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  1. Achilles has his heel. Samson has his haircut. Superman, his kryptonite. We build our myths with their weaknesses, and so it is with baseball’s myth, the Yankees. A high-level overview of the Yankees lineup reveals some strategies for approaching the Evil Empire. For even more detail I highly recommend Andrew Thares' excellent deeper dive into several of the Yankees hitters.The Yankees Lineup (Also) Looks Like The Walking Wounded Twins fans who are lamenting the injury bug that has afflicted their lineup can take some consolation in the Yankees travails. Like the Twins, their starting center fielder (Aaron Hicks) is out for the season. Twins fans are wondering if Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez will be at full speed since they missed the last series of the season. Yankees fans are wondering the same about designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who has 34 home runs this year, suffered an oblique injury, and was held out of the last Yankees series. There’s more. While Twins fans wonder if nagging injuries might limit some of their better players, Yankees slugging catcher Gary Sanchez just returned last week, played in two games and went 1-6 with four strikeouts. Finally, Twins killer Didi Gregorius, who went 8-10 with 10 RBI in two games this year at Target Field (read that last fragment again), seems to be wearing down as the season goes on after returning mid season from Tommy John surgery. He’s batting just .190 in September. That raises questions about the #3, #5 and #6 hitters in the Yankees lineup, which isn’t to say this isn’t a killer lineup. But recognizing that some players might not live up to their previously established reputations makes it easier to concentrate on match-ups. Which is handy because…. The Heart Of The Lineup Can Be Navigated Using Match-ups Overall, the Yankees offense has been pretty effective versus both right-handed (.823 OPS against) and left-handed (.852 OPS against) pitching. But that high-level balance is a result of a lot of blending of extreme splits. Leading off is right-handed batting DJ LeMahieu. The 31-year-old is having one of his best years, hitting .327 with an .893 OPS. That includes a respectable .830 OPS against right-handed pitching, but in insane 1.066 versus left-handed pitching. Next up is Aaron Judge, one of the superstars in MLB right now. The 27-year-old also bats right-handed and features similar splits: .847 OPS (including a .247 BA) against right-handers but a .343 BA with an 1.124 OPS against left-handers. Likely batting fourth will be Giancarlo Stanton, who has had a legitimately crummy year due to a variety of injuries, posting just 72 plate appearances. But the (stop me if you’ve heard this before) right-handed batter has crushed left-handers in those 72 plate appearances to the tune of 1.055 OPS. Against right-handers, he loses 200 points of slugging percentage, with an .844 OPS. This is fairly consistent with the rest of his career. It goes on. Seven of the nine regulars in the Yankees lineup will be batting from the right-handed side of the plate, with two left-handers. One is the previously mentioned Gregorius, who has killed Twins right-handed pitchers over his career. The other is center fielder Brett Gardner, who posts similar crazy splits, but the opposite way: right-handers must be very careful against him, while he’s posted just a .654 OPS against southpaws. So expect to see a lot of right-handed relievers on the Twins roster on Friday. Before you get too giddy, limiting the best players to a mid .800s OPS doesn’t ensure victory. For comparison purposes, the Twins lineup as a whole posted a .832 OPS this year. But to take the heart of the Yankees lineup and downgrade it to “better than average” is a trade the Twins should gladly take. Of course, they’ll still need to score some runs. We’ll take a look at how they might be able to do that in Part 2 tomorrow. Again, for even more on the batters I mentioned above, check out Andrew Thares' breakdown of how the Twins will likely approach LeMahieu, Sanchez and Stanton. Click here to view the article
  2. The Yankees Lineup (Also) Looks Like The Walking Wounded Twins fans who are lamenting the injury bug that has afflicted their lineup can take some consolation in the Yankees travails. Like the Twins, their starting center fielder (Aaron Hicks) is out for the season. Twins fans are wondering if Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez will be at full speed since they missed the last series of the season. Yankees fans are wondering the same about designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who has 34 home runs this year, suffered an oblique injury, and was held out of the last Yankees series. There’s more. While Twins fans wonder if nagging injuries might limit some of their better players, Yankees slugging catcher Gary Sanchez just returned last week, played in two games and went 1-6 with four strikeouts. Finally, Twins killer Didi Gregorius, who went 8-10 with 10 RBI in two games this year at Target Field (read that last fragment again), seems to be wearing down as the season goes on after returning mid season from Tommy John surgery. He’s batting just .190 in September. That raises questions about the #3, #5 and #6 hitters in the Yankees lineup, which isn’t to say this isn’t a killer lineup. But recognizing that some players might not live up to their previously established reputations makes it easier to concentrate on match-ups. Which is handy because…. The Heart Of The Lineup Can Be Navigated Using Match-ups Overall, the Yankees offense has been pretty effective versus both right-handed (.823 OPS against) and left-handed (.852 OPS against) pitching. But that high-level balance is a result of a lot of blending of extreme splits. Leading off is right-handed batting DJ LeMahieu. The 31-year-old is having one of his best years, hitting .327 with an .893 OPS. That includes a respectable .830 OPS against right-handed pitching, but in insane 1.066 versus left-handed pitching. Next up is Aaron Judge, one of the superstars in MLB right now. The 27-year-old also bats right-handed