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

(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.

email

2012 Season Preview: Rest of the AL

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Last week we took a nice long look at the teams who figure to be the Yankees’ primary competition this season, meaning the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels, and Rangers. There are eight other clubs in the American League though, and the Yankees are going to play those eight teams quite a bit more than the five other contenders. Most of those eight teams aren’t very good, but every game counts the same.

Rather than doing a boring old offense/defense/pitching preview for each of those eight non-contenders, I decided to have a little fun with this one and put together some haikus. I encourage you to leave your own in the comments.

Baltimore Orioles
No pitching, few bats.
Buck is all talk and no bite.
Don’t dare dis Flanny!

Chicago White Sox
Rebuild or contend?
Kenny can’t seem to decide.
I wish we had Danks.

Cleveland Indians
Some funny names,
Asdrubal and Ubaldo?
Not winning this year.

Kansas City Royals
Hosmer is the shizz.
Young pitching ain’t quite there yet.
LOL Frenchy.

Minnesota Twins
Mauer and Morneau
Used to be really awesome.
Now they are broken.

Oakland Athletics
Yoenis is here.
Trade all of the pitchers!
Where are the fans?

Seattle Mariners
Felix is the man,
The rest of the team sucks.
I miss Montero.

Toronto Blue Jays
AA the best,
Until he gets Jeff Mathis.
New unis do rule.

Reports: Angels, Indians want Burnett too

Via Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman, both the Angels and Indians have expressed interest in trading for A.J. Burnett, though the Halos are one of ten teams included in his no-trade clause and he won’t waive it. Talks with the Tribe apparently revolve around Burnett and Travis Hafner, who’d fit that left-handed DH role beautifully. Cleveland isn’t exactly thrilled about that potential swap though, plus Pronk is owed $15.75M next year (including the buyout of his 2013 option). They’d have to figure out the money.

Over the weekend we heard that four teams have interest in Burnett, one being the Pirates and one being a club on his no-trade list. That means we’re down to just one mystery team.

Report: Indians, others have interest in Swisher

Via Ken Rosenthal, the Indians are one of several clubs with interest in trading for Nick Swisher. The Tribe is apparently in the hunt for Carlos Beltran, and they see Swisher as a backup plan. Sounds great in theory, but Cleveland has little to offer the Yankees. Justin Masterson isn’t happening, and Fausto Carmona isn’t an upgrade over what they already have in their rotation. He probably isn’t even available anyway.

Josh Willingham is a very similar player to Swisher as Joe wrote last week, and last year he got traded for two Grade-B prospects when he had one year left before free agency like Swisher does now. Hard to see how that would help the Yankees more than their current right fielder in 2012. The Indians are just doing their due diligence more than anything, but it’s really tough to find a trade match involving Swisher that makes sense for both sides.

Ubaldo to the Yankees Indians; Oh S&%#!, what now?

Ubaldo to the Indians? Really?

Well, hey, more power to the Tribe, I suppose. The cost ultimately paid for Jimenez was right in line with what the Rockies had been requesting over the past several days now – that is to say, two elite prospects plus a couple of others. Or, simply put, a haul that would “wow.” And so, Colorado’s farm system instantly became that much stronger with the addition of right-handers Alex White and Joe Gardner, first baseman/outfielder, Matt McBride, and a player to be named later. The mystery player to be named later is largely expected to be Drew Pomeranz (once he becomes trade eligible later this August). Simultaneously, Cleveland’s newest rotation member could wind up being the final piece that allows the Indians to surpass their fellow AL Central rivals in the standings and achieve the much desired playoff birth.

Interestingly, Pomeranz may eventually be viewed as the most valuable component of the deal down the road. The 22 year old lefty is ranked 14th in Baseball America’s top 20, and has looked mighty impressive with Cleveland’s High-A squad. Alex White was the 15th overall draft pick in 2009 and was ranked in Baseball America’s top 50 list heading into the season.

