Friday, July 12, 2013

Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

The Royals are now 10 games into the Vern's "Gauntlet" and their record stands at 5-5. I think if on Sunday, we would have been told that we could take two from the Yankees, most of us would have happily accepted the offer. However, as it has happened many times in 2013, the Royals got off to a nice start in the series and we got greedy (can you blame us?).

After stinking up the joint on Wednesday and Thursday, the Royals leave New York for Cleveland. Obviously, it would be awesome to sweep the Tribe and head into the break at .500, but fans would also have to be happy with a series victory. 
Using the Hardball Times' xBABIP, we find that based off Kluber's numbers thus far his BABIP should at least be .335. In fact, when you start playing with the opposing number of steals that number even rises into the low .340s. Kluber's peripherals are excellent, but if he continues to give up hard contact he'll consistent perform below the expectations of his FIP and xFIP. 


Friday - Corey Kluber 6-5, 4.23 ERA

Kluber heads into tonight with what old school types would call mediocre numbers in 2013. However, looking deeper into Kluber's peripherals you'll find an excellent 4.53 K:BB ratio, which is the 11th best in all of baseball for pitchers that have thrown 80+ innings. What has hurt Kluber is his 1.13 HR/9 and a BABIP of .335, FIP and xFIP attempt remove babip fluctuations from the equation, but Kluber, like Wade Davis, has a high BABIP due to a high number of line drives being hit against him. 

Saturday - Scott Kazmir 4-4, 4.74 ERA

The former 15th overall selection by the New York Mets is making a comeback after throwing a combined 1.2 big league innings since 2010. Still a flyball pitcher, Kazmir's groundball percentage is at its highest point since 2007. This is good because his HR/FB rate is also at its highest point (not counting his 1.2 inning 2011).

Kazmir's strikeout and walk numbers are back to respectable levels, but he has been extremely hitable in 2013. Opponents are batting .268/.329/.482 against him. A closer look reveals that it is just right handers who are finding success. Righties are hitting .296/.364/.556 against him, while lefties are at .200/.240/.300. If the Indians are successful in acquiring starting pitching near the deadline, Kazmir would make an excellent weapon as a lefty specialist in the Tribe's pen. The Royals should have every righty in the lineup for Saturday's contest. 

Sunday - Ubaldo Jimenez 7-4, 4.37 ERA

Since acquiring Ubaldo in 2011, for Alex White and Drew Pomeranz the 6'5" righty has netted the Indians -0.2 bWAR. Amazingly, this is after a positive 0.6 contribution thus far in 2013. Ubaldo has posted a 5.05 ERA and a 20-25 record over three seasons with Cleveland, but during that time he has also boasted a 3.60 ERA against Kansas City.

On average, Ubaldo is averaging just over 5 innings per start. He's also allowing roughly 7.6 base runners during that time. Hopefully, Kansas City can continue to show an improved approach at the plate and can benefit from Jiminez's 4.85 BB/9.

Series Notes

Two Big Signing This offseason, the Indians pulled out all the stops for Nick Swisher and then eventually landed Michael Bourn as well. So far the two have combined for a .266/.331/.385 line and 3.5 bWAR. This probably isn't what the Indians were hoping for from two guys who combined for 9.9 bWAR a season ago. The Indians have $104 million wrapped up in these two players through 2016 and are potentially on the hook for $26 million more through vesting options in 2017.  

Hot Starts For the third straight season the Indians are off to a hot start. They're currently 48-44 and 2.5 games out with a 27.2% chance at the playoffs as judged by One year ago today they were 45-41, 3 games back with a 22.1% shot. Two years ago they were 48-42, tied for first and considered to have a 43.4% chance at October baseball. Of course, the Tribe is hoping that they can finish with more than 68 or 80 wins in 2013.

All-Stars The Indians will have two players in New York for Tuesday night's All-Star festivities: Justin Masterson and Jason Kipnis. Masterson has been solid in 2013 and holds a 3.72 ERA with a 10-7 record. Kipnis on the other hand has really experienced a breakout campaign. Worth 3.8 bWAR already this season Kipnis holds a .379 wOBA with a 144 wRC+.

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