Interesting to see that ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick comes out with this piece today, right before we examine reasons why the Twins could struggle against quality lineups in the postseason (isn’t it also ironic how the main photo in the story is Carl Pavano, who got rocked in Toronto today).
The Twins currently lead the major leagues in walks issued. This is something the Twins have preached in their system for years, and is attributable to the successful run the Twins have been on for nearly a decade. Twins pitchers are constantly around the plate, meaning they’re going to get hit hard from time to time if the pitchers aren’t locating (like today). However, over the course of a season, the Twins will face plenty of lineups (Cleveland, Kansas City, Chicago) that can’t take advantage of the meatballs Twins pitchers can be prone to throw. This is part of the reason why our guys have been able to win a relatively weak division five times in the last eight years.
Where this tendency really gets exposed is in the playoffs. When the Twins get matched up against teams with deep lineups like the Yankees, (by the way, Howard Sinker’s nickname for A-Rod, Cheater McSmug, is awesome) their pitchers have problems because they can’t get swings and misses, and consequently, strikeouts. Yankees pitchers struck out the Twins 34 times last postseason, while Twins pitchers struck out the Yankees only 22 times (13 of which came in Game 3). It is much easier to get out of a jam as a pitcher when you can reach back for that little extra and get a key strikeout.
This year the Twins have two starters who are coming in above the league average for percentage of pitches resulting in a swing and a miss (Liriano and Baker). By comparison, last season the Bronx Bombers had every starter at or above the league average in the same statistical category (except for Pettitte, who checked in one percentage point below). Point is, the Twins are going to have to come up with some dominating pitching performances in the playoffs, if they make it there. Whether The Franchise and Shaky Bakey can produce those types of outings remains to be seen.
By the way, here’s a look at the top horses for each of the championship teams in the past decade.
2009 New York Yankees – C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte
2008 Philadelphia Phillies – Cole Hamels
2007 Boston Red Sox – Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling
2006 St. Louis Cardinals – Chris Carpenter
2005 Chicago White Sox – Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras
2004 Boston Red Sox – Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez
2003 Florida Marlins- Brad Penny, Josh Beckett
2002 Anaheim Angels – John Lackey
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks- Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson
2000 New York Yankees – Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte
1999- New York Yankees- Roger Clemens, Orlando Hernandez
What can we learn from this? To win a championship, you must have someone who can shut down an opposing lineup. Most of these guys are power pitchers, and all of them can strike opponents out.