clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cleveland Indians Series Preview: Last battle of the season

The Indians have a different look than the last time the Royals saw them, and now Puig is their friend.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees
Aug 17, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals are currently circling the drain if they haven’t already circled it. Now they head to Cleveland where they’ll have an opportunity to help the Indians get closer to the Minnesota Twins for the American League Central division title. The Indians have a pretty different look than the last time these two teams faced off with Trevor Bauer gone and Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes in the mix. The offense now looks much stronger and the pitching staff had plenty without Bauer to march on. They were expecting Corey Kluber back for this series, but he suffered a setback in his rehab so they’ll have to go without him, but they’ve been so good that it probably doesn’t matter all that much. They are expecting to get Carlos Carrasco back in the bullpen sometime relatively soon which is great news because him pitching again is a great story but also because they really need some help. Brad Hand’s struggles now extend beyond facing Hunter Dozier and they’re looking for some help to shut down their opponents late in games and get some whiffs. They’re in good shape for the playoffs, but this series is a real chance to make their division title dreams closer to reality.

Meet the Indians

Royals vs. Indians Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Indians
Category Royals Indians
Winning % .352 .578
Team wRC+ 82 94
Team xFIP 4.90 4.31
Run Differential -123 88
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 3.3 Carlos Santana, 4.3

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 499 .297 .351 .513 7.4% 14.8% 119 3.9
Oscar Mercado CF 340 .281 .328 .448 5.6% 17.6% 100 1.3
Carlos Santana 1B 543 .290 .411 .548 16.9% 14.7% 146 4.3
Yasiel Puig RF 480 .258 .310 .475 6.0% 22.1% 98 1.0
Jose Ramirez 3B 528 .254 .326 .463 9.7% 13.6% 100 2.9
Jason Kipnis 2B 443 .253 .313 .410 8.1% 16.9% 84 1.1
Franmil Reyes DH 425 .238 .294 .492 7.8% 28.0% 98 0.1
Tyler Naquin LF 276 .285 .314 .469 4.0% 23.2% 97 1.1
Roberto Perez C 359 .227 .314 .455 10.9% 28.4% 95 2.1

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/1B 141 .205 .277 .315 7.1% 19.1% 53 0.1
Mike Freeman INF/OF 133 .273 .359 .436 9.8% 26.3% 108 0.7
Greg Allen OF 188 .234 .290 .380 4.3% 19.7% 71 0.2

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 53 51.0 6 4 35.4% 7.4% 3.35 3.35 1.6
Nick Wittgren 45 49.2 4 1 25.5% 5.2% 2.72 3.97 0.7
Adam Cimber 55 47.2 5 2 15.1% 7.3% 4.15 4.57 0.3

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday August 23rd - 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jakob Junis 26 150.2 8 11 21.7% 7.5% 4.78 4.57 1.5
Zach Plesac 15 81.2 6 4 18.3% 9.0% 3.53 5.13 0.4

Zach Plesac will make his 16th start of the year and fourth against the Royals. He faced them three times in July and got better each time. After a nice stretch of starts, he has struggled a bit in his last two, but he’s still posted a very solid 3.19 ERA in his seven starts since struggling against the Royals early in July. The stuff isn’t overwhelming, though he does have well above average fastball velocity, so you always expect him to fall off and it hasn’t really happened yet. His changeup has been very good, and that helps him to excel against lefties, but he hasn’t really found the perfect pitch to get righties out, which is why he’s allowed a .253/.320/.484 line against them. That’s not horrible by any stretch, but it’s worse than he is against lefties and enough that a lineup with some right-handed threats like the Royals have should be able to do some damage. Without the overwhelming strikeout stuff, a good plan of attack is to let him throw a few pitches. Opponents don’t have much luck against him early in the count anyway and he’s allowed a fine but not special .718 OPS with two strikes. A team with a good approach should be able to handle Plesac. The Royals likely aren’t that team, but they do occasionally show flashes of being that team, so maybe?

Jakob Junis almost had to pitch in the suspended game. I say almost pretty loosely because he would have been in if they needed length, but instead they lost in four batters. Junis has been pretty good since the break, as is his tradition. He’s 4-3 with a 3.45 ERA and a strikeout per inning with just 11 walks in his 44.1 innings. Maybe most amazing is that he’s allowed just about one home run per nine innings, which is great for him. He’s actually allowed just one home run this month, which either means he’s turning some sort of Hochever corner or some regression is coming. I have a bet on that, but I’ll try to stay not so pessimistic here. He’s struggled against Cleveland a bit, but in his last start there, he threw six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and just two hits allowed in a 1-0 Royals win, so that’s something to build on.

