Jun
25

6/25-6/27 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

By

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Yankees and Indians have some playoff history, though the Tribe has only made the postseasons once in the last decade. That was in 2007, when they beat New York in the ALDS. You can also go back to Sandy Alomar Jr. beating Mariano Rivera in 1997. That was a long time ago though, and both of these clubs current sit at the top of their respective divisions.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Indians just lost two straight to the Astros but had won four in a row prior to that. At 37-34, they’re tied with the White Sox atop the AL Central in the loss column. At the same time, Cleveland has the second worst run differential (-42) in the league. Are they a legitimate first place team … or one of the worst in the AL?

Offense

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

A middle of the road offense at 4.28 runs per game, the Indians generate a lot of their scoring with the free pass. Their 9.4% walk rate is one of the best in baseball, right there with the Yankees (9.3%). Cleveland’s two best (healthy) hitters — Shin-Soo Choo (126 wRC+) and Asdrubal Cabrera (138 wRC+) — set the table atop the lineup as the one-two combination. Not-a-rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis (118 wRC+) has assumed three-hole responsibilities.

Switch-hitting backstop Carlos Santana (96 wRC+) usually bats cleanup, but lately backup infielder Jose Lopez (99 wRC+ vs. LHP) has been getting the call against southpaws. Michael Brantley (89 wRC+) was part of the CC Sabathia trade and bats fifth. The rest of the batting order rotates, with Johnny Damon (72 wRC+) and Casey Kotchman (78 wRC+) seeing regular at-bats. Remember when those two were in the mix for New York’s DH job? Yikes. Former Yankee Shelley Duncan (92 wRC+ vs. LHP) will see time in the outfield against lefties. Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (98 wRC+), infielder Jack Hannahan (96 wRC+), backup catcher Lou Marson (95 wRC+), and backup outfielder Aaron Cunningham (29 wRC+) round out the roster.

The most notable thing about the Tribe’s offense is that it is very, very lefty heavy. Santana and Cabrera are switch-hitters, but otherwise every other starter bats from the left side. Shelley, Lopez, and Cunningham are righties and will spot start, but on most days seven of their nine batters swing it left-handed exclusively. Expect to see quite a bit of Boone Logan and Clay Rapada these next two days, before Andy Pettitte starts on Wednesday.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Josh Tomlin
The 27-year-old Tomlin does nothing exceptionally well other than limit walks. His 1.14 BB

/9 and 3.2 BB% both led all qualified starters last season and while he hasn’t been quite that good this year — 2.13 BB/9 and 5.5 BB% — the guy won’t beat himself with free baserunners. Tomlin doesn’t strike out a ton of batters (5.40 K/9 and 14.0 K%) or generate many ground balls (42.8%), so he’ll let the Yankees put the ball in the air. That plays right into their offensive strength. An upper-80s four-seamer and a mid-80s cutter are his weapons of choice, though he’ll mix in the occasional low-80s changeup and mid-70s slider. The Yankees have seen Tomlin a handful of times over the last two years.

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Justin Masterson
We’re all familiar with Masterson from his time with the Red Sox. Masterson had a breakout season with the Tribe last year, pitching to a 3.21 ERA with a 3.28 FIP in 216 innings across 33 starts (and one relief appearance). He has not been able to build on that success though, reverting to his pre-2011 self this year. That’s still a really good pitcher though: 3.98 ERA (3.86 FIP), 7.12 K/9 (18.6 K%), 3.70 BB/9 (9.7 BB%), and a 55.9% ground ball rate. Those walks are the biggest difference between this season and last, a year ago it was just 2.71 BB/9 (7.2 BB%). Masterson is primarily a two-pitch pitcher, relying heavily on his low-90s sinker and low-80s slider. He’ll also throw a mid-80s changeup once in a while. It’s worth noting that he owns a massive platoon split, I’m talking a .260 wOBA from right-handed batters (.271 career) and .337 from lefties (.346 career). Might be a good game to completely sit Alex Rodriguez so Eric Chavez (third), Dewayne Wise (left), and Raul Ibanez (DH) can all start.

Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
There was a time last season when it looked like Ubaldo would wind up in pinstripes, but he instead headed to Cleveland and has pitched to a 4.81 ERA (4.54 FIP) in 27 starts since the trade. The 28-year-old leads the league with 48 walks (5.36 BB/9 and 13.3 BB%) and has a career-worst strikeout rate (6.34 K/9 and 15.7 K%). His 39.1% ground ball rate is way off his career mark (49.3%) as well. I was in favor of trading for Jimenez has summer, but boy was I wrong. The Yankees dodged a serious bullet. Ubaldo’s fastball has been steadily declining and now sits in the low-90s, and he’ll back it up with a mid-80s split-change, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. Jimenez can still dominate on occasion (as the Cardinals found out earlier this month), but most outings are a chore for him.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Bullpen
Manager Manny Acta has one of the least effective bullpens in baseball (4.62 ERA), though not because of closer Chris Perez (1.83 FIP) and setup man Vinnie Pestano (3.10 FIP). Perez has really improved after a so-so season in 2011, boosting his strikeout (8.89 K/9 and 24.4 K%) and ground ball (40.0%) rates while cutting back on the free passes (2.22 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%).

Right-hander Jeremy Accardo has a high ERA (4.34 ERA) but a low FIP (2.58) since being called up (18.2 IP), and he’ll work the middle innings with submariner Joe Smith (3.49 FIP) and the recently acquired Esmil Rogers (7.11 ERA but 4.36 FIP). Left-handers Tony Sipp (4.73 FIP) and Nick Hagadone (4.83 FIP) will handle the matchup work. Smith, Hagadone, and Rogers each appeared in yesterday’s loss, but overall the bullpen is very well rested because they had Thursday off and Masterson threw a complete game on Friday.

The Yankees, on the other hand, figure to have a short bullpen tonight since Logan, David Robertson, and Rafael Soriano have each appeared in the last two games. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. For the latest and greatest on the Indians, we recommend The DiaTribe, Let’s Go Tribe, and Wahoo’s on First.

Categories : Series Preview
  • DERP

    W-W-W

  • Adam

    Well, at least we don’t have Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez to throw pitches at Mark Texiera’s back this year.

  • Greg

    This is an interesting team that has quietly flown under the radar this year.

    Going to be interesting to see the reception Damon gets. I’m sure it will be positive for the first at bat.

    I expect the Yanks will take 2-3

    • nsalem

      You were also said the Yankee’s had zero chance of winning against the “Dickey the Great”
      last night. Expect the unexpected.

      • Jim Is Bored

        He exaggerates sometimes.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          To his credit, I appreciate Greg’s being one of the only guys giving Dickey mad respect all night long, even if the UCL sprain thing really was funny.

          • nsalem

            I didn’t see the game thread, I was referring to comments made on Wednesday afternoon when the Yankee’s were in the midst of losing to the Braves. Greg was saying that the Sunday game was a definite loss.

  • jjyank

    I will always have an irrational hatred for the Indians. I have an uncle that lives in Ohio who used to give me plenty of crap whenever the Indians beat the Yankees. So yeah, sweep the bastards.

  • pat

    I’m actually looking forward to seeing Jason Kipnis actually play. Dude has been beasting on both my Fb teams this year.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    Damon’s forearm muscle impressive in that pic. Yanks take 2/3 with slight chance for sweep but unlikely with Hughes/Kuroda and all those lefty bats in YS.

  • nsalem

    We also have some nicer post season history with the Indians from 1998!!! El Duque ruled.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      We remember.

      Love,
      A Shitload of Midges

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Holy reading comprehension fail on my part. You were talking ’98.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          The El Duque reference gave it away for me. I don’t recall him in the Midges series. :-)

  • Gonzo

    I’m not a huge fan of Pythag with less than a 3/4 to a full season of data. However, when it’s this huge of a discrepancy, it has some merit.

    Also…

    Indians
    W-L in 1-run games
    12-2

    W-L in blowouts 5+ runs
    7-13

    Yankees
    W-L in 1 run games
    10-7

    W-L in blowouts 5+ runs
    11-6

    Cleveland is due some losses guys.

  • JohnC

    Is Grady Sizemore still hurt?

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      Is water wet?

