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Cleveland Indians Series Preview: Six down, 13 to go

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At least we won’t be hearing that Mario coin sound every time they score in Kansas City.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians
Jun 25, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman Carlos Santana (41) hits a solo home run in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals and Indians just squared off in Cleveland last week, so we’re all very familiar with them. They took two of three, but the Royals actually did get to Cleveland’s bullpen a couple times, handing them 40 percent of their blown saves on the season in the three-game set, which is pretty impressive. The Indians salvaged one game of their three-game series in Baltimore after losing the first two games by identical 13-0 scores. I believe, by rule, the Indians cannot make the playoffs if they’re outscored by the Orioles in a series by double digits, so I’m not sure why they’re even choosing to continue their season, but they flew to Kansas City anyway, so I guess they’re going to play some baseball. If they’re playing, we’re previewing.

Meet the Indians

Royals vs. Indians Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Indians
Category Royals Indians
Winning % .341 .542
Team wRC+ 87 87
Team xFIP 4.88 4.19
Run Differential -72 0
Head to Head Wins 4 2
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 2.5 Shane Bieber, 2.7

Indians Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Francisco Lindor SS 289 .291 .349 .498 8.0% 16.3% 116 2.2
Oscar Mercado CF 167 .314 .360 .477 4.2% 18.0% 120 1.0
Carlos Santana 1B 353 .293 .411 .534 16.4% 15.3% 146 2.6
Jason Kipnis 2B 266 .246 .300 .379 7.5% 16.2% 76 0.4
Jose Ramirez 3B 340 .214 .309 .325 11.8% 12.6% 67 0.4
Jake Bauers LF 287 .226 .300 .389 9.1% 26.5% 79 -0.2
Roberto Perez C 219 .238 .327 .481 11.0% 29.2% 109 1.4
Bobby Bradley DH 26 .125 .192 .208 7.7% 42.3% 1 -0.3
Tyler Naquin RF 159 .253 .285 .433 4.4% 25.2% 81 0.4

Indians Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Kevin Plawecki C/INF 99 .193 .273 .330 8.1% 19.2% 57 0.2
Mike Freeman INF/OF 85 .261 .366 .391 12.9% 28.2% 104 0.2
Jordan Luplow OF 158 .257 .335 .507 10.1% 27.2% 117 0.8

Indians Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Brad Hand 37 35.1 4 3 38.1% 6.5% 2.29 2.89 1.5
Nick Wittgren 27 30.1 3 0 29.2% 4.2% 3.26 3.05 0.8
Tyler Clippard 23 24.0 0 0 25.0% 8.3% 3.38 5.37 0.4

Projected Pitching Matchups

Tuesday July 2nd - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Trevor Bauer 18 119.0 6 6 26.8% 9.4% 3.55 4.32 2.1
Jakob Junis 17 94.2 4 7 20.9% 8.1% 5.23 4.70 0.5

This is a rematch from the series finale last week and Trevor Bauer was outstanding, going 6.2 innings and allowing just one run while striking out 12. His issues this season have come from an increased walk rate and more home runs allowed, but he walked just one and didn’t allow a homer, which is generally a good formula for him. He’s walked two or fewer and not allowed a home run in five separate starts this year. In those five starts, he’s 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 36 innings. In the starts where he’s walked at least three and/or allowed a home run, he’s 4-5 with a 4.45 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 83 innings. He’s not necessarily unique in that. Obviously allowing fewer walks and home runs are important and pretty much every pitcher will be better, but just touching him for one home run can make a big difference.

And Jakob Junis knows all about trouble with home runs. He allowed two in that game against the Indians and has allowed at least one in four straight games and has allowed 13 in his last 10 starts, spanning 56 innings. This season has been a slog for him. He had three straight starts of allowing exactly two earned runs, but he’s only allowed fewer than three six times total. He gave up four runs on nine hits to Cleveland last week, and with his elevated walk rate this season, he’s just having some trouble out there. If he can get back to limiting the free passes, he can find himself in better shape, but he just continues to struggle as opponents seem to be spitting on his slider more and more. Maybe chalk it up to a learning year, but in his third season, the Royals are going to need to start seeing results pretty soon.