Although he’s currently on the disabled list with a strained finger ligament, White was pitching well prior to the injury at the big league level. Overall, I think the trade represents a pretty solid haul for the Rockies (and a curious departure from typical organizational practice for the Indians). It also leaves me somewhat aghast at what the Yankees would have had to trade in order to make this happen for themselves; I’m thinking Banuelos, Betances, and Ivan Nova along with a possible complimentary player like Laird.

So, where does this turn of events leave the Yankees? I guess that depends on where your priorities lie. For an organization such as New York, the emphasis is always on the present tense rather than that of the future. Judging how much of the future can acceptably be mortgaged away is really a matter of opinion. As it turns out, Brian Cashman‘s opinion was one of reluctance and faith.  Time will tell whether this was the prudent move or not.  Admittedly, there’s still the possibility of a big trade with another organization, but given the short time frame remaining today, the chances have to be smaller.

Obviously, the Yankees rotation would have been deeper with Ubaldo in the mix than it is without him. There’s no arguing what he accomplished the past few seasons, just as there is no denying what he’s capable of doing going forward. Still, I maintain that Yankees fans *should not* jump off the ledge just yet.  Time will tell whether the Yankees would have experienced buyers remorse with Ubaldo, and with every transaction, we’ll have plenty of time to scrutinize the move retrospectively.

It’s looking more and more likely that the Yankees will make the postseason again this year, and as cliché as it is, anything can happen once you get there. As the rosters are currently constructed, I do believe the Yanks are a better team still than either the Rangers or whatever team emerges from the AL Central. Boston is beastly, no doubt about it.  Still, their rotation like everyone else, is far from perfect. There’s a legitimate reason the Sox made a strong bid for Rich Harden — who Joe expertly discussed last week — just as there are plenty of reasons why we, as fans, should be thankful the talks fell through thanks to a failed physical examination.  Overall, the Red Sox may be the better team, but if they are, it’s not by a substantial amount.

Also, regardless of whether one agrees or not with Cashman not pulling the trigger on some of the club’s more notable prospects, it’s always a good thing when the farm system has an abundance of talent. I know this brings very little solace to some — I am all for trading prospects under the right circumstance too — but in today’s baseball climate, valuable cost-controlled young players are more important than ever.  At least for now, the Yankees have flexibility in that regard.

New York may “pay the price” in the immediate future (i.e.- the postseason) by not having another very good arm in the rotation, but with a little luck, perhaps the return on prospect patience will be worth its weight in gold down the road.  Sure some of the prospects will undoubtedly not pan out, but given the potential of some of their young players, don’t be surprised if some of them do contribute in a big way in the future.  The obvious question remains the same; does cost controlled talent outweigh the salivating-inducing thought of another successful World Series run?

I, for one, am okay with how things turned out.  Yes, I realize this may just be a Yankee blogger’s way of rationalizing.  I would have loved to have Jimenez on the Yankees roster, but honestly, I wasn’t nearly as disappointed when this trade didn’t work out as I was when Cliff Lee departed to the Rangers last season.

For what it’s worth, I do believe the Bombers have enough talent to contend in the postseason this year.  I’m also delighted the team still has guys like Jesus Montero waiting in the ranks, and bringing reason optimism for the future.  Who knows; perhaps, we have the best of both worlds at this point.

* * *

I’d also like to share some news on a more personal level. Yesterday afternoon, I went hiking with my wonderful girlfriend of six years, Kylee. We reached a secluded spot with an absolutely breathtaking view of the lake. I proposed and she said, “Yes!”  Ky is now officially my fiancée.

Kylee, you mean the world to me. I love you. I’m the luckiest man alive.

Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

(Photo Credit: Flickr user leadenhall via Creative Commons license)

It feels like the Yankees just got done playing the Indians, doesn’t it? That four-game series ended three weeks ago today with a 1-0 win for the Tribe, but that was a little easier to swallow after the Yankees won the first three games.

What Have The Indians Done Lately?