and features similar splits: .847 OPS (including a .247 BA) against right-handers but a .343 BA with an 1.124 OPS against left-handers. Likely batting fourth will be Giancarlo Stanton, who has had a legitimately crummy year due to a variety of injuries, posting just 72 plate appearances. But the (stop me if you’ve heard this before) right-handed batter has crushed left-handers in those 72 plate appearances to the tune of 1.055 OPS. Against right-handers, he loses 200 points of slugging percentage, with an .844 OPS. This is fairly consistent with the rest of his career. It goes on. Seven of the nine regulars in the Yankees lineup will be batting from the right-handed side of the plate, with two left-handers. One is the previously mentioned Gregorius, who has killed Twins right-handed pitchers over his career. The other is center fielder Brett Gardner, who posts similar crazy splits, but the opposite way: right-handers must be very careful against him, while he’s posted just a .654 OPS against southpaws. So expect to see a lot of right-handed relievers on the Twins roster on Friday. Before you get too giddy, limiting the best players to a mid .800s OPS doesn’t ensure victory. For comparison purposes, the Twins lineup as a whole posted a .832 OPS this year. But to take the heart of the Yankees lineup and downgrade it to “better than average” is a trade the Twins should gladly take. Of course, they’ll still need to score some runs. We’ll take a look at how they might be able to do that in Part 2 tomorrow. Again, for even more on the batters I mentioned above, check out Andrew Thares' breakdown of how the Twins will likely approach LeMahieu, Sanchez and Stanton.
  3. Brief Overview: New York took two of three against Minnesota earlier this season in the Bronx, but the run differential separated the clubs by only two. The Yankees are the only American League team with a run differential better than the Twins (+138) and Aaron Boone’s savages have done the majority of their damage without the help of their biggest names. What They Do Well: As you’d expect with any good team, there’s very little that New York doesn’t do at an above average clip. The have a top 10 offense across baseball, and own a pitching staff that slots in right behind the Twins at 5th overall. Boone’s club has plenty of bombers, and while they are well behind the Minnesota tally in dingers they round out the top five. The Yankees are a patient group and that’s evident in their 4th best walk rate across Major League Baseball. On top of being able to drive the ball deep and score at a high clip, they’ll make pitchers work and settle for free passes. No team in baseball is better getting out of jams than the Yankees. A 76.8% strand rate is indicative of a team that can handle high-pressure situations, and routinely tilts the scales in their favor. Touting the best bullpen in the game by a wide margin, your best bet is to get ahead early and not give up a lead. What They Do Not Do Well: Similar to the New York club that visited from the National League, this Yankees club is not a defensive stalwart. They rank 22nd in baseball from a defensive metric standpoint, and they bring up the rear in shift runs saved. Virtually every team in baseball (save for three this season) is at 0 or better when it comes to shift runs. The idea of shifting is to cut down would be base hits, and in general, the practice serves its purpose. At -6 rTS this season, New York has managed to be completely inept when moving defenders around the diamond. The Yankees employ a strong defensive outfield, headlined by former Twins centerfielder Aaron Hicks. It’s on the dirt that they are essentially terrible all over the place. Luke Voit is well below average at first base, and Gleyber Torres is negative at second. D.J. LeMahieu is a strong player with the glove, but breakout third basemen Gio Urshella rates poorly and Gary Sanchez is consistently among the worst backstops in baseball. If there was ever an opportunity to reverse course against a bad defensive team after the Mets letdown, this is it for the Twins. Individuals Of Note: It’s Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton that typically draw headlines for this squad, but one has missed significant time and the other is still on the Injured List. After leaving Coors Field in free agency a slide was expected for former Rockies second basemen D.J. LeMahieu. Instead he’s having a career year and paces the Yankees in fWAR. Every year it looks like Brett Gardner may be the old man squeezed out of a spot on the roster, and each season he rises to the challenge. He’s putting up great numbers in 2019 and doing so at the age of 35. Gleyber Torres was the second Yankee considered by most in the AL Rookie of the Year voting a season ago, but arguably had the better campaign. He’s back it up by becoming an All Star in year two and looks the part of a cornerstone for years to come. The rotation is where New York is a bit soft but big time trade acquisition James Paxton has been plenty strong. He’s been somewhat outshined by youngster Domingo German, but Boone still has more than a few arms he’s comfortable turning the ball loose with. Recent History: These two clubs played in the beginning of May with New York taking the series. The Yankees won each of their games by three runs while Minnesota took the middle game by a score of 7-3. Recent Trajectories: After sending Oakland out with a split the Twins are just 4-6 over their last ten, and they have lost their last two home series. New York comes in winning seven of their last ten, but dropping their last road series. In 2018 Minnesota took the final series from the Bombers winning two of three at Target Field in September. Ending Thoughts: Right now the largest problem for the Twins has been a consistent offensive output. While starter have gone short and the bullpen is both taxed and undermanned, it’s the bats that carried Minnesota this far. Beating the Yankees isn’t likely going to happen late so Baldelli will need his squad to hop on opposing starters early and often. Byron Buxton could be back, and his presence would be a welcomed one both in the lineup and the outfield.