    • vicki

      pronk too. that has to kill tribe fans.

  • Raul

    It looks like vincent jackson is playing summerball he starts in 2 days does this mean that hes not signing?

  • Ro

    Jesus Christmas..Can we please have a blow out win tonight or tomorrow. I can’t remember the last time they won a game 12-3 or something like that. Seriously, can’t remember at all it’s been that long. And another thing, which has likely been covered here (at least I hope) but didn’t I remember Arod or Long or someone say about two weeks ago that they were working on “getting more lift on the ball,” off Arod’s bat? Obviously that isn’t working, at all, because I’ve never seen Arod pop out with crappy fly’s foul outs — off the 1st baseline — as often as he has these last two weeks. It’s one pop out after another for him it seems.

    • Jim Is Bored

      7-2 on 6/15 against the nats, 9-1 on 6/8 against the mets.

      • Ro

        Fair enough referencing the 9-1 win. 7-2 is not exactly what I call a “blow out.” I’m talking about an offensive mashing. The type of game where the Yanks amass 18 hits with 14 runs or something like that. We haven’t seen one of those is a long time it feels. And that 9-1 win, really didn’t satisfy that urge I’m talking about.

        • jjyank

          I guess we have different definitions of a blowout then, I consider an 8 run lead to be satisfying.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          In other words, you want the kind of game in which my wife starts feeling bad for the other team. The baseball equivalent of a Ben Stiller movie, if you wiiilll…..

      • Ro

        Futhermore, when looking at the run differential among AL teams, the Yanks are pretty pedestrian. They’ve actually done a fantastic job limiting runs, mostly the earned kind by having given up the 3rd fewest in the AL, partly because their defense (outside of un-stiched glove weekend at Citi – what the hell that was about, I don’t know) has been terrific. We are seeing far too many close games on the Yanks part. A team that has historically lead the league in runs scored. When looking at the stats they’ve been pretty average this season in comparison to the rate other teams are scoring runs. More concerning is the fact the nearly 50% of the Yanks runs have come via the home run. I just want to see a good ole fashion ass kicking with 18 hits and 14 runs like they’re being given away. I mean Boston has a lot of nobody’s playing and they are still driving in runs at the same rate they have been the past few years. Perhaps some players have overperformed. It should be expected the Middlebrooks will adjust to the league, or the league to him, but the Yanks RBI leaders just aren’t getting it done. Usually I pretty positive and don’t worry type with the Yanks, but the lack of run production is starting to piss me off since the players are there and have the ability. Part of me wonders if putting Cano back in the 5 hole is for the better for the other hitters before him.

        • CS Yankee

          i blame it on all those 1-11 or 0-14 RISP nights, or the buck-something with the bases juiced, etc. If they just bat the .275 with RISP they would likly have another 50 runs added.

          This would create more of the mashings you desire, however i have less concerns on a 5-5 tie ballgame going into the 7th with this team than I can remember.

          • Cris Pengiucci

            Yeah, this team seems to win more close games than I remember in the past few years. Not sure if that’s actually back up by stats, but I’m more comfortable in clase games as well.

            • Cris Pengiucci

              *close games

  • Rick

    “Might be a good game to completely sit Alex Rodriguez so Eric Chavez (third), Dewayne Wise (left), and Raul Ibanez (DH) can all start.”

    Never thought I would ever see that written about A-Rod. Can’t say it’s not true though.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      And look at today’s lineup:

      Derek Jeter SS
      Curtis Granderson DH
      Mark Teixeira 1B
      Robinson Cano 2B
      Nick Swisher RF
      Raul Ibanez LF
      Eric Chavez 3B
      Dewayne Wise CF
      Chris Stewart C

      Rest ARod and have Wise and Chavez start. Even getting Granderson a 1/2 day off.

  • BrooklynRats

    At the end of Chavez’s career in Oakland, didn’t he fill in at 1st and short? Could he be up to it, or are the yanks already too concerned with his health. What’s Pena’s situation in Scranton?

    • CS Yankee

      Chavez is great on reaction but sad on range…no MIF for Chavey.

  • http://www.welcomebeach.com/ life

    These pics are so pathetic that I had to jack off to the comments.