One of the ways we are covering the series is by reaching out to Twins bloggers to get that Midwestern perspective. So throughout the day I’ll be posting Q&A’s with various Twins bloggers to get their take on the upcoming series.
Up first is Parker Hageman of the blog Over The Baggy. Parker has been described as the Michael Cuddyer of Twins blogs and has been running Over The Baggy since 2006.
I want to thank Parker for putting in the time to answer a few questions. These are honest, informed, and straightforward answers that will hopefully allow Yankee fans to better understand the enemy.
Bronx Baseball Daily: There were a lot of Yankee fans that actually preferred that they win the wild-card in order to avoid Cliff Lee and the Rangers. As a Twins blogger, what do you think about that?
Over The Baggy: I certainly don’t blame Yankees fans for that — Cliff Lee is a postseason monster. On top of that, the Rangers boast C.J. Wilson who has completely shut down left-handed bats on the season. That southpawed duo could be tough in a short best-of-five game series. Still, while Lee is a marquee name with a wildly impressive 10.3 K/BB (second-best season ever in this category), the Twins have a left-hander in Francisco Liriano that can be every bit as nasty as Lee in addition to Brian Duensing, Game 3′s starter, who rivals Wilson’s dominance over lefties. In short, be careful what you wish for as the Twins have some deep pitching of their own.
BBD: The Yankees and Twins faced off last year in the ALDS, how are the Twins different since then?
If you look around the infield alone, you’ll see that the Twins have nearly completely turned over their roster since last year’s postseason. In 2009, the Twins sent out the light-hitting Matt Tolbert at third, an aging Orlando Cabrera at short and another light-hitting Nick Punto at the keystone. Now the only position player to carry over from a year ago is Michael Cuddyer at first. Rookie Danny Valencia has rooted himself at third, J.J. Hardy gives the team a very solid defensive shortstop and Orlando Hudson has been ranked the top defender at second according to John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system. And, unlike the previous installment, this crew can hit as well.
Likewise, in the ALDS a year ago, Brendan Harris was the DH. This hardly instilled fear in any opponent. This year, the Twins have Jim Thome – who has hit a much welcomed .283/.412/.627 with 25 home runs.
Not to mention, this is also one of the deepest bullpens (Mijares, Guerrier, Crain, Fuentes, Capps) the Twins have had in recent memory.
Needless to say, this is a much more complete team than the one that showed up to New York last October.
BBD: How does the new stadium effect the team?
OTB: The Twins have had a lot of success at their new abode. Their 53-home wins represents the most in the American League. I’m not sure many people figured the team would have these kinds of results when moving from the home field advantage of the Metrodome.
As the season progressed, it became apparent that the team was built extremely well for the confines of the ballpark. The fly ball-oriented pitching staff had plenty of would-be home runs knocked down in the wind or chased down to the spacious power alleys in left and right center. While home runs were difficult to hit for the team, the roomy outfield also gave the Twins’ gap-hitters the ability to bury line drives into the seams for extra base hits.
In terms of the fan base, it will never be as loud as the Metrodome – without a roof and 20,000 fewer patrons it is clear the noise isn’t going to be as much of a factor – however because of the small footprint that it was built on, Target Field has that feeling of many old ballparks where the fans are right on top of you. With the night and the cold, visitors may find that Target Field is just as difficult to win in as the Metrodome use to be.
BBD: How big will the absence of Justin Morneau change this series?
OTB: Obviously, having a healthy Morneau would have been ideal, however, in his absence, the team has been able to demonstrate just how deep their roster is. Up until Morneau’s concussion, Jim Thome was a part-time player, getting most of his plate appearances as a pinch hitter while Jason Kubel assumed DH duties. The injury forced Kubel to the outfield when Michael Cuddyer moved to first and Thome was given many more at-bats and put up monster numbers. Having a Morneau in the lineup makes the Twins a better team yet without him, the Twins have proven to be formidable all the same.
BBD: Yankee fans generally feel that Carl Pavano is a joke, what’s the real story about Pavano as a Twin?
OTB: Since coming to Minnesota from Cleveland, Pavano has been lauded by the younger pitchers on the staff as an excellent leader, taking the time to educate the inexperienced arms and provide them with some direction. When Scott Baker began to have arm troubles, Pavano – with his extensive medical history – was the one Baker cited as talking him through the process and what to expect. While not really an engaging player with the media, Pavano has been embraced by the Twins fans for his throwback mustache, his ability to go deep into game and, in general, winning.
BBD: Brian Duensing has reportedly experienced some stiffness, what exactly is going on there? How will it effect him in this series?
OTB: Duensing came out of his last start, one in which he was touched up for three early runs in the first two innings and reported after the game that he was feeling tight and that he most likely didn’t get warmed up as well as he should in the bullpen. He and the Twins are certainly downplaying the issue. As I mentioned before, Duensing has basically neutralized left-handed opponents so having him in the short rotation would mean hopefully neutralizing Cano, Granderson and Gardner.
BBD: How do you think the Twins match up against the Yankees?
OTB: With the Twins getting home field advantage as well as a refurbished lineup over the 2009 version, the match-up doesn’t feel as lopsided as it did a year ago. Certainly since clinching the Twins pitching and offense has gone missing, raising some concern among the fans, but it that was mostly a byproduct of resting the starters and using pitchers that will not be on the postseason roster to chew through innings. This feels like a very evenly matched series and despite the notion that the Twins regularly play in awe of the pinstripes, I’m going to say the Twins will win in four.
Thanks again to Parker for collaborating with us for this article. BTW, I reached out to Over The Baggy as he is a fellow member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.