A Haiku for the Rest of MLB [2015 Season Preview]

Does Donnie like Haikus? Of course. (Presswire)
Does Donnie like haikus? Of course. (Presswire)

Opening Day is now only three days away. We’ve spent the last four weeks previewing the Yankees and the upcoming season, and yesterday we broke down the rest of the AL East. Today we’re going to wrap up our 2015 Season Preview series with a quick preview of the other 25 teams in baseball. After all, the Yankees are going to have to try to beat those teams this season too.

If you’ve come here looking for a serious preview post, you’re not going to get it. It’s Friday afternoon, Opening Day is right around the corner, and this year’s preview series is over. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and preview those other 25 teams in Haiku form. I encourage you to tell me how much my haikus suck and to make some of your own — pro tip: use the Haiku Counter to make sure you have the right number of syllables — and leave ’em in the comments. Enjoy.

Atlanta Braves
Traded their best bats
For a whole bunch of pitchers
They know scoring’s down?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Is Nuno their ace?
The answer just might be yes
Payback for ’01!

Chicago Cubs
Bleachers aren’t ready?
No prob, Bryant won’t notice
He’s in Iowa

Chicago White Sox
D-Rob and Melky
Back together in ChiTown
Growing ugly beards

Cincinnati Reds
Good enough to win?
Nah, not in that division
Can we have Cueto?

Cleveland Indians
Brantley is awesome
Kluber is really great
World Series pick? Eh

Colorado Rockies
Troy’s still a Rockie
Kyle Kendrick, OD SP?
Wait for ski season

Detroit Tigers
Miggy, Price, V-Mart
Lots of stars and real big names
Bullpen still a mess

Houston Astros
I don’t understand
You won “process World Series?”
That doesn’t exist

Kansas City Royals
Pennant last season
Volquez is replacing Shields?
For real? Yeah, for real

Los Angeles Angels
They have that Trout guy
I wish the Yankees had him
It’s Teixeira’s fault!

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw is the best
Donnie Baseball gets his ring?
If not, just blame Puig

Miami Marlins
Paid Giancarlo
They’re going for it again
When’s next fire sale?

Milwaukee Brewers
They all hate Ryan Braun
But not as much as A-Rod
This team is boring

Minnesota Twins
Phil’s still homer prone
Nunez’s helmet still falls off
Just like the old days

New York Mets
Take back New York, huh?
Orange and blue like the Knicks
But with fewer fans

Oakland Athletics
Ballpark is ugly
Beane traded everyone again
What’s a Stephen Vogt?

Philadelphia Phillies
Rebuild? Finally!
Cole will be traded real soon
Then skip to next year

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli pumps fist
McCutchen cut his dreads
A World Series team?

St. Louis Cardinals
Contender again
Such a boringly good team
Gets boring haiku

San Diego Padres
Kemp, Upton, Myers, Shields
But what about Yangervis?
Solarte Partay!

San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs
But it’s an odd number year
So no repeat then

Seattle Mariners
You can have Robbie
You are still stuck with Jack Z.
Yankees win the trade

Texas Rangers
Could this be the year
That Elvis Andrus will hit?
Hah, made myself laugh

Washington Nationals
Awesome rotation!
Future Yankee Bryce Harper
Has nice ring to it


8/8-8/10 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

Official photo of Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Official photo of RAB Yankees-Indians series previews. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

One AL Central opponent leaves town and another comes in. The Indians are in the Bronx for a three-game series this weekend. They split a four-game set with the Yankees in Cleveland last month.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Indians just lost three straight to the Reds but they had won four straight before that. They are 9-11 since the All-Star break and 57-58 with a +7 run differential overall this year, good for third place in the AL Central. They are 3.5 games back of the Yankees (and Mariners and Blue Jays) in the wildcard race, so this series is not nothing.

Cleveland quietly has one of the best offenses in the game, one that averages 4.43 runs per game with a team 104 wRC+. They are currently without OF Michael Bourn (97 wRC+) and DH Jason Giambi (26 wRC+) due to hamstring and knee injuries, respectively. Bourn just started a rehab assignment and is unlikely to return this weekend. Giambi is out long-term and there’s a decent chance he’s played his last MLB game. I’ll miss Big G.

Santana. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Santana. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Manager Terry Francona’s lineup is built around OF Michael Brantley (151 wRC+), who has emerged as one of the best two-way players in baseball. He’s excellent. 1B Carlos Santana (131 wRC+) has been tearing the cover off the ball for two months after a terrible start while 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (135 wRC+) is going the other way — he started out hot and has slowed down big time of late. C Yan Gomes (127 wRC+) has established himself as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball these last two seasons.

