It doesn't seem like the Yankees care about anything other than winning at this point. Since clinching home field advantage for the entire postseason, they haven't lost a game and continue to look great.
However, things aren't set in stone in the American League Central. The Tigers hold a two game lead over the Twins, but the two teams face off tonight and tomorrow. According to Baseball Prospectus, Minnesota still has a 17 percent chance of winning the AL Central.
Should we, as Yankee fans, be rooting for the Twins to overtake the Tigers in dramatic fashion, or hoping that the Tigers can hold on to their slim lead? Which of these teams presents a better matchup for the Yankees in a short series?
The Minnesota offense has put together a line of .273/.343/.426 for a wOBA of .336; this ranks fifth in the American League. There is one thing to remember here, though. The Twins lost one of their best run producers, Justin Morneau, for the season.
In his place, Michael Cuddyer has moved to first base from right field, which is a bigger drop off in offense than you would think if you just looked at this season's numbers.
With Morneau out, the playing time of Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, and Jose Morales has increased. Carlos Gomez has struggled, but both Young and Morales have performed great and done a good job of picking up the slack from Morneau's injury.
Even though they have done great in the short-term, there is no reason to forecast continued success from either batter, so the loss of Morneau is a big one for the Twins' offense. If they were to make the postseason, the three guys to worry about would be future AL MVP Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, and Denard Span.
On the other side of things, Detroit hasn't lost their big, slugging, first baseman. Miguel Cabrera is healthy and playing as well as he ever has. The problem with Detroit's offense is that there just isn't much else there after Cabrera. When Ryan Rayburn has the second highest wOBA in a lineup, it just isn't too scary.
If you watch the Twins play, you might think that they are one of the best fielding teams in baseball. This is not the case. While they are very sure-handed and make very few errors, their range is one of the worst in baseball. Their -36.3 UZR ranks third-to-last in the American League, and that's even after factoring in their +11.9 error runs.
The Tigers, on the other hand, have the third best UZR in all of baseball, with a defense that has been worth 50.5 runs above average. Their outfielders make good throws, and most of the team is equipped with good range.
Edge: Detroit, by a longshot
As the old adage goes, pitching wins championships. Whether or not this is true, we can all agree that pitching is very important. I am assuming that the Yankees will be choosing the long series, so I just want to look at each team's top three starters and top three relievers.
Let's take a look at each team's top three starters:
The Tigers definitely have an edge in starting pitching, solely because of Justin Verlander. Other than that, the other starters are all close to average; I wouldn't mind seeing the Yankees face any of them.
The Twins definitely have the advantage when it comes to relievers. Those numbers out of the Tigers' bullpen are terrible. Joe Nathan is a top of the line closer, but relievers don't matter if your starting pitching doesn't get the job done.
Edge: Detroit, slightly
Twins or Tigers?
The teams are basically equal, in my eyes. The Twins defensive advantage is so huge that it is just evened out by the Tigers' hitting and pitching advantages. Ideally, the two teams will compete down to the wire, giving them no time to get their rotations in order.
Justin Verlander is scheduled to start the final game of the season. If he started that game, the Tigers would probably only be able to get him one start in the five game series.
If the Yankees only have to face Verlander once, I think that the Tigers are the inferior team. If Verlander is set to pitch game one and game four, the Tigers could be a troublesome matchup and I would definitely prefer to see them face the Twins.
This could all be moot if the Tigers win their next few games and clinch the division. Either way, the Yankees will be the favorite, but still are going to have to go out there and get the job done.