7/7-7/10 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

Shane Greene and the staff of opportunity
Luis Severino makes two midseason top 50 prospects lists
Pretty sure I will never not use this photo for Yankees-Indians. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
I will never not use this photo for Yankees-Indians. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Yankees have played 11 of the 14 other AL teams so far this season, and this week they’ll make it 12 of 14 when they face the Indians for the first time. (They still have yet to play the Tigers and Rangers.) The Bombers are in Cleveland and will open a four-game set against the Tribe later tonight.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Indians took two of three from the Royals over the weekend and have won four of their last five games overall. They lost eight of eleven before that. Cleveland comes into the series sitting in third place in the AL Central with a 43-44 record and a -13 run differential. They’re six games back in the division but only 4.5 back of the second wildcard spot. The Indians and Yankees are separated by one game in the wildcard standings, so this series is not insignificant.

At 4.41 runs per game with a team 104 wRC+, the Tribe is one of the better offensive teams in the game this year. They won’t have OF Michael Bourn (97 wRC+) this series after placing him on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury just yesterday. OF Nyjer Morgan (knee) and DH Jason Giambi (knee) are also hurt and won’t play this series. Kinda bummed we won’t get to see Big G.

Brantley. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Brantley. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Manager Terry Francona’s lineup is built around deserving All-Star OF Michael Brantley (155 wRC+), who has finally broken out this season. They acquired him from the Brewers in the CC Sabathia trade back in the day, just in case you needed a reminder that it often takes years for a young player to find his way in MLB. C/IF Carlos Santana (118 wRC+) got off to a brutal start but has been much better of late. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (166 wRC+) if starting to live up his potential in a mostly platoon role, and C Yan Gomes (110 wRC+) is the reason Santana moves all around the field.

Former Yankee OF Nick Swisher (74 wRC+) is having an awful year and the double play combo of 2B Jason Kipnis (99 wRC+) and SS Asdrubal Cabrera (98 wRC+) has been just average. IF Mike Aviles (80 wRC+) and UTIL Ryan Raburn (46 wRC+) haven’t been anything special in reserve roles. OF David Murphy (96 wRC+) does his best work against righties. C George Kottaras (197 wRC+ in very limited time) is effectively the third catcher and OF Tyler Holt was called up to replace Bourn. He went 0-for-1 in his MLB debut yesterday.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. CLE) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (vs. NYY)
The 29-year-old Masterson is going to be a free agent after the season and so far things are not going well this year. He has a 5.16 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 18 starts and 96 innings, so he’s still taking the ball every fifth day, but his walk rate (4.97 BB/9 and 12.1 BB%) has ballooned to a career high by quite a margin. Masterson is still missing bats (8.63 K/9 and 21.0 K%) and using his sinker to keep the ball on the ground (59.3%) and in the park (0.56 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%), but hitters are reaching base against him more than ever. As usual, lefties (.395 wOBA) have hit him much harder than righties (.303 wOBA). Masterson’s velocity drop is scary — he went from averaging 93.1 mph with his four-seamer and 91.1 mph with his sinker last season to 90.6 and 88.7 this year, respectively. Yikes. Losing two and a half miles an hour off your fastball in an offseason usually means something is physically wrong. A low-80s slider is Masterson’s primary secondary pitch, though he will throw a few mid-80s changeups per start.

Tuesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
Bauer, 23, appears to have gotten his career back on track after some tinkering, though his 4.42 ERA (4.43 FIP) in ten starts and 59 innings this season isn’t anything to get excited about. He misses bats (8.24 K/9 and 21.1 K%) and does a good job not handing out free passes (3.36 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%), but he is an extreme fly ball pitcher (30.2% grounders) and very homer prone (1.37 HR/9 and 11.5 HR/FB%). That is by design too — Bauer has said he likes pitching up in the zone because fly balls are higher percentage outs than ground balls, and he’ll live with the homers as a byproduct. He is definitely unique when it comes to that line of thinking. Anyway, his platoon split is small and he throws his mid-to-upper-90s fastball roughly half the time. Bauer also throws a mid-to-upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. He throws all five pitches regularly with the slider and curve being his go-to offspeed pitches.

