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Yankees vs. Twins ALDS Breakdown: The Bullpens

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Part 1: The Lineups
Part 2: Bench and Defense
Part 3: The Starting Rotations

Now for the bullpens. I’ll do this in two parts: the closers, and everyone else.

Note that both teams are carrying 11 pitchers, but because the Yankees are only starting three, they have eight men in their bullpen, which is too many, really, but might betray their concern about having to replace Andy Pettitte early in Game Two as two of those men were used more often as starters during the regular season.

Closer:

R – Mariano Rivera (1.80 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 4.09 K/BB, 33 SV, 3.722 WXRL)
R – Matt Capps (2.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.47 K/BB, 42 SV, 2.363 WXRL)

Mariano Rivera is 40 years old, he’s pitching through pain in his side and his knee, and his strikeout rate dropped by three Ks per nine innings this year. He’s still one of the best closers in baseball and clearly superior to the solid Capps, though I continue to believe that Rivera is actually better than the Yankees need him to be. Fun facts: over the last eight seasons, Rivera has posted a 1.86 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 5.32 K/BB and 0.4 HR/9. Over <i>eight</i> seasons, only one of which saw him post an ERA above 1.94.

Edge: Yankees

Yankees:

R – Kerry Wood 3.13 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 1.69 K/BB, 0.375 WXRL) 1.344-0.969
L – Boone Logan 2.93 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 1.90 K/BB, 0.422 WXRL
R – David Robertson 3.82 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 2.15 K/BB, 1.845 WXRL
R – Joba Chamberlain 4.40 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 3.50 K/BB, 1.289 WXRL
R – A.J. Burnett 5.26 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 1.86 K/BB, 33 GS
R – Sergio Mitre 3.33 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 4.8 K/9, 1.81 K/BB, 0.064 WXRL
R – Dustin Moseley 4.96 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.5 K/9, 1.22 K/BB, -0.377 WXRL

Kerry Wood posted a 1.344 WXRL and 0.69 ERA with the Yankees, but he also walked 18 men in 26 innings. He was lucky. Opponents hit .236 on balls in play against Wood after he came over from Cleveland, and just 3.1 percent of his fly balls left the ballpark, down from a career rate of 8.6 percent. Meanwhile, he gave up fly balls and line drives more often than he had previously in his career. Sure, he strikes out a lot of guys, but the worm is going to turn on Wood if he keeps pitching the way he has been.

In 34 appearances since his mid-July recall from the minors, Boone Logan posted a 2.08 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and struck out 25 men in 21 2/3 innings against just eight walks and two homers. Over that stretch, opposing batters hit .182/.264/.273 against him. That’s everyone, not just lefties (though surely most of those batters were lefties). As impressive as all that was, however, he did it with a .235 BABIP and gave up four runs in his last 4 2/3 innings, suggesting that perhaps his luck is beginning to run out.

Since giving up four runs in 1 1/3 innings to the Blue Jays on July 2, David Robertson has posted a 2.06 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 11.1 K/9 and allowed just two home runs. That last seems like luck, but the rest is legit. Robertson’s big problem is that he walks too many men. Way too many men, as in 4.8 BB/9, an alarmingly consistent rate across his major league career.

Over his last 30 appearances, Joba Chamberlain has posted a 2.15 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and struck out 30 men in 29 1/3 innings against just five walks. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but he’s done it with a lot of luck on balls in play (.227 BABIP), so it’s hard to trust.

A.J Burnett has made four relief appearances in his major league career, the most recent in 2008 and the most in 2002, when he made two. He was by any standard awful in the rotation this year, but as a hard-throwing two-pitch pitcher, he seems to fit the short-relief profile and could wind up making some surprisingly important relief appearances in this series.

We tend to think of Sergio Mitre as a spot starter, but he made just three spot starts all season. He also posted a 2.45 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in his 24 relief appearances, but, again, did so with the benefit of a .204 BABIP.

If Sergio Mitre claimed one of the last two roster spots with BABIP mirrors, Dustin Moseley did it, I can only assume, with the proverbial incriminating photos of his manager and general manager. Moseley can give a team an emergency start without risking total disaster, but as a reliever, his combination of a low strikeout rate and high home run rate can be deadly. If he, or Mitre for that matter, gets into a game in this series, something has gone horribly wrong.

Twins:

L – Brian Fuentes 2.81 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 2.35 K/BB, 24 SV, 3.630 WXRL
R – Jon Rauch 3.12 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 3.29 K/BB, 21 SV, 2.259 WXRL
R – Jesse Crain 3.04 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 2.30 K/BB, 2.021 WXRL
R – Matt Guerrier 3.17 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 5.3 K/9, 1.91 K/BB, 1.684 WXRL
L – Jose Mijares 3.31 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 3.11 K/BB, -0.385 WXRL
R – Scott Baker 4.49 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, 3.44 K/BB, 29 GS

Let’s make this quick. The Yankees have a bunch of guys who strike out a lot of batters, but otherwise have been propped up by good luck on balls in play. The Twins have three closers, one of whom is a lefty. That lefty, Brian Fuentes, a waiver-trade pick up in August, held fellow southpaws to a .128/.222/.149 line this season. That’s huge, because Jose Mijares wasn’t terribly effective in the LOOGY role, as lefties hit .268/.311/.464 against him, a bit better than righties did, in fact. The Yankees hit big postseason home runs of both of those pitchers last year (Fuentes was with the Angels at the time), but with Fuentes in a more specialized role, he’s less likely to run into trouble. Jon Rauch (6-foot-11, neck tattoo) did a fine job as Joe Nathan’s replacement until the Twins decided they wanted to upgrade to Capps at the non-waiver trading deadline. Rauch has since been battling knee problems (he had his left knee drained and a cortisone shot in it last Thursday), but claims to be ready to go for this series and is indeed on the roster. Jesse Crain had his finest major league season and leapfrogged Matt Guerrier into the eighth-inning role. Scott Baker entered the season as the Twins best starter, but elbow problems derailed his season. He pitched just three times in September and has made just two relief appearances in the major leagues, the last in 2007. He’s here for emergencies only, but he’s a good pitcher, far better than Moseley or Mitre and quite possibly better than Burnett as well.

Edge: Twins