Saturday August 24th - 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Glenn Sparkman 24 105.0 3 8 13.4% 6.6% 5.40 5.57 -0.3
Mike Clevinger 13 72.1 8 2 36.5% 8.3% 3.11 2.63 2.6

Mike Clevinger has just been so impressive. In his last three big league seasons, he’s posted a 3.06 ERA with 449 strikeouts in 349 innings. He’s tough to hit, limits walks enough and gets so many swings and misses that he has a chance to be a real difference maker in the postseason. And since his first start back after his second (and much shorter) IL stint, he’s been on a crazy run, throwing 54 innings in nine starts and posting a 2.17 ERA with 74 strikeouts and just four home runs allowed. We know about the stuff from seeing him a few times over the years, but how do you beat the guy. Unlike Plesac who you can take a few pitches against, you don’t want to get too deep against Clevinger. He’s allowed a .393 average and .786 SLG on the first pitch. And when he gets ahead, he’s allowed a .147 average and .211 SLG. So if he’s throwing a first pitch strike, take a hack and hope it’ll fall in because getting deeper into the count just spells trouble. Otherwise, he doesn’t show any times through the order splits or number of pitches splits. He’s just good. It’s scary. On the bright side, Alex Gordon is a career .333/.357/.444 hitter against him in 28 plate appearances and Jorge Soler has hit .571 with a .786 SLG against him in 14 plate appearances. So there’s at least some success.

Glenn Sparkman started his last start with a rough go of it, allowing a three-run home run to the fourth batter he faced. But he didn’t give up another run in his final five innings and ended up with a quality start where he got 10 swings and misses in 81 pitches, which was good for his second best percentage of the year. It’s been an even go of things for him for a bit with a decent start against St. Louis the time before, but some rough goes of it prior to that. Those rough ones included back to back starts against Cleveland where he gave up 13 runs (12 earned) in 10.2 innings with 18 hits allowed and five home runs. He’s quieted his home run issues in August with just three allowed in four starts, but the Indians newfound power since the deadline isn’t likely to be a good matchup for him in this one.

Sunday August 25th - 12:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Danny Duffy 18 100.1 5 6 20.7% 8.3% 4.93 5.16 0.6
Shane Bieber 27 168.1 12 6 30.9% 5.1% 3.26 3.23 4.3

I don’t think I’d call Shane Bieber the Indians ace, but he’s been their most consistent starter since day one this season. He gets a ton of strikeouts, doesn’t walk many and he’s been very difficult to square up with an exit velocity allowed in the 92nd percentile and a hard hit rate allowed in the 91st percentile. He doesn’t throw hard and he doesn’t have much spin on his fastball, but he gets a ton of whiffs. Of course, that’s because his slider is fantastic. It has a 2.5 percent whiff rate and opponents are hitting just .199 against it with 65 strikeouts in 186 at bats ending on it. Against lefties, his weapon of choice is his curve, which aso doesn’t spin that much, but he’s gotten them to whiff on that on 53.5 percent of swings. The Indians must do something with their starters because he also doesn’t suffer from any times through the order penalties with a better OPS allowed each time through. That would seem to indicate you have to get him early, but he’s allowed a .685 OPS the first time through the order, so it’s basically never easy. All that said, the Royals have gotten to him this year with eight runs on 13 hits in 11 innings and six walks, so maybe they’ve got his number and can do some more damage in this one.

Danny Duffy looks to come off the IL for this one and will be making his first appearance since August 3rd when the Twins tagged him for four home runs in 4.2 innings. Before that and the start before that against these very Indians, he looked like he was starting to put together a nice stretch, having gone 2-2 with a 4.14 ERA, which is considered successful for Duffy in another rough season. At this point, it’s hard to know what to expect when Duffy is pitching fully healthy, so to have any idea where he might be when he’s coming off an injury with no rehab assignment would be nearly impossible. The best analysis for Duffy might be a giant shrug emoji, which is a big reason why I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Ian Kennedy make up a ridiculously expensive back of the bullpen in 2020.


I see no reason to believe the Royals can win a game in this series. It’s not that they definitely won’t, but predicting it is, in my mind, foolish. So I’ll say the Indians sweep this series and Twins fans curse the Royals. But when that happens, remind them that the Royals sweeping the Tigers in 2006 got them the division and that they should still be grateful for that or something.


Last three in Cleveland - how does it go?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Royals Sweep
    (2 votes)
  • 47%
    Indians Sweep
    (21 votes)
  • 11%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (5 votes)
  • 36%
    Indians Win Two of Three
    (16 votes)
44 votes total Vote Now