I feel like we are the point of the season where we can declare teams bad, right? If we are far enough along to say that the Cleveland Indians are definitely in a fight for the playoffs, I think we can declare teams like the Los Angeles Angels completely out of it, being a full 18 games back of the division-leading Texas Rangers, even if they still technically have a chance with some kind of Olympic-level mathematics.
So, with that in mind, can the Indians beat a bad team? They cannot seem to beat the Minnesota Twins, but they have had no issues with other bad teams this season. The Detroit Tigers are finally slowing down and have allowed the Indians to maintain a 3.5-game lead in the American League Central, but a sweep of the Angels would go along way towards making us all a little bit less on-edge over the next couple months. On the other side, getting swept in a four-game series would be a disaster, both for the Indians and the @LetsGoTribe mentions on Twitter.
The good news is this is a home series for the Tribe, but the weather does not look great. According to our old pal The Google, there is roughly a 37 percent chance of rain at game time tonight and the odds only get worse on Friday and Saturday.
Thursday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (RHP)
The Angels acquired Jhoulys Chacin earlier this season, because... I don't know, reasons. The 28-year-old starter has a 5.22 ERA since joining his new team, which includes 10 starts and eight appearances out of the bullpen. Chacin has not started a game since July 1 when he allowed five earned runs off of 12 hits in 4.2 innings. His last relief appearance was a scoreless inning of baseball against the Seattle Mariners.
Despite catching the ire of Indians fans who did not know that fielding independant pitching and wins above replacement were a thing, Kluber's high earned run average at the beginning of the season predictably plummeted, as he continues to dominate batters start after start. Kluber seesawed between good and less-than-good in the early parts of the season, but he now has five straight starts of seven innings or more in which he has allowed three or fewer runs. In those starts, he has also struck out seven batters and walked three or fewer.
Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Tyler Skaggs (LHP)
After missing most of 2014 and all of 2015 following Tommy John surgery, Tyler Skaggs has returned to the Angels as a great pitcher in his first few outings. He carries a 2.04 ERA and a 3.69 FIP in his three starts since returning, including a 23.0 percent strikeout rate, which would be a career-high, and an 8.1 percent walk rate, which would be the second-lowest of his career in any season. Granted this is all only over three starts, but Steamer has some confidence in his being a pitcher who can keep his earned run average under 4.00 for the remainder of the season -- 3.10, to be exact. ZiPS, on the other hand, slaps him with some hard regression, with an ERA of 4.15 over the rest of the season.
With all that said, Skagg's last outing was not great. It was his first allowing any runs in a game, and he allowed four against the Mariners, including two home runs. He also only struck out four that game and walked three.
The Carlos Carrasco comeback tour began last week in New York when he kept the New York Yankees to three earned runs over seven innings, striking out nine of them in the process. Hopefully, he can continue it against the Angels, because the Indians could really use two strong outings in a row from someone other than Corey Kluber.
Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) vs. Matt Shoemaker (RHP)
Matt Shoemaker has been a constant presence in the Angels rotation over the last three seasons, but it hasn't always been a good presence. Last year, in particular, he finished with a 4.46 ERA and a 4.59 FIP while allowing a ton of home runs. His dinger issue appears to be a little better this season, and his ERA has dropped to 4.07 in 22 starts. His FIP is also at a respectable 3.51 thanks to a Josh Tomlin-esque 4.8 percent walk rate and a 21.9 percent strikeout rate.
In his last two starts, Shoemaker has combined to throw 14 innings and allowed just five runs off of 13 hits.
Mike Clevinger had his best statistical start as a major-leaguer against the Twins in his last start, even if it wasn't exactly his sharpest outing. The 25-year-old rookie's control was all over the place on August 4, but he kept the Yankees to two earned runs over 4.1 innings, striking out three and walking four. If he can get back the control he had through most of his first couple starts, but avoid the one or two disaster innings, he could begin to live up to the hype.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET: TBD vs. Jered Weaver (RHP)
The Indians rotation is a bit out of order thanks to Clevinger's last start bumping everyone back a day, but this should be Trevor Bauer's spot, although nothing official has been announced. Bauer's last outing against the Washington Nationals was brilliant -- he threw 6.1 shutout innings while striking out four and allowing just four hits.
Jered Weaver's fall from grace has been dramatic and slow. The pitcher who was, at one point, worth 11.6 FanGraphs WAR over two seasons is having a career-worst season with the Angels in 2016. Weaver's 5.19 ERA and 5.52 FIP would both be the worst marks of any season in his career, as would his 12.1 percent strikeout rate. His 6.3 percent walk rate is lower than some of his younger seasons, however.
Team in a box
The Angels have a very clear weakness this season. Take a break and see if you can find it.
Yeah, their pitching is atrocious. Even with the third-best defense in terms of defensive runs saved (17), the Angels staff walks way too many batters, allows too many home runs, and they can't seem to strike anyone out. Angels starting pitching has been particularly bad; they rank last in the AL in FanGraphs WAR at 3.0.
Los Angeles Angels Roster
- C: Geovany Soto
- 1B: Jefry Marte
- 2B: Johnny Giavotella
- SS: Andrelton Simmons
- 3B: Yunel Escobar
- LF: Ji-Man Choi
- CF: Mike Trout
- RF: Kole Calhoun
- DH: Albert Pujols
- C: Jeff Bandy
- INF: Cliff Pennington
- INF: Gregorio Petit
- OF: Shane Robinson
Don't quote me on this, but that Mike Trout guy could be pretty good. While he has been his typical otherworldly level of good (.312/.422/.546, 21 HR, 6.5 fWAR), Kole Calhoun has been good on a mortal level. He is slashing .276/.353/.418 for a wRC+ of 115, which is tops on the Angels among batters with at least 100 plate appearances and with a last name that is not a type of fish.
- RHP: Jered Weaver
- LHP: Tyler Skaggs
- RHP: Ricky Nolasco
- RHP: Matt Shoemaker
- RHP: Jhoulys Chacin
- RHP: AJ Archer
- LHP: Jose Alvarez
- RHP: Mike Morin
- RHP: Deolis Guerra
- RHP: JC Ramirez
- RHP: Fernando Salas
- RHP: Jose Valdez
As previously mentioned, this staff is not very good. Shoemaker is the only one worth more than 1.0 fWAR, with the next closest being reliever Cam Bedrosian at 0.9.