Game 1: Liriano vs Sabathia

Advantage: Twins

We’re not kidding. For the season, Liriano was better than CC this year by just about any relevant metric.

He had a much higher strikeout rate (9.4 to 7.5 K/9), a slightly lower walk rate (2.7 to 2.8 BB/9), a better K/BB ratio (3.5 to 2.7), and a higher GB% (54% to 51%). Those taking refuge in that Sabathia had the better ERA should note that Liriano had a far better FIP (2.66 to 3.54) and xFIP (3.06 to 3.78). Surprisingly, Liriano put up these numbers against tougher competition (the batters he faced had a higher OBP and higher SLG than CC’s batters).

On the other hand, Liriano never pitched this many innings in a season (191.2), and his numbers show small signs of wear over the past month (his K/9 is 7.9 over the past 31 days). Sabathia is a proven horse (or a brown bear), and if you believe in a crunchtime ability, this is your man.

Nonetheless, the Twins get a slight advantage here.

Game 2: Pavano vs Pettitte

Advantage: Yankees

Both of these pitchers are question marks, and neither is quite as good as their 2010 ERAs (3.28 Andy, 3.75 Carl). Pavano’s combination of groundballs (51%) and few walks (1.5 BB/9) is the best formula for suppressing the Yankees patient and potent offense. However, his strikeout rate fell off the map as the season came to a close (2.8 K/9 over the last 31 days). Plus, there’s always the chance menstruation or a bruised buttocks could prevent him from starting in the playoffs. Truth be told though, there’s no denying that Glass Carl had a solid season, posting an xFIP of 4.01 and an ERA+ of 111 — all over 221 IP.

Pettitte is returning from a long injury layoff. If he’s healthy, Pettitte is still a considerably above-average pitcher (3.85 FIP, 4.05 xFIP this season, 130 ERA+). He’s been as reliable a pitcher as they come when October rolls around. Pettitte has pitched more postseason innings than any MLB pitcher in history (249) and has managed a 3.90 ERA against that elite competition.

It’s Pettitte’s consistency, track record, and presence of male genitalia that gives the Yanks the edge here.

Game 3: Duensing vs Hughes

Advantage: Push

In typical Twins fashion, Duensing is another pitcher to ride a high GB% (53%)/low walks (2.4 BB/9) to impressive heights (159 ERA+). However, he only started 13 games this season (85.2 IP), with 40 appearances coming out of the pen (45 IP). His ERA was a pristine 2.62, but his xFIP tells a different story at 4.10, likely due to his 5.4 K/9. The Twins boast a very good infield defense, which plays right into Duensing’s strengths. Overall, you can’t argue with his results in limited duty.

Baseball’s former #1 pitching prospect, Phil Hughes, has more upside than Duensing, as noted by his 7.5 K/9. His 2.52 K/BB was also better than the Twins’ hurler this season (2.23). You could make an argument that in a one-game situation, Hughes is more likely to dominant an opponent than Duensing. However, young Philip will be pitching in the confines of Yankee Stadium, a location that has not been friendly to him this season. His 4.66 ERA/4.65 xFIP inside the new Cathedral is quite the contrast from visitor parks (3.47 ERA/3.85 xFIP).

Lots of variables for both pitchers make this one a tough call. Push.

Game 4: Blackburn vs. Sabathia

Advantage: Yankees

Over the past three years, Blackburn’s K/9 has steadily declined from 4.47 to 3.80 this season. He’s routinely one of the lowest starting pitchers in terms of strikeout rate. He actually would’ve been the lowest in the majors by far this season, but he missed the qualifier cut-off of 162 by 1 inning (second lowest was Kyle Kendrick at 4.18). He has very good control (2.24 BB/9 this year, 1.92 career) and decent groundball rates (50.8%, 46.7%), but none of those numbers are really good enough to make up for his utter lack of strikeouts. His ERA was a horrible 5.42, and while his xFIP shows him to be better (4.62), this is a guy the Yankees should really tee off on.

Big advantage to the Yankees here, even with Sabathia on three days rest.

*Props to Marshall Seymour for also contributing to this post.