AL Wild Card Game Preview

The MLB postseason really is the best.  You can’t tell me any other postseason is better.  There’s a good game on every night.  We get walkoffs and comebacks.  We get the Fall Classic.  We get someone who comes out of nowhere and lights up the month.  We get see all of our picks and preseason predictions fail.  Yeah, it’s a fun time!

The Wild Card Games are almost impossible to pick.  This will be the 4th set of Wild Card games since I’ve launched the site.  This will be my third time picking, (In the Fall of 2015, I had to take time off to focus on school).  In the two years I’ve picked these games, I’m 2-2.  1-1 on the AL side, 1-1 on the NL side.

So, my record’s not bad.  Especially considering that this is baseball, specifically playoff baseball, where crazy stuff nobody every imagined ever happening happens.

By now, you know the ingredients you need to succeed in the postseason: Pitching and pinch runners.  And by pitching, I mean both bullpen and rotation.  Not just one.

Twins vs. Yankees

The Twins… don’t really have either.  Ervin Santana is starting the Wild Card Game, who just completed a good but flukey year after posting a 4.9 WAR (!!!), which is far and away the best of his career.

Santana’s started two postseason games his entire career, so don’t give me that “Luis Severino is inexperienced!” noise. His starts were in 2005 and 2008.  He wasn’t great in either, giving up five runs in 4.1 innings in 2005 and five in 5.1 innings three years later.

Postseason pitching is completely different.  Only the best pitch well in the postseason.  Santana is… well… not one of the best.

Now, let’s not act like Luis Severino is the best pitcher in the league either.  The Yankees starter is 23 years old, and has never pitched in the postseason.  But, he’s been stellar this year, putting up a 2.98 ERA with 153 ERA+, and strikes out guys like crazy with 10.7 Ks per nine innings.

So it’s inexperience vs. inexperience on the mound.  Really, it’s a matter of risk:  What guy do you trust the most?  Who isn’t melting down?

In Severino’s worst game this season, August 12th against the Yankees, five of the eight earned runs he gave up came in one inning.  The other three were left on base by him, and his bullpen replacement gave up a home run.

That truly was Severino’s worst game.  In all the other games Severino gave up five or more in, the runs given up came in spurts.  There wasn’t necessarily a meltdown inning.

As for Santana, the quantity of bad games is more, and he had one more meltdown than Severino.  On June 20th vs. the White Sox, Santana gave up four runs in a single inning, and in a start 10 days later vs. Kansas City, five runs.

The sample size is too small to make a judgement on, but I like my odds with someone who we don’t know anything about rather than someone who we know is flukey and has a poor but limited postseason record.

The Yankees lineup is ridiculous.  They scored the 2nd most runs in baseball, have Aaron Judge (Who, despite the really rough half, could re-emerge in the postseason), and a lot of really, really solid players.

But all that really matters for now is how they match up with Santana, and it’s pretty well.  Santana’s two best pitches are his slider and changeup.  Per Brooks Baseball, he whiffs the most guys with those two pitches.

The Yankees are the best team in the league at hitting the changeup and ninth best team at hitting the slider, per Fangraphs.  So yeah, the odds are stacked against Santana.

However, the Twins stack up decently well against Severino too.  He only throws three pitches: A four-seamer, a change and slider.  Minnesota’s top 12 against the fastball and average against the change.  They’re best chance is against the slider.

The Twins have to score against Severino, because the New York bullpen isn’t giving anything up.  With Dellin Bentances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman, (Who had a weird one week funk but recovered in August), the Yankees can make any game shorter, which makes up for their less-than-stellar rotation.

As for New York, if Santana is firing, then they may not get the runs they need till he reaches whatever pitch limit the Twins have set for him.  The Wild Card is like a Game 7; you use all of your resources to win.  Adalberto Mejia is probably the Twins best bullpen option, but they’ll probably be scared off by his inexperience.  Good luck with Matt Belisle!

If it’s close, the Twins bullpen will find a way to blow it.  If the Yankees find a way to get runs against Santana, they should slide past the Twins with ease.

Prediction: Yankees-7 Twins-2