6/3-6/5 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

(Jason Miller/Getty)

(Jason Miller/Getty)

Technically, this will be the second time the Indians and Yankees meet this season. In reality, it’s the third time. The two clubs were supposed to play a four-game series at Progressive Field in April, but two games were rained out and made up as part of a doubleheader last month. This will be, however, the first and only time the Tribe visit the Bronx in 2013.

What Have They Done Lately?
Cleveland was molten hot when these two teams last met, but that is not the case this time around. They lost both yesterday’s game and the weekend series to the Rays, and they’ve dropped nine of their last 13 overall. The Indians are 30-26 with a +18 run differential, just half-a-game back of the Tigers in the AL Central.

New manager Terry Francona has one of the better offenses in the game at his disposal: the Tribe average 4.9 runs per game with a team 111 wRC+. The former is a top-five mark in the game, the latter the top mark in baseball. The team’s only injured position player is backup C Lou Marson (72 wRC+ in very limited time). Everyone else is healthy.

(Jason Miller/Getty)

(Jason Miller/Getty)

The top four spots in Francona’s lineup are very well set: CF Michael Bourn (113 wRC+) leads off, 2B Jason Kipnis (106 wRC+) bats second, SS Asdrubal Cabrera (107 wRC+) bats third, and former Yankee 1B/RF Nick Swisher (128 wRC+) cleans up. The next three spots are usually occupied by 3B Mark Reynolds (126 wRC+), C Carlos Santana (143 wRC+), and former Yankee DH Jason Giambi (103 wRC+) in some order. The Giambino only plays against righties.

The rest of the Cleveland lineup features OF Michael Brantley (104 wRC+) and OF Drew Stubbs (74 wRC+), though UTIL Ryan Raburn (146 wRC+ in limited time) will sub in against righties. IF Mike Aviles (97 wRC+) is the backup infielder, C/UTIL Yan Gomes (148 wRC+) the backup … well, everything really. The Indians are among the most prolific homer-hitting (69) and base-stealing (40) teams in the game, so it’s not an easy offense to contain.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Justin Masterson
Masterson, 28, threw a complete-game shutout against the Yankees last month and is in the middle of a career year: 3.07 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 82 innings. His strikeout rate (9.11 K/9 and 24.7 K%) has jumped big time while the walk (3.40 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%), homer (0.55 HR/9 and 7.9% HR/FB), and ground ball (54.3%) numbers have remained static. Masterson lives and dies with heavy low-90s sinker, though this year he is using his low-80s slider more than ever before. A mid-80s changeup is a rarely used third pitch — he throws maybe one or two per start. It’s worth noting Masterson appears to have gotten over his career-long trouble with lefties (.250 wOBA vs. RHB, .295 vs. LHB) but using that slider more often. The Yankees have seen him plenty of times before thanks to his time with the Red Sox. He’s been excellent this year.

(Jason Miller/Getty)

(Jason Miller/Getty)

Tuesday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP Scott Kazmir
The Scott Kazmir Comeback Story has had its ups and downs this year, and so far the 29-year-old southpaw owns a 5.13 ERA (4.55 FIP) in eight starts. He’s missing a ton of bats (9.15 K/9 and 22.7 K%) and keeping his walks relatively down (3.35 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%), though he has been fly ball (39.0% grounders) and homer (1.56 HR/9 and 14.9% HR/FB) prone. Kazmir’s fastball velocity has fluctuated wildly, averaging 91.6 mph but sitting anywhere from 86-96 on the given day. His low-80s slider is an effective pitch even though it lacks the bite it had during its heyday. A low-80s changeup is his third offering. The Yankees haven’t seen this latest version of Kazmir yet, and in fact they haven’t faced him since 2010. I’m not sure how relevant all those times they saw him with the (Devil) Rays are right now.

Wednesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Corey Kluber
Kluber, 27, has very quietly been rock solid if not spectacular this year. His 4.36 ERA (3.13 FIP) doesn’t stand out, but his strikeout (9.55 K/9 and 25.9 K%) and walk (1.66 BB/9 and 4.5 BB%) totals have been outstanding. He doesn’t get many ground balls (43.8%) and will surrender some homers (1.04 HR/9 and 12.8% HR/FB) though. An upper-80s slider is Kluber’s top pitch, and he throws it more than 30% of the time. A low-to-mid-90s fastball sets the slider up, and he’ll also throw mid-80s changeups and low-80s curveballs. It might just be small sample size noise, but Kluber has a big reverse split: .364 wOBA vs. RHB and .287 vs. LHB. That doesn’t make a ton of sense given his slider usage, so I’m guessing that will even out as the season progresses. The Yankees faced him once last year, scoring just one run in five innings.

(Duane Burleson/Getty)

(Duane Burleson/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Rays did the Yankees a solid yesterday and forced Francona’s bullpen to get 14 outs in relief of former Yankees farmhand Zach McAllister. Add in the four-hour rain delay(s) that knocked the starters out of Friday’s game after two innings and you have some tired arms in that bullpen. Furthermore, closer RHP Chris Perez (6.19 FIP) is on the DL with a shoulder issue.

RHP Vinnie Pestano (5.57 FIP) is handling the ninth inning during Perez’s absence, and the setup onus falls on RHP Joe Smith (2.68 FIP) and RHP Cody Allen (2.43 FIP). LHP Rich Hill (5.07 FIP) and LHP Nick Hagadone (4.87 FIP) handle the matchup work while RHP Bryan Shaw (3.03 FIP) and RHP Matt Albers (3.90 FIP) do the middle relief thing. RHP Mark Langwell (9.82 FIP in very, very limited time) rounds out what is temporarily a 13-man pitching staff. Hagadone and Langwell both worked multiple innings on Sunday.

The Yankees are in good bullpen shape thanks in part to last night’s rain-shortened game. Adam Warren figures to be out of commission for another day or three after throwing 70 pitches on Saturday, however. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for full reliever use details, then check out Wahoo’s on First for some pretty great Indians coverage.

Categories : Series Preview


  1. trr says:

    That offense has wRC that we can only dream about, like poor people watching a rich man glide by in his limo…..

  2. Mouse says:

    Justin Masterson tonight? Oh lord, they may get no-hit.

  3. WhittakerWalt says:

    Does anyone still want to cackle about how we don’t need Nick Swisher? I’m just curious.

    • TCMiller30 says:

      Nick Swisher is still terrible. Better than Ichiro? Obviously. Not worth what he’s getting paid though.

      • Preston says:

        Yeah, he’s hitting clean-up for one of the better offenses in the AL. Terrible. We’re paying Ichiro and Wells the same amount that Swisher is making. I would gladly trade those commitments for his.

        • Cuso says:

          Notice how you used “he’s hitting clean-up” as the end-all-be-all of the argument?

          He shouldn’t be hitting cleanup. He just is. Reynolds is a much more logical clean up candidate. I’d gladly keep Swisher in Cleveland whether Ichiro or Wells were or were not on this team. Swisher’s departure is not the reason the Yankees are where they are.

          He was never a difference maker in our lineup. Pitchers never felt like they had to pitch around them. Those who don’t like to hear that only like to remember that he would get 29hr and 85rbi and rest on that as proof. He was 1 out of 9 in a lineup with few weak spots . That’s it.

          • WhittakerWalt says:

            Uh, how the hell do you know how pitchers “felt” when pitching to him?

            • Cuso says:

              Fine. Not “felt.” How about NEVER pitched around him? Better?

              • WhittakerWalt says:

                Sounds to me like you just dislike Swisher and are inventing a case out of whole cloth, frankly. Saying you know how pitchers feel about him because he wasn’t pitcher around (in a lineup filled with other strong hitters, mind) is basically the reverse version of “JIM RICE WAS MOST FEARED HITTER” arguments. You don’t know any of that.

                • WhittakerWalt says:


                • Cuso says:

                  i know that watching Swisher for 4 years, he was never pitched around. Yes, I know that. I apologize if my statements chap your ass.

