Twins or Rangers? | The Process Report

Twins or Rangers?

By R.J. Anderson //

With three games remaining, the American League East crown is still in doubt. So too is the Rays’ first round destination, opponent, and schedule. A division crown ensures home field advantage in the first round (and likely thereon out until the World Series). With baseball doing its finest to prevent inner-divisional matchups in the first round, that leaves the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins.

The franchises contrast heavily in their perception over the last decade. Under Tom Hicks, the Rangers had the reputation as a free agent spender and often found themselves learning the realities of caveat emptor. In recent years, their philosophy has turned towards player development, with the Mark Teixeira trade paying annual dividends. Put to rest the Twins’ reputation as a small market team with the payroll of a canoe competing with team’s yielding yacht-sized player costs. Their payroll sits in triple digits and they were amongst the most active teams in free agency.

Lineups

Minnesota Twins		        AVG/OBP/SLG
CF-L 	Denard Span		.267/.335/.353
2B-S	Orlando Hudson		.267/.338/.369
C-L 	Joe Mauer		.328/.404/.469
RF-R	Jason Kubel		.245/.319/.425
LF-R 	Delmon Young		.298/.333/.489
DH-L 	Jim Thome		.280/.412/.631
1B-R 	Michael Cuddyer	        .272/.337/.418
3B-R 	Danny Valencia 		.323/.363/.465
SS-R 	J.J. Hardy 		.272/.323/.401

Texas Rangers			AVG/OBP/SLG
SS-R	Elvis Andrus		.264/.341/.299
3B-R	Michael Young		.291/.385/.416
LF-L	Josh Hamilton		.361/.414/.635
DH-R	Vladimir Guerrero	.302/.347/.501
RF-R	Nelson Cruz		.317/.374/.580
2B-R	Ian Kinsler		.291/.385/.416
1B-L	Mitch Moreland		.245/.344/.424
C-R	Bengie Molina		.243/.291/.321
CF-L	Julio Borbon		.282/.313/.347

Reputations once again fail to match with reality. The Rangers have three more runs scored on the season than Minnesota despite playing in one of the finest hitting environments in baseball. Texas has stolen nearly double the amount of bases as Minnesota behind players like Andrus and Borbon while also hitting 19 more home runs than their supposedly small-ball playing counterpart.

Both sides have question marks with their best hitters. The Twins will reportedly be without Justin Morneau through at least the first round and possibly longer. Hamilton, Kinsler, and Cruz are no strangers to the injury report either, often leaving their long-term availability questionable and frustrating at various points in the season.

The Twins bolster more moving parts on any given day based on the opposing pitcher than the Rangers, with Ron Gardenhire electing to essentially platoon Drew Butera and Thome. On days where a lefty pitches, Butera has started at catcher with Mauer filling in at DH. Thome takes the DH at-bats and Mauer squats behind the dish. The bottom of Texas’ lineup is abysmal when Jorge Cantu takes Mitch Moreland’s place versus lefties. It’s probably safe to say the middle of Texas’ lineup eclipses what the Twins have to offer.

Benches

Minnesota Twins		        AVG/OBP/SLG
INF-S	Alexi Casilla 		.270/.327/.392
OF-R	Jason Repko		.232/.329/.352
INF-S	Matt Tolbert		.235/.299/.388
INF-S	Nick Punto		.243/.319/.308
C-R	Drew Butera		.201/.242/.302

Texas Rangers			AVG/OBP/SLG
OF-L	David Murphy		.291/.358/.449
1B-R	Jorge Cantu		.254/.302/.389
OF-R	Jeff Francoeur		.249/.301/.385
INF-S	Andres Blanco		.279/.331/.352
C-R	Matt Treanor 		.216/.290/.315

Ron Washington can do no wrong at catcher because both of his options are horrendous. The Rangers’ acquisitions of Cantu, Francoeur, Molina, and Cristian Guzman have fallen mostly flat, leaving Murphy as both the primary and only legitimate threat off the bench, although the others have better track records than their 2010 numbers suggest.