2B Jason Kipnis (95 wRC+) and OF David Murphy (102 wRC+) have been just about average this year while ex-Yankee OF Nick Swisher (73 wRC+) has been awful. IF Jose Ramirez (21 wRC+ in very limited time) has taken over at short since Asdrubal Cabrera was traded away. UTIL Ryan Raburn (52 wRC+) and ex-Yankee OF Chris Dickerson (122 wRC+ in limited time) see platoon duty while IF Mike Aviles (71 wRC+) and C Roberto Perez (87 wRC+ in very limited time) fill out the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Esmil Rogers (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
Bauer, 23, has finally found some success at the MLB level after years of tinkering and having coaches try to “fix” his unique mechanics and workout routines. He has a 4.20 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 16 starts and 92.1 innings with a good strikeout rate (8.31 K/9 and 21.3%) and an okay walk rate (3.27 K/9 and 8.4 K%). Righties (.346 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.325 wOBA) and he’s been worst on the road (.351 wOBA) than at home (.326 wOBA). Bauer is an extreme fly ball pitcher (32.4% grounders) who gives up homers (1.03 HR/9 and 8.3 HR/FB%), but that is by design — he’s 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 in the minority when it comes to that approach. Bauer throws a mid-to-high-90s fastball, 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. New York scored three runs (two earned) in seven innings against him last month.

Saturday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (vs. NYY)
The Yankees lucked out and did not face the Klubot during their four-game series in Cleveland a few weeks. That aren’t getting that lucky twice. The 28-year-old Kluber has a 2.55 ERA (2.49 FIP) in 24 starts and 165.2 innings this year, and his peripherals are excellent across the board: 9.62 K/9 (26.7 K%), 1.90 BB/9 (5.3 BB%), 0.54 HR/9 (7.4 HR/FB%), and 49.2% grounders. Lefties (.309 wOBA) have had much more success against him than righties (.236 wOBA). Kluber is primarily a three-pitch pitcher with a low-to-mid-90s sinker, a hard upper-80s slider, and power low-80s curveball. Both breaking balls are legit out pitches. He’ll also throw a handful of mid-80s changeups per start, but it is his clear fourth pitch. Kluber is not a big name, but the guy has pitched like an ace this year. He’s outstanding.

Kluber. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Kluber. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
The Tribe have had a revolving door at the back of their rotation all year. Carrasco, 27, is coming out of the bullpen to make this start after spending most of the season as a long reliever. He has a 3.88 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 26 relief appearances and four spot starts in 2014, and across the board he has very good strikeout (8.58 K/9 and 23.2 K%), walk (2.49 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%), homer (0.69 HR/9 and 9.4 HR/FB%), and ground ball (56.4%) numbers. Lefties (.309 wOBA) have been more successful against him than righties (.269 wOBA). Obviously his numbers in relief will not translate perfectly over into a starting role. Carrasco sits in the mid-90s with his four-seamer when he comes out of the bullpen, and he uses it to set up his upper-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, and low-80s curveball. He throws all three secondary pitches at least 11% of the time, so he’s a true four-pitch pitcher. Carrasco made two relief appearances against the Yankees last month, three scoreless innings in one and one scoreless inning in the other.

Bullpen Status
Francona is currently on his third different closer in RHP Cody Allen (2.44 FIP). RHP John Axford (4.23 FIP) lost the job early in the season and RHP Bryan Shaw (3.45 FIP) only had it for about a week. Those two plus RHP Scott Atchison (3.32 FIP) serve as Allen’s primary setup men. Like the Yankees, the Indians are carrying eight relievers at the moment.

The rest of the Tribe bullpen includes LHP Marc Rzepczynski (2.93 FIP), LHP Kyle Crockett (3.28 FIP), LHP Nick Hagadone (3.36 FIP), and RHP C.C. Lee (3.96 FIP). Yes, the Indians have a dude named C.C. Lee in their bullpen. It’s like the ghost of Cy Young winners past has come back to haunt them. Lee threw two innings yesterday but the rest of the bullpen had the day off. Check up on the Yankees’ bullpen at 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.

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

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.

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.

Yankees claim Russ Canzler off waivers from Indians

Via Buster Olney: The Yankees have claimed Russ Canzler off waivers from the Indians. The 26-year-old is a right-handed hitting first baseman and corner outfielder, so think of him as Matt Diaz competition. The Yankees are going to have to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate him.

Canzler has bounced around quite a bit this winter, getting claimed off waivers three times (Blue Jays, Indians, and now Yankees). He’s a .270/.304/.396 (91 wRC+) hitter in 102 big league plate appearances over the last two years with the Rays and Indians. Canzler has mashed in Triple-A (.289/.365/.508) and against minor league lefties (.299/.377/.496) these last two years. I’m not sure how many minor league options he has left, but hopefully it’s at least one.

Indians to sign Mark Reynolds

According to multiple reports, the Indians have agreed to sign Mark Reynolds to a one-year contract worth $6M plus incentives. He’s going to play first base for them.

The Yankees reportedly had some interest in Reynolds for their third base vacancy, but more importantly the signing figures to impact the Tribe’s pursuit of Kevin Youkilis. New York has a one-year, $12M offer out to the former Red Sox, and the Indians were their biggest competition due to their two-year offer and Terry Francona. This is no guarantee Youkilis will sign with the Yankees, but it certainly increases the odds of that happening.

