Big League Stew - MLB

As the start of the postseason approaches, Big League Stew's Alex Remington will take a look at the statistics that might make a difference in each series. Next up are the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees, who will meet in Wednesday's nightcap.

$206,333,389 The Yankees' payroll this year. It isn't the highest payroll in the history of baseball — that would be the Yankees' $209,081,577 in 2008, when the second-place Mets checked in at $137,793,376 — but it's No. 2. The Yankees have been above $200 million every year since 2008, and no other team has yet broken the barrier. Money defines the perception of the Yankees, and that's just fine with the Steinbrenner family. Better to spend money and win than the opposite. The Twins are 10th in baseball with a $97,559,166 payroll, by far the highest in their history, but still less than half the Yankees' total.

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69 percent The Minnesota Twins' save percentage, 16th in baseball and just a bit better than the Yankees' 68 percent mark. Similarly, the Minnesota Twins' 3.49 bullpen ERA is eighth in baseball and virtually identical to the Yankees' seventh-place 3.47.

However, it's remarkable the Twins were able to make it that close, considering that their All-Star closer Joe Nathan(notes) was out for the entire year, while Mariano Rivera(notes) was healthy the whole year. But Jon Rauch(notes) filled in capably in Minnesota, swingman Brian Duensing(notes) went 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 130 2/3 innings comprising 40 relief appearances and 13 starts, and they further shored up their pen with a deadline trade for Matt Capps(notes). Neither pen is infallible, though. The end of the games could get interesting.

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859 The Yankees' major league-leading run total, 41 runs ahead of the second-place Red Sox. The Yankees have led the majors in runs scored four out of the past five years, and while the Twins have scored more than anyone would have thought possible — they were sixth in baseball with 781 runs, despite losing Justin Morneau(notes) for the season back in July — their offense simply isn't as high-powered as the Yankee juggernaut. The Yankees can't always outpitch the other teams when Sabathia isn't on the mound, but they can always outbludgeon them.

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.341 The Twins' team OBP, second only to the Yankees. You might not think it, but the Twins actually weren't a hugely different offensive club to the Yankees this year. The Yankees hit .267/.350/.436, while the Twins hit .273/.341/.422 — and both had the exact same number of extra base hits, 508, tied for fifth in baseball. The major difference was in home runs, as the Yankees hit 201, just behind the Blue Jays and Red Sox, while the Twins hit 141 homers, 19th in baseball.

The Twins spread their offense around. Unlike in years past, when Nick Punto(notes) was a full-time player, the Twins' lineup doesn't have obvious holes — their worst hitter this year was Denard Span(notes), who hit .264/.331/.348 but has been terrific in the past. Everyone else is at least above a .700 OPS, and six of the lineup spots are filled by players over .750. On this blog, I mainly focused on Jim Thome(notes) and Delmon Young(notes) (and everyone knows about Mr. Mauer), but the Twins had a very balanced attack.

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4.72 The ERA of all Yankee starters not named Sabathia. While Sabathia was mounting a Cy Young caliber campaign (this blog endorses Felix Hernandez(notes), but we tip our cap to C.C.), and Andy Pettitte(notes) was pitching well when healthy, the rest of the Yankees were having trouble not getting hammered. Fortunately for Yankee fans, A.J. Burnett(notes) and Javier Vazquez(notes) pitched themselves out of the playoffs, but Phil Hughes(notes) didn't inspire much confidence when he posted a 4.42 ERA in the last two months of the season. Once you get past C.C., Yankee pitching is beatable. But the offense is so potent that it gives the pitching an awfully long leash.

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383 The number of walks given up by Twins pitching, least in baseball. That's no fluke, either — the Twins have been in the bottom two in walks every year since 2003, the year after Ron Gardenhire became manager. Minimizing pitcher walks is, perhaps, the single most salient feature of their entire strategy — and, considering that they've won 709 games in the last eight years, it's hard to doubt the strategy's success. The Yankees drew the second-most walks in baseball this year, but they'll be hard-pressed to work a free pass against Minnesota.

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73 The Yankees' hit-by-pitch total, third in baseball. Minnesota barely mustered half as many, and their total of 39 plunks was just 25th in baseball. The Yankees take any advantage they can — as noted above, their 662 walks are second in baseball, and their 77 percent stolen base rate is seventh in baseball — and their willingness to take one for the team exemplifies that. It's a lot easier to hit a three-run homer when you let the other team give you free baserunners.

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159 The Twins' major league-leading GIDP total. The Twins are the anti-Rays: They rarely stole, rarely struck out, and they grounded into more double plays than anyone. They're not a fast team (their total of 67 steals was 25th in baseball) and they have a ton of contact hitters (their 967 strikeouts were third-least in baseball), and so their station-to-station runners got frequently erased on ground balls.

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.914 Robinson Cano's(notes) team-leading OPS. First of all, what an amazing season he had — at the beginning of the season, how many people thought that Robinson Cano would be the best hitter on the 2010 Yankees? On the other hand, it's the lowest OPS by a Yankee OPS leader since Paul O'Neill's .913 OPS in 1995, the year Don Mattingly retired. This year, the Bombers had a remarkably balanced attack, and it's frankly remarkable that they managed to lead the league in scoring despite down years from half their offense: Mark Teixeira(notes), Derek Jeter(notes), Alex Rodriguez(notes) and Curtis Granderson(notes) all disappointed. And yet they were the best-hitting team in the world.

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2.66 Francisco Liriano's(notes) FIP, third in baseball behind only Josh Johnson(notes) and Cliff Lee(notes). I explained FIP back in the offseason, and it's rarely been more useful than this year to help illustrate just how dominant Liriano has been. His 3.62 ERA is just 16th in the American League, but as soon as you dig deeper his numbers among AL pitchers become a lot more impressive. Though he was victimized by a .335 BABIP, his 3.47 K/BB was sixth among AL starting pitchers, his 9.44 strikeouts per nine innings was fourth among starters, his 0.4 homers per nine innings led the league, and his xFIP — an adjusted form of FIP that normalizes home run rates — is second in MLB behind only Roy Halladay(notes). Liriano may not receive any first-place Cy Young votes, but he's the best pitcher on either team, and if he gets two starts in this series the Twins will have a strong chance to win.

Previous 10 numbers posts: Rays vs. Rangers, Phillies vs. Reds

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