Series Preview: Looking for a Sign of Life
Image courtesy of © Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY SportsBrief Overview:
Like a bad case of the flu, the Indians just refuse to go away as they continue to fight tooth and nail until the end of the season for the AL Central crown. The Twins still continue to occupy the throne, but chinks in their armor have been revealed lately in the form of the Pineda suspension and the Buxton injury that will knock him out for the rest of 2019. Throw in all of the injuries to, uhhh, gestures broadly, and the armor is so non-existent that everyone can see the Hello Kitty underwear underneath it.
What They Do Well:
At times, credit needs to be given where it is due and the Indians deserve a lot of credit for how they have played the Twins this season. The season record is 9-7 in favor of Cleveland as they have outscored the Twins by four runs. Is this a good indicator of whether a team is good or not? Not necessarily, keep in mind that the Rockies actually lead the season series against the Dodgers and the Dodgers ended up in the World Series while the Rockies ended in the not-World Series.
The Indians are also an excellent team as far as fielding goes as their UZR/150 is the highest in MLB. I don’t have the time to explain what UZR is (you can read about it here if you so please), but even given the generally large room for error in advanced fielding metrics, I can easily buy that they are an elite fielding team. Because of this, the Twins will likely find themselves having balls be caught that might have been hits in other scenarios which will most certainly be frustrating to watch.
What They Do Not Do Well:
I’m not sure what to make of this, but the Indians’ pitching staff gives up the least amount of ground balls in the AL as their 39.9 GB% is only higher than the Marlins among all of MLB. To the extent of my understanding, having a high or low GB% isn’t inherently a bad or good thing as much as it is an indication of how that staff pitches. There are good pitching staffs who get a low amount of ground balls and there are bad pitching staffs that get a lot of them, just expect a lot of fly balls as this Cleveland pitching goes up against the offense that hits more fly balls than anyone else in baseball.
I mentioned it last week but their bullpen since the start of August still has not been good. Their bullpen has been worth just .1 fWAR since then and part of their issues has stemmed from the 12th worst BB/9 rate among other MLB bullpens over that time. Specifically, only one of their relievers has been worth more than .1 fWAR (Óliver Pérez) and multiple members who were once key cogs have since fallen off the metaphorical cliff. Seriously, walk around Cleveland and you’ll see multiple “Have you seen this man?” posters plastered around with Brad Hand’s face on them.
Individuals Of Note:
The Indians recently called up a reliever named James Karinchak who is perfectly normal besides his cartoonishly high K percent of 59.2%. For context, the highest recorded K% for a qualified reliever is Aroldis Chapman’s 2014 season in which he struck out 52.5% of all batters he faced, meaning that Karinchak is in uncharted territory with his strikeouts. Keep an eye out if he comes into a game this series because the whiffs may be strong enough to cool the first few rows of fans.
It appears that the Twins will get to face both Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger in this series. I’ve talked about Mike Clevinger and his wanna-be Steven Tyler act, but let’s focus on the Biebs for this one. Bieber was a top prospect for a bit as he made his name as a strike-throwing machine with refined mechanics. As usual, the Indians worked their magic on suga-Shane over here and the result in 2019 has been an elite starter of the old-school variety as the 24-year-old is third in the majors in innings pitched in 2019. Beyond just soaking up innings like a rather large sponge, Bieber has upped his strikeouts to an impressive level as his K% is eighth among all qualified starters in MLB.
The Twins and Indians last played at Target field just a few days ago and theIndians took the series 2-1. The Indians also own the season series at 9-7.
The Twins are 10-6 over their last five series while the Indians are also 10-6 over their last five series.
Friday: Odorizzi vs Civale
Saturday: TBD vs Clevinger
Sunday: Berríos vs Bieber
This is the final chance for the Twins to exert their status on the Indians as well as it the Indians final chance to knock the Twins down a few pegs. Yes, the Twins are banged up pretty well right now, but no one is going to feel bad for them, especially the team that is getting ready to host them. No matter what, the Twins will be guaranteed to have a lead in the division after the series, but some things will need to change quickly for their division leader status to match up with how they have played over the last two series. At least one win is mandatory and anything more than that pretty solidly sets the Twins up to take the division heading into the Charmin ultra-soft part of the schedule. What do I predict? Hmmm, you know, this is a tough one to get a read on because nothing would be more hilariously baseball than the C-list Twins going into Cleveland and sweeping. I’ll just say that they take two games and head on my way.
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