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Front Page: Series Preview: A Series That Could Hurt For Either Team

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#1 Matt Braun

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 07:00 AM

Would you look at that? The calendar is well on its way toward football season but there is still anxiety-inducing baseball to be played. In part thanks to a phenomenal season so far from the Twins and a revived Indians team that does not want to relinquish the AL Central title belt, this upcoming series will probably be the most important regular season series for the Twins in a while. While there is still time left afterward to regain what was lost after this series, it still stands as a symbol regarding which team is up to the task in taking the AL Central. Bless the fact that Nine Inch Nails are from Cleveland because this write-up deserves only the best and what could top the band that produced the original (and best) version of “Hurt”? Fight me you cowards, I’m right.Brief Overview:

You know about Cleveland right? The team that looked to be dead in the water in May has risen from the ashes and has been one of the hottest teams in all of baseball since June. The offense has found its form and the starting pitching has performed well in the absence of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carraso, and Danny Salazar’s velocity. The result has been an almost unbelievable tear that has placed them just two games behind the Twins for 1st in the division.

What They Do Well:

Hit, unfortunately. Since the beginning of June, their team wRC+ is 108 which is seventh in MLB and just five ticks behind the Twins’ mark of 113 over the same time period. The difference is very similar to Twins Robbie Grossman (112) and Twins Jason Kubel (107) and in related news, Robbie Grossman’s Twins wRC+ is much higher than I thought it was, huh. Anyway, this is quite the development for Cleveland as up until June 1st, their team wRC+ was 78, good for the fifth lowest in MLB and tied for Brendan Harris’ Twins wRC+ of the same number.

Despite being due for regression for about two months now, their bullpen is still the best in baseball by ERA as their 3.29 mark is about as far away from the second place team as the second place team is from the 10th place team (.43 away from second, the second-place team is .42 away from 10th). I say they are due for regression as their team xFIP is only 13th in baseball (remember that xFIP adjusts for home run rate) and their team left on base % (LOB %) is the highest in MLB, suggesting that have either found the secret to holding runners on base (unlikely) or are due to allow some of those base-runners to cross the plate (pretty please).

What They Do Not Do Well:

I really wish this section was a bit longer, but the truth is that there isn’t a whole lot they do poorly now that their offense has gotten its crap together. The current front of their starting staff is hard to match as Shane Bieber has developed into a true ace as he has already accrued 4.2 fWAR and Mike Clevinger has done very well so far despite some injuries as his fWAR sits at 1.7 already despite having only 55 2/3 innings pitched. The names currently behind them get a little suspicious however as they have Adam Plutko (5.85 FIP), Zach Plesac (4.95 FIP), and Aaron Civale (just 12 major league innings) making up the rest of the rotation as their other arms are on the mend. Those guys will be prime candidates to attack this series and Plutko and Civale are both set to face the Twins.

Also going off the back-end of things, which is an awfully strange segue, the end of their lineup isn’t exactly the most inspiring. Currently, Fangraphs projects their typical 7-8-9 hitters to be Jason Kipnis, Roberto Pérez, and Tyler Naquin. Kipnis is holding a wRC+ of 87 on the year but has hit to the tune of a 118 mark since the All-Star break. Pérez is holding a wRC+ of 101 on the year but has hit to an ice-cold mark of 35 since the break. Naquin is at a perfectly even 100 wRC+ mark but has hit to a mark of 146 since the break thanks to a massive BABIP of .444. Basically, the questions here will be whether Kipnis finally found his stroke again, whether Pérez actually made tangible changes or was just getting lucky, and when will the BABIP gods no longer find favor with Naquin. The answers to each question will make or break the lineup depth for the Indians.

Individuals Of Note:

The Indians made a shocking trade before the deadline when they dealt Trevor Bauer to the Reds in a three-team trade that netted them Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes among other players. Despite pimping Bauer out all off-season, I really didn’t think they would trade him but they did so from a position of strength in order to improve some positions of weakness. Puig and Reyes are the big, immediate impacts as the Indians lacked strength in their OF offense and both fill those roles nicely. Puig was actually struggling in Cincinnati before the trade and was probably better at getting into fights than hitting as his wRC+ on the year stands at a below average 96 mark. This is partly because Great American Ballpark is hilariously unbalanced towards hitters and wRC+ adjusts for park but Puig hit at a 123 mark in 2018 so him improving would not be entirely surprising.

Franmil Reyes is a bit more interesting in my eyes as he has hit at a 117 wRC+ mark over 191 career games so far and at 6’ 5” and 275 pounds, he is built to play defensive tackle and hit absolute tanks. His numbers in 2019 have dropped a touch despite an ISO jump thanks to some BABIP regression dropping his batting average and on base percentage, but at just 24-years-old, he could still figure some things out before reaching his full potential.

