The real race is happening between the Astros and Yankees, and Houston is closing in on the top seed. This sets up for an ALDS matchup between Minnesota and…The New York Yankees.
The Twins will head to October with one of the most prolific offenses in MLB history. Minnesota ranks first in homers, second in batting average, and third in OPS. On Tuesday, Miguel Sano broke the league record for most players with 30 or more home runs on one team.
The Twins pitching staff has been nothing to scoff at. The team ranks 5th in the American League in ERA, and they have walked the second fewest batters. The bullpen, despite mid-season struggles, is ranked 4th in WAR. While this team loves homers, they are elite at stopping them. The Twins staff has allowed the 7th fewest home runs per nine innings.
Consistency has been the key in 2019. The Twins have never had a winning streak longer than six, and have never lost more than four in a row. They are on pace to finish the season 99-63. That would be their best record since 1965, where they won 102 games.
Here is their lineup:
- Max Kepler (36 HR, .855 OPS)
- Jorge Polanco (22 HR, .853 OPS)
- Nelson Cruz (37 HR, .996 OPS)
- Eddie Rosario (31 HR, .802 OPS)
- Miguel Sano (30 HR, .886 OPS)
- Luis Arraez (.349 AVG, .865 OPS)
- Mitch Garver (30 HR, 1.000 OPS)
- C.J Cron (24 HR, .782 OPS)
- Marwin Gonzalez (15 HR, .744 OPS)
The Yankees have faced more adversity than anyone in the American League, and they are still going to win well over 100 games. They lead the league with the most money spent on IL players at $30,568,273. Giancarlo Stanton returned Wednesday after missing almost the entire season with a knee injury.
While the Twins prefer playing New York over Houston, the Yankees are far from a favorable draw. The Yankees are nipping at the heels of the Twins, trailing the home run race by just one heading into Thursday. The Bronx Bombers are second in MLB in OPS, OBP, and rank first in runs scored. Much like the Twins, this lineup is loaded with power and depth:
- DJ Lemahieu (.329 AVG, .893 OPS)
- Aaron Judge (24 HR in 95 G, .889 OPS)
- Edwin Encarnacion (34 HR, .856 OPS)
- Luke Voit (21 HR, .875 OPS)
- Gary Sanchez (34 HR, .849 OPS)
- Gleyber Torres (38 HR, .894 OPS)
- Giancarlo Stanton (306 career HR, .905 career OPS)
- Gio Urshela (20 HR, .915 OPS)
- Brett Gardner (25 HR, .825 OPS)
The Yankees bullpen ranks first in WAR and their starting rotation is around league average. The lack of a frontline starter has been a concern for New York, but Luis Severino returned from a shoulder injury on Tuesday heaving at 96 MPH. Domingo German is 18-4 but is questionable to be available after the league placed him on Administrative Leave today while investigating for domestic violence.
The ALDS will begin in New York on October 4th. Twins’ ace Jose Berrios seems to be back to form after posting a 7.57 ERA in August. The two-time All-Star has been dominant in his last two starts, allowing just two runs in 14 ⅔ innings pitched. He is the game one go-to for rookie manager Rocco Baldelli.
It is anyone’s guess who will start game one for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka could be a candidate. An All-Star this year, Tanaka posted a 3.86 ERA in the first half. Since then, Tanaka has allowed 11 homers in 67 innings. He is sporting a 5.78 ERA in the second half.
Former Mariner James Paxton has been a major disappointment in 2019. The lefty has a 1.3 WHIP and allows 1.4 home runs per nine innings. The Twins also rank first in MLB in OPS against left-handed pitching. Paxton strikes out about 11 batters per nine innings.
If Luis Severino proves to be healthy, I would not be surprised to see him take the hill in game one. The question is whether Severino can be trusted after missing 90% of the season with a serious shoulder injury.
The Twins will likely send All-Star Jake Odorizzi to the mound in game two. Odorizzi has been incredibly consistent with a 3.59 ERA. He is a fly ball pitcher but allows under one home run per nine innings.
The Yankees will turn to one of the aforementioned names in game two. J.A. Happ could be an option, although the Twins tagged him for two homers and six runs in 3 ⅓ innings in July.
The Twins question mark comes in game three. Will Kyle Gibson get an opportunity? Will Rocco Baldelli turn to his top-5 bullpen to handle 27 outs? Should Martin Perez even be considered? The biggest question for Minnesota is who they can trust in a possible elimination game.
What’s gonna happen here?
These are two of the best offenses in baseball, and there is no doubt that fireworks will be flying in this series. The Yankees have home field advantage, but the Twins are confident in their two starters.
The Yankees and Twins had one of the most memorable series’ of the year at Target Field in July. In three games, New York outscored Minnesota 30-27 and took two-of-three games.
This is going to be one of the most energetic and exciting series of the playoffs. There is so much history here and both squads have been tremendous in 2019. It is worth noting that one of these coaches will be winning Manager of the Year.
Both teams have questions in their rotation, but games one and two certainly favor the Twins. However, pitching will likely not win this series. The team that hits more home runs and capitalizes in key spots will head to the American League Championship Series.