the AL pennant with an 8-5 series clinching win over the Blue Jays. David West got the win and Kirby Puckett launched his second HR of the series.

October 14, 1965: Pitching on 2 days rest, Sandy Koufax beat Jim Kaat 2-0 as the Dodgers claimed the 1965 World Series title over the Twins. 50, 596 fans, the largest crowd in Met Stadium history, attended the game.

October 17, 1987: The Twins beat the Cardinals 10-1 behind Dan Gladden’s grand slam home run in the first ever indoor World Series game.

October 19, 1991: The Twins jumped out to a 1-0 series lead on the Braves behind Jack Morris’ pitching and home runs by Greg Gagne and Kent Hrbek in a 5-2 win.

October 25, 1987: The Twins won their first World Series title with a 4-2 win over the Cardinals, the first time all seven games of a World Series had been won by the home team.

October 26, 1991: Kirby Puckett’s 11th inning home run to win the game may be the most famous HR in Twins history.

October 27, 1991: Jack Morris threw a 10-inning shutout to lead the Twins to a 1-0 win over the Braves and claim the second World Series title for the Twins.

October 29, 2001: Commissioner Bud Selig announced that MLB is considering contracting two teams. One would be the Montreal Expos and the other would be either the Florida Marlins or Minnesota Twins. Of course, in the end, guys like Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Brad Radke, and Doug Mientkiewicz would have none of that. A year later, the Twins were AL Central Champions and contraction talk ancient history.

I hope others have enjoyed these weekly (sorta) trips in to the Twins history books as much as I have. The Twins came in to existence just shortly before my 5th birthday and I’ve been a fan ever since, so I suppose for me this has been an opportunity to re-live a few memories.

Now, let’s sit back and watch this year’s Twins make new post season memories for all of us! – JC

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*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.