Hey, remember that José Ramírez fella who inexplicably stopped hitting in the second half of 2018 and well into the first half of 2019? Yeah, well, it seems like he found it again as his wRC+ since the break is at 148, two ticks higher than both his 2017 and 2018 totals. The big drop for Ramírez this year has been because of a sudden lack of effectiveness against fastballs (28.9 and 38.3 pVAL against heaters in 2017 and 2018 respectively, -4.5 in 2019). If you don’t know what that is, it basically means that he went from murdering fastballs to being unable to hit them almost entirely. If he truly is back, then that could be a massive upgrade to the Indians and it would be very frightening for the Twins.

Recent History:

The Twins have played three series against the Indians and are 5-4 against them so far. This series will be the first one played at Target Field since the first series of the year in which the Twins took two of three.

Recent Trajectories:

The Twins are 10-6 over their last five series while the Indians are 11-5 over their last five series.

Pitching Match-ups:

Thursday: Gibson vs Clevinger
Friday: Smeltzer vs Bieber
Saturday: Odorizzi vs Plutko
Sunday: Berríos vs Civale

Ending Thoughts:

The Twins get a chance to put an end to the Indians running right through each and every team they go up against by pulling a Thanos and doing the job themselves. A disheartening showing from the pitching staff in the previous Braves series throws some cold water on the hype that was gained after beating up some poor teams, so the Twins will have to start their own momentum here if they intend on doing something.

I don’t need to tell you how important this series is as we all are aware that the end result could be as high as a six-game lead for the Twins or as low as a two-game lead for the Indians. Now, I have to gloat because I am a perfect 7-for-7 in my series predictions, leading me to believe that these are not predictions as much as they are me speaking the outcome into existence. The great news? I am calling that the Twins take three of four in the series, an outcome that everyone will love.

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#2 Rosterman

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 07:23 AM

Baldelli, play to win. Best line-up each day. Use your pitching staff. Don't let starters stay if tanking like Perez and Berrios...don't need to dig THAT deep of a hole. If a bullpen arm puts two guys on base, pull him...let another bullpen arm mess it up if need be. Four big games. Then a day off. You can afford to skip Perez and use him out of the pen, if you wish.

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#3 mikelink45

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 07:26 AM

I wish I had your optimism.Our starters have not been holding their own recently - if Berrios stinks the rotation stinks and I think we will get two well pitched games - one by Berrios.But more importantly, how is our Dysonless bullpen going to hold up?I would be satisfied with a split - I just do not want to end the series tied with the Indians.

 

Based on the last month I also give the Indians the Manager advantage - Francona will be HOF eventually and Rocco is still learning how to handle his staff (sometimes that is what staff).

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#4 gocgo

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 07:34 AM

Two of four and I'll be thrilled.One of four is probably whatI expect based on recent play...I think we have been sloppy on the mound and sloppy in the field.Anyone know what our winning percentage is when Buxton is on IL?

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#5 Number3

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 07:41 AM

Could be 6 games ahead, 2 games behind or somewhere in between by Sunday's end. This just might be a big series. Agree wholeheartedly about playing this series like it was a win or go home. Everyone has worried about the bull pen but Berrios and Perez totally dropped the ball and Baldelli seemed to throw in the towel yesterday. Gibson needs to "pitch" tonight. Good news, Sano really does seem to be coming around and the Twins need him to do just that.


#6 Channing1964

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 07:44 AM

This weekend is the time we find out if the dream is real or is it a joke
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#7 yarnivek1972

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 07:45 AM

I think the series hinges on Thursday and Saturday’s games. The Twins can’t expect to win a matchup of Smeltzer vs Bieber. Likewise, they SHOULD have little difficulty winning with Berrios going up against Civale.

The other two are toss ups IMO.

Edited by yarnivek1972, 08 August 2019 - 07:46 AM.


#8 JW24

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 07:45 AM

It is great, after years of Vking pre-season football dominating the August headlines, to have meaningful Twins baseball this time of year. I cannot wait to tune in this weekend. Nothing beats playoff baseball, and this is the closest thing we will get until October.

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#9 VATwinsFan

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 07:58 AM

The Indians scored 7 runs in their last three games and won two of them because they gave up 2 runs.

 

The Twins scored 19 runs in their last three games and won one of them because they gave up 26 runs.

 

In sincerely hope this pattern does not continue.