Their molten hot start is a distant memory, but Cleveland has rebounded to win four of their last six games, all against NL competition (Diamondbacks and Reds) in NL parks. They’re six games over .500 at 44-38, and their +16 run differential is actually one of the better marks in the league.

Indians On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

The Tribe were struggling big time with the bats the last time these two clubs met, scoring just nine runs in the six games before that series started. The offense has come back to life though, and Cleveland has scored four or more runs in five of their last six games and five-plus runs in four of six. Travis Hafner is now off the disabled list, and he adds a huge bat (.341/.419/.563) to their middle of their lineup at designated hitter. The Indians lost the underperforming Shin-Soo Choo (.244/.333/.353) to a long-term thumb injury and benched the underwhelming Jack Hannahan (.213/.303/.333), replacing them with a Travis Buck (.272/.312/.398 vs. RHP)/Austin Kearns (.236/.286/.261 vs. LHP)/Shelley Duncan (.241/.293/.389 vs. LHP) platoon and top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall (.300/.300/.400 in five games), respectively. Otherwise it’s the same cast of characters we saw three weeks ago.

Michael Brantley has come back to Earth a bit as the leadoff man (.266/.330/.361), but Asdrubal Cabrera has assumed number three hitter duties and is still hitting the snot out of the ball (.291/.341/.496). Carlos Santana has started to add some power (.352 ISO in his last 15 games) to his OBP skills (16.4% walk rate, third best in baseball), and he’s being protected by the powerful (.222 ISO) but suddenly undisciplined (5.5% walk rate, half his career mark) Grady Sizemore. Those four plus Hafner represent the meat of their order, the guys Manny Acta relies on to produce runs night after night.

Matt LaPorta is on the disabled list, so Santana has been playing first while Lou Marson (.226/.272/.302) handles catching duties. Cord Phelps (.200/.280/.333 in limited time) and Orlando Cabrera (.262/.292/.353) are sharing the second base job. Overall, the Indians are essentially league average with a .319 wOBA, and they rely more on power (.145 ISO) and patience (8.3% walk rate) than speed (just 48 steals). Hafner and Santana are a scary 1-2 punch in the middle of the order, and you can’t ignore Asdrubal and Sizemore either. The other five guys can be pitched to, though.

Indians On The Mound

Monday, RHP Josh Tomlin (vs. A.J. Burnett): The clock struck midnight on Tomlin last month, as he’s followed up the 2.41 ERA in his first nine starts with a 5.86 ERA in seven starts since. The Yankees contributed to that 5.86 ERA by tagging him for six runs and a dozen hits in five innings a few weeks ago, though it’s worth noting he’s allowed just six runs total in three starts since. Tomlin isn’t flashy (88-91 mph fastball with a changeup and curve) and other than his walk rate (1.05 BB/9), nothing about his underlying performance stands out (5.08 K/9, 1.23 HR/9, 37.6% grounders).

Tuesday, RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. CC Sabathia): Carrasco was the author of that 1-0 win three weeks ago, stymieing the Yankees with his four-pitch mix (low-90’s fastball, slider, changeup, curveball) over seven shutout innings. His 3.54 ERA is right in line with his 3.46 FIP and 3.65 xFIP, though his strikeout rate is unimpressive (5.74 K/9) and he gets by on limiting walks (2.20 BB/9) and keeping the ball in the park (0.67 HR/9, 49.8% grounders). Carrasco has a pretty drastic platoon split, especially in terms of strikeouts and walks, and he’s on a nice little roll at the moment (more than one run allowed in just one of his last five starts). Hopefully seeing him for the second time in three weeks gives the Yankees a bit of an advantage.

(PHoto Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Wednesday, RHP Justin Masterson (vs. Phil Hughes): Masterson is one guy the Yankees didn’t see three weeks ago, but they’re certainly familiar with him from his Red Sox days. He’s a low arm slot sinker (low-90’s)/slider (low-80’s) guy with a considerable platoon split, and he relies way more on ground balls (55.2%) than strikeouts (6.33 K/9). After a rough stretch at the end of May, Masterson has allowed no more than two earned runs in his last five starts, though high pitch counts kept him from going deep in the game.

