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Cleveland series preview: Protests and division champs

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All Central, all the time

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

First things first: in years past, this author took to substituting the name “Racists” for the actual name of Cleveland’s baseball team. The heavy-handed satirical criticism was borne from the organization’s entirely wrongheaded obstinacy in using a racist caricature dulled down in steps over time from a really racist caricature. It was a drum beat loudly and well past the point of having much comedic value.

It was also a lot easier to justify when there was no rivalry between the two clubs. The intermittently competitive Cleveland baseball team had absolutely no animosity or storied history with the Royals, a team in their division since realignment who had enjoyed a solitary season of .500 or better baseball since the strike. Fabricating a fictitious rivalry between the clubs added a wrinkle. After the Royals went to consecutive World Series, this didn’t have the same tenor.

Between that and a few dust-ups across the SBNation platform between other fanbases, it made sense to evolve and simply refuse to use their team name, as some publications have taken to doing when referring to Washington’s football team.

With news that the Cleveland baseball team will be retiring their racist mascot next season (only not really because they’ll still sell merchandise emblazoned with the racially-insensitive Chief Wahoo across the greater Cleveland area to maintain the registered trademark), there will be two rallies held outside the park today, the day of Cleveland’s home opener. One will be the same one there has been for years, a rally protesting the continued use of Chief Wahoo. The other? Well, they are incensed that a racist cartoon mascot is being taken from them. Presumably the former will be markedly louder and better attended than the latter, but the optics of the latter are still bad.

The Cleveland baseball team won the American League Central for the second straight season last year. They opened the 2018 season the prohibitive favorites to three-peat the feat. The Royals possess a 1-3 record, having had two games postponed already due to inclement weather. Cleveland is 2-4, having faced the Seattle Mariners and the vastly improved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim thus far.

Here are the game times and pitching matchups:

  • Friday, April 6, 3:10 PM CDT - Danny Duffy (L) versus Carlos Carrasco
  • Saturday, April 7, 3:10 PM CDT - Ian Kennedy versus Trevor Bauer
  • Sunday, April 8, 12:10 PM CDT - Jason Hammel versus Mike Clevinger

*All stats that follow are courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference and are stats from 2017.

Kansas City at Cleveland pitching matchups

Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Danny Duffy (L) 24 146.1 130 21.4 41 6.7 3.81 3.46 4.39 4.31 3.4 0.5
Carlos Carrasco 32 200.0 226 28.3 46 5.8 3.29 3.10 3.24 3.35 5.5 5.5
Ian Kennedy 30 154.0 131 20.0 61 9.3 5.38 5.61 5.25 4.88 -0.2 0.5
Trevor Bauer 32 176.1 196 26.2 60 8.0 4.19 3.88 3.60 3.59 3.2 3.2
Jason Hammel 32 180.1 145 18.0 48 6.0 5.29 4.37 4.92 4.65 2.1 1.4
Mike Clevinger 21 121.2 137 27.3 60 12.0 3.11 3.85 4.05 4.24 2.2 3.1

In facing Cleveland’s starting pitching, there really aren’t many breaks that the Royals get. Even Josh Tomlin, clearly the worst member of their rotation, has solid career numbers against Kansas City. The only solace Ned Yost’s club can take this time around is that they don’t face the reigning AL Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. Instead, they face Carlos Carrasco, who finished fourth in CY voting last year. Trevor Bauer, Cleveland’s third-best starter, finished tied for 29th in the majors in fWAR last season. And Mike Clevinger? Oh, he just had more fWAR than any Royals pitcher other than Danny Duffy despite making just 21 starts and pitching just 121.2 innings.

Cleveland position players

Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Francisco Lindor (S) SS 723 33 99 89 15 .273 .337 .505 .353 118 5.9 5.5
Jason Kipnis (L) 2B 373 12 43 35 6 .232 .291 .414 .300 82 0.7 0.4
José Ramírez (S) 3B 645 29 107 83 17 .318 .374 .583 .396 148 6.6 6.9
Yonder Alonso (L) 1B 521 28 72 67 2 .266 .365 .501 .366 132 2.4 1.9
Edwin Encarnación DH 669 38 96 107 2 .258 .377 .504 .373 132 2.5 2.8
Lonnie Chisenhall (L) RF 270 12 34 53 2 .288 .360 .521 .369 129 1.4 1.2
Yan Gomes C 383 14 43 56 0 .232 .309 .399 .307 87 1.8 1.3
Brandon Guyer LF 192 2 23 20 2 .236 .326 .327 .293 78 0.0 -0.3
Bradley Zimmer (L) CF 332 8 41 39 18 .241 .307 .385 .299 81 1.6 1.5
Roberto Pérez C 248 8 22 38 0 .207 .291 .373 .289 75 0.5 0.8
Erik Gonzalez IF 115 4 18 11 1 .255 .272 .418 .291 76 0.3 0.3
Rajai Davis OF 366 5 56 20 29 .235 .293 .348 .279 72 0.0 0.3
Michael Brantley OF 375 9 47 52 11 .299 .357 .444 .342 111 1.6 2.1

Cleveland gets the oft-injured Michael Brantley back from the DL Friday. He joins an offense that should complement a strong pitching staff and deliver another division crown to Cleveland—an offense that will likely get even better when they add top prospect Francisco Mejía to the mix after they’ve gamed his service time enough to get an extra year (expect a call-up in mid-May). Balanced, fast, strong. Bad news for Kansas City.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against the Indians?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Royals sweep
    (15 votes)
  • 12%
    Royals take 2 of 3
    (19 votes)
  • 42%
    Indians take 2 of 3
    (66 votes)
  • 35%
    Indians sweep
    (56 votes)
156 votes total Vote Now