Monday, August 30, 2010

Previewing Tigers v. Twins

Wow is it good to be home or what? The Twins as a team seemed to hit the skids offensively over the recently-ended 7 game road-trip that mercifully saw them go 3-4. The team has been much better offensively at home, here's a couple players that perform much better at Target Field:

Denard Span
Home: .324/.399/.411
Away: .222/.281/.301

Home: .291/.391/.429
Away: .279/.330/.385

Delmon Young
Home: .327/.353/.500
Away: .289/.321/.490

bit of a Sample Size problem here, but Danny Valencia
Home: .413/.447/.550
Away: .258/.313/.350

The Twins have a number of things working in their favor against Detroit. Here's some highlights.

1.) The Tigers are a terrible road team. The Twins are a mediocre 35-34 on the road but they look like world beaters compared to the Tigers who have a 22-41 road record. To put that in perspective a little bit, Detroit is the 6th worst team in baseball on the road and only the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Mariners, Orioles and Pirates have worse road records. Conversely, the Twins have the 4th best home record in baseball at 40-22 and are starting a very welcome 9-game home stand.

2.) The pitching match-ups appear quite favorable. Tomorrow features Brian Duensing for the Twins vs. Armando Galarraga for the Tigers. Galarraga has pitched well over his last couple of outings, but has a brutal 6.44 road ERA this year and Twins hitters have eaten him alive with a .302/.406/.491 career-against line.Wednesday's game pits Detroit's Max Scherzer vs. Francisco Liriano for the Twins. Scherzer has been pitching very well of late winning 3 out of his past 4 starts and lowering his ERA to a season-low 3.60. That said, in two starts against the Twins this year, he's been rocked for 18 hits and 16 runs in 8 innings. Thursday's game looks like the most difficult on paper for the Twins as the Tigers throw out Justin Verlander against Scott Baker for the Twins. Verlander has a pedestrian 4.53 road ERA this season but owns a 1.64 ERA against the Twins in two starts this year. Many of the Twins hitters have good averages against Verlander and it's worth noting that this will be Verlander's first road start against the Twins this season.

3.) The Twins have something to play for, the Tigers do not. At 10 games back with 31 games to go, the Tigers are effectively done. I know everyone wants to make something for the "spoiler" teams in baseball, those teams who are essentially out of it who somehow derive some satisfaction from bringing down the teams in contention. These guys get paid TONS OF MONEY to play, I doubt there is much more motivation than that. With the Sox playing Cleveland, the the Twins have every reason to play these games at 100% to preserve or grow that precious 4.5 game division lead. There was a slightly simplistic, but decent article by Howard Sinker today at the Star Tribune about that 4.5 game lead, check it out if you have a couple minutes.

4.) The Twins are a very good against AL Central opponents. With a 33-18 record against AL Central foes, the Twins set themselves apart as every other AL Central team has a losing record in the division. Detroit is 24-26 in the division and have lost 7 out of 12 games against the Twins this year. Minnesota has also won 5 of 6 games against Detroit at home so far this year.

I fully expect the Twins to play well in this series which would be a nice confidence boost headed into the weekend and a 3-game set with the Rangers. I keep checking everyday for updates on Justin Morneau, I wish there was some news of an upcoming rehab stint or something, but no...nothing. Blackburn was incredible on Saturday and gives me hope that he can keep it up. I'd love to see the Twins with at least a 5-7 game lead headed into their series with the White Sox next week, I think that would be quite comfortable and set the stage for a knockout punch. Go Twins.

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