New York Yankees (95-67) at Minnesota Twins (94-68)
In many ways, this is a rematch of last year’s Division Series—the main way being that these same two teams played each other in last year’s Division Series. But things are much different now. The Twins are no longer the underdogs that snuck into the playoffs at the last minute, and the Yankees are no longer the dominant force in the AL. The Twins went 48-26 after the All-Star Break, essentially wrapping up the AL Central with a month to go. The Yankees, on the other hand, stumbled down the stretch, losing the AL East to Tampa Bay and settling for the Wild Card thanks to a 13-17 record in September/October. In other words, do not expect a repeat of last year’s one-sided Yankees sweep.
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After about as many off-days as game days, we’re finally down to two teams in Major League Baseball: the last dynasty against a team hoping to build one. It’s Yankees-Phillies in what many expect to be the most exciting World Series since 2001.
Resident Yankee fan John S. and Phillie hater Tim break it down.
LEADOFF: ROLLINS V. JETER
TIM: So, John, make the case to me that Derek Jeter is not only a better leadoff hitter than Jimmy Rollins (which he is), but that he’s the best leadoff hitter the Yankees have had during this 15-year run. Am I forgetting somebody better?
JOHN: As for why he’s better than Rollins, do I need to say more than that Rollins OBP this year was .296? That’s 110 points less than Jeter’s. As for in the last 15-years of the Yankees, that’s similarly obvious. NY has basically had 3 lead-off hitters since then: Chuck Knoblauch, Alfonso Soriano and Johnny Damon. Knoblauch was good his first 2 years, but never as good as Jeter’s been this year. Soriano was always miscast in the leadoff role, and Damon’s best years were in Boston. Jeter wasn’t actually new to the leadoff spot this year, as many people thought him to be; he did it for pretty much all of 2005, and he’d done it over 400 times in his career before 2009.
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Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees
The Yankees and Angels were the two best teams in the AL during the regular season, and both are looking particularly impressive right now. They are each coming off sweeps in the ALDS (in which they each came back once against the other team’s dominant closer down two in the ninth). These teams have met in the playoffs twice already this decade, with Los Angeles bumping New York in the ALDS in 2002 and 2005. In 2009, the two teams split the 10 regular season games they played against each other, but the Yankees, and their fans, certainly remember when the Angels swept them in the last series before the All-Star break, when the Yankees were at their hottest. New York was better in the regular season, but expect the teams to be pretty evenly matched in the ALCS. Continue reading »
Minnesota Twins (87-76) at
New York Yankees (103-59)
(RIDICULOUSLY BIASED) OVERVIEW
The Yankees are the best team in the AL, but they’re taking on the Twins, who just completed one of the most incredible comebacks to win a division (down three with four to play). Fortunately for them, that makes them hot. Unfortunately for them, that makes them spent. I can definitely foresee an’03 Yankees World Series type situation, where the Twins feel as if they’ve already won their crown just by getting this far. Plus, the division race has left their rotation a little out of whack, forcing them to use rookie pitcher Brian Duensing in Game 1.
As I insisted repeatedly earlier this week, the Yankees have the best lineup in baseball. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the best three-four hitters in the league, but the lineup is also deep with seven guys who have over 20 home runs. A lot of that, of course, is due to the new Yankee Stadium, but a lot of it is also great production from guys like Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano.
The Twins, on the other hand, have Joe Mauer, the best hitter in the league in 2009, but not much beyond that. Justin Morneau is hurt. Their second best hitter now is Jason Kubel who, though he did have an impressive season in ’09, is not going to strike fear into a lot of pitchers’ hearts. And the fact the Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert and Jose Morales are all getting significant numbers of at-bats is not all that intimidating. Continue reading »