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Cleveland series preview: Still leading the Central

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MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Indians
The Melkman Cometh
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With the Kansas City briefly forgetting how to be bad well, they travel to Cleveland where they will face a MUCH better team and likely recommence their march to their worst season in franchise history. Cleveland has had a comfortable lead in the American League Central standings for what seems like a decade. That their record is not particularly impressive—both prospective Wild Card teams have a better record—is not an indicator of their true talent. As was the case for the first half of last year, Cleveland has underperformed, but there is little doubt that they’re better than these Royals.

Game times and pitching matchups are as follows:

  • Monday, September 3 — 3:10 PM CDT — Jakob Junis versus Adam Plutko
  • Tuesday, September 4 — 6:10 PM CDT — Danny Duffy (L) versus Mike Clevinger
  • Wednesday, September 5 — 12:10 PM CDT — Brad Keller versus Corey Kluber

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference

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
Game 1
Jakob Junis 25 147.0 139 21.9 40 6.3 4.53 4.75 4.23 4.02 0.8 0.7
Adam Plutko 12 58.1 44 18.1 19 7.8 4.94 5.57 5.51 5.07 0.1 0.3
Game 2
Danny Duffy (L) 27 154.1 141 20.6 69 10.1 4.72 4.60 4.88 4.70 1.2 1.0
Mike Clevinger 27 170.1 172 24.7 56 8.1 3.17 3.47 3.91 3.91 3.7 4.3
Game 3
Brad Keller 37 113.1 76 16.2 43 9.2 3.26 3.81 4.35 4.62 1.6 2.8
Corey Kluber 28 186.2 180 24.9 27 3.7 2.80 3.22 3.21 3.34 4.5 5.5

Let us turn the clock back to the trade deadline in 2010 for a second. Cleveland was out of contention. Jake Westbrook had reëstablished his trade value a bit after missing all of his penultimate arbitration season to recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals were making a playoff push and trying to solidify their rotation. The Padres wanted Ryan Ludwick, so they sent projected major-league reliever/swingman Nick Greenwood to St. Louis. Oh, and they sent a 24-year-old fringe prospect in AA—a fourth-round draft pick out of Stetson in 2007 who never made Baseball America’s Padres top 30 organizational prospect rankings list but had decent strikeout numbers and an intriguing four-pitch mix that was yet to feature his sinker or cutter, two pitches integral to what would eventually be a shocking two-time Cy Young Award winner. Thanks, San Diego.

Jake Junis has at least a slight advantage in his pitching matchup with Adam “Don’t Call Me ‘Nick,’ Even Though I Should Totally Be A ‘Nick’” Plutko. Plutko is not very good, with each DIPS ERA estimator putting him above 5.00. Of course, one guy in this game gets to face one of the worst offenses in baseball and one does not. Plutko is primarily a fastball/slider guy, with a get-me-over cambio and a garbage Uncle Charlie getting mixed in just under 10% of the time apiece.

Mike Clevinger—another guy grabbed in a deadline deal after being drafted in the fourth, four drafts prior (this time for Vinnie Pestano, whose move to Anaheim meant a meaningful drop in the opportunites for Ryan Lefebvre to painfully pronounce his name like he was in a Chef Boyardee commercial from 1974)—has also emerged as a serious all-star caliber pitcher, giving Cleveland an embarrassment of riches.

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) 2B/3B 591 37 92 95 29 .289 .401 .593 .412 161 8.0 7.6
Francisco Lindor (S) SS 626 29 111 78 22 .284 .360 .517 .372 134 6.6 6.9
Michael Brantley (L) LF 544 14 76 70 10 .304 .358 .467 .355 122 2.6 2.3
Jason Kipnis (L) 2B/CF 518 14 56 57 6 .227 .313 .376 .303 87 1.8 1.2
Yan Gomes C 371 12 44 41 0 .257 .307 .427 .314 95 1.8 1.7
Edwin Encarnacion DH/1B 481 29 63 92 3 .234 .323 .478 .341 113 0.8 1.1
Josh Donaldson 3B 159 5 22 16 2 .234 .333 .423 .325 103 0.6 0.6
Yonder Alonso (L) 1B/DH 494 22 56 76 0 .243 .310 .432 .319 98 0.6 1.2
Melky Cabrera (S) RF/LF 201 6 23 31 1 .282 .333 .448 .334 109 0.5 0.3
Erik González IF 125 1 16 15 3 .286 .320 .403 .314 94 0.4 0.6
Rajai Davis LF 191 1 30 6 16 .246 .293 .309 .267 63 0.3 0.0
Yandy Díaz 1B/3B 60 0 7 9 0 .310 .333 .379 .310 92 0.0 -0.1
Eric Haase C 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 0.0 0.0
Brandon Guyer OF 177 6 20 22 1 .191 .282 .357 .284 74 -0.2 -0.4
Greg Allen (S) CF 238 2 28 15 14 .240 .278 .312 .258 57 -0.6 -0.5
Roberto Pérez C 179 1 13 8 1 .151 .244 .224 .217 29 -0.8 -0.6

Cleveland is slashing .258/.328/.435 with a .328 wOBA and 105 wRC+. Their position players have amassed 23.4 fWAR the sixth-best mark in baseball, 0.1 behind the Dodgers. Joining a very good squad is last week’s acquisition, Josh Donaldson. Donaldson is three years removed from an MVP award, but he has been injured for much of the past two seasons, including missing the bulk of this season (on the DL dating back to May 29) with a calf strain. Donaldson got placed back on the DL today, getting assigned to AAA - Columbus for a rehab assignment, but he could make them significantly better for the stretch run.

Poll

How will the Royals fare in Cleveland?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Royals sweep
    (4 votes)
  • 29%
    Royals take two of three
    (22 votes)
  • 50%
    Cleveland takes two of three
    (38 votes)
  • 14%
    Cleveland sweeps
    (11 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now