Bauer. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Bauer. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (vs. NYY)
The Indians seem to have a lot of homer prone pitchers on the staff this season. Tomlin, 29, has a 4.11 ERA (3.71 FIP) in 70 innings across eleven starts (and one relief appearance) despite a ridiculous 1.41 HR/9 (13.6 HR/FB%). That’s right in line with his 1.37 HR/9 (11.1 HR/FB%) career norm too. Tomlin’s sky high strikeout rate (8.23 K/9 and 22.0 K%) is by far the best of his career. We’re talking about a guy with a career 5.48 K/9 (14.8 K%) here. He has never walked anyone (1.16 BB/9 and 3.1 BB%) and isn’t much of a ground baller (36.2%) either. Unless the improved strikeout rate is real, the only thing Tomlin does well is limit walks. He actually has a reverse split too — lefties have a .270 wOBA against him while righties are at .361. Tomlin uses upper-80s four-seam fastballs and mid-80s cutters to set up his mid-70s curveball and occasional low-80s changeup. Pretty generic repertoire.

Thursday: TBA vs. LHP T.J. House (No vs. NYY)
The Yankees lucked out and will not face All-Star Final Vote candidate Corey Kluber this weekend. He’s been awesome this year and started yesterday. Instead, they will face the 24-year-old House in the series finale. He has a 4.24 ERA (4.62 FIP) in seven starts (and one relief appearance) and 40.1 innings this year thanks mostly to his low walk rate (2.01 BB/9 and 5.2 BB%) and high ground ball rate (61.0 K%). House doesn’t miss many bats (5.58 K/9 and 144 K%) and yes, he is homer prone (1.34 HR/9 and 26.1 HR/FB%). Like I said, everyone on the staff seems to give up the long ball. Righties (.386 wOBA) have hit him a lot harder than lefties (.323 wOBA), though that’s probably a sample size thing. House is a true four-pitch pitcher, using low-90s four and two-seamers to complement low-80s sliders and changeups. He throws all four pitches at least 16% of the time.

The Yankees’ starter for this game depends on whether Chase Whitley is needed out of the bullpen at some point in the next few days. If he is, David Phelps will probably get the ball on Thursday instead of getting an extra day of rest following the McCarthy trade. Heck, it might be Phelps anyway even if Whitely isn’t needed in relief because Greene could pitch well enough tonight to earn another start. The schedule allows them to avoid giving Whitley a start this week.

Gomes and Allen. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Gomes and Allen. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Francona is already on his third closer this season. RHP John Axford (4.60 FIP) started the year in the ninth inning, melted down, then RHP Bryan Shaw (3.14 FIP) got a chance. When he had some hiccups, the job went to RHP Cody Allen (2.92 FIP), who has run with it. Allen has pitched each of the last two days, though he only threw four pitches yesterday, so he should be available tonight. Otherwise the rest of the bullpen is fresh.

Axford and Shaw still see some setup work while LHP Marc Rzepczynski (3.51 FIP) faces the tough lefties. RHP Scott Atchison (3.16 FIP), RHP Vinnie Pestano (2.51 FIP in limited time), and LHP Kyle Crockett (4.43 FIP in limited time) handle the middle innings and RHP Carlos Carrasco (3.23 FIP) is the team’s swingman. Yes, the Indians are currently carrying eight relievers and only three bench players. The Yankees’ bullpen is pretty overworked, so check up on their status with our Bullpen Workload page. Once you’ve done that, head over to Wahoo’s on First for everything you need to know about the Indians.

Shane Greene and the staff of opportunity
Luis Severino makes two midseason top 50 prospects lists
  • JLC 776

    Thank you for promising to never not use that photo – it is absolutely legendary.

    I’m oddly excited for tonight’s match-up. I like seeing guys get a second chance and I think Sane is set up for success in terms of it being his regular day and all that.

