We've already taken a look at the teams' overall numbers in the regular season, along with the numbers for the players that will actually be playing on the teams' 25-man rosters. This morning we'll be looking at the starting pitching match-ups.
In case you missed parts 1 and 2 of Yankeeist's ALDS preview, please click on the following:
Yankeeist's 2010 ALDS Series Preview, Part 1: Head-to-Head Overall Team Numbers
Yankeeist's 2010 ALDS Series Preview, Part 2: 25-Man Roster Comparisons
The Pitching Match-Ups
Game 1, Wednesday, October 6, 2010: CC Sabathia vs. Francisco Liriano. A classic battle of lefthanded aces. The Twins did not see CC Sabathia once in 2010, while the Yankees faced Liriano twice, scoring three runs in six innings at Yankee Stadium on May 15 and two runs in seven innings on May 26 at Target Field. The Yankees ended up winning both games. I don't know whether the Twins suffer in quite the same way the Yankees do when not seeing a pitcher for a while, but Minnesota not having faced Sabathia all year sounds like a pretty big advantage for the Bombers. Additionally, CC Sabathia is awesome, and arguably put up a top-5 season among American League starting pitchers. Liriano is also awesome, obviously coming off a spectacular year, though the Yankees have shown that they can handle him. The Yankees need to find a way to win this game -- and I feel confident that they will, given the Twins' struggles with lefthanded pitching and the fact that they're facing one of the best lefties in the game -- because in Game 2 they are going to face Yankee Death™, a.k.a. an off-speed pitcher with pinpoint control and dominant changeup.
The charts sprinkled throughout this post show how the current players on both teams have historically fared against the respective starters for each game, including postseason at-bats. While this isn't necessarily indicative of anything given the small sample sizes, it should help provide a slightly broader picture as to how one might reasonably expect the team to perform.
Here's how the Yankees have historically fared against Liriano.
And here are the numbers for the Twins who have faced Sabathia:
Game 2, Thursday, October 7, 2010: Andy Pettitte vs. Carl Pavano. I hate this match-up for a variety of reasons. One, it's impossible for Yankee fans not to hate Pavano for his disastrous stint in pinstripes. Two, not only did he have that disastrous stint in pinstripes, he then went on to pitch extremely well in the ensuing two seasons for a major AL competitor. Three, with an arsenal of slow-pitch slop and a nasty changeup, he is the literal embodiment of Yankee Kyptonite™. I know the Yankees beat him in last year's Game 3, but it took two heroic solo home runs from A-Rod and Posada to do so -- prior to that seventh inning, Pavano had only allowed three hits up to that point, and only one runner had even reached second base. I love All Day Andy Pettitte, and he may well spin a gem, but he's also an unknown commodity at this point what with a mere three starts under his belt since returning from injury. I'm going to have to disagree with NoMaas as I feel this game pretty clearly favors the Twins. It doesn't matter that Pavano flailed a bit near the end of the year; the Yankees have routinely showed throughout the 2010 season that they have no answer for off-speed guys like Pavano.
Here are the numbers for the Yankees against Pavano:
Here are the numbers for the Twins against Pettitte:
Game 3, Saturday, October 9, 2010: Phil Hughes vs. Brian Duensing. There was a growing school of thought that Hughes should be under consideration for the Game 2 start given how superior his numbers are away from Yankee Stadium (4.66/5.06/4.65 at home vs. 3.47/3.02/3.85 on the road), but Joe Girardi ultimately decided to go with Pettitte, who would then be lined up to pitch a potential decisive Game 5 with the season on the line. Fortunately for the Yankees, Duensing also has a pretty pronounced home/road split, putting up a 2.00/3.09/3.71 ERA/FIP/xFIP line at home and 3.27/4.66/4.52 in almost the same number of innings on the road. Unfortunately for the Yanks, Duensing possesses a plus-changeup, one that was worth 2.8 runs above average, though at least his average fastball breaks 90mph -- otherwise we'd be in real trouble. I had actually forgotten that Duensing started Game 1 of the ALDS last year, and was tagged for five runs through 4 2/3 innings. This will be Hughes' first postseason start, though he does have a fair amount of postseason experience, memorably picking up the victory in Game 3 of the 2007 ALDS and of course pitching out of the bullpen during last year's championship run. Hughes finished the season strongly, starting two very important games for the Yankees against the Rays and Red Sox, and hopefully his long layoff between starts will ensure he's at top strength and not negatively affect his command. While I could see this game easily going either way, the fanboy in me sees Phil Franchise delivering on the flashes of brilliance he'd shown earlier this season and bringing the Yankees a win.
Here are the numbers for the Yankees against Duensing:
Here are the numbers for the Twins against Hughes:
Game 4, Sunday, October 10, 2010: CC Sabathia vs. Nick Blackburn. This match-up seems criminally unfair for the Twins. Blackburn struggled mightily this year, although as Stephen R. noted at TYU he was much improved after returning from being banished to triple A. Blackburn actually kept the Yankees at bay in two starts against them this season, throwing seven innings both times and allowing three and two earned runs, respectively. Blackburn also started Game 2 against the Yankees in last year's ALDS and was pretty good, throwing 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball, so maybe Ron Gardenhire isn't as crazy as he seems. Still, Sabathia on three days' rest is far superior to Nick Blackburn, and the Yankees have no excuses not to win this game.
Here are the numbers for the Yankees against Blackburn:
If there is a Game 5 next Tuesday, it'll be Pettitte vs. Liriano, but I'd rather not think about a decisive final game just yet. Fortunately All Day Andy usually comes up big when the team needs him the most, and there's no one else on the staff I'd rather have starting this game outside of Sabathia.