                  You can feel free to be bitter about his absence just as I will continue to be bitter about people who are bitter about his absence.

                  We will not agree, so lets leave it at that.

          • Mike Axisa says:

            Swisher’s departure is not the reason the Yankees are where they are.

            There’s not one reason the Yankees are where they are. There are a bunch, and going from very good production to basically no production in RF is one of them.

            • WhittakerWalt says:

              Apparently Swisher never earned True Yankee™ status, or if he did it was revoked after he did a barrel-roll in the outfield that one time. Because he’s a terrible, worthless player, see.

              • Cuso says:

                Mmm. See what you have to resort to to make your point?”Let’s all rally against the Swisher-detractors because they’re all unintelligent and base their “hatorade” on irrelevant antics.”

                Is that about the purpose of your last comment? Thereabouts?

                • Preston says:

                  Yes anybody who doesn’t miss having a guy who hit .268/.367/.483 while providing above average defense in RF and playing everyday is unintelligent.

                • WhittakerWalt says:

                  1. Maybe you weren’t paying attention to social media during the playoffs last season, but there were vast numbers of Yankee fans who said almost this exact thing. Swisher doing a barrel-roll in the outfield instead of making the play = GET HIM OFF THE TEAM. It happened. People said it.

                  2. Get off your high horse with your “Mmm” and your “See what you have to resort to?” Please. You’re the same guy who just said “I’ll cackle at those who are ignorant enough to think his departure is the reason the Yankees offense is where it is right now.”
                  So… you get to call us “ignorant” but when I make fun of the “True Yankee™” bullshit you collapse on the fainting couch?

                  • Cuso says:

                    You’re right. I shouldn’t have made the ignorant comment. I apologize for that portion, only.

                    But since you’ve now doubled up from putting me from the barrell-roll into the fainting couch communities and you’ve clearly moved from the objective to trying to back up your argument by characterizing me or the people that say Swisher’s absence isn’t that big a deal, what exactly is my motivation in engaging you as someone whose opinion is relevant?

                    • WhittakerWalt says:

                      I didn’t put you in that community. I merely pointed out that such a community does exist. A community of people that hate Swisher but can’t really express why; other than he fell down once and then got his feelings hurt over some stuff on Twitter.
                      I never said that was you. Your reasons are your own. You seem to think he wasn’t a good player. I don’t understand why you think that when the evidence seems to prove otherwise. Was he a star with the Yankees? Nope. But he was well above-average most of the time, and often excellent. His absence in the lineup is pretty glaring, to me.

            • Cuso says:

              Ah, RF is a problem yes. However choosing to say Swisher’s departure is the ONLY reason that RF is a problem is another matter entirely.

              We missed on Schuerolz, we didn’t even take a stab at 2 years for Torii or Hairston. There were other missed chances.

              To back the Swisher being A major reason is only 25% of the RF problem of which the RF problem is only ONE of the problems for the team.

              Right or wrong, Mike?

            • nycsportzfan says:

              Ya, and when Swisher is under contract hitting 225 with 19hr 66rbi or something the last 2yrs of his deal, all will be happy were not stuck with that contract.

              Obviously, the yanks are trying to get out of contract hell, and adding a low hitting RF, whos contract won’t end untill hes past his mid 30′s, would be a bad way to start getting out from under these dumb contracts.

              Unfortunetly, this is the way its gotta be for a couple yrs, as we get out from under some of these contracts. Its inevitable, as it happens to everyone.

              • vicki says:

                four years, $56M. fucking bargain. and he’s only 32.

              • Robinson Tilapia says:

                I’ll take 19 HRs and 66 RBI’s from him those last two years. Sure.

                I also don’t give a rat’s ass about this argument. Sorry, guys.

