With a week to go in the regular season, after months of wildcard cloudiness, the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins have separated from the pack, all but assuring their match-up in the American League Wild Card game. In this article, we look at factors to consider when betting on this specific brand of sudden death baseball.
MLB postseason: A muddied picture
Before we get to the Yankees vs. Twins, we should note there’s a chance, albeit a small one, that the match up doesn’t happen. With seven games to play, New York has a mathematical chance to close the 5-game gap that the Red Sox enjoy in pursuit of the AL East division title; along the same lines, the Twins hold a 4.5 game lead on a pack of teams headed by the LA Angels.
Anyone interesting in baseball betting knows it's a crazy game and that even after 150 years of organised play still finds ways of showing us something new from time to time. That said, the Yankees vs. Twins American League Wild Card match-up is warranted enough to start preparing for what is as often as not one of the two most exciting games of the MLB season.
Wild Card betting: Sudden death
There are those who are vocal in their distaste for the single-game Wild Card format. Baseball is renowned for its arduous 162-game season (unlike the shorter 16-game format in the NFL) and the fact that the fate of two teams is decided in a single match often comes in for criticism. However, it provides fans and bettors a great deal of excitement.
The winner of this game will join the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox in playing longer divisional series with the hopes of moving onwards. In a large sample game, it’s an incredibly small sample size, which is why so few fingernails remain intact over the full nine innings.
The Yankess vs. The Twins odds: A tale of two teams
Both teams have exceeded expectations in 2017. Minnesota, coming off a 59-103 record has benefitted from the emergence of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jose Berrios, the continued excellence of Brian Dozier and the surprising re-emergence of Ervin Santana and Joe Mauer.
The Yankees topped Minnesota 4-2 this season. In fact, New York has gone an astounding 89-33 against the Twins since 2002.
The Yankees were expected to suffer another year of transition, but instead saw their next generation arrive with the ascendance of Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez and MLB’s first 50-home run rookie, Aaron Judge.
Building on that momentum, the Yankees traded for Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson before the trade deadline, transforming from Wild Card hopeful to a World Series-calibre juggernaut. They couldn’t catch the Red Sox, but are well-constructed for playoff baseball and will have every other playoff team rooting for the Twins to emerge victorious.
New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins: The season series
The Yankees topped Minnesota 4-2 this season. In fact, New York has gone an astounding 89-33 against the Twins since 2002. While the Yankees have been the better team for the vast majority of that time, compiling that kind of record is a massive statistical outlier. Of course, a Twins win here would eliminate a lot of the hard feelings developed over that period.
Which team has the better pitching set-up?
The Yankees hold a decided advantage heading into the game, both with their presumed starter and potential bullpen usage.
Looking at the starters, Severino stands out as the superior option despite the fact Santana’s best starts came in the first half of the season and Santana throws half his starts in the best pitchers’ park in the American League, Severino the best hitters park.
If the odds on Minnesota get as long as they could, considering the Yankee’s name recognition and Judge’s celebrity, a bet on the underdog could start making a whole lot of sense.
The bullpens tell a similar story. In addition to Kahnle and Robertson, the Yankees bullpen features three other elite relievers in Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.
Following the blueprint set by the Cleveland Indians a year ago, the Yankees will have Severino on a short leash, likely taking him out after facing the Twins’ lineup twice through so their phenomenal bullpen can hopefully shut the Twins down.
While the Yankees feature five relievers with 10-plus K/9, the Twins feature none, with just two options who can boast a strikeout per inning. Paul Molitor has been forced to manage the Twins staff as if with a glue stick and a ball of yarn; he’ll have to continue to work his magic in this game.
It is worth noting that Severino only faced the Twins once in 2017 and it didn’t go well. He lasted just three innings, giving up three runs on five hits. Manager Joe Girardi probably used a quick hook knowing full well that this match-up could be looming in the Wild Card game, but one presumes the Yankees would have preferred an easier go of it for their young ace.
Yankees vs. Twins betting: The lineups
Yankees vs. Twins lineups: Statistics
While the disparity in pitching is massive, the offences are close to one another in productivity. New York scored the second-most runs of any American League team in 2017, while Minnesota ranked a surprising third in that regard despite their home park.
Molitor has developed a reputation for pressing his young team on fundamentals; that’s paid off in the form of the league-best baserunning performance, countering the Yankees slight edge in hitting. Minnesota also offers the better defensive reputation, with Buxton in particular blossoming into one of the game’s defensive stars.
Home field advantage in the playoffs
The reward for finishing the regular season with the better record is home field advantage for the Yankees. We know the home team wins approximately 53.8% of the time in MLB, a number that’s historically climbed to 54.5% in the playoffs.
- Learn more about home field advantage in the NFL.
It is possible that the advantage here is bigger than what history suggests though - The Yankees entered the final week of the season 46-28 at home, compared to just 40-41 on the road. However, bettors should also note that Minnesota has enjoyed a reverse split this season, going 43-35 on the road and just 39-39 at home.
Who is the likely winner?
It’s easy to say the Yankees here. The Bronx Bombers boast baseball’s second-best run differential, suggesting they’re an even better team than their record suggests; they also boast the superior starter and bullpen core. That said, Molitor’s team has constantly defied the sceptics and the small sample size.
Market movement will be key in this match-up. If the odds on Minnesota get as long as they could, considering the Yankee’s name recognition and Judge’s celebrity, a bet on the underdog could start making a whole lot of sense. If you want updates on how the odds are changing, download Pinnacle Lite or follow Pinnacle on Twitter.