Wednesday July 3rd - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Clevinger 4 18.1 1 2 41.3% 13.3% 5.89 2.83 0.6
Danny Duffy 12 69.0 3 4 19.8% 8.2% 4.43 5.09 0.7

It’s been a rough go for Mike Clevinger this season as he’s made just four starts due to injury. The season started amazingly. He allowed just two hits in his first two starts but had to leave his second one after five with the back injury that sidelined him until June 17. He was amazing in those first two starts with 22 strikeouts to go along with his unhittable pitching. Then he came back on June 17 and lasted just 4.2 innings and hit the IL again with an ankle sprain. He did come back on Friday, but got lit up by the Orioles, allowing seven runs on five hits in just 1.2 innings. So if you’re counting, in his two starts since coming back from his back injury, he’s 0-2 with a 17.05 ERA in 6.1 innings with six walks issued and two home runs allowed. If you’re wondering what to expect from him in this one, I think everyone in the world is as well. His velocity was definitely there, averaging 97 with his fastball and touching nearly 100 and still getting swings and misses, but all four fastballs put in play resulted in hits in his last start. He’s probably thankful to see the Royals. He’s 6-0 in his career against KC with a 2.25 ERA in 56 innings. Maybe the Royals are just what the doctor ordered for him.

Danny Duffy was once again pretty good in his last start, but he took the loss after he allowed three runs on seven hits over 6.2 innings. The home run ball bit him as he once again allowed one in an inning he probably wouldn’t have even been pitching in if Ned Yost had faith in his shaky bullpen. Even so, that’s six homers allowed in his last three starts. His start was a success, though, I think, with 13 swinging strikes and eight strikeouts over his 6.2 innings. Also, he walked just one batter, which is really nice to see. His fastball and sinker were both really good against the Blue Jays, but the secondary stuff was lacking. He only threw five changeups all game, and that’s kind of an important pitch for him to have for him to succeed. For the most part, the Indians offense struggles mightily with the changeup, so that will really be big for him if he can establish that. They also have their struggles with sliders and curves, but changeups give them more trouble overall. He’ll need to establish that pitch.

Thursday July 4th - 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Zach Plesac 7 42.1 3 3 19.2% 8.4% 3.61 5.12 0.0
Homer Bailey 17 85.0 7 6 21.2% 9.8% 4.87 4.54 1.2

With all the Indians injuries, they’ve had to dig into their system to find another solid starter in Zach Plesac, but he’s not in the same mold as most of their pitchers. He was a 12th round pick in 2016 and worked his way to the big leagues relatively quickly and has pitched mostly well. He has a 94-95 MPH fastball, a changeup that gets more weak contact than whiffs and a slider he uses on righty with a curve he’ll use on everyone. He’ll get swings and misses with his slider mostly, but the fastball can sneak up on you even though his spin rate on it is pretty middling. Like Clevinger, Plesac got lit up by the Orioles with seven runs allowed in 3.2 innings and two homers allowed. He also hit two batters, so he’s coming off his first truly shaky start as a big leaguer, which could really go either way for the Royals offense against him.

Homer Bailey has had a few starts like the one he had in Toronto on Saturday. He started very well but hit a wall a little bit later, ultimately giving up a grand slam to Cavan Biggio to give up the lead. He was let off the hook when the Royals tied it up in the ninth but Scott Barlow couldn’t shut the door and get the game to extra innings. It was a discouraging start for Bailey for a couple of reasons beyond the runs allowed. He’d been a strike-throwing machine in his last few starts, but threw just 58 in 103 pitches. It was also his second straight start with single digit swings and misses after previously posting four straight with double digits. This has been a season of ebbs and flows for Bailey, so hopefully for his sake and the Royals, he can get back on the good side in this one. On the positive side, he’s shut down the Indians already this year with one of his best starts of the season back in April when he shut them out over seven innings.

Prediction

The Indians, in spite of getting absolutely rolled in the first two games of their series against the Orioles, are playing much better. They just finished a 17-9 June and have found some offensive consistency with guys like Oscar Mercado in the lineup and Roberto Perez hitting so well. Their bullpen has been hit pretty hard over the last week or so, but it’s still a good unit as well, so this is a tough matchup for the Royals. Still, I’m going to be really stupid and say they take two of three on this short homestand. What do you think happens?

Poll

Royals vs. Indians: Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Royals Sweep
    (7 votes)
  • 25%
    Indians Sweep
    (15 votes)
  • 28%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (17 votes)
  • 35%
    Indians Win Two of Three
    (21 votes)
60 votes total Vote Now