In last night’s post, Yankee Fan vs Jim Crikket discussed how the Yankees and Twins pitching staffs matched up. Today, they debate the what can be expected of each team’s defense in the upcoming Yankee/Twin ALDS.
Jim Crikket: Let’s start out with the outfields. A lot of Twins fans have complained about this year’s outfield not measuring up defensively to last season’s. But guess what… Young, Span and Kubel WERE last season’s outfield in Games 1 and 3 of the ALDS… and while some think Delmon has put back on a few of the pounds he shed last offseason, I still think he’s improved out there in left field. There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of room for bloopers to drop in between these guys, but at least the guys at the corners have arms that could keep Yankee runners from taking the extra base. Nick Swisher is no greyhound in right field for the Yankees either, but Granderson and Gardner cover plenty of ground between them. Purely defensively, the Yankee outfield has the edge.
Yankee Fan: This is turning out to be quite a boring exchange, as we keep agreeing on things. I’ll admit to relative ignorance regarding the Twins’ outfield defense. Then again, speed isn’t something Kubel or Young is especially known for, but Span sure can make up a lot of ground between them. In contrast, the outfield of Gardner, Granderson and Swisher does cover a lot of ground. The right field experience (sorry Swish) is not ideal from a defensive standpoint, but I admit it’s a lot of fun to watch (through clenched fists of course). I think if I stick with my prediction that the ball will be in play a lot in the deciding games, I have to give an advantage to the Yankees here — the Twins’ outfield will allow a couple of extra doubles in the gap or singles that dunk in.
Jim Crikket: If the Yankees have to win by scratching out a couple of extra bloopers, they probably won’t even want to advance, just on principle!
It pains me to admit it, but the Yankees may very well have four future Hall of Famers in their infield (does that count as my “nice” thing to say about Jeter?), though I think you’d have to say Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira will need to produce at current levels a few more years to make that a reality. Rodriguez still covers some ground at third base but until Jeter is moved out of the SS position, I’ll always consider that infield to be suspect defensively. The Twins infield has been significantly upgraded over last year’s playoff version defensively (Valencia, Hardy and Hudson over the trio of Tolbert, Cabrera and Punto around the horn in Game 1 of the 2009 ALDS) and while Cuddyer’s not going to make his infielders look as good as Teixeira will his, I like the Twins’ unit better than the Yankees overall.
Yankee Fan: Hey now, as a long time Yankee Fan, if the Yankees win without any “help” from the umpires I will be happy. Finally, something we can disagree on! I think Teixeira fields his position amazingly, and A-Rod is no slouch at third. While Cano has generally played gold glove-caliber defense this season, his mind and focus tends to wander. That shouldn’t be a problem in the playoffs, but that remains to be seen. As for Jeter, I will be the first to admit his fielding has tailed off a little this year. More than once I found myself saying “wow, he usually gets to that one” or “wait, the runner beat the throw?” Then again, I think that the recently trendy criticism of Jeter’s defense has been mostly unwarranted. Having watched him just about every day for the past dozen plus years, I can say the kid fielded far better than the critics would have us believe. Overall, I think the Yankee infield is more than competent, as is the Twins’ infield. I don’t think the difference defensively is worth discussing, even assuming lots of ground balls by the pitchers in the series. But if I had to decide, I’d take the Yankee infield… four future hall of famers is nothing to scoff at!
I suppose the only thing left to discuss is the defensive catcher position – do we even have to discuss this? Mauer is a game-changer. He can hit, run, and throw out baserunners (not to mention handle a pitching staff). The Yankee catchers can hit some, and Posada can handle most pitchers (I’m looking at you Burnett) but generally can’t run or throw out baserunners. Herein lies a deceptive advantage for the Twins. Depending on the way the games play out, the Mauer factor can carry much more weight than, say, “Span v. Granderson.” In case you couldn’t tell, I think this is where the Twins win the series… if they win it.
Jim Crikket: Yeah, Joe Mauer didn’t win the batting title this year. He finished what? Third? Whatever. Jorge Posada is no slouch, even at his advanced age, but the clear advantage here goes to the Twins. There has been a lot of discussion about the Twins starting pitching not looking real sharp for the past couple of weeks, but a lot of those games were being caught by back up catchers. It will be interesting to see if having Mauer back behind the plate has an effect on Liriano, Duensing and Blackburn in particular.