  4. Other teams Cafardo mentions in the mix for Gray are the A’s, Braves, Padres and Rangers. The main thing that stands out as an advantage for the Twins is they seem to be better suited to take on payroll. So if the Yankees are primarily looking for financial relief, boy does that feel weird to say, the Twins have a great shot. Gray is expected to make somewhere around $9 million through arbitration. La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported that the Twins “have expressed some interest” in DJ LeMahieu. A three-time Gold Glover at second base, former batting champ and two-time All-Star, LeMahieu certainly has an attractive resume. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs also highlighted his ability to barrel up balls, speculating a power breakout could be possible with an adjustment or two. Still, LeMahieu’s career .264/.311/.362 (.673) line away from Coors Field scares me. I’m pretty surprised the Twins (and every other team in baseball) passed on the opportunity to claim Derek Dietrich. He actually has a higher career OPS+ than Brian Dozier and has hit .272/.351/.465 (.816) away from Marlins Park. One non-tender candidate I could see being a target for the Twins is second baseman Jonathan Schoop. The Brewers acquired Schoop at the trade deadline, but he’s expected to make $10 million ins his final season of arbitration eligibility. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwakee Journal Sentinel wrote that Milwaukee is “believed to be somewhat torn about what to do” and that the decision could go either way. Schoop, 27, had an incredible 2017, blasting 32 home runs while posting an .841 OPS, but he came crashing down to Earth last season, hitting just .233/.266/.416 (.682). Mark Feinsand highlighted one non-teneder candidate for each team for MLB.com. Schoop was among those listed, but there were plenty of other names I could see fitting nicely on the Twins, including relief pitcher Chaz Roe. Give me all the ex-Rays! Roe, 32, had a 3.58 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 in 50 1/3 innings last season for Tampa Bay. The Twins added Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wade and Luis Arraez to the 40-man roster and released Alan Busenitz, allowing him to sign with a team in Japan. We could have some further re-shaping of the 40-man roster coming later this week, as Friday marks the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. It’s interesting that the trio of 40-man roster additions could potentially help serve as replacements for the Twins two most logical non-tender candidates. Robbie Grossman and Ehire Adrianza have been fine as role players, but neither offers much upside. It’s not as if those two are expected to break the bank, as they’re expected to cost around $6 million total, but there may be better ways to invest both that money and space on the 25-man roster. Here are the projected arbitration salaries via MLB Trade Rumors. Now that the Twins have added C.J. Cron, things are looking especially bleak for Grossman. Michael Achterling of the Pioneer Press gathered what basically amounted to a scrapbook of Joe Mauer highlights from the publication’s coverage of the homegrown star. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors passed along some notes on both Zack Greinke and Paul Goldschmidt’s market. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Mariners are actively trying to move Robinson Cano. I’d imagine those teams would have to eat a significant amount of the money still owed to those players ($104.5 million to Greinke, $120 million to Cano) in order to make a deal. Another name to note on the trade market: Madison Bumgarner. Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported the Giants are “willing to engage teams” in trade talks for MadBum. Bumgarner has built quite the legacy already thanks to postseason heroics, but he’s only under team control for this upcoming season and his FIP has gone up each of the past three seasons. Andrew Simon of MLB.com listed nine sleeper free agents to watch. One name I found particularly interesting was Carson Smith. The right-hander only has one healthy season under his belt, but it was a great one. Back in 2015, Smith saved 13 games for the Mariners while pitching to a 2.31 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 11.8 K/9. Intriguing buy-low option for the bullpen. Also from MLB.com, Mike Petriello took a look at the most extreme home runs of 2018. Guess who homered on the pitch the farthest off the plate? Yup, Eddie Rosario. Another prospect list! Eric Cross of FantraxHQ revealed his top 25 prospect list for the Twins. He’s particularly high on Akil Baddoo, who he has in the sixth spot. It’s a fun list, and Cross goes into some more detail on each player than a lot of other outlets. Just a friendly reminder: The 11th annual Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook will be available later this winter. Over at Twinkie Town, Thomas Reinking did a deep dive on the value of investing in free agents. The results were not encouraging.