Bullpen: Cleveland’s bullpen is sneaky good. Closer Chris Perez is actually their worst late-game reliever (3.64 FIP thanks to a K/BB ratio hovering around 1.00), and they just welcoming him back off the bereavement list. Right-hander Vinny Pestano (2.26 FIP, 12.62 K/9) and left-handed Tony Sipp (7.68 K/9, 4.77 FIP because of homer issues) are death on same-side hitters (.123/.240/.200 vs. RHB and .095/.191/.238 vs. LHB, respectively), and Rafael Perez gives them another solid option against lefties (.219/.250/.250). Side-arming righty Joe freakin’ Smith (.302 FIP) has a fluke reverse split this year (.293/.369/.320 vs. RHB but .138/.212/.172 vs. LHB) that is nothing like the rest of his career. It’s more sample size than anything, he spent some time on the disabled list earlier this year.

The rest of the pen is filled out with righties Chad Durbin (3.93 FIP), Frank “Pee Wee” Herrmann (4.22 FIP), and Josh Judy (just three innings so far). It’s a relief corps best used in matchup situations (especially late in the game) considering the platoon splits that Sipp, Smith, and the lefty Perez are rocking. Pestano is effective against everyone, and the righty Perez is the definition of a cardiac closer.

Recommended Indians Reading: The DiaTribe and Let’s Go Tribe

Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

(Photo Credit: Flickr user BenSeese via Creative Commons license)

The Yankees and Indians have some ties, namely CC Sabathia and the 2007 ALDS, but otherwise these are two very different teams. It’s the whole David vs. Goliath deal, the small market club vs. the big bad Yankees, the speedy club vs. the Bronx Bombers, all that jazz. The Yankees and Indians do have one thing in common right now though: they’re both playing terrible baseball at the moment.

What Have The Indians Done Lately?

The Tribe was the surprise, fell-good story of the year early on, jumping out to a ridiculously hot 20-8 start through the first month of the season. The good times didn’t last though. The Indians are just 14-18 since then and they’ve been outscored 153-125 in the process. Imagine if they hadn’t scored 14 runs in two innings off Vin Mazzaro that one game. Cleveland has won just four of its last 15 games, and they’ve scored a total of nine runs in their last six games. Yep, the Indians are who we thought they were. Regression is a bitch.

Indians On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Like I said, they’re struggling to score runs of late, in part because the resurgent Travis Hafner (.409 wOBA) is on the disabled list. That said, the top five spots of their lineup are very, very dangerous. Lead-off man Michael Brantley (acquired in the Sabathia trade) owns a .349 wOBA for the year and a .354/.426/.521 batting line over the last two weeks. Number two hitter Asdrubal Cabrera has been the best shortstop in the AL this year, combining a .395 wOBA over the full season with a .343/.361/.629 batting line this month. Grady Sizemore is now hitting third following his long knee-injury related layoff, and a .366 season wOBA with a .290/.353/.506 line over the last two weeks is reminiscent of the old Grady.

Carlos Santana holds down the cleanup spot and hasn’t been great overall (.336wOBA), but he’s come alive over the last three weeks or so (.317/.434/.463). Shin-Soo Choo has not been himself (.300 wOBA) in part because of his DUI (according to him), though he’s still dangerous and left-handed power in Yankee Stadium plays well. The rest of Cleveland’s lineup is a little hit or miss. Matt LaPorta (.332 wOBA) is the best of the rest (he was another piece in the Sabathia trade), but old pal Shelley Duncan (.270 wOBA), Jack Hannahan (.309), Lou Marson (.248), Austin Kearns (.252), and Travis Buck (.308) aren’t scaring anyone. Prospect Cord Phelps was just called up to take over second base from the punchless Orlando Cabrera (.263 wOBA), and he went hitless in his first and only game on Wednesday.