          • Preston says:

            Sorry, I thought that was enough to refute the claim that he was “terrible”. How about that he’d have the second highest WAR on the Yankees other than Cano. It’s not because he’s overachieving in a small sample, he has the exact same wRC+ that he had last season. This is who Nick Swisher is, a really good hitter. He puts up better than 14 WAR in 4 years, including helping us to a WS trophy but people don’t like him because he’s not an “elite hitter” or smiles too much. A guy who can grind out ABs and make pitchers work, while being able to punish them with power is exactly what the Yankee line-up lacks right now. Every team has a day when they can’t hit a starter, but you have good ABs and work counts and get him out of the game early and feast on the middle relief. This team hacks away and weakly grounds out allowing guys to pitch 7+ good innings against them routinely. Nick Swisher, and Russel Martin for that matter, is exactly the kind of players this team needs.

            • Cuso says:

              Adding Swisher to the current lineup doesn’t change that. Sorry, I just cannot agree with that. Swisher has always been a creature of how the overall lineup performs at a given time. WRC+ is absolutely relevant – I wont dispute it. The problem is the fluctuations week to week to get him to that point. When the Yanks visited Cleveland earlier this year, Swisher was doing nothing. Why? Because Kipnis, Asdrubal, Reynolds and Grantley had yet to get hot and Bournemouth just went on the DL.

              As soon as the aforementioned got hot, Swisher started producing again. Surprise, Surprise.

              I will never agree that plugging Swisher into the current Yankee lineup Yankee any difference whatsoever.

              • Cuso says:

                Grantley= Brantley. Bournemouth = Bourn.

                Don’t know what happened there.

              • Preston says:

                Well bury your head in the sand then. Fact is line-up protection is a myth. It’s just something people say because it sounds good. In fact most times being on a poor team often boosts a good players rate stats as teams will throw right at you in low leverage situations and pitch around you (boosting your walk rate) in high leverage situations. The only lineup dependent stats are RBI’s and runs. You’ve set yourself up with a convenient argument, Swisher’s struggles are because he isn’t really good and his success is because he’s feeding off of other superior players. Pretty sure Reynolds and Santana started out hot and have cooled, so your theory doesn’t hold up anyways. It’s not worth looking up because I’m not interested in entertaining your theory enough to poke holes in it.

                • Cuso says:

                  “Fact is line-up protection is a myth”

                  “It’s not worth looking up because I’m no interested in entertaining your theory enough to poke holes in it.”

                  Those two statements are satisfying enough for me to stop entertaining your posts, as well.

                  • Preston says:

                    Yes, lineup protection is a myth. Study after study has shown this. I would link to a dozen articles, but if you follow baseball close enough to comment on a blog you’ve already seen them. So you’re just consciously disregarding it in favor of your narrative. And I could look up Reynolds and Santana’s splits and show you that Swisher has hit well while they’ve slumped and it would mean nothing because you obviously came up with the theory without looking at facts, I doubt contrary facts would get you to stop holding that opinion.

      • WhittakerWalt says:

        You have a pretty fucking curious definition of the word “terrible.”

    • Cuso says:

      I’ll cackle at those who are ignorant enough to think his departure is the reason the Yankees offense is where it is right now. Absolutely, I’ll cackle at that all day.

      It’s akin to the argument that IPK would’ve been a 21-game winner with the Yankees too.

      Yes, I cackle often at those people.

      • WhittakerWalt says:

        “It’s akin to the argument that IPK would’ve been a 21-game winner with the Yankees too.”

        No, it’s actually nothing like that argument. Swisher had tangible success with the Yankees, Kennedy did not.

      • Pat D says:

        The guy is hitting better than pretty much everyone else in the Yankees’ lineup, save for possibly Cano. He has more XBH than everyone but Cano.

        So if you honestly don’t think that his absence isn’t ONE of the reasons that their offense is bad, I’m not sure what you’re watching.

        • Cuso says:

          It’s a part of one of the reasons. The “reason” being that there is an offensives hole in RF. But there were other decisions that could have been made in the offseason that could have addressed RF.

          So it’s merely a small portion of one reason. Not one reason itself.

          Get me?

          • Pat D says:

            I disagree. But I will ask you then what were the other decisions that could have been made in the offseason?

            • Cuso says:

              Any other decisions that didn’t result in Ichiro.

              Any means “ANY.” I’m not picking a name so you can compare that person’s statistics to Swisher’s. That gives you the opportunity to completely miss the point.

