Monday, May 03, 2004

Early Season Playoff Matchups

Twins Chatter has learned that if the season were to end today, the Twins would be back in the playoffs as the number two seed. Because April counts, we think it is never too early to analyze a possible post-season match-up. This year's opponent looks to like it will be those cursed Boston Red Sox. How do the teams match up in a five game series? The following is a breakdown of the series. Remember, you saw it here first!

Catcher -
Joe Mauer will be healthy and adds balance to the batting order while Jason Varitek has been a steady early season contributor to the middle of the Boston order. Mauer gets the slight edge defensively.
Edge - Boston

First Base -
Doug Mientkiewicz wins hands down the defensive side of this battle. David Ortiz was a strong MVP candidate last year. Both have started off well offensively with Ortiz hitting for a little more power.
Edge - Even

Second Base -
Luis Rivas has been terrible to this point and anything he contributes to this team is a bonus from here on out. Nick Punto has been better and a pleasant surprise. He stands to come down to earth in the coming months. The two-headed monster of Pokey Reese's glove and Mark Bellhorn's glove could give the Twins problems but is more likely to cause a mere whimper.
Edge - Futility - Even

Third Base -
Corey Koskie has been a strong member of this team despite early season back troubles. As long as he holds up expect a great series from him. Bill Mueller is not the player he was last year but contributes a solid glove.
Edge - Twins

Shortstop - Cristian Guzman has shown some life of late and could cause a lot of problems in a short series but it will probably be an up and down season. Nomar Garciaparra has been injured all season but has some time to get healthy and put it all together. He's in a contract year and one of the best shortstops in the game.
Edge - Boston

Left Field - Shannon Stewart is the catalyst of the lineup. He never has a bad at-bat. His defense isn't spectacular but adequate. Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters in the game and has exhibited some extra fire this year. His defense is a liability.
Edge - Even - Key to the Series

Center Field -
Torii Hunter is still coming back from his early season injury and his numbers are not strong. He adds stability to the lineup and his glove is worth half a run a game. Johnny Damon is one of the best lead off guys in the league but Boston doesn't steal a lot of bases. He could drive Twins pitching insane.
Edge - Boston

Right Field - Trot Nixon, like Garciaparra, has been injured to start the season. He is a playoff performer and solid all around player. Jacque Jones is an exciting professional hitter who will have a year under his belt to feel comfortable in right.
Edge - Twins

Designated Hitter -
Who will it be for the Twins, Lew Ford, Matt LeCroy or Justin Morneau? It doesn't matter because the Twins have the luxury of riding the hot hand. Kevin Millar was a huge part of Boston's success last season but has started off slow this year. He is a great hitter and his fortune could be his team's in this series. The team has Twins-killer Ellis Burks in reserve if they need him and his knees hold up.
Edge - Twins

Bench -
Boston has weapons and is likely to go out and get what it needs at the trading deadline. Many of them are over the hill players and mixed parts that don't necessarily fit together. The Twins have a chance to develop a lot of depth by the playoffs. Michael Cuddyer can play anywhere, Nick Punto has been great to this point and the Jose Offerman/Mike Ryan combo is an excellent pitch-hitting option. The Twins can pick their match-ups at this point.
Edge - Twins

Ace -
Pedro Martinez isn't even the best pitcher on his team and his best stuff is behind him. He is an intimidator in what could be his last playoffs with Boston. Brad Radke has been a playoff horse for the Twins.
Edge - Even

Second Starter -
Curt Schilling wins in the playoffs. He has started the year off great and sets the tone for his team. Johan Santana has worked through his problems and has the potential to be really tough in a short series.
Edge - Boston

Third Starter -
Kyle Lohse has been inconsistent his entire major league career and has really struggled with his control in big games. Derek Lowe struggled last year and has been decent so far. He has the potential to take over a game and dominate.
Edge - Boston

Fourth Starter -
Tim Wakefield is a Twins killer who gives Boston flexibility because he can throw a lot of innings. Carlos Silva has been an early season surprise but has never started before and could be blown out by playoff time. He has good stuff and keeps his team in the game.
Edge - Boston

Closer -
Keith Foulke is one of the best in the game and has solidified the Boston pen. Joe Nathan is in his first year closing but was a great set up man who is 7/7 in saves so far and brings a nasty slider to the table.
Edge - Boston

Bullpen -
The Boston Pen was rebuilt this year and so far so good. Williamson, Embree and Timlin can be really tough but they are also capable of imploding at anytime. The Twins pen has kept itself afloat to this point and will get an added boost from Jesse Crain and Joe Mays before the year is out. JC Romero will be the key to its success.
Edge - Twins

Intangibles -
The Twins are hungry and an early exit will not be acceptable this year. They always play Boston tough. They also play station-station baseball, which could make the difference. This could be Boston's year. They built this team to beat the curse and the expectations are huge.
Edge - Twins

Coaching -
Ron Gardenhire has been here the last couple of years and has had a chance to learn. Pitching coach Rick Anderson has done a great job getting the most out of pitchers. Terry Francona is in his first year but is an excellent manager and under the pressure to win.
Edge - Even

Prediction -
When all is said and done it is going to be tough for the Twins to overcome Boston's pitching. Look for the games to be low scoring with the Twins pushing it to five before losing for the second time to Schilling in the series. The starters will not be able to keep the Twins in the game long enough. Boston in 5

Texas vs. Chicago? Yikes! It might still be a little early for that one.

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