The big thing to watch with the Indians is that they will run, which will be a problem if Russell Martin‘s still not healthy enough catch and Frankie Cervelli plans on throwing some more balls into center field. Choo, Brantley, and Cabrera all have seven steals or more, and they’re aggressive going first to third and what not. As a whole, the Tribe’s offense is right about league average at a .324 wOBA, but the lineup is very top heavy.

Indians On The Mound

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Eric Kilby via Creative Commons license)

Friday, RHP Fausto Carmona: Fausto is like the sinkerballing version of A.J. Burnett, dude’s just crazy inconsistent. Here’s his runs allowed in his last five starts: 4, 8, 4, 9, 4. He’s also allowed ten runs in a game this year (Opening Day, actually), and also has six starts of two earned runs or less. Good luck figuring him out. Carmona will throw that hellacious low-90’s sinker most of the time, but he can also mix in quality sliders and changeups. They aren’t strikeout pitches, but enough to keep both righties and lefties off balance. A 58.1% ground ball rate with a very good infield defense are the recipes for his success.

Saturday, RHP Mitch Talbot: An elbow injury has cut Talbot’s season in half, but his last two starts have been pretty good (12.2 IP, 3 R) following a disastrous return (3 IP, 8 R). His main weapons are a two-seamer and cutter, both of which sit in the high-80’s. He’ll also throw the occasional changeup and slider, though Talbot doesn’t miss bats (6.11 K/9) and he does walk guys (4.18 BB/9). His saving grace is a fine ground ball rate (50.5%).

Sunday, RHP Josh Tomlin: Oh the nightmare of Josh Tomlin. You probably remember that he made his Major League debut against the Yankees last year, when he held them to one run and three hits in seven innings. He was rocking a sub-2.50 ERA as recently as three starts ago, but it’s now closer to 4.00 after allowing six runs in six innings in both of his previous two outings. Tomlin is a pretty generic right-hander, throwing three high-80’s fastballs (cutters, two-seamers, four-seamers), a changeup, and a curveball. He doesn’t walk anyone at all (1.27 BB/9), but he also doesn’t miss any bats (5.10 K/9) and is a big time fly ball guy (37.4%). Unsurprisingly, he’s homer prone (1.27 HR/9).

Monday, RHP Carlos Carrasco: The prize of the first Cliff Lee trade, Carrasco fits the mold of Talbot and Tomlin (low walks and low strikeouts), just with better stuff. He’ll sit in the low-90’s with his heat and back it up with a changeup and curveball, getting a solid amount of ground balls (49%). It’s worth noting that the scouting report on Carrasco has long been that he struggles with men on base for whatever reason (diminished stuff from the stretch? overly worried about holding runners? who knows), so the Yankees need to make him sweat when guys get on. He followed up a six run, six inning outing against the Rangers with 8.2 shutout innings against the Twins in his last two starts.

Bullpen: The Indians have a really good bullpen, owning a 3.60 FIP and 3.25 ERA as a unit. Closer Chris Perez is flirting with the dreaded 1.00 K/BB ratio (5.01 K/9, 4.63 BB/9), and with a 31.4% ground ball rate, you wonder how long until he blows up. Setup man and great name Vinny Pestano has been fantastic, striking out 11.57 batters per nine while walking just 3.43 per nine. Lefties Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp are holding same-sided batters to .209/.222/.256 and .063/.147/.156 batting lines, respectively. Both hold their own against righties too.

The rest of the relief corps consists of middle man Chad Durbin (3.97 FIP but a 5.47 ERA), mop-up man Frank Herrmann (5.51 FIP and a 7.71 ERA), and righty specialist Joe freakin’ Smith, who naturally has a reverse platoon split (.311/.392/.356 vs. RHB, .100/.174/.150 vs. LHB). The Tribe can certainly protect a lead in the late innings with a lot of guys that have a lot of different looks, but there are some soft spots in the middle innings that can be exploited.

Recommended Indians Reading: The DiaTribe and Let’s Go Tribe