Tomorrow, the Twins will open up the American League Division Series at home, against the hated New York Yankees. If your gonna question the Twins motivation in this series, it definitely has doubled in size now after this atrocity. Anyway, I have one pressing concern with the Twins as they go into the postseason. No, its not starting pitching. The Twins should be just fine in that category. The main issue for the Twins is their tablesetters at the top of the order, Denard Span and Orlando Hudson. As good as these guys are, they have not played well at all as of late. And the Twins need them to do what they do best, grind out at bats and get on base early and rattle hitters. But in the month of September, the two combined to hit .220, and that all needs to change come Wednesday.
The Twins scored 132 runs in the first inning as a team this season. That was the best in baseball. And in that first inning they hit .308 as a team. But their lead off man, Span (.264 AVG, .331 OBP), only hit .244 in the first inning. Everyone knows Span likes to take pitches and grind out the at bat when he leads off. The problem is the opposition knows that and fires strike one and strike two immediately and Span has an 0-2 hole. But i'd rather him take those pitches than hack at strike one and have a one pitch out. Meanwhile the number two hitter, Hudson (.268 AVG, .338 OBP), has benefited from Span's first at bat while hitting .351 in the first inning. And a good look at Hudson's stats says you need him on early cause as the game progresses his average dives (.219 after the seventh inning). And it also shows that the 3,4,5 hitters get a good look as well and they usually find their way on base and drive in runs.
The reason I bring this is up is because the Twins opponents, the New York Yankees, have a shaky starting rotation right now. And what makes this all the better is that they are a very vulnerable team in the first inning. As a team in the first inning their pitching staff has a ERA of 4.67. The opponents average in the first is .277 with an OPS of .765. For the Yanks, it appears C.C. Sabathia will be their only rock to start games. Behind him you have Andy Pettite (Groin injury), Phil Hughes (Innings Pitched), and A.J. Burnett (Command) who all have their own issues to which they are battling as they come into town. So, if I'm the Twins hitters, I would be more inclined to take pitches early and look to get ahead in the count so they can rattle these starters. And as of late Sabathia has not been at his best, and despite what people think I do not believe he should win the Cy Young award.
The Twins know they can beat this team. Yes, I could of given you a whole post on how starting pitching needs to be at its best for them to suceed. Which I agree with, but I have enough confidence in the starters, despite their struggles to end the season. But I worry more when Span and Hudson step into the box because getting on base has not been easy for them this season. But if they can grind out the at bats early, and get on for the big bats, the Twins have a very good chance to win. Especially with a stacked bullpen that the Twins have it makes it a 6 inning game. So getting on the board early is key. And it all starts at the top.