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Cleveland series preview: The season finale

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MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The World Champion Kansas City Royals will not be defending their title, but they can make sure that the new division winners in the American League Central do not have home-field advantage in either round of the AL side of the playoffs. Cleveland is a half-game behind the Boston Red Sox for the second seed with Boston squaring off at home against the Toronto Blue Jays. The 2.5-game deficit they face with the Texas Rangers with three to go render the likelihood of Cleveland seizing homefield throughout slim.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Game One: Friday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Ryan Merritt (L) 3 6.0 2 0 1.50 2.48 3.31 3.07 0.1 0.2
Yordano Ventura 31 180.0 136 75 4.40 4.66 4.61 4.74 1.3 1.9

In the first game of the series, the Royals draw southpaw rookie Ryan Merritt, who has been thrust into the the rotation for the first time on the heels of a minor injury to Corey Kluber, and more serious ones to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. Judging by his minor-league numbers and scouting reports, Merritt seems to fit the bill of the back-of-the-rotation southpaw with pedestrian stuff. Of course, that middling package screams Cy Albers, so how the Royals deal with the rookie making his first major league start is anyone’s guess.

Game Two: Saturday, 3:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Trevor Bauer 34 184.0 159 68 4.26 4.08 4.22 4.30 2.4 3.0
Edinson Volquez 33 184.1 134 72 5.37 4.58 4.52 4.68 1.5 -0.8

While still coming up short of his high ceiling, the former third overall pick of the 2011 draft has quietly put together his best season as a big-leaguer. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP are all lower than in any other season than his 2014, which was a decidedly different run environment. His walk-rate is lower than it’s ever been in the majors. Some of the success probably owes to his having scrapped his slider and replacing it with a cutter.

Game Three: Sunday, 2:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Josh Tomlin 29 166.2 115 20 4.48 4.91 4.17 4.24 0.9 1.4
Ian Kennedy 32 188.0 181 64 3.69 4.63 4.59 4.21 1.8 3.9

Josh Tomlin has allowed 15 more hung dongs than walks. That is next-level bonkers.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Carlos Santana (S) DH 674 34 86 85 5 .256 .362 .489 .365 128 3.3 2.7
Jason Kipnis (L) 2B 675 23 91 81 15 .275 .343 .469 .348 117 4.8 4.0
Francisco Lindor (S) SS 671 14 96 72 19 .300 .355 .428 .336 109 5.9 5.4
Mike Napoli 1B 631 34 92 101 5 .242 .338 .473 .346 116 1.2 1.1
Jose Ramirez (S) 3B 605 11 84 75 22 .311 .363 .463 .355 121 4.5 3.8
Coco Crisp (S) LF 493 13 53 55 9 .233 .303 .400 .303 90 -0.3 0.5
Tyler Naquin (L) CF 355 14 50 42 6 .298 .374 .522 .378 137 2.5 1.0
Abraham Almonte (S) RF 192 1 23 22 8 .267 .297 .406 .297 82 0.4 0.7
Roberto Perez C 177 3 13 17 0 .181 .273 .295 .255 52 0.2 0.2
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Chris Gimenez C 155 4 17 11 0 .216 .272 .331 .265 60 -0.5 -0.6
Adam Moore C 5 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 -0.1 -0.1
Jesus Aguilar IF 6 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 -0.1 -0.2
Erik Gonzalez IF 15 0 2 0 0 .286 .333 .286 .280 70 -0.1 -0.0
Michael Martinez (S) Util 98 1 13 4 0 .245 .268 .319 .256 54 -0.1 0.1
Lonnie Chisenhall (L) OF 407 8 42 56 6 .291 .334 .443 .332 106 1.3 1.4
Brandon Guyer OF 344 9 39 32 3 .266 .370 .423 .350 121 1.1 1.7
Rajai Davis OF 485 12 73 48 42 .254 .310 .396 .306 88 2.1 0.6

*Stats through Thursday, September 29

It sure seems like these guys have played the Royals a few times. Francisco Lindor is having an MVP-caliber season as a 22-year-old. Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez are both enjoying 4-5 WAR campaigns. Mike Napoli hangs dong with aplomb. Michael Brantley has been on the DL for pretty much the whole season and is out for another four months. Their offense has been roughly league average 102 wRC+, but their sterling defense and their great baserunning has made the position players the third-most valuable squad in terms of fWAR.

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