In this final installment of the YF vs JC discussion of the Yankee/Twin ALDS series, they take an in-depth look at the two teams’ respective offensive lineups.
Let’s start with a look at the likely starting line ups for the Yankees and Twins.
|Jeter, SS||Span, CF|
|Swisher, RF||Hudson, O, 2B|
|Teixeira, 1B||Mauer, C|
|Rodriguez, A, 3B||Young, D, LF|
|Cano, 2B||Thome, DH|
|Posada, C||Cuddyer, 1B|
|Thames / Berkman||Kubel, RF|
Yankee Fan: There is a nice symmetry with this lineup comparison. The scary parts are the 3-7 hitters, with the 8-9s being setups for the top of the order. Some speed mixed with some station-to-station guys, and of course, some power through the order.
Looking at the top third of the order, for the Yankees, ideally, Jeter gets on, Swisher walks, and Tex/A-Rod clear the bases. Problem is, Swisher has fallen in love with the long ball and savvy ground ball pitchers are his weakness. On the other hand, I firmly believe that Jeter’s batting troubles are behind him and that non-strikeout pitchers who depend on contact are good for him. Confident that he wont strike out, I think he’ll be comfortable spraying singles to all fields. The most troubling component here is Tex and his tendency to wilt under pressure. Until I see otherwise, I think he’s a buzzkill in the top third of the lineup.
For the Twins, Mauer is the key here. I don’t foresee him leaving men in scoring position. The man is clutch, has intangibles, and don’t forget the sideburns! Jeter doesn’t have sideburns… If you haven’t figured it out by now, I worry about Mauer in any situation. You have two guys who can get on base at a decent clip in Span and Hudson, and Span can go first to third in an instant. Indeed, the threat of power from the 3-7 hitters will keep Yankee pitchers honest, and Span could have his way on the base paths. I see that top third scoring 2+ runs per game. So before we get to the meat of the order, I give the advantage to Minnesota.
Jim Crikket: You’ve seen the Yankees more than I have, certainly, but I’m not so sure Jeter’s hitting problems are behind him. He’s an extreme ground ball hitter and the Twins infield doesn’t let a lot of those get through. Swisher is the guy who concerns me here. I want to see Teixeira coming up with the bases empty as often as possible.
Mauer certainly has earned the respect you give him, but if Span and Hudson aren’t getting on base at a healthy clip, the damage Mauer inflicts will be suppressed considerably. Neither of those guys at the top of the order were getting on base nearly frequently enough the last month of the season. Until I see evidence that they’re going to do better, I give a slight advantage to the Yankees.
The middle of the order is where things get interesting for both teams. There’s a healthy debate among Twins fans as to whether Mauer or Young was the team’s MVP during the regular season. I don’t think there’s a wrong answer to that question but for my money, I’d go with Delmon. He can be streaky, but he has come through in the clutch time and time again. Jim Thome isn’t going to win any footraces, but he’s still as dangerous as any hitter in this series. His effectiveness is, however, likely to be more limited against the Yankees’ left handed starting pitchers. Cuddyer is not having one of his better offensive seasons, but he’s got as much power potential as the others. It would be helpful, however, if we could get a rule adopted outlawing the throwing of breaking balls to Michael. Even without the rule adjustment, I like him in the 6-spot over Posada.
On the Yankee side, as long as Gardy never… ever… lets Matt Guerrier face Alex Rodriguez again, I’ll be more concerned about Robinson Cano than Rodriguez. Rodriguez had a good post-season last year and it’s funny how now all of a sudden all those choke jobs he pulled in prior Octobers apparently never happened. As for Posada, in my opinion he no longer belongs in the middle third of a contending team’s batting order. I give the middle third to the Twins.
Yankee Fan: A-Rod and Cano are monsters right now. If I was looking at pairs of hitters instead of trios, those two would be (by far) the best combo (only because Morneau is out). The only issue here is Posada. Yes, Posada will crush a mistake here and there, and sometimes even in an important spot. That Minny is throwing some contact pitchers out there benefits Jorgie. Alas, old grey Jorgie ain’t what he used to be, and again the Yanks have an anchor to sink this middle third of the lineup. Because of Tex and Jorge, the offense will start then sputter.
In addition to Mauer, another Twin who scares me is Thome. Anchoring the second third of the lineup, he acts as a second cleanup hitter of sorts. With Mauer keeping innings going, I see Thome driving him in. Young and Cuddyer are perfect Yankee Stadium hitters — that ballpark lends itself to some decent home runs. The end result here is that every player scares you, and Thome might scare you the most. He’s a savvy veteran who knows how to keep an inning alive. Advantage: NYY (A-Rod and Cano are that good).
Looking at the bottom third of the Yankee order, Thames/Berkman have their strengths. Thames is a power threat and handles himself at the plate decently. Berkman, like Thome, knows how to get a job done when necessary, like driving in a run from third with less than 2 outs, or hitting to the right side when the runner needs to advance from second to third. The lineup brightens for the Yanks at the bottom — Granderson has a mix of decent hitting, power and speed. Gardner gets on base and can run, setting up Jeter for more “intangible” and “clutch” postseason moments. Sure, it’s a joke when McCarver (can we agree that he sucks?) raves about Jeter, but you have to admit, he’s been pretty clutch for the Yanks in the past.
Similarly to the Yankee analysis — Kubel can pound the ball, and Valencia and Hardy can set up the potent top of the order. Granted, Danny and JJ (which I think was the name of my second favorite ’80s sitcom after Dukes of Hazzard) aren’t as big of a threat to steal bases, but they are better than your average 8-9 hitters. I give the advantage to the Yankees.
Jim Crikket: For someone who’s been looking at things in such a balanced manner, I think you finally let your Yankee bias shine through, YF. There frankly isn’t a single Yankee in the bottom third of their order that I would take over his counterpart on the Twins side. Kubel has certainly earned his drop in the order to #7, but I’d still take him over whichever DH the Yankees trot out there. Granderson hasn’t hit lefthanded pitcing since before he left the Tigers (and isn’t hitting righties particularly well either this season), and Gardner, after getting off to a decent start to his year, has not really hit well since the All Star break.
Danny Valencia is probably the best hitter of the six guys in the bottom of these orders and JJ Hardy has put up an OPS of nearly .800 over the last month of the season. A case could be made that Valencia and Hardy have been producing better than Span and Hudson.
So, YF… after all of this analysis, how do you see this series going? Another 3-game sweep for the Evil Empire?
Yankee Fan: With hitting being the deciding factor, I do think the Yankees will prevail once again. I think the Twins can outhit the Yankees, just not over a 5 game series. If the Yankees want to win, they need game 1, and hope to outslug the Twins in games 2-4. Sorry, I know I am a guest to this blog, but I think the Yankees have too many good hitters against contact pitchers. Prediction: Yankees in 4.
Jim Crikket: This is not the same roll-over-and-find-a-way-to-lose Twins team the Yankees have casually discarded in years past. They have deeper pitching, a more balanced offensive line up and a defense that is at least comparable to the Yankees… and they get to begin and end (if necessary) this series in Target Field. I honestly believe the Yankees tanked on purpose to get the Wild Card and this match up with the Twins, rather than face Cliff Lee and the Rangers in a short series… and they’re going to regret having done so. Prediction: the Twins in 5 games… and if Gardy’s boys can beat Captain Cheeseburger in Game 1, get out the brooms!