A lot of the baseball season is exciting, but every once in a while we have to slog through these series that have no interesting storylines or implications between the two teams playing. Can we just move on to another more interesting series already?
Okay, that's a lie. This series is one that most Cleveland Indians fans have had marked on their calendars the moment Jonathan Lucroy said 'no thanks' to a trade that nearly brought him over from the Milwaukee Brewers, but instead landed him with the Texas Rangers. Instead of effectively replacing Yan Gomes behind the dish in Cleveland, Lucroy has hit a bunch of home runs in Texas.
Neither team is coming into this series exactly on fire. The Indians just lost a series to the lowly Oakland Athletics, and the Rangers lost one to the Tampa Bay Rays and split a two-game series with the Cincinnati Reds.
Weather could be an issue in this series, or at least an annoyance, as rain is expected to be in the area every day throughout the weekend.
Thursday, 8:05 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Cole Hamels (LHP)
The Rangers traded for Cole Hamels at the deadline last season, when they did not appear to be a team in contention for the 2015 playoffs. Being that Hamels was under contract until at least 2018, it was thought to be a move for future contending. However, last year's Rangers went on a tear to win the American League West. A big part of their surge was, in fact, Cole Hamels.
This season, Hamels is maybe a bit lucky -- with a 4.00 FIP and an 83.7 percent strand rate -- but he carries a 2.80 ERA over 25 starts. He is walking more batters than he ever has in his career, 3.42 per nine innings, and striking out fewer batters than he did last season, 8.91 per nine. Hamels' last start was one of his best -- a 7.1-inning win against the Rays in which he struck out 10 and walked two.
On the Indians side of things... are we already back around to Tomlin already? It seems like just yesterday he was getting shelled by the Toronto Blue Jays. Boy, time flies. I'm hoping for the best for the little cowboy, but I am not expecting it. Coming into tonight, Tomlin is allowing two home runs per nine inning, which is high even by his standards. His ERA (4.39) has finally caught up to his FIP (5.11), and it has happened all at once. On the plus side, he is still only walking three percent of the batters he faces, which would be the best mark of his career over a full season.
Friday, 8:05 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Martin Perez (LHP)
At 25 years old and entering his fifth season with the Rangers, it does not seem like Martin Perez is going to evolve past much more than a third or fourth starter. He has a 4.27 ERA this season with a 4.61 FIP in 26 starts this season. Perez has never been much of a strikeout pitcher, but he is striking out just 12 percent of the batters he faces this season, down from his already-low 14.2 percent career mark.
In Perez's last outing, he allowed six earned runs in six innings of work, striking out five and walking three against the Rays.
Corey Kluber, on the other hand, has been great. Another good start or two should put his ERA into the magic sub-3.00 range that attracts Cy Young votes. He currently has a 3.13 ERA and a 3.08 FIP. Kluber is walking batters a bit more often than he has in the past (6.2%), but he is also striking out a quarter of his opponents. Kluber had a 6.2-inning gem in his last outing against the Blue Jays, striking out eight and allowing two earned runs off of six runs.
Saturday, 8:05 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. A.J. Griffin (RHP)
The Rangers brought AJ Griffin on board with a minor-league deal this offseason, and he has since emerged as their fifth starter. The former Oakland Athletics right-hander carries a 4.68 ERA and a 5.41 over his 17 starts for Texas this season. He started the season looking great, with a 3.06 ERA over his first nine starts, but a few rocky outings have diminished a bit of that shine. His last start came against the Rays, in which he allowed three earned runs off of seven hits.
Carlos Carrasco provided us with the one win in the series against the A's, and he appears to be back to his normal self after his last few starts. His lasting outing was an eight-inning shutout, and prior to that he struck out 11 Chicago White Sox batters.
Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. Derek Holland (LHP)
The final pitcher the Indians will face in this series, the third lefty, will be Derek Holland. The 29-year-old as seemingly never fully recovered from an injury-shortened 2014 season, and he has a 4.92 ERA this season, along with a 4.61 FIP. His strikeouts are down to a career-low 14.2 percent, and he is walking 7.7 percent of the batters he faces, which would be one of the worst marks of his career.
As for Danny Salazar... please just be okay. If he wants to kick it into high gear starting against the Rangers, I will absolutely forgive his last few bad starts. Deal?
Team in a box
Looking at their American League rankings, the Rangers certainly do not seem like a team jockeying for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They hit for power, as you'd expect, but they don't get on base particularly well and they don't even score that much. On top of that, their pitching staff is mediocre to bad, depending on what day you are facing them. So, what gives?
The Rangers have far-and-away the highest "Clutch" rating, according to FanGraphs. Their 5.76 is tops in the American League, with the next closest being the Oakland Athletics (???) at 1.42. They also have the second-highest win probability added at 7.94, behind only the Boston Red Sox.
For a more tangible look at their clutchinessosityness, they have a .277 average with runners in scoring position, fourth in the American League and they have only hit into 92 double plays, third-lowest in the AL.
Winning purely based on clutch is hardly sustainable, so maybe the wheels start to fall off against the Indians. We can only hope.
Texas Rangers roster
- C: Jonathan Lucroy
- 1B: Mitch Moreland
- 2B: Rougned Odor
- SS: Elvis Andrus
- 3B: Adrian Beltre
- LF: Jurickson Profar
- CF: Ian Desmond
- RF: Nomar Mazara
- DH: Carlos Beltran
- C: Robinson Chirinos
- OF: Delino DeShields
- OF: Ryan Rua
- OF: Drew Stubbs
Jonathan Lucroy came out of the trade deadline looking like an absolute steal for the Rangers, but he has cooled off considerably. Since August 13, the 30-year-old catcher has gone 4-for-32, slashing .148/.281/.333 with one home run for the Rangers.
On the other hand, Ian Desmond has been a steal for the Rangers, who signed him to an extremely cheap deal in the offseason as a center fielder, instead of the shortstop he spent much of his career playing at. He is slashing .290/.338/.473 for the Rangers this season, while playing excellent defense in the outfield. He may not reach the $100 million contract he turned down from the Washington Nationals, but he should be in line for a big pay day this offseason.
- LHP: Cole Hamels
- LHP: Martin Perez
- LHP: Derek Holland
- RHP: Yu Darvish
- RHP: AJ Griffin
- RHP: Tony Barnette
- RHP: Matt Bush
- LHP: Alex Claudio
- LHP: Jake Diekman
- RHP: Sam Dyson
- RHP: Jeremy Jeffress
- RHP: Keone Kela
Yu Darvish is finally back and looking healthy, which is good for Texas and bad for everyone. Yu has a 2.91 ERA in 11 starts this season and is already second among Rangers pitchers with a 1.5 FanGraphs WAR. First, of course, is Cole Hamels at 2.4 fWAR.