Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Next Step

I don't know if was the bottom of the 6th or bottom of the 7th inning last, but the Twins were already up 6+ runs and the Sox put together mini-rallies in both innings and at one point Hawk halfheartedly uttered his catch phrase of the season, "Don't stop now, boys!" Normally I roll my eyes when I hear things like this ("Mercy!" and "Dad-Gumit" bring similar reactions) but last night a smile crept across my face because at the time, you could sense the desperation in Hawk's voice and to me, it was the sound of sweet, sweet victory.

So what do the Twins do next?

Next the Twins a) get players as healthy as they can and b) they get their rotation set up. There must be some debate because earlier today TwinsGeek tweeted "Getting players rest and setting the rotation should be the priority over ALCS home field advantage. I can't believe it's a debate." I'm not privy to this debate, but I agree with John, getting rested for the playoffs and getting the rotation set up are the two most important things the Twins can do to prepare for a playoff scenario in which they will have home-field advantage. I wouldn't be surprised to see Mauer (and other regulars) get a extra day or two off, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Twins gave Liriano, Pavano, etc an extra day's rest in between starts.

What will the Twins Playoff Rotation likely look like?

In the division series, they will need 3 starters and I think Liriano is a clear favorite to pitch Game 1 for the Twins. He's been the one of the best starters in the American League all season, he has a 2.51 home ERA this year and, well, he deserves the honor. Here's how Liriano looks against either New York or Tampa.

Against NY (this season):
3.46ERA (13IP)
.309 BAA

Against Tampa (this season):
1.29ERA (7.0IP)
.167 BAA

There is certainly room for debate here, but I think you go with Carl Pavano in Game 2. Pavano had a rough August but has settled back down in September and has pitched well allowing 5 runs over his last 16 innings. Pavano didn't pitch against New York this year, here's how he favored against Tampa:

Against Tampa (this season):
4.38ERA (12.1IP)
.327 BAA

After Pavano I'm going to make a case for Scott Baker if he's healthy and we face the Rays. Here's why:

Against Tampa (this season):
0.60ERA (15IP)
.167 BAA
15 Ks
1 BB

Rays hitters have a .210/.252/.615 triple-slash against Baker and he's dominated them this year, both at home and on the road. I know there's still a question about his health and I would say that if he doesn't have a chance to make another start this year it would be awfully risky to send him out there for a playoff start. Should the Twins play the Yankees in Round 1, who should start Game 3 becomes a murkier proposition. Duensing has the best numbers against the individual Yankee players, but the sample size is quite small and even in that small sample size, the number are underwhelming (.800+ OPS). I would think that given Duensing's recent success the Twins would give him the nod to start a playoff game, but with a couple more starts to go, things could change, especially if Baker comes back and pitches well.

At this point I'm really excited at how this team has been performing and I cannot remember seeing a Twins team that was this good. Some of the early-2000s Twins teams were good (2002 and 2006 come to mind) but neither of those teams could touch this current group's depth or their powerhouse lineup. With this team, I know they can compete in the playoffs. They have some solid starting pitching, the ability to put pressure on other team's pitchers and decent enough defense (OF could be better). The Rangers will probably be the 1st team to clinch in the American League, but the Twins could very well be a week or so away from clinching the division and when they do it will be a great day.

No comments:

Post a Comment