A Gedankenexperiment: Beating The Yankees
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsAnd so, I present the following gedankenexperiment: pick 25 Twins players, custom-picked to beat the Yankees in one game. It’s beyond our normal course of thought: suddenly a team doesn’t need a full rotation on the 25-man roster, or a full complement of a bench or bullpen. But what does one do with those 25 spots then?
Well, that’s what the comments are for, and I trust this community to research the strengths and weaknesses of the Yankees team. But I’ll start with a few observations:
Bring Left Handed Pitchers
At a macro level, the Yankees are not bad against left-handed pitchers. They rank fourth in the American League against southpaws, thought that’s lower than they rank against right-handed pitching. But they have players who are very bad against left-handers, and two of them tend to sandwich the heart of their order.
Brett Gardner, who leads off for the Yankees, has always been a little bit worse against left-handers, but he's still been on base against them at a .335 clip. When one bats in front of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, that's all one needs to do. But this year he's struggled bit, with just a .208 BA against southpaws and – most importantly - a .301 OBP. Beside his ability to get on-base, he can also steal bases, so to what extent one can, especially in later innings, he must face left-handed pitching.
Batting right behind Judge and Sanchez lately is left-handed hitting Didi Gregorius. Gregorius has been as steady a performer as anyone could expect who had to follow Derek Jeter, and when a shortstop bats fifth in a lineup, he’s a mighty valuable commodity. But even though the 27-year old is having his best season, his biggest weakness – left-handed pitching – remains a weakness. This year he has just a .657 OPS against left-handed pitchers and that’s in line with his career.
In the second-half of their lineup, Yankees manager Joe Girardi tends to alternate left-handed and right-handed hitters, so it’s not like a left-hander can mow through the rest of the lineup. But the only player down there who is legitimately scary against left-handers is Todd Frazier, which is probably why the Yankees traded for him mid-season from the White Sox.
I’ll also postulate that where Frazier has batted is telling: he’s batted ninth lately, despite having a 775 OPS (albeit a .210 batting average) and crushing left-handers with a .932 OPS against them. Why is he batting so low?
Whether Girardi talks about it or not, I bet it’s at least partly to protect Gardner, batting leadoff. Frazier forces opposing managers to go from left to right and back to left to keep the bases empty before getting to Judge and Sanchez. Anything that Girardi does not want is what I do want.
Beyond southpaws Taylor Rogers and Buddy Boshers, I’d like Adalberto Mejia available to work out of the ‘pen. I’d also bring Gabriel Moya, even though he gave up a home run against left-handed hitting Efren Navarro last week. I’d even consider Nik Turley. That’s how serious I am about keeping Gardner off the bases and Gregorius from driving in Judge or Sanchez.
(You might be wondering about Glen Perkins, and I wonder if the overall zeitgeist surrounding him ignores that he may yet be a decent LOOGY - Lefty One Out GuY. I agree, but this is not the time. He’s been crummy against both sides during this late-season stint. This one is on us, Glen. Enjoy the ride and get ready for March.)
Bring Live Arms
Back to Judge and Sanchez, there is no good way to attack them. Neither had been susceptible to right-handers or left-handers. Power pitchers have done quite a bit better against Judge than finesse pitchers, which makes sense given his strikeouts. Sanchez has had more success against fly ball pitchers than ground ball pitchers. But focusing on that is like craving more money. Duh. Everyone wants power pitchers that keep the ball on the ground.
However, I would like to see Jose Berrios available in the ‘pen. Besides having the highest strikeout rate among the Twins starting pitchers, he’s held the opposition to a .212 batting average his first time through the order. (Full disclosure: he’s also been homer-prone early, so that’s a not an insignificant risk.) Beyond him, there aren’t too many surprise arms I want, though maybe I bring John Curtiss if I have room.
Add A Right-Handed Bat
Once the Twins decided to sell at the trade deadline, there was no longer any discussion about acquiring a right-handed bat. In some ways, it has become less critical – Joe Mauer, Jason Castro, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Polanco have all hit left-handers better than one might expect. But there has still been Max Kepler.
Kepler has had a little very recent success, but has hit just .149 against left-handers this year. If there are any pinch-hitting needs, that’s the glaring one.
It would be nice if a limited Miguel Sano could provide the occasional pinch-hitting appearance, but the more likely answer is that Ehire Adrianza joins the roster as a one-time replacement. There really isn’t anyone else on the roster that deserves to be pulled in a matchup situation, unless Chris Gimenez starts over Jason Castro due to concerns for slowing down the Yankees running attack.
So where does that leave us? Let’s list them out the obvious names and start counting down the rest. If you have your own lists, we have this revolutionary way, below the story, where you can share your own Gedankenexperiment – provided you REGISTER:
1 Robbie Grossman
2 Jason Castro (or Chris Gimenez depending on Castro’s ability to throw out runners. The Yankees will run.)
3 Joe Mauer
4 Brian Dozier
5 Eduardo Escobar
6 Jorge Polanco
7 Eddie Rosario
8 Byron Buxton
9 Max Kepler
The Obvious Pitchers
10 Ervin Santana
11 Matt Belisle
12 Trevor Hildenberger
13 Taylor Rogers
14 Ehire Adrianza
15 Matt Garver (as a 2nd catcher, or maybe, Chris Gimenez. Not both)
15 Buddy Boshers
16 Adalberto Mejia
17 Gabriel Moya
19 Jose Berrios
20 Alan Busenitz
21 Ryan Pressly
The Final Spots
22 Nik Turley – Left-handed
23 John Curtiss – Power and had success in Yankee Stadium last week.
24 Zach Granite –There is a roughly 198% chance Molitor finds a reason to use a pinch-runner, so I’d better give him one.
25 Tyler Duffey – For whatever reason, he’s pitched well in the new Yankee Stadium. Sorry Chris Ginenez. You can still have champagne.
This little experiment is not going to change the concepts of time, space and gravity. On the other hand, all three have seemed to aligned against the Twins whenever they faced the Yankees in recent years. A seemingly inevitable (knock, knock) Wild Card berth gives the Twins (and their fans) a little time to consider the extreme situation of playing in Yankee Stadium. Do you have the gedankens to put your alternate observations and theories below?
- Mike Frasier Law, Cory Engelhardt, Monkeypaws and 3 others like this