ALDS Preview - Athletics vs. Twins
by Asher B. Chancey
October 2, 2006
Oakland Athletics: 93-69, 771 RS/727 RA
Minnesota Twins: 88-74, 801 RS/683 RA
Complete 2006 Standings
The question in my mind is this – can the Athletics come back from an 0-1 deficit after the first game?, because this is what it is going to take. With the Twins starting Johan Santana in Game One at home against Barry Zito, Game One is already in the books.
But seriously folks, Santana is the difference in this series. Between the A’s and the Twins, he is the only truly great player in the series. Do you know what Johan Santana did this season? He went out and won himself a Triple Crown this season. And not just in the American League – he led the Majors
in Wins (though tied with Chien-Mein Wang), ERA, and strikeouts. He was the best pitcher in the game this year.
After Santana, though, the Twins have a real Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde issue in their rotation. In Carlos Silva’s last six games of the season, he gave up one or zero earned runs four times, and gave up five earned runs twice. Brad Radke pitched five shutout innings in his last start of the season a week ago after missing almost all of September due to injury. Boof Bonser often looks like a young stud on the mound, but also sometimes looks kind of lost. Five times in August and September, Bonser failed to get through the six inning of his starts, getting yanked after getting into trouble.
Despite their rotation issues, I still like their pitching better than the A’s. Zito has been a pleasant surprise this year, and I would take him over anyone on the Twins staff other than Santana. Guess who he is matched up with. Danny Haren was tres chaud et tres froid
this season; coming down the stretch he was far more shaky than solid. Joe Blanton kind of phoned in the 2006 season, pitching well below his potential, and he was particularly bad in September. Esteban Loaiza was not very good either coming down the stretch, though better than Haren and Blanton.
Rich Harden is slated to start Game Four, which will probably match him up with Santana for Santana’s second start, if necessary. Harden is a huge question mark after missing most of the season, but he is their best pitcher when he is healthy.
While the A’s and Twins are a close matchup on the mound, their hitters are anything but. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are better than anything the A’s have to offer. Frank Thomas is the lone bright spot in the A’s lineup, but I would take Morneau or Mauer over Thomas. Eric Chavez and Nick Swisher have been simply disappointing since May – I really shouldn’t be taking Michael Cuddyer over either of them, but I would take him over both at this point. Throw in Jason Bartlett, Torii Hunter and Luis Castillo, and the Twins hitters are just having a better year than the A’s hitters. The Twins even had a higher team on-base percentage than the A’s this season, and that is an accomplishment.
Frankly, if Francisco Liriano was healthy, we would be talking about how the Twins were about to Schilling and Johnson their way to a World Series title. Since he is on the shelf, the Twins will have to earn most everything they get. But with the way the A’s and Tigers have played coming down the stretch, the Twins should really only have to worry about getting past the Yankees in order to get to their first World Series since 1991.
I like the A’s a lot, and I picked them to beat the White Sox in the ALDS 3-2. That was because I didn’t think much of the Sox. I do think much of the Twins, and I don’t think the A’s will get past them.
Prediction: Twins over Athletics (3-1)
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Asher resides in Philadelphia, PA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org