    I’ll try hard to separate his performance from our offense’s performance against a guy that usually throttles us.

  • The Great Gonzo

    Nothing about Masterson scares me right now. He’s been brutal this season.

    • tom

      Don’t let this statistic fool you. He has been very solid at home. That plus Yankees’ abysmal lineup.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    That Cleveland pitching lineup doesn’t exactly strike a ton of fear into my heart, especially if we’re missing Kluber who, somehow, has flown completely underneath my radar until last week.

    Tanaka, McCarthy, and……yeah.

    If I were potential Yankee tradebait, I’d make sure I had all my laundry done by Wednesday.

  • Pinedamaybegreata (formerly Monterowasdinero)

    Got to like the Indians’ decision to sign Swisher for big bucks, realize he can’t play rf well and move him to 1B where he is far from a gold glover. I think they also sat him against national league pitching when he couldn’t DH.

    A good “no sign” in my Yankee opinion. Best years are behind him even if he does (and likely will) hurt us in this series. Striking out a lot too. He’s a guess hitter so hopefully we’ll pitch backwards to him.

    • willie w

      the Indians didn’t learn from the mistakes of others and made a stupid 4 year 60 million dollar deal
      and worked hard at signing him

    • ChuckIt

      Swisher was more than adequate in right at the stadium. A lot of big plays on hustle alone

      • Pinedamaybegreata (formerly Monterowasdinero)

        The now Governor of Brohio (lmao at that one) is good at winning people over with his “awesome dude” personality but he stunk as a rightfielder. I don’t care what the stats say. He didn’t get to a lot of balls and infielders could catch his throws without a glove. Dude never fooled me out there.

        Hustle? The guy was slower than Posada.

    • vicki

      swish has been battling injuries since last season, missed the first month of spring training, has done time on the DL.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/roadgeek Roadgeek Adam

    Kottaras DFAd for Chris Dickerson…oh great.

  • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

    Nick Swisher IS awful.

    Now everyone go ahead and defend him again and how much we miss him.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I miss the personality and being saluted in the bleachers during roll call. I’m not necessarily yearning for the current production. I think we walked away at the right time.

      • The Great Gonzo

        This. Loved Swisher the guy, always thought he was a touch overrated and being in the same lineup as A-Rod/Jeter/Granderson/Cano hid alot of his warts, but would love to have a beer (or 6) with him.

    • Preston

      I would have rather re-signed Swisher then do what the Yankees did with the money. Instead of paying Swisher last season the Yankees had Vernon Wells appear in 130 games, that would have been about a 3 win improvement last season when we desperately needed the wins. Then they signed Carlos Beltran to a three year deal. I’d rather be hoping that Swisher bounced back next year in year his age 34-35 seasons then hoping Beltran bounced back in his age 38-39 seasons.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I find your hindsight strangely convincing, Preston.

      • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

        I’d rather have neither, personally. Grabbing Wells had no correlation whatsoever to letting swisher walk.

        The Wells thing was done during ST when Tex got hurt in WBC and Granderson got plunked on the wrist in the first ST at-bat.

        I mean if I used that line of thinking, yeah I’d rather have Jose Quintana now than to have to rely on Chase Whitley.

        • Preston

          They punted RF to save money. The plan backfired and they spent the money on Wells anyways, if they had Swisher, they wouldn’t have traded for Wells. The fact that they struggled last season then convinced them to abandon 189 and sign Beltran to exactly the same contract Swisher had remaining.

          • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

            Yeah. I’m not going to change your mind and you’re not going to change mine. I completely disagree with the logic that Wells was a replacement for Swisher and that we somehow would’ve been better off signing him to a 4-year deal. Give me Jags, Judge, or Clarkin – whoever we got with that pick over having to live with 4 more years of that garbage time, stat-padding phony.

            I know I get a little bit over zealous on the Swisher topic. It just bothers me how asymmetric the adulation was for the guy when compared to his ability.

