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Cleveland series preview: Your new division title winners?

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The Royals must pass the mantle.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The conclusion is all but foregone that the World Champion Kansas City Royals will not retain that title as the clock ticks down on the 2016 season. With a three-game series against the division-leading Cleveland baseball team with a racially insensitive caricature as a mascot that does not appear to be getting phased out despite assertions from the organization to the contrary, the Royals have a chance to cut into Cleveland’s 9.5 game lead. Closing the gap would purely be academic at this point, as the Royals stand little chance of catching Cleveland, who looks like they will prevent the Royals from repeating as division title champs.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Game One: Tuesday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Edinson Volquez 31 175.0 128 65 5.40 4.45 4.44 4.60 1.6 -0.9
Josh Tomlin 27 153.1 111 20 4.75 5.10 4.13 4.18 0.5 0.8

Crazy stat for the day: Josh Tomlin has allowed 15 more home runs than walks. That goes a long way to explaining the disparity between his FIP and ERA.

Game Two: Wednesday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Ian Kennedy 30 177.1 172 59 3.60 4.65 4.57 4.16 1.6 3.7
Corey Kluber 30 204.2 215 54 3.12 3.25 3.46 3.49 4.9 6.4

Kluber Status Update: Still really good.

Game Three: Thursday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Jason Vargas (L) 1 3.0 1 1 3.00 3.47 6.27 6.05 0.1 0.1
Mike Clevinger 14 45.1 43 25 4.76 4.61 4.75 4.74 0.3 0.6

With Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco going down last week, rookie Mike Clevinger will need to come through down the stretch and into the playoffs if Cleveland hopes to capitalize upon an impressive 2016 regular season. As it stands, Clevinger is their number four starter, hardly the scenario Cleveland envisioned when rolling over the American League for the first five months of the season. Clevinger has been serviceable of late, but his first few starts were rough. This should be his first start back up to the 100-pitch mark, so how he looks the third tie through the order could very well determine the outcome of this game.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Carlos Santana (S) DH 636 32 80 77 5 .246 .355 .475 .357 122 2.7 2.2
Jason Kipnis (L) 2B 641 22 85 78 13 .278 .344 .469 .348 116 4.4 3.5
Francisco Lindor (S) SS 643 14 93 71 18 .310 .357 .441 .341 112 5.6 5.3
Mike Napoli 1B 602 34 89 98 4 .248 .342 .489 .354 121 1.3 1.3
Jose Ramirez (S) 3B 573 10 78 70 21 .311 .362 .454 .351 118 3.7 3.3
Coco Crisp (S) LF 472 12 50 50 9 .228 .296 .393 .297 86 -0.7 0.0
Tyler Naquin (L) CF 333 14 48 42 5 .302 .372 .539 .383 140 2.1 0.6
Abraham Almonte (S) RF 181 1 23 22 8 .271 .298 .412 .300 83 0.5 0.6
Roberto Perez C 155 2 12 15 0 .177 .276 .285 .253 51 0.2 0.1
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Chris Gimenez C 149 4 17 11 0 .224 .281 .343 .274 66 -0.2 -0.3
Adam Moore C 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 0.0 -0.0
Jesus Aguilar IF 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 0.0 -0.1
Erik Gonzalez IF 11 0 2 0 0 .100 .182 .100 .143 -24 -0.1 -0.0
Michael Martinez (S) Util 92 1 13 4 0 .261 .286 .341 .273 65 0.0 0.2
Lonnie Chisenhall (L) OF 386 8 42 55 6 .297 .337 .457 .337 109 1.5 1.4
Brandon Guyer OF 332 9 39 31 3 .259 .366 .418 .346 118 0.8 1.6
Rajai Davis OF 463 12 71 46 40 .255 .314 .404 .311 91 2.7 0.8

*Stats through Monday, September 20

Seems like these guys look pretty familiar. Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis are still pretty, pretty, pretty good. Mike Napoli crushes baseballs. They’ve gotten virtually no production out of Michael Brantley who has been on the mend for pretty much the whole season. Their offense has been roughly league average 102 wRC+, but their sterling defense has made the position players the third-most valuable squad in terms of fWAR.

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