Advantages/Disadvantages Heading Into The AL Wild Card Game

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Fall baseball is upon us with the Twins set to take on the Yankees tonight at 8 PM Eastern time. Some fans still have their reservations about the one game playoff, myself included. That said, I can’t say I don’t love the atmosphere of these games. Facing elimination leads teams to do crazy things that we wouldn’t see mid-season, such as bringing big name starters on in relief.

All that aside, these two teams have both had excellent seasons and neither will be looking to go home early. Both have rather young squads with plenty of inexperienced post season players, so the match up is sure to be a good one.

Each side has advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the starting pitcher, fielding, power, speed, and the bullpen. Let’s evaluate!

Starting Pitcher

Tonight’s starting pitchers will be Ervin Santana facing off against Luis Severino. Santana has made eight postseason appearances that includes two starts. Over these games, which date back to 2009, Santana has accumulated an ERA 5.56 with a whip of 1.324. Santana hasn’t pitched in the postseason since the 2009 ALCS when he was with the Angels and this is the first time he will be tapped as the number one starter. While these figures don’t paint the prettiest pitcher, Santana had one of his best seasons in his career in 2017 that included an absolutely dominant first half.

As for Severino, he also had a great 2017. Severino accumulated an ERA of 2.98 to go along with an outstanding FIP of 3.08 and struck out 10.7 on average through nine innings. The slim difference between ERA and FIP is a-lot more impressive than Santana’s, who posted an FIP of 4.46 in 2017. While Severino’s stats are certainly impressive, the biggest unknown with him is postseason performance. Severino will be making his postseason debut tonight and it goes without saying that this is an enormous game to be doing so in.

This is an incredibly tough call, but I’m going to go ahead and give the nod to Santana purely based on postseason experience. It’s such an enormous stage and without having any data on Severino it tilts the scales in his favor. Still though, this is an incredibly even starting pitching match-up that should prove interesting.

Advantage: Twins

Fielding

This one is a-lot more clear cut. For starters, the Twins as a team committed just 78 errors with a fielding percentage .987. This puts them at fourth lowest for errors and ties them for second in team fielding percentage. While team fielding percentage is tough to go on, there are other factors that work in their favor. The Yankees committed 95 errors as a team and their catcher, Gary Sanchez, tied for the league lead in passed balls with 16. This one goes to Minnesota.

Advantage: Twins

Power Hitting

Both teams have young sluggers who will be making their mark on the game for years to come. The Yankees enjoyed a historic season from rookie Aaron Judge, who hit a whopping 52 bombs while sporting an OBP of .442. The Yankees also enjoyed productive power seasons from Didi Gregorious, who tied for second among shortstops with 25 long balls, and Gary Sanchez who lead catchers with 33. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees lead all MLB teams with 241 total home runs and posted the fourth highest slugging percentage with .447. The game will also be played at Yankee stadium, which plays to their strengths.

The Twins hit 206 home runs with a team slugging percentage of .434. Minnesota has their own young slugger in Miguel Sano, who enjoyed a solid year with 28 long balls and a slugging percentage of .507. The team also enjoyed another solid season from Brian Dozier, who lead the squad with 34 home runs and saw a breakout campaign from Eddie Rosario, who hit 27 bombs and tied Sano in slugging percentage. The big key here is that Sano will not be playing after being left off the roster due to a nagging injury.

Neither team is a slouch when it comes to power hitting, but the edge overwhelmingly goes to the Yankees on this one.

Advantage: Yankees

Speed

When it comes to total stolen bases, there wasn’t much to split the two as the Twins swiped 95 bags to the Yankees’ 90. However, when it comes to stolen base percentage the Yankees lead the league with a stellar 80% success rate compared to the Twins’ 77%.

There also isn’t much to separate the two sides when it comes to outfield range. The Twins have one of the game’s fastest players in Byron Buxton while the Yankees have Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, both veterans who have made careers off of their speed. This is another tough call, but the edge again goes to New York. Minnesota may have the fastest player tonight in Buxton, but overall the Yankees are a faster and more efficient team.

Advantage: Yankees

Bullpen

The Yankees have been spending big on bullpen over the last few years and have enjoyed solid results. With Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson and Dellin Betances, the Yankees arguably have the best late inning squad in the game. The team also has Adam Warren, a solid long man. Chapman has four saves in 18 postseason outings, but his 8 walks and 3.10 ERA through 20 1/3 leave a little bit to be desired for a closer. He also earned a ring last year with Chicago, although it wasn’t the most shutdown game 7 performance. Robertson has been shaky in the playoffs, allowing seven earned runs through 17 innings while Betances has only made one appearance. Warren, to my surprise, has no playoff experience despite spending much of his career with the Yankees and last year with the Cubs.

As for the Twins, they may have less household names but that does not mean they have not had solid bullpen production this season. The team enjoyed solid seasons from Trevor Hildenberger, Alan Busenitz, and Taylor Rogers. The team is short on postseason experience and is certainly outgunned in the late innings, but their bullpen is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

It is also worth keeping in mind that traditional starting pitchers could work out of the pen tonight. Still, the late inning monsters of the Yankees give them the edge when it comes to the pen despite shaky postseason results.

Advantage: Yankees

Overall, this game looks to be an exciting match-up between two quite evenly matched teams. Catch the game on ESPN tonight at 8.

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