Twins vs. Indians Series Preview
Image courtesy of Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY SportsSeries at a Glance
*Win Odds from FiveThirtyEight
If the Twins have any desire of keeping pace with the Indians this season they will need to play much better against them than they did last year, going 7-12 in 2017. After going on a three-game win streak, the Twins have taken a 0.5 game lead over the Indians the AL Central Division standings.
Probable Starting Pitchers
RHP Jake Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi has been solid in his first three starts in a Twins uniform. So far Odorizzi is tied for the team lead with two quality starts. Even in Odorizzi’s one poor start of the year he still did a decent job keeping the Twins in the game giving up just three runs over 4.1 innings. Odorizzi made one start against Cleveland in 2017, where he went six innings, and allowed four runs in a 6-4 win for the Rays.
RHP Jose Berrios
Jose Berrios will undoubtedly be amped up to make a start in his home country of Puerto Rico on Wednesday night. Berrios has looked absolutely dominant in two of his three starts this season, going a combined 16 shutout innings with 17 strikeouts. Berrios will be looking to build off those two starts in what will be his biggest start of the season thus far. Berrios made just one start against the Indians last year, where he was lights out, surrendering just one run, over 7.2 innings.
Much like the Twins, the Indians felt the effects of the snowstorm over the weekend, as each of the last two games in their series against Toronto were postponed. This is unfortunate news for the Twins, as Corey Kluber was originally scheduled to pitch on Saturday, but has been pushed back to start Tuesday night against the Twins. The Indians bats still haven’t gotten going yet this year, as they have a mere .200 batting average as a team, and currently have league worst 68 wRC+ through the first few weeks of the season.
Probable Starting Pitchers
RHP Corey Kluber
Corey Kluber has established him self as one of baseball's premier pitchers. Over the last four seasons, Kluber has won two AL Cy Young awards and finished in the top-10 in Cy Young voting in the two years he didn’t win the award. Kluber’s curveball is regarded by many as perhaps the best pitch in baseball. Last year, Kluber allowed a staggeringly low .111 wOBA on his curveball and has been even better so far this season. Kluber was dominant in his lone start against the Twins in 2017, where he struck out 13 over seven innings, and allowed just two runs (both unearned). However, the Twins were fortunate enough to escape that matchup with a 4-2 victory.
RHP Carlos Carrasco
The 2017 Indians starting rotation was arguably the best starting rotation in MLB history, setting the all-time MLB record for fWAR by a starting rotation at 31.7 (2.2 higher than the next best rotation). A big par of that was having Carlos Carrasco as a second ACE in their rotation to complement Corey Kluber. Much like Kluber, Carrasco’s signature pitch is his curveball. Despite his slight dip in strikeouts to start 2018, Carrasco has still had a strong start to his season. Hopefully Carrasco waits at least another start before he returns to form as one of elite strikeout pitchers in the game.
Players to Watch
Francisco Lindor, SS
Francisco Lindor developed himself into a true five-tool player after belting 33 home runs last season. Perhaps the strongest tool of Lindor’s game is his defense. Since he came into the league in 2015, the 24-year-old ranks third among shortstops with 32 Defensive Runs Saved. Lindor has gotten off to a slow start with a .241/.302/.379 slash line. Despite this he has still been the best hitter in the Cleveland lineup.
Jose Ramirez, 3B
The other half of perhaps the best left-side of the infield in baseball, Jose Ramirez has played a huge part in the Indians’ success over the past couple of seasons. Last year his 56 doubles were the most by any hitter since Todd Helton hit 59 in 2000. He showed his flexibility by playing 71 games at second last season, though he has moved back to his natural position at third with Jason Kipnis healthy again to begin 2018.
Edwin Encarnacion, DH
Edwin Encarnacion had a change of scenery last season (moving from Toronto to Cleveland) but he didn’t miss a beat hitting a team leading 38 home runs. Encarnacion’s power has been incredibly consistent over the last handful of years, as he has hit at least 34 home runs in every season since 2012.
*Represents Minor League Stats
Trevor Hildenberger has gotten off to a very discouraging start to the season. Sure, he has a respectable 3.86 ERA, but that doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. One of the most important roles of a relief pitchers is being able to strand inherited runners, and Hildenberger has allowed all seven of his inherited runners to score thus far. Part of this has been his inability to strike out opposing hitters, as he has struck out just 2 of the 30 batters that he has faced.
The Indians bullpen suffered a big loss this offseason when Brain Shaw signed with the Colorado Rockies. Nonetheless they still feature maybe the best one-two punch any bullpen has to offer with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. However, outside of those two the Indians bullpen can be vulnerable. In a move to add some depth to their bullpen, the signed former Twin Matt Belisle.
Zone Charts courtesy of baseballsavant.com