The Twins’ bench is somehow more repulsive. All of their offensive talent is in the starting lineup already, meaning playing matchups in late stages against weak spots cannot be complicated by a worthwhile pinch hitter; a flaw that plays right into Joe Maddon’s tactical hands.

Rotations

Minnesota Twins		        IP		ERA		xFIP
LHP	Francisco Liriano	191.2		3.62		3.07
RHP	Carl Pavano		214.0		3.83		4.01
LHP	Brian Duensing		80.2		2.79		3.97
RHP	Nick Blackburn		154.0		5.55		4.70

Texas Rangers			IP		ERA		xFIP
LH	Cliff Lee		212.1		3.18		3.24
LH	C.J. Wilson		199.0		3.35		4.22
RH	Colby Lewis		196.0		3.72		3.93
RH	Tommy Hunter		123.0		3.80		4.74

Whichever way the Rays go, there will be two lefties starting against them if either team chooses to deploy their rotations in such a manner. Liriano and Lee are elite, while Duensing and Wilson are merely very good. Hunter and Blackburn are obviously the weakest links, but neither figures to see the mound unless their teams own an advantage in game four.

The Rays will counter either of the deadly southpaws with one of their own. After that, all bets are off, with James Shields facing Carl Pavano and then Matt Garza facing Brian Duensing looking like better matchups than the alternatives.

The wild card for Minnesota is the health of Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey. Both are fine pitchers that would upgrade their rotations. The Rangers have Derek Holland, but seem unlikely to deploy him into the postseason rotation barring something miraculous.

Bullpens

Minnesota Twins		        IP		ERA		FIP
RH	Matt Capps		72.0		2.50		3.24
RH	Jon Rauch		57.2		3.12		2.95
RH	Matt Guerrier		70.0		3.21		4.29
LH	Brian Fuentes		47.0		2.87		3.96
RH	Jesse Crain		67.0		2.55		3.25

Texas Rangers			IP		ERA		FIP
RH	Neftali Feliz		68.1		2.77		2.97
RH	Frank Francisco		52.2		3.76		3.13
LH	Darren Oliver		60.2		2.52		2.64
RH	Darren O’Day		61.0		2.07		3.58
RH	Alexi Ogando		40.1		1.34		3.16

These are guesses at the top five on each. Neither pen seems to hold a clear advantage against the Rays as both feature mostly the same parts. Lockdown closers, worthwhile set-up men and a share of specialists; the Rays’ lineup should be fairly well equipped to flip the scripts when needed, although the Twins hold the potential to carry three lefties if they keep Jose Mijares and Ron Mahay around, which would truly complicate manners in tight spaces.

Defense

Team			RZR		OOZ		UZR
Minnesota Twins		.853		379		26.5
Texas Rangers 		.832		433		15.3

Both units are mostly strong defensively with the exception of when Washington allows Guerrero to mosey onto the grass. The Twins hold the slight edge overall.

Verdict

About even all the way around. The Rangers would mean the Rays have home field advantage. A luxury, but not a necessity by any means.

Minnesota Twins        AVG/OBP/SLG
CF-L     Denard Span        .267/.335/.353
2B-S    Orlando Hudson        .267/.338/.369
C-L     Joe Mauer        .328/.404/.469
RF-R    Jason Kubel        .245/.319/.425
LF-R     Delmon Young        .298/.333/.489
DH-L     Jim Thome        .280/.412/.631
1B-R     Michael Cuddyer    .272/.337/.418
3B-R     Danny Valencia         .323/.363/.465
SS-R     J.J. Hardy         .272/.323/.401

Texas Rangers            AVG/OBP/SLG
SS-R    Elvis Andrus        .264/.341/.299
3B-R    Michael Young        .291/.385/.416
LF-L    Josh Hamilton        .361/.414/.635
DH-R    Vladimir Guerrero    .302/.347/.501
RF-R    Nelson Cruz        .317/.374/.580
2B-R    Ian Kinsler        .291/.385/.416
1B-L    Mitch Moreland        .245/.344/.424
C-R    Bengie Molina        .243/.291/.321
CF-L    Julio Borbon        .282/.313/.347



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