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Cleveland series preview: Coasting

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Best in the Central. Worst division leader.

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

Cleveland has finally begun to separate themselves from the rest of the miserable American League Central. They’re nine games up on the Twins, who are now ten games under .500. Cleveland still owns the worst record of any division leader, but there isn’t any team coming for them, so they can probably coast to the postseason.

Game times and pitching matchups are as follows:

  • Monday, July 2 — 7:15 PM CDT — Corey Kluber versus Jakob Junis
  • Tuesday, July 3 — 7:15 PM CDT — Shane Bieber versus Danny Duffy (L)
  • Wednesday, July 4 — 7:15 PM CDT — Tyler Bauer versus Ian Kennedy

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference

Cleveland at Kansas City 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
Game 1
Corey Kluber 17 113.1 115 26.9 13 3.0 2.54 3.29 2.79 2.94 2.5 4.2
Jakob Junis 16 96.1 90 21.8 27 6.5 4.67 5.24 4.41 4.05 0.0 0.8
Game 2
Shane Bieber 4 24.1 27 26.2 4 3.9 2.22 2.70 3.04 3.02 0.7 1.0
Danny Duffy (L) 17 94.2 83 19.8 46 11.0 4.94 5.35 5.19 4.93 -0.1 0.5
Game 3
Tyler Bauer 17 113.2 148 31.6 36 7.7 2.45 2.19 2.97 3.03 4.2 3.6
Ian Kennedy 17 91.2 84 20.9 33 8.2 5.11 4.80 4.57 4.45 0.4 0.0

At this point, breaking down Kluber and Bauer is sort of pointless. They’re known quantities. Bauer is mid-breakout, but the breakout always seemed to be more of a question of when not if it would happen.

Moving on to Shane Bieber, coming into this season, he was one of those fringe top 100 type of prospects. A fourth-round pick out of UC - Santa Barbara in 2016, he moved through three levels in 2017, impressive at each level, but most jawdropping in his complete aversion to walking opposing hitters. Of course, he was in his age-22 season last year, so dominating two levels of A-ball was nice, but not entirely unexpected. His 54.1 innings of 2.18 FIP, 20.1 K-BB% baseball were hardly to be scoffed at, but his dominance wasn’t quite enough to propel him up prospect ranking lists, coming in as a top-100 prospect only on John Sickels’s list. That is until this season, where he continued his command-fueled brilliance. Another 76.2 brilliant innings split between AA and AAA have been enough to punch his ticket to the big-league rotation and move him up prospect lists (he debuted on FanGraphs’s list after it was updated with members of this new draft class, putting him at 64th on The BOARD, and he was 59th on Baseball America’s list that dropped today).

Since he’s only pitched 24.1 innings in the majors, let’s focus on what he throws, but not how often he does it, since we’re dealing with a volatile sample here. At present, he looks to be throwing a four-seamer averaging 93.0 MPH. The pitch was only viewed as a 50-grade pitch coming into the season per FanGraphs (we’ll be defaulting there for the rest of this preview). His plus offering was in the form of his curve, which they slapped a 55-present/60-future grade on. His slider (which he throws roughly as often as his slider) and change were both viewed as 45s with 50-futures put on them. The key to his success, not surprisingly, was his command, which they gave a 55/70 to—which was the second-best command grade they gave to anyone in the minors. He’s looked good in his brief major-league career. He probably won’t stop looking good against the 2018 Royals.

Cleveland position players

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
José Ramírez (S) 3B 363 24 58 55 14 .295 .399 .607 .419 169 5.5 5.5
Francisco Lindor (S) SS 381 21 70 48 10 .296 .372 .564 .396 153 4.8 4.8
Yan Gomes C 231 9 27 24 0 .248 .312 .448 .324 103 1.2 1.0
Michael Brantley (L) LF 315 11 43 46 5 .308 .356 .495 .364 131 1.2 0.5
Yonder Alonso (L) 1B 289 12 34 46 0 .257 .325 .448 .334 110 1.0 0.9
Lonnie Chisenhall (L) RF 95 1 11 9 1 .321 .394 .452 .366 132 0.8 0.1
Jason Kipnis (L) 2B 330 7 34 34 2 .218 .298 .344 .285 76 0.5 0.1
Edwin Encarnacion DH 312 20 42 56 0 .233 .312 .484 .339 114 0.5 0.7
Tyler Naquin (L) CF 120 2 12 16 0 .281 .308 .377 .295 83 0.5 0.3
Erik González IF 80 1 8 13 1 .293 .338 .453 .341 115 0.4 0.3
Rajai Davis OF 143 1 23 6 16 .240 .298 .287 .263 61 0.3 0.4
Brandon Guyer OF 109 3 7 11 1 .155 .248 .299 .247 50 -0.5 -0.7
Roberto Pérez C 106 1 8 6 0 .140 .229 .226 .210 24 -0.7 -0.6

The lion’s share of production from Cleveland’s position players is obviously coming from José Ramírez and Francisco Lindor. The pair have accounted for more than 80% of their total rWAR (fWAR has them at just 69.6% of Cleveland’s total). As a unit, Cleveland has amassed 14.8 fWAR, good for the sixth-best mark in baseball. They’ve slashed .255/.325/.440 with a .329 wOBA and 107 wRC+. That 107 wRC+ is tied for the fourth-best in baseball with the Cubs and Mariners.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against Cleveland?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Royals sweep
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    Royals take two of three
    (6 votes)
  • 26%
    Cleveland takes two of three
    (27 votes)
  • 63%
    Cleveland sweeps
    (65 votes)
102 votes total Vote Now