Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Predicting the Sweep

I'm going to be called crazy, biased, overly optimistic, a moron, and probably much more unkind words by a lot of people for saying this, but the Twins are going to sweep the Yankees this week. It's useless to break down the teams player vs. player in my opinion, because it's not like Robinson Cano will ever face off against Orlando Hudson. It's literally a team vs. team game, and the Twins will prove in this series that they are the better team this season. The Yankees are the bigger name, both as an organization and on a player name basis. Their entire starting infield is likely to be first-ballot Hall-of-Famers, although I'll admit it's premature to put Cano or Teixeira in already. Still, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are probably the two biggest names of this generation, and the fact that they are starting on the left-side of the same infield shows just how star-packed this Yankees team is.

Of course, while the Yankees are once again a group of big-named high-priced stars, these aren't the Minnesota Twins of years' past, either. After hovering around $70MM payrolls at their peak, and usually settling in well below $60MM for the better part of the last decade, the Twins were quite literally 'David battling Goliath' in all their previous playoff match-ups with the Yankees. Of course, that's not a good comparison, because David beat Goliath, something the Twins have been unable to do over the last decade. With the payroll near and possibly exceeding $100MM this year, the Twins have been able to put together a very formidable, complete lineup, and they boast an exceptionally deep bullpen and a much better than expected 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation. While the Twins can't brag about a starting infield that is almost all likely to be Cooperstown-bound, they have multiple all-stars, and even without former MVP Justin Morneau they still have Joe Mauer, and Jim Thome is performing like, well, vintage Jim Thome.

The Yankees lineup has been better this year as far as scoring runs goes, but they play in a much hitter-friendly stadium so the difference really isn't quite as large as the run differential would suggest. The Yankees scored just four more runs on the road than the Twins, 386-382, so the offenses are extremely similar.

Just like the lineups, the Yankees rotation and bullpen consists of several big-name players, while the Twins are much lesser-known commodities, despite performing in some instances better than the high-paid, well-known Yankees. There's no arguing C.C. Sabathia is elite, among the top starters in the game, and since left-handers are kryptonite to the Twins superman lineup, he's going to be an incredibly difficult match-up for them. However, as good as Sabathia's been, Liriano has been every bit as good in most cases. Regardless of how good both lineups are, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Game 1 is a 1-0 final.

Andy Pettite and Phil Hughes will be the starters in games 2 and 3, but the Twins will counter with Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing. On name recognition alone the Yankees would appear to have a major advantage, but the fact is Pavano has outpitched almost every other American League starter besides a handful, and Hughes is no exception. Duensing has become, well, vintage Andy Pettite, and that's quite a bit better than 2010 Andy Pettite. The Twins have the advantage in the starting pitching department for the first time in recent memory, and even if Sabathia is as unhittable as many experts believe, he can only start 2 of the 5 games and the rest of the Twins staff is undoubtedly better.

The Yankees have the clear advantage at the end of games, because they have the greatest closer of all-time in Mariano Rivera and he really hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. His late season struggles aren't a sign of him deteriorating in my opinion, and he will be his usual dominant self again if given the opportunity.

Even with the Sandman looming for the Yanks, the Jesse Crain-Brian Fuentes-Jose Mijares trio is a better bridge to get to our closer than the Joba-Kerry Wood-David Robertson trio the Yankees will use. The Twins will benefit greatly at the end of the games in my opinion because the Yankees don't have a dominating lefty to offset the Twins lefty-heavy lineup.

This is going to be a fantastic series and I'm lucky enough to get to watch the Liriano-Sabathia game first-hand tonight, and my opinion is that the Twins are going to sweep the Yankees without any real trouble. I think the Twins win game 1 4-1, game 2 3-0 and they'll finish the sweep with an 8-6 victory at Yankee Stadium. Call me crazy.