  5. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe interviewed new Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and reported that the Twins were among the teams who’ve expressed interest in Sonny Gray (it’s a long article). His bi-polar name is quite fitting. On the “Sonny” side: He’s still only 29, had a 3.17 ERA on the road and won’t take a king’s ransom to acquire. On the “Gray” side: He’s averaged less than 140 innings pitched the past three seasons, had a 6.98 ERA at Yankee Stadium and is only under team control for one more season.Other teams Cafardo mentions in the mix for Gray are the A’s, Braves, Padres and Rangers. The main thing that stands out as an advantage for the Twins is they seem to be better suited to take on payroll. So if the Yankees are primarily looking for financial relief, boy does that feel weird to say, the Twins have a great shot. Gray is expected to make somewhere around $9 million through arbitration. La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported that the Twins “have expressed some interest” in DJ LeMahieu. A three-time Gold Glover at second base, former batting champ and two-time All-Star, LeMahieu certainly has an attractive resume. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs also highlighted his ability to barrel up balls, speculating a power breakout could be possible with an adjustment or two. Still, LeMahieu’s career .264/.311/.362 (.673) line away from Coors Field scares me. I’m pretty surprised the Twins (and every other team in baseball) passed on the opportunity to claim Derek Dietrich. He actually has a higher career OPS+ than Brian Dozier and has hit .272/.351/.465 (.816) away from Marlins Park. One non-tender candidate I could see being a target for the Twins is second baseman Jonathan Schoop. The Brewers acquired Schoop at the trade deadline, but he’s expected to make $10 million ins his final season of arbitration eligibility. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwakee Journal Sentinel wrote that Milwaukee is “believed to be somewhat torn about what to do” and that the decision could go either way. Schoop, 27, had an incredible 2017, blasting 32 home runs while posting an .841 OPS, but he came crashing down to Earth last season, hitting just .233/.266/.416 (.682). Mark Feinsand highlighted one non-teneder candidate for each team for MLB.com. Schoop was among those listed, but there were plenty of other names I could see fitting nicely on the Twins, including relief pitcher Chaz Roe. Give me all the ex-Rays! Roe, 32, had a 3.58 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 in 50 1/3 innings last season for Tampa Bay. The Twins added Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wade and Luis Arraez to the 40-man roster and released Alan Busenitz, allowing him to sign with a team in Japan. We could have some further re-shaping of the 40-man roster coming later this week, as Friday marks the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. It’s interesting that the trio of 40-man roster additions could potentially help serve as replacements for the Twins two most logical non-tender candidates. Robbie Grossman and Ehire Adrianza have been fine as role players, but neither offers much upside. It’s not as if those two are expected to break the bank, as they’re expected to cost around $6 million total, but there may be better ways to invest both that money and space on the 25-man roster. Here are the projected arbitration salaries via MLB Trade Rumors. Now that the Twins have added C.J. Cron, things are looking especially bleak for Grossman. Michael Achterling of the Pioneer Press gathered what basically amounted to a scrapbook of Joe Mauer highlights from the publication’s coverage of the homegrown star. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors passed along some notes on both Zack Greinke and Paul Goldschmidt’s market. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Mariners are actively trying to move Robinson Cano. I’d imagine those teams would have to eat a significant amount of the money still owed to those players ($104.5 million to Greinke, $120 million to Cano) in order to make a deal. Another name to note on the trade market: Madison Bumgarner. Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported the Giants are “willing to engage teams” in trade talks for MadBum. Bumgarner has built quite the legacy already thanks to postseason heroics, but he’s only under team control for this upcoming season and his FIP has gone up each of the past three seasons. Andrew Simon of MLB.com listed nine sleeper free agents to watch. One name I found particularly interesting was Carson Smith. The right-hander only has one healthy season under his belt, but it was a great one. Back in 2015, Smith saved 13 games for the Mariners while pitching to a 2.31 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 11.8 K/9. Intriguing buy-low option for the bullpen. Also from MLB.com, Mike Petriello took a look at the most extreme home runs of 2018. Guess who homered on the pitch the farthest off the plate? Yup, Eddie Rosario. Another prospect list! Eric Cross of FantraxHQ revealed his top 25 prospect list for the Twins. He’s particularly high on Akil Baddoo, who he has in the sixth spot. It’s a fun list, and Cross goes into some more detail on each player than a lot of other outlets. Just a friendly reminder: The 11th annual Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook will be available later this winter. Over at Twinkie Town, Thomas Reinking did a deep dive on the value of investing in free agents. The results were not encouraging. Click here to view the article
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