8/24-8/26 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

I’d probably try to get thrown out of every game if I was Manny Acta at this point. (AP)

Cleveland is one of just two AL cities the Yankees have yet to visit this season (Minnesota is the other), but the Yankees are in town for a three-game set this weekend. The Bombers swept three games from the Tribe back in late-June, back when they were on the middle of an all-out assault against the rest of baseball.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Indians are bad. I mean really, really bad. They’ve lost eight in a row and 21 of their last 25 games overall. Since topping out at five games over .500 on June 10th, Cleveland has gone 23-43 and fallen 15 games back of the White Sox in the AL Central. At 54-70 with a -131 run differential, the Tribe has the second worst record and easily the worst run differential in the league.


(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

With an average of 4.4 runs per game and a team 97 wRC+, the Indians are essentially a league average offense. Their best player is true five-tool outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (133 wRC+), who can beat you with his legs, his defense, or his bat. He leads the club with 15 homers and pretty much every other meaningful offensive category as well. It’s worth noting that Choo, a left-handed hitter, has a massive platoon split — 166 wRC+ vs. RHP but a 67 wRC+ vs. LHP.

Most of Cleveland’s top hitters are left-handed, but switch-hitters Carlos Santana (112 wRC+) and Asdrubal Cabrera (111 wRC+) provide some balance. Michael Brantley (106 wRC+) and Jason Kipnis (100 wRC+) provide a little more lineup depth as well. Casey Kotchman (82 wRC+) has been predictably terrible, though the recently recalled Ezequiel Carrera (130 wRC+) has provided some spark in limited action. Former Yankee Shelley Duncan (94 wRC+ vs. LHP) leads the gaggle of platoon players that includes Jack Hannahan (80 wRC+ vs. RHP) and Brent Lillibridge (39 wRC+ vs. LHP). Utility infielder Jason Donald (45 wRC+) and backup catcher Lou Marson (82 wRC+) round out the bench. The Yankees catch a little bit of a break because Travis Hafner (121 wRC+) is on the DL with back problems.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Corey Kluber
A 26-year-old rookie, Kluber will be making his fifth career start tonight. He pitched very well in Triple-A (3.59 ERA and 3.38 FIP) but has been unable to carry that success over to the show — his best start was three runs in six innings against the lowly Twins. Otherwise he’s pitched to a 6.27 ERA (5.77 FIP) with few strikeouts (6.27 K/9 and 14.8K%) but decent ground ball (42.4%) and walk (3.38 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%) rates in just 18.2 innings. Kluber is a true four-pitch pitcher, using a low-90s fastball to setup his upper-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and low-80s curveball. The Yankees, obviously, have never seen him before.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Justin Masterson
Masterson was Cleveland’s Opening Day starter this year, but he’s been unable to build on last year’s breakout season. He’s sitting on a 4.73 ERA (4.13 FIP) that closely resembles his pre-2011 performance, and the same goes for his walk rate (3.90 BB/9 and 9.9 BB%). Both his strikeout (7.07 K/9 and 18.0 K%) and ground ball (56.0%) percentages remain at their usual levels. Masterson is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, relying on a bowling ball low-90s sinker and a sweepy mid-80s slider. He’ll throw two or three mid-80s changeup per start, but that’s it. The Yankees have seen plenty of the 27-year-old dating back to his days with the Red Sox, and they tagged him for four runs in six innings earlier this year. It’s worth noting that Masterson has a massive platoon split, holding righties to a .279 wOBA but getting tagged for a .357 wOBA by lefties.

Sunday: RHP David Phelps Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
You have to think the Indians expected a little more than a replacement level pitcher when they traded away four young players for Jimenez last season. The 28-year-old right-hander owns a 5.59 ERA (5.33 FIP) in 143.1 innings this season, all because of astronomical walk (5.02 BB/9 and 12.3 BB%) and homer (1.44 HR/9) rates. Both the strikeout (7.53 K/9 and 18.4 K%) and ground ball (39.2%) numbers are way down compared to his career norms. Jimenez has been steadily losing velocity in recent years and now sits in the low-90s with his two- and four-seamers. He’ll also throw a mid-80s split-change hybrid as well as a low-80s slider and an upper-70s curveball. Like Masterson, the Yankees hung four runs on six innings on Ubaldo earlier this season.

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Tribe has a fresh bullpen because they had Thursday off. Manager Manny Acta has one of the best closer-setup tandems in baseball at his disposal in Chris Perez (2.47 FIP) and Vinnie Pestano (2.87 FIP). I’m kinda disappointed that Pestano is from California and not Brooklyn, just because a name like Vinnie Pestano should belong to a Brooklynite. You just know his grandmother calls him Vincent.

Anyway, the Indians are carrying eight relievers these days. Tony Sipp (4.39 FIP) and Chris Seddon (3.74 FIP in limited time) are the two left-handers, and right-hander Cody Allen (3.61 FIP) has emerged as a late-game arm recently. He was a 23rd round pick in last year’s draft and became the second player from that class to reach to big leagues earlier this season. Only Trevor Bauer beat him. Frank Herrmann (3.62 FIP), Esmil Rogers (3.91 FIP), and Joe freakin’ Smith (3.67 FIP) round out their relief corps. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for info on the Yankees’ bullpen, and then check out any of The DiaTribe, Let’s Go Tribe, or Wahoo’s on First for the latest and greatest on the Cleveland nine.