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#10 jdmurphy315

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 08:46 AM

Smeltzer outdueling Bieber Friday night would be the equivalent of Arraez's pinch-hit walk and I am absolutely ready for it.

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#11 bighat

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 08:54 AM

BIG game for Gibby tonight! Huge. You gotta set the tone with a W tonight.

 

Pizza Ranch For the Win: Gibby, you gotta go out there and give 3-4 scoreless innings to start this game. Give the offense time to get the lead.

 

Pizza Pit For the Loss: Over his last six starts, Clevinger has a 1.69 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings. Yikes.


#12 yarnivek1972

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 09:12 AM

BIG game for Gibby tonight! Huge. You gotta set the tone with a W tonight.

Pizza Ranch For the Win: Gibby, you gotta go out there and give 3-4 scoreless innings to start this game. Give the offense time to get the lead.

Pizza Pit For the Loss: Over his last six starts, Clevinger has a 1.69 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings. Yikes.


Clevinger’s last six starts were two against the Royals and one each against the Twins, Jays, Tigers and Angels. Jays, Royals and Tigers are bottom 5 offenses in AL. Against LA, he gave up a double and HR to Trout and almost nothing else, which pretty much describes the Angel offense. The game against the Twins was his shortest start and the only one the Indians lost...
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#13 Dantes929

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 09:21 AM

Huge series but the two extreme outcomes would still leave us with a pennant race. If we got swept I would not throw in the towel. If we sweep I would not write Cleveland off. 

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#14 Cooper Carlson

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 09:23 AM

Sup Matt?

#15 Dantes929

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 09:28 AM

 

 

 

Smeltzer outdueling Bieber Friday night would be the equivalent of Arraez's pinch-hit walk and I am absolutely ready for it.

 

 

Pizza Pit For the Loss: Over his last six starts, Clevinger has a 1.69 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings. Yikes.

Over Smelzer's last game he has a 0.00 ERA. Over his last 11 innings he has a 0.82 ERA. For the season Bieber's ERA is 3.31. Smeltzer's is 2.28.Just sayin.  

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#16 Puckett34

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 09:48 AM

2 out of 4 or better please.

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#17 bighat

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 10:37 AM

This series is so big that even Deadspin.com took a break from writing about the Yankees and Red Sox to focus on the Twins/Indians matchup starting tonight: https://deadspin.com...wins-1837063703

 

excerpt: This upcoming series won’t be the decisive final round between the Twins and the Indians—they’ll have six games against each other in September. But it’ll be a crystal-clear referendum on which of these teams should be favored to avoid the Wild Card as the season enters its final stretch. The Twins could increase their lead to as much as six games and immediately shut down any whispers about regression with a dominant performance, while the Indians could reassert their grip on an AL Central they’ve completely controlled for the past three years by continuing their recent success. Whatever happens, this’ll be four days of tense, all-out, good-ass August baseball.

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#18 spycake

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 10:51 AM

Clevinger’s last six starts were two against the Royals and one each against the Twins, Jays, Tigers and Angels. Jays, Royals and Tigers are bottom 5 offenses in AL. Against LA, he gave up a double and HR to Trout and almost nothing else, which pretty much describes the Angel offense. The game against the Twins was his shortest start and the only one the Indians lost...


I appreciate the attempt to look on the brighter side, but isn't this a "good teams should beat up on bad teams" situation too, like the Twins recent successes? It's not like Clevinger's track record of success is limited to the last 6 games. He should be a tough opponent (although certainly not impossible to beat).
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#19 yarnivek1972

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 11:53 AM

Don't under estimate the power of Civale. 2 start 12IP 1ER era 0.75 and hes a rookie! Shows you how much confidence we have in him!


The Rangers’ overall offensive numbers are still pretty good, but since the start of July they have a collective wRC of 83, ahead of only the Marlins, Rockies and White Sox. There’s a reason they were deadline sellers. I’m sure most of the veterans that remain are already thinking about their offseason vacation plans.

#20 rkevin

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 02:41 PM

Plenty of games left to decide the fate of both teams. This series will be fun to watch to see who will rise. But, its not make or break for either. There is more to come, right??

 

For the Twins, I see 2 or 3 every day starters and 3 or 4 pitchers that will drive this team forward to a division championship and into the playoffs. For the every day guys -- Rosairo, Kepler, Cruz, Polanco or Sano. They all seem fit and capable to take on that role. Pitchers? Well we know Berrios is ready; will he be joined by Odorizzi and Gibson, May, Smelzer and\or Rogers? We'll need some of them, 3 or 4, maybe 5, to play at their top level to have a solid chance to go to the WS.

 

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