Monday, October 4, 2010

ALDS Breakdown In A Nutshell: Benches & Bullpens

Yankee Bench:

Plenty of solid options for the Yankees off the bench, both as situational or late-game substitutions or guys who can step into the starting lineup and produce.  Cervelli has caught the majority of the innings this year thanks to Posada's injuries.  He's never going to hit a lot or hit for power, but he works the count, puts the ball in play, and hits well in the clutch.  He's also been swinging a hotter bat of late after a dreadful summer.  Marcus Thames is the righty DH option who should see plenty of ABs against Liriano and Duensing.  With the way he mashed this season, the argument can be made that he was Cash's best off-season move.  Austin Kearns has some power and can play an adequate outfield, but he shouldn't get too much run in the playoffs unless one of the regulars gets hurt.  The utility infield spot is "6 one, half dozen the other" with Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez, and I still think Pena gets the nod because of he's defense and experience.  Greg Golson will be the late-game baserunning threat for Joe in close games and could spell Swish in RF if the knee is still bothering him.

Twins Bench:

Not a lot to speak about here on paper, with the Nick Puntos, Drew Buteras, and Jason Repkos of the world likely making the roster.  Basically the Twins bench is a collection of guys who can fill in for 100-200 ABs a year as needed, but there's a reason they are on the bench.  J.J. Hardy and Alexi Casilla are basically interchangeable on the left side of the infield.  Matt Tolbert could be used as the Twins' version of a late-game pace changer on the basepaths, but overall the Twins bench is not nearly as deep or dangerous as that of the Yankees, especially considering one of those roster spots would have belonged to Justin Morneau.  Most of these guys can speak more about their defensive value than prowess at the plate, but in the playoffs even a guy like Jason Repko can become a hero. 

Yankee Bullpen:

Stacked to the brim with quality setup guys: Kerry Wood, D-Rob, Boone Logan, and Joba, all of whom Joe has mixed and matched with over the last 4-6 weeks to build the bridge to Mo.  Wood has emerged as the primary 8th-inning option and my bet is Joe uses him for that role because of his experience.  D-Rob will probably be the first candidate to be the fireman in the 5th, 6th, or 7th inning should a starter get in trouble, and Logan will be used almost exclusively as the lefty specialist.  Mo has had his problems lately, but after working with Dave Eiland he seems to have his issues figured out, which is good timing for the Yanks.  The smart money would be on Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova being brought on as the long men, but don't rule out Chad Gaudin, who Joe used a lot down the stretch.

Twins Bullpen:

Like the Yankees, the Twins are stacked with quality setup men: Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and Brian Fuentes.  Unlike the Yankees, however, the Twins' 'pen was a major contributor to their downfall last year in the ALDS.  Joe Nathan won't be here to choke away any saves this time around, and Matt Capps has been solid since the Twins acquired him at the deadline, but he's never had to face the heart of the Yankee order in the bottom of the 9th in front of a packed house full of crazed Yankee fans at The Stadium before.  Joe Nathan buckled under that pressure last year, who knows if Capps has the hair on his peaches to not repeat that meltdown.  Hopefully the Twins are gracious enough to include lefty Jose Mijares again this year.  Knowing he's in the bullpen in extra innings if the Yanks need to score a run is a good feeling.

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