            Bothers me moreso, that because he’s an extroverted goofball that fans use that as “proof positive” that he’s a great clubhouse guy when there were rumblings throughout that his act had worn thin in the clubhouse long ago. Yes, only rumblings, not proof. Just as there was no “proof” that he WAS a good clubhouse guy.

            • Preston

              And there’s the bullshit that bothers me. Nick Swisher had a 128 wRC+ as a Yankee. He averaged 3.6 WAR per year. The team average 97.5 wins per season while he was here. He was on a WS championship team. But you don’t like him because he smiled and people liked him too much.

              • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

                No. I don’t like him because the adulation doesn’t correlate to the player he was or is. I don’t like that people considered him a great Yankee.

                You know what? Phil Coke has a ring, too. So does Kenny Rogers. So does Ricky Ledee (a guy I had an abnormal belief in).

                And, I’m sorry, I hated the way he amassed the 128 wRC. This goes beyond his failures in the postseason, because God knows we had enough people for whom those shoes fit. This goes to his approach, which I found as a Yankee was every single bit like the approach of 2014 Soriano. This goes to his incessant boneheaded fielding plays – terrible routes and diving and not diving at the absolute worst times. This goes to his big smiles when and look at me histrionics when he hits a solo homer when we’re down 9-2. This goes to many issues that fans of Swisher seem completely oblivious too because he “salutes them during roll call.”

                • Preston

                  All of these things are colored by your perception. Swisher’s UZR/150 for his four years in pin stripes was a +3.6. Sure defensive stats are tricky, but I don’t know how anybody who watched Bobby Abreu (UZR 150 of -11.5) or Gary Sheffield (-20.2) thought Swisher made boneheaded defensive plays. Hell even the great fan idol Paul O’neill was worse defensively than Swisher. The offensive stuff is completely bogus and anecdotal.

                  • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

                    Fine. I apologize if I offended you.

                    • Preston

                      Hey, if the guy struck you wrong that’s fine. We’ll just agree to disagree. No offense taken.

                    • http://Riveravenueblues Marty l

                      Don t apologize Cuso. Swisher was way overrated as a Yankee, glad he s gone. Don t know what Cleveland was thinking. Swisher just an obnoxious version of Granderson with much less athleticism.

            • vicki

              stat-padder is unfair. 2011 was the only year of the four he didn’t majorly rake in high leverage.

              • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

                Grumble, grumble.

                I vowed not to respond further

                • vicki

                  it’s actually pretty refreshing when smart people disagree. swisher is just one of those polarizing guys.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Yeah, but they’d have Swisher right now.

            If I were to bank on the potential, moving forward, of Nick Swisher, Carlon Beltran and, just for yucks, Vernon Wells, I might just still go with Beltran’s elbow healing.

            • Preston

              I’m completely biased on the subject. Swisher was a favorite of mine, I wanted them to re-sign him and thought his contract was a steal. I also disliked the Beltran contract from the start and thought that tacking on an extra year was a bad idea.

              • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

                This is the thing, though. I don’t understand how. And, honestly, I’m not trying to be argumentative. Your favorites are your favorites.

                But it seems to me that what makes him people’s favorite is what they perceive his personality to be. Fans really have no idea what ANY player’s real personality is like.

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                One of my favorites too, and you’re not married to someone who complains about four times a week about Swisher and Melky being gone.

                You wouldn’t want your Swishalicious Garbage Time memories ruined by a chorus of trolls telling you he’s washed up. Trust me. Hold on to the nights. Hold on to the memories.

                • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

                  Alright! I’ll stop being a dick about and defecating on the memories.


              • vicki

                he hasn’t been healthy since the end of last season. switch-hitting right fielder/first baseman, patience and power. if cleveland would help out with the tab i’d even think about buying low on swisher right now.

            • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

              I agree, so would I.

              Although, to stay consistent with my earlier rebuke, I must also caveat that there’s no correlation between signing Beltran in ’14 and letting Swisher walk in ’12.