              There’s a whole bunch of room between having Swisher and having the hole. There were other options that would have made RF “not a problem” that didn’t mean you had to have Swisher or had to put up with Ichiro.

              • Pat D says:

                You’re right, “any” means “any.”

                And “any” non-Ichiro option could have ended up just as bad.

                • Cuso says:

                  “Could have?” Yeah and they “could have” ended up way better too.

                  What exactly are you saying here?

                  • Pat D says:

                    Obviously nothing to you. Which is what you’re saying to me.

                    Let’s just drop this, we’re going nowhere.

                    • Robinson Tilapia says:

                      Wow. This is…..something.

                      There is nothing we can do to bring Nick Swisher back. Having the coulda shoulda woulda conversation….just wow.

  4. King George says:

    All they need is a breakout game to get the bats going. Not all is lost. 6 games above .500 with a makeshift lineup up until a few days ago. Come on guys, it’s easy to be negative but this team is close to erupting (Masterson or not).

  5. sevrox says:

    Yankees lose 3 out of 4 although they’re only playing a 3 game series…

  6. hornblower says:

    Amazing how the Yanks have come full circle and are starting to look like last year. They pitch pretty well but rarely hit good pitching. Shifts against left handed hitters take away singles so it is hard to build a run. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a solution at present. Low batting averages and walk totals mean that the big hitters come up with no one on base. Base runners take away the shift to some extent but if no one is on the opposition jams the right side. I have heard all the reasons for not hitting against the shift. Some are valid but a well played bunt at the right time would be a good idea.

  7. trr says:

    ….and somebody get some water into Stewart!

  8. Mason WIlliams BAC says:

    I’m ready to platoon Wells and Sabbathia and Mo and Ichiro.

  9. MannyGeee says:

    Scott Kazmir intrigues me. He is literally the older left handed Phil Hughes. He could 1 hit you today and give up batting practice the next time out. That will be an interesting game.

  10. chris says:


  11. Cuso says:

    Can almost guarantee the Yanks are going after the recently released Alex Gonzalez from the Brewers and will cut bait with Brignac now.

  12. Rolling Doughnut says:

    Just can’t see out lineup making much noise. Cano will undoubtedly get hot again, but Youkilis and Tex are in decline generally,and Wells and Hafner are basically done. The larger question is, is there really any help coming? Probably not this year, nor next. The problems have already been analyzed to death last winter: Jeter will probably not match last year’s surprise, Granderson’s pop is not worth his K rate and ARod’s PED crumbling body speaks for itself. I really hope I am proved wrong, but it seems to me that things will get worse before they get better.

    • The Real Me says:

      Unfortunately, I agree with nearly all you say here. I wouldn’t say it the same way and I definitely see the possiblity that some of the players you mention either turn it around for a bit or tread water enough for the team to make the playoffs, but overall, I am not nearly as optimistic as I have been even recently. And this series certainly scares me.

  13. Cuso says:

    Masterson will be a tough nut to crack, but these Indians are beatable even with their powerful offense. Work the damn count. Their pitching staff 2-12 is very, very hittable.

  14. Pat D says:

    As Chris stated above, it’s being reported that Overbay is starting in RF tonight. Which makes it sound like Boesch is getting sent down to clear the spot for Pettitte.

    Let’s hope this isn’t Enrique Wilson 2.0.

  15. nsalem says:

    In 3 out of 4 years Nick Swisher’s Yankee’s career he was in the top 8 for BB’s. In 3 of those years he was also in the top 11 in P/PA. One year he was number 2 in BB’s and one year he was number 2nd P/PA. I feell his patience at the plate (like Granderson) has been sorely missed, I don’t know if from these numbers you can draw the conclusion he was being pitched around. I feel though that his ability to run up a pitch count and lifetime .360 OBP is something that would lead to better outcomes that we have gotten from his replacement. His ability to switch hit would also give us much more roster flexibility especially in the light of the Hafner acquistion (which I am all for) does limit what you can do with your bench.

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