The Runner Sports

With The Wild Card Game Seeming Inevitable, Who Will Be The Preferred Opponent For Yankees?

After blowing out the Minnesota Twins 11-3 (and sweeping them in a three-game series) on Wednesday, the New York Yankees extended their AL Wild Card top spot out to 7 games over the Twins. The sweep was very important for two reasons: 1) the Boston Red Sox were also winning and 2) it almost guarantees the fact that the Yankees will host the Wild Card game at worst. With their magic number to clinch a playoff spot sitting at four, the assumption should be that the Yankees will be in the Wild Card game. While the Bronx Bombers only sit three back of Boston, the Red Sox’s light schedule (except for a series against the Houston Astros) will make it hard for the Yankees to gain those three games back with 10 games left to play.

Looking at the Wild Card standings, the Twins still sit in the second Wild Card spot with the Los Angeles Angels sitting a game back. Other realistic Wild Card contenders include the Texas Rangers (3 games back) and the Seattle Mariners (3.5 games back). Honestly, it looks like it will come down between the Twins and the Angels for the second Wild Card spot. Barring a complete crash by the Yankees or Red Sox, the Wild Card game will be in Yankee Stadium. Between the two teams, who should the Yankees want to play come October?

Two Wild Card Teams is Bad

Before breaking down who the Yankees should want to play in the Wild Card game, I’d like to air out that the Wild Card game has been a bad idea. Now, that statement is not from worry about the Yankees being one-and-done in the playoffs, like they did in 2015. When MLB announced that they were adding a second Wild Card team for the playoffs, I immediately felt strongly against it. I understand the benefits from the decision. With a second Wild Card, more teams stay in the postseason hunt deeper into the playoffs and can create more excitement in September. The NL Wild Card is a good example of that later point.

With the Arizona Diamondbacks sitting five games up on the Colorado Rockies, there is more excitement in the NL since the Milwaukee Brewers are half a game behind the Rockies for the second Wild Card spot. That is the new postseason system working ideally. However, there is still a problem that exists in the NL postseason race. Both the Yankees and Diamondbacks will have to essentially play a “play-in” game against a team who finished more than 5 games behind them. In the AL, there is a chance the second Wild Card team could be barely above .500. Baseball’s playoff system is different because of how difficult it is to make the postseason. The dilution of the second Wild Card spot is not helping the game.

Twins or Angels: Who Is Better in Wild Card Game?

After this most recent series, the obvious answer would seem to be the Minnesota Twins. In the series, the Yankees faced the Twins’ best two starters (Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios) and beat them both. However, even before this series started, the Twins would have been the ideal team to play. Why?

Angels Are Dangerous

Record wise, there is little to separate the Twins and the Angels. Both teams sit a few games above .500 as they head into the final games of the season. With that said, the Yankees should be clamoring for the Angels to miss the Wild Card game. But why? The Angels have been such a disappointing team these past few seasons. A team that has two-time AL MVP Mike Trout should be a playoff contender every year, but they simply miss the mark due to pitching. Even this season, their starting pitching has been the standard mediocrity that fans have grown used to in recent years. Out of their top five starters (based on quantity of starts), only one has a sub-4 ERA. Though their bullpen helps lower their team ERA to rank fifth in the AL, not having a headline starter in a one-game playoff should be problematic.

However, the Angels’ offense is something that pitchers should fear. At first, one might think that the dangerous part of the lineup would start and end at Mike Trout. However, the Angels made moves at the August 31 deadline to acquire some weapons on offense. The Angels now have a lineup that features Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips. While pitching normally dominates in the playoffs, a single game to decide who goes to the ALDS does not follow those rules. A dangerous offense could explode in an inning, causing the game to get out of hand before it really begins.

No Disrespect, But The Twins Are Not

To make something clear, the Minnesota Twins are not a bad team. Ervin Santana (3.34 ERA) is having a great season, the offense is powered by Miguel Sano (28 home runs) and Eddie Rosario (26 home runs), and Joe Mauer is having his best season in years (.307 batting average). Plus, Byron Buxton has been hot in the second half of the season (.305 average with 11 home runs). With all of that said, they do not present a single game threat like the Angels do. Part of the reason for that is the fact that the Twins sold off Jaime Garcia and Brandon Kintzler (their best reliever) at the trade deadline. After hitting a rough stretch the week before the deadline, the Twins became sellers.

Now, they have come on strong since August to claim the second Wild Card spot for most of the second half. However, the Twins are missing that big threat on their team. Trout alone is enough of a reason for the Yankees to prefer the Twins over the Angels. Sano was an All-Star, but he is no Trout. If it were a five-game series, it would be a different story. The Twins would be more of a threat over a postseason series. However, in one game, the Twins are less dangerous. Also, the series sweep does help the argument as well.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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