I am as superstitious a fan as they come. I also tend to be a lot more guarded in my expectations, at least in comparison to the unmitigated arrogance expressed by the more casual Yankee fan. However, no matter how hard I try to be more even handed in my assessment of tonight’s ALDS, I still can’t help coming to the same conclusion: the New York Yankees are a much better team than the Minnesota Twins. Whether its hitting, pitching or defense, the Yankees seem to have the edge.
At the plate, Yankee batters posted a major league leading wOBA of .347, a good pace ahead of the Twins at .334. In addition, the Yankees have a more diversified offense. Not only did the Bronx Bombers belt 60 more homers, but they also stole 35 more bases while only being caught two more times. What’s more, the Yankees even play small ball as much as the Twins: the two teams were only separated by five sacrifice bunts. About the only thing the Twins do appreciably better is put the ball in play (967 strikeouts to the Yankees’1,136), but, then again, that has led to a league leading 159 double plays, compared to the Yankees’ 124.
Offense Comparison, Season Totals
Much has been made of the thin Yankees rotation, but what about the Twins’? Even including the disastrous seasons of AJ Burnett and Javier Vazquez, the Yankees’ pitching staff still recorded a better ERA+ than the Twins, albeit by a slight margin. However, if you break the comparison down to only include the individual stats of each prospective starter, the edge once again seems to swing more in the Yankees’ favor, especially when you consider the park factors for each team’s home stadium.
Pitching Comparison, Prospective Starters in 2010
Note: The statistics for pitchers scheduled to throw a second time have been counted twice.
On an even more granular level, the Yankees have a decided advantage when comparing the relative performance of each team’s current roster against the scheduled starters in the series. Based on the charts below, perhaps the Twins would have been wise to go with Carl Pavano in the series opener? In any event, C.C. Sabathia gives the Yankees a considerable edge.
Yankees Starters vs. Current Twins Batters
Twins Starters vs. Current Yankees Batters
In the bullpen, the two teams are relatively comparable from a statistical perspective. However, with all due respect to Jon Rauch, the Yankees have a monumental advantage in the ninth inning. Mariano Rivera’s post season performance has been historic to say the least, and until he proves otherwise, there is no reason to suggest that he won’t continue his dominance this October.
Bullpen Comparison, 2010 Totals
Probably to the surprise of many, the Yankees are also a better defensive team than the Twins, according to defensive efficiency (.707 to .688). Although UZR/150 favors the Twins as a team, it is worth noting that the Yankees have a decided edge in the outfield (8.6 to -3.7). Considering the spacious outfield in Target Field, the Yankees ability to run down balls could prove to be a deciding factor.
Yankees, Twins Outfield Defense
Prediction: Yankees in three games
It would be easy to hedge my bet and give Minnesota Twins a game or two, but all of the data and every instinct suggest that the Yankees could be poised for another sweep of the Twins. Of course, being baseball, anything can happen. The Twins are, in fact, a very good team…just not as good as the Yankees. If they were to win the series, it certainly wouldn’t send shockwaves, but make no mistake, it would absolutely be an upset.