MLB – American League Wild Card Preview, Prediction & Best Bet
After a 162-game regular season schedule played out over six months during a long, hot summer, one team’s season will end because of one game. Almost doesn’t seem fair, but tonight at Yankees stadium New York will look to end the Twins Cinderella run into the post season. Below is a quick preview of the matchup, one that sees an all pressure atmosphere in a do or die format.
New York’s starting pitcher will be Luis Severino, who quietly turned in one of the best seasons from any starter in baseball this year. In 31 starts, he went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA, 3.07 fielding independent pitching (FIP) and a deserved run average (DRA) of 3.05. He posted an fWAR of 5.7, third-best among qualified American League starters, and at 23 years old, Severino struck out 230 batters and walked just 51. He led baseball with 16 starts in which he allowed one run or less, and he was the youngest pitcher with a sub-3.00 ERA and 230 strikeouts since Roger Clemens in 1986.Even if Severino unexpectedly struggles, New York has perhaps the best bullpen in baseball, a key for October success. Their relievers led baseball with an fWAR of 9.2 and a 29.1% strikeout rate, and their 3.34 ERA was third-best in MLB. They can shorten games with Aroldis Chapman locking down the 9th inning, and then some combination of Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Chad Green in the middle-to-late innings. The Yankees also feature certain Rookie of the Year and potential MVP Aaron Judge, who hit 52 home runs — setting the all-time mark for a rookie — with a .284/.422/.627 slash line and an fWAR of 8.2 that was the best in baseball. Catcher Gary Sanchez turned in a terrific sophomore season, hitting .278/.345/.531 with 33 homers and 90 RBI. Veterans Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Chase Headley, and Starlin Castro form a lineup that scored more runs (858) than all but one team in baseball this season (Houston).
Minnesota will counter with their top starter, veteran right-hander Ervin Santana, who went 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA, 4.46 FIP and a DRA of 3.74 in 33 starts. He struck out 167 batters in 211.1 innings and walked 61, providing stability at the top of the Twins rotation all season long. His 2.9 fWAR ranked 11th among qualified American League starters this year. The Twins’ best chance to win this game lies in the bats. In the second half, no one scored more runs than Minnesota (412), and only four teams hit more home runs (106) than them. Brian Dozier is the team’s most consistent position player, and he batted .269/.357/.496 this year with 34 homers, 106 runs scored, 93 RBI and 16 stolen bases, good for a team-leading fWAR of 4.9. His 3.6 fWAR in the second half was second only to Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor in the AL. Byron Buxton emerged from a catatonic first half with a tremendous second half, hitting .300/.347/.546 after the All-Star Break. Eddie Rosario, Joe Mauer, and Jorge Polanco also had fantastic second halves for the Twins. The player who could make the biggest difference is All-Star Miguel Sano, who has been activated from the disabled list with a shin injury. Manager Paul Molitor said he’s leaning toward starting the game with Sano on the bench, but Minnesota went 35-24 over the last two months mostly without him, so his addition would be a bonus. As for Minnesota’s bullpen, it’s a middle-of-the-pack unit, with a 4.40 ERA that was tied for 20th in baseball and a strikeout rate of 19.8% that was second-to-last.
Who Will Win
The Yankees appear to be the clear favorite on paper, and our metrics give them a 61.47% chance of winning this game and moving on face the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. Of course, the Twins were the first team in baseball history to make the postseason after losing at least 100 games the year before, so another Minnesota surprise, especially in the crapshoot of a one-game playoff, is certainly a reasonable possibility. However at home with a strong hitting lineup and that short right field its hard to see an upset and I think the Yankees get it done. Important to note the Twins havens beaten the Yankees in the last 9 straight post season appearances.
Best Bet – Aaron Judge Home Run Yankees win $6 at Ladbrokes
|New York Yankees|