              I can’t use the argument to augment my point, then fail to apply it evenly.

              But, shhhh, I’d rather have Beltran.

              • I’m One

                Have to agree, I’d rather have Beltran going forward (and Wells last year), than Swisher. I just trust that he’s more likely to rebound over the next 2 years than Swisher is. If you add in any of Jags, Judge or Clarkin, well, then its a complete no brainer to me. And I really liked Swisher as well. I just think they maximized his value by letting him walk when they did.

              • trr

                Cuso, i just have to say I agree with you. I couldn’t stand the sight of him in pinstripes.
                Maybe I’m being a bit irrational, but I rarely take a pejorative view on things. FWIW, I didn’t like the Beltran signing either.

                Maybe I’m just cranky after a long Holiday weekend.

  • Jobu

    Wait, I am confused. Some dick named Eddard (or some derivative there of) told me that Masterson is a total stud and that the Yankees had no chance against him. Mike must have gotten his numbers mixed up.

  • Get Phelps Up

    Indians just got CDick! Might as well pack it in and concede the series.

  • viridiana

    So here it is July 7 and this is the first time we play the Tribe??

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find this “unbalanced” sked incredibly tedious?

    We play something like 76 or 78 games against just four teams. That’s just about half the schedule. So sick of Boston and Tampa. Truth is, the White Sox, Tigers and Indians are more traditional rivals than Toronto and Tampa — arguably even more than Baltimore and Boston. I would certainly rather see more of these midwest teams and less within the division.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      I’d just do away with divisions altogether. I prefer the 15 team conference format.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Get rid of divisions. Fuck it. Get read of teams. Send them all out there with bats and balls every night. Last one standing wins the WS.

        That’s when you bring up Aaron Judge.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          RID, not read.

          • I’m One

            Depends on what accent you’re using today.

        • http://Riveravenueblues Marty l

          Now that’s a good one! Bet Sterling hopes he s still here if and when Judge makes it to NY. How long before Sterling says “here comes da judge! ” not long.

    • Tom K

      I hate the unbalanced schedule. In this era of two WCs, it actually makes more sense to go unbalanced again, but they won’t do it,

      • ChuckIt

        if they go back to single conference,does that mean KC is the Yankees farm team once again ?

      • JGYank

        It does make sense, but the travel would get worse for teams and there would be more of those annoying 10 o’clock games.

        • vicki

          there is that. the nba smartly split there conferences down the middle of the country; mlb would never get past the endless DH debate.

        • I’m One

          Yeah, teams wouldn’t go for it because of travel costs, but I think it’s much better due to the 2 WC spots. Just makes it more fair for everyone.

  • Cheddard Whitley

    They won’t touch Masterson. No way no how. Hiro should win. The last 2 games will be split and so will the series.

    • ChuckIt

      Shane Green ? It’s going to be Billings vs Masterson by the second inning

  • ChuckIt

    McCann as DH? it seems that’s his weakness,ergo,the line ups’.
    Maybe he’ll get a sore foot in BP again,and we’ll be spared the agony.

  • W.B. Mason Williams

    Good old Cleveland.

    Like the Twins, always a good chance to beat up on the red-headed stepchild of the baseball world.

    Actually, since it’s Cleveland, the sports world.

  • willie w

    the guy in the picture looks like a fool

    • ChuckIt

      Pretty much anyone running on the field anywhere looks like a fool.Usually a drunken fool.

      • vicki

        the funny part is the “progressive” sign, when that native-american minstrel show is anything but.

        • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

          I know there was a discussion here last week of the improper use of the term, “ironic.”

          This photo would have cut that discussion off at the pass.

  • Deep Thoughts

    Soriano for Masterson. Get it done before first pitch Cash.

  • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

    As a gesture of good faith, I’m using Swisher in one of my FanDuel entries tonight.

    He only cost $2200, so I opted for him over Pena and Smoak.


  • Mick taylor

    Rob Thompson is the worst 3rd base coach in American league. Howhe keeps his job is a mystery