MLB Playoff Preview: New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins
It is October once again and the return of fall nostalgia. The leaves have begun to fall, pumpkin spice lattes are in peak demand, and the Major League Baseball’s Fall Classic is back in full swing. In the coming days, I will be taking a glance at each of the four League Divisional Series and making predictions on who will advance. Our third installment features the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins.
New York Yankees Vs. Minnesota Twins
New York Yankees Record: 103-59
Minnesota Twins Record: 101-61
Most Recent Playoff Matchup: 2017 AL Wild Card, Yankees 8, Twins 4
Two of the most homer happy teams in MLB meet up once again in a playoff matchup that New York has historically dominated. New York has 13 wins in their last 15 games against Minnesota in the playoffs, but this year’s Twins pose a much greater threat to the Yankees than teams past. Both teams enter the playoffs with historic win totals, with the Twin’s only beaten out by the 1962 team that won 102 games. This Yankees team ranks tied for 8th all-time in win total for the team, which is nothing to slouch at with the Yankees rich history of success.
Both the Yankees and Twins absolutely mash the ball. The Twins hit 307 homeruns over the course of the season with the Yankees one behind with a total of 306. Both teams also hit for average over the course of the season as well, with the Twins finishing with a team batting average of .270 and the Yankees posting a .267 average.
The Twins most important hitter on the year was free agent pickup Nelson Cruz. Cruz was his typical self this season, hitting a team high 41 homeruns while also putting up a .311 batting average in his age 38 season, well outpacing expectations set for him. If the Twins are going to finally slay their Yankee sized dragon, Cruz will need to put up big numbers. Jorge Polanco also broke out as an offensive leader for the team, finishing with a .295 batting average and 79 RBIs. Rookie Luiz Arraez, who made his MLB debut in May, was a batting average and on base percentage star for the Twins, posting a .334 BA and .399 OBP in his 92 big league games. Arreaz suffered a late season ankle sprain, however, and may be out for this series. If so, manager Rocco Baldelli will opt for super backup Jonathon Schoop.
It is far more difficult to pinpoint the Yankees best hitters this season. More than 24 different position players took at bats for the Yankees over the course of the season due to the unprecedented number of injuries their lineup sustained. Giancarlo Stanton only had 72 plate appearances. Aaron Judge missed 60 games on the season. Didi Gregorius missed half the season. Despite all the injuries, the Yankees had numerous players step up and produce. Gio Urshela hit .314 for 21 home runs and 74 RBIs. The criminally underrated free agent pickup DJ LeMahieu hit .327 with a career high 26 home runs and 102 RBIs. Contributions throughout the season from Gleyber Torres, Cameron Maybin, and forever-Yankee Brett Gardner kept the team rolling all the way to the playoffs. The team is now healthy, and back to the Murderer’s Row lineup we saw last year. This team can hit from all spots in the lineup. Everyone is a threat to go yard and everyone is a threat for a clutch hit. There are no breaks when pitching to the Yankees.
The clear weakness of both teams is the pitching staff, which may make for an even more explosive offensive series than these teams are normally capable. Both teams posted team ERAs north of 4, with the Twins finishing at 4.18 and the Yankees at 4.31. The biggest wild card in this series will be the pitching of Yankee Luis Severino who made a late season return after missing most of the season with shoulder and lat injuries. Severino is the only pitcher in the series with true ace material and is able to steal two games for the Yankees if needed. Twins starting pitchers Jose Berrios (14-8 W-L, 3.68 ERA) and Jake Odorizzi (15-7 W-L, 3.51 ERA) will lead the Twins pitching staff. The Yankees do hold the better bullpen between the two, however, with closer Aroldis Chapman and relievers Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino able to lock down games if needed.
Why the Twins Will Win
Although previous records have no bearing on this year’s series, simply put, the Twins are due to beat the Yankees. Far too many of their postseason runs have come to an end at the hands of the Yankees, nearly all of them embarrassing with sweeps in 2003, 2004, 2009, and 2010. Their playoff matchups are as one sided as they get. But this Twin’s team is geared to go toe-to-toe with the Yankees, able to match them in offensive categories and have the potential to steal at least a game in the series. Minnesota won 101 wins for a reason.
Why the Yankees Will Win
The Yankees are going to win because that is what the Yankees do. The Twins may have won 101 games, but the Yankees won 103 games with half of their starting lineup and no Luis Severino. New York is not the same team as they were during the regular season, and that spells trouble for the rest of the field.
Yankees in four. I think the Yankees will win Games 1 and 2 at home behind strong starts from Severino and James Paxton. Twins take Game 3 in Minnesota before the Yankees close it out in Game 4. Minnesota is going to have to wait for their revenge against the Yankees. New York advances to their second straight American League Championship Series.