The Minnesota Twins are heading to the big apple to try to cool off the Bombers. These two 100+ win teams face off in a clash of the Titans, and it will be fun to watch them throw their punches.
How they got here
The path through Minnesota
The Twins roll into the postseason with 101 victories. When was the last time they broke the century mark? 1965. Hell, they haven’t even broken 90 wins since 2010.
They’re facing a familiar playoff foe in the Yanks, but it hasn’t gone well. Since beating the Atlanta Braves for the World Series title in 1991, Minnesota has made the playoffs eight times, facing the Yankees six of those times. How have they fared against NY? They’ve lost in the ALDS every time.
But the past is in the past. While most teams would prefer to play a short series on their own turf, the Twins actually posted nine more wins on the road than at home through the regular season. And that’s still a pretty good home record. How did they get there? Some damn good offense. Take a look at their top slices at the plate.
- Jorge Polanco: .295/.356/.485, .841 OPS, 40 2Bs, 22 HRs, 79 RBI
- Eddie Rosario: .276/.300/.500, .800 OPS, 28 2Bs, 32 HRs, 109 RBI
- Max Kepler: .252/.336/.529, .855 OPS, 32 2Bs, 36 HRs, 90 RBI
- Nelson Cruz: .311/.392/.639, 1.031 OPS, 26 2Bs, 41 HRs, 108 RBI
Now let’s back up. NELSON CRUZ. WHAT. WHAAAAAT!? Cruz is 39 years old and absolutely slapped this season. This kind of production from a veteran who has been there in the playoffs is huge.
Their starting pitching didn’t have any particular standouts, but was ripe with mediocre consistency. All five starters had wins in the double digits and losses in the single digits. I picked up Jake Odorizzi in my fantasy league and didn’t regret it, so that’s good. However, their bullpen was definitely something to write home about. Take a look at these absurd numbers.
- Taylor Rogers: 2-4, 30 Saves, 10 Holds, 90 Ks, 11 BBs, 2.61 ERA, 11.7 K/9
- Trevor May: 5-3, 2 Saves, 17 Holds, 79 Ks, 26 BBs, 2.94 ERA, 11.1 K/9
- Tyler Duffey: 5-1, 0 Saves, 16 Holds, 82 Ks, 15 BBs, 2.50 ERA, 12.8 K/9
Those K/9 stats are exactly what you want from your bullpen. Come in and shut it down. Now it’s going to be fun to watch whether or not they can shut down the bats in the Bronx.
Life in the Bronx
The Yanks hit triple-digit wins for the second season in a row, and their 21st time overall. However, they certainly hope to make a better impression than they did in the past two seasons, being ousted by the Houston Astros in the ALCS then the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Last year the Bombers became a team that, as much as I hate to admit, is really fun to watch. The youth revival has sparked some excitement in the AL East, and is likely to make this team lethal for years to come.
The craziest thing to me is that they dealt with an absurd amount of injuries throughout the season. It felt like every other game saw them lose a big name, creating further speculation as to whether they’d be able to overcome it and stay in contention. Seriously though, they had upwards of 20 injuries throughout the season. That’s BONKERS.
Ahead of opening Day, the Yankees offense was, on paper, the most potent lineup in the American League. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the veritable Bash Brothers of the 21st Century, looked poised to continue their quest to murder baseballs. However, injuries curtailed that potential, and the Yankees found their offense in two surprising newcomers.
Gio Urshela had never played more than 81 games in a season, and had never hit above .250 in his short, yet somehow seemingly over career. When the Yankees purchased Urshela from the Blue Jays, they sent him to Scranton, where he hit above .300.
No one expected him to be the guy keeping the Yankees offense afloat. Gio Urshela kept the Yankees offense afloat.
The fascinating thing about Urshela’s 2019? His WAR. In his four years in the majors, Urshela owns a 2.3 WAR. In 2019 with the Yankees, he posted a 3.4 for the season. That’s playing out of your mind, and proving yourself on one of the biggest stages in baseball.
The questions around DJ LeMahieu centered around his ability to hit outside of Coors Field. The 2016 NL Batting Champion followed up his hardware earning season with another season above .300. However, in 2018, his number finally came back to earth.
So when the Yankees rolled the dice on LeMahieu in Free Agency, the questions of whether or not he could hit away from Colorado were all but silenced. LeMahieu lead the American League in batting average for the majority of the year and lead the Yankees in hits with 197, a career-high, and in RBIs with 102.
If these guys can stay hot in the ALDS, and the other Yankees hitters can find their footing, the Yankees offense will live up to their Spring Training expectations.
The Yankees have made moves to sure up their rotation over the last few years, and frankly, none of them have panned out the way they had hoped. Of the 5 Yankee starters, only one of them has an ERA below 4.00. That pitcher would be James Paxton, the Yankees trade acquisition this past offseason.
No Yankees starter has been as dominant as they should have been this year. When looking around the league, it’s the weakness and has been for the last few years. If the starters can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, the Yankees have a shot, but going up against a Twins offense that can hit the long ball and the short ball, these starters might not cut it.
My prediction: Twins in 5.
Can the Yankees shock the world? Yes, but the Twins have already shocked the world by getting to this spot in the first place. The Yankees have holes on their pitching staff, and the Twins have more consistency from their arms. In a series headlined by two insanely powerful offenses, pitching will be the difference maker and I don’t think the Yankees have the Twins beat.