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Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals series preview

Back to the AL Central for some quality baseball (hopefully)

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

After playing something like 19 games in a row without an off day, two off days in the same week feels odd. Thankfully, the Indians are back at Progressive Field this weekend to open up a new series against the Kansas City Royals. And today is the first Dollar Dog Night of the year, what more could you ask for?

Looking ahead

The Indians will play the Royals for three games this weekend. After that, they’ll make their way to Comerica Park for a three game set with the Detroit Tigers before flying out west for three games against the Houston Astros. The Royals will finish up the weekend in Cleveland and then will head back home to welcome in the Tampa Bay Rays for 3 games followed by the New York Yankees for 3 games.

Pitching matchups

Friday, May 11 7:10 p.m. ET: Jason Hammel (RHP) v. Trevor Bauer (RHP)

Jason Hammel has really only had 2 bad starts all season, but they were both horrendous. All of his other starts in 2018 have been decent to great, including his complete game against the Tigers on April 20. Overall, he’s been under-performing this season; in 43.1 innings, Hammel has allowed 23 earned runs while walking 13 and striking out 24 (which translates to an ERA+ of 92). His sinker and slider are okay, but he’ll really rely on his four-seam and his change to get some fly ball outs, so watch for the launch angle revolution to come back and bite Cleveland in the butt this weekend. Hammel’s most recent start came on May 5 against the Detroit Tigers; in that game, he went 6.2 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 10 hits while walking 1 and striking out 5.

Trevor Bauer continues to have his best year to date. The hits and home runs are down, the strikeouts are up, and the walks are about the same. When you put it all together, you’ve got a pitcher who would potentially be the ace if he were on a team that did not also consist of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. So far in 2018, Bauer has thrown 46.1 innings and has allowed 13 earned runs while walking 19 and striking out 54 (which translates to an ERA+ of 183). His most recent start came on May 5 against the New York Yankees; in that game, Bauer went 6.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 2 hits while walking 3 and striking out 8.

Saturday, May 12 4:10 p.m. ET: Jakob Junis (RHP) v. Mike Clevinger (RHP)

Jakob Junis made his MLB debut last season and pitched pretty well for a 24-year-old rookie. He made 16 starts and ended the season with an ERA+ of 104. This season, he’s leading the Royals in BWAR (1.3) and has been the only above average starter for Kansas City. So far, Junis has thrown 45.1 innings and has allowed 16 earned runs while walking 9 and striking out 38 (which translates to an ERA+ of 138). Junis has a fantastic slider that will either get hitters to swing and miss or weakly pop up, so watch for him to pair that with his four-seam or sinker, both which have decent vertical movement His most recent start came on May 6 against the Detroit Tigers; in that game, Junis went 7.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8.

Mike Clevinger is the real deal. His ERA and FIP are almost identical (2,76 v. 2.94) and all of his peripherals except his K/9 numbers are as good or better than what he’s shown so far in his major league career. He makes up the 2A-B pairing with Trevor Bauer to follow the 1A-B pairing of Kluber/Carrasco, and we’re all spoiled. Clevinger is having a fantastic year thus far; in 45.2 innings, he’s allowed 14 earned runs while walking 14 and striking out 39 (which translates to an ERA+ of 167). His most recent start came on May 6 against the New York Yankees; in that game, Clevinger went 7.1 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 1 hit while walking 4 and striking out 10. We don’t need to go into what happened after Clevinger left that game.

Sunday, May 13 1:10 p.m. ET: Danny Duffy (LHP) v. Corey Kluber (RHP)

Danny Duffy’s best year was in 2014 and he’s been trying to get back to that level ever since to no avail. If 2018 is any indication, his days as an above-average MLB starter may be over. This season, Duffy has thrown 43.2 innings and has allowed 25 earned runs while walking 17 and striking out 39 (which translates to an ERA+ of 85). His offspeed stuff can still move, however, so he can still fool some batters every now and then. His four-seam and his sinker are both thrown hard, but do little in terms of movement or deception. His most recent start came on May 8 against the Baltimore Orioles; in that game, Duffy went 5.1 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 6 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5.

Corey Kluber still may be the best dang pitcher in the AL. He’s sure looked like it so far this season. All of his numbers have basically gotten even more elite than they were a year ago...except his HR/9. Kluber currently holds a HR/9 of 1.5; to put that into perspective, Josh Tomlin has a career HR/9 of 1.6 (we don’t need to talk about what it currently is). The one blemish for Kluber this year is his inability to keep the ball in the park like we’ve seen him do in previous seasons. This may be attributed to him striking out fewer batters than we’re used to (8.8 K/9 v. 9.9 K/9 career). Otherwise, Kluber is doing everything he can to nab his third AL Cy Young award. In the 58.1 innings he’s thrown this season, Kluber has allowed 17 earned runs while walking 10 and striking out 57 (which translates to an ERA+ of 176). His most recent start came on May 8 against the Milwaukee Brewers; in that game, Kluber went 6.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits (2 of which left the yard) while walking 1 and striking out 4. This game prompted a neat fact from Jason Lukehart:

Players to watch

  • Jorge Soler - Soler has figured out something because he is suddenly mashing baseballs left and right in 2018. His career slugging percentage is .429; in 2018, it’s skyrocketed to .543. His overall line has been just as impressive as he’s slashed .328/.437/.543 across 142 plate appearances (which translates to a wRC+ of 164). He’s doing everything you would expect of someone having a career year; he’s walking more, he’s striking out less, and he’s traded soft and medium contact for hard contact. All things point to Soler being an offensive force for the Royals this season.
  • Mike Moustakas - Remember when Mike Moustakas declined a 1-year/$17.4 million dollar offer from the Royals only then to agree a few months later to a 1-year/$6.5 million dollar offer from the Royals? Moustakas must because he’s hitting like a man on a mission. Across 159 plate appearances this season, Moustakas has a slash line of .291/.327/.561 (which translates to a wRC+ of 131). After hitting a career-best 38 home runs in 2017, Moose already has 10 in just over a quarter of the plate appearances.
  • Kelvin Herrera - After having somewhat of a “down” year in 2017, Herrera is back to his dominant self in 2018. The flame-throwing righty has appeared in 15 games so far and has allowed just 1 earned run over 13.2 innings while walking no one and striking out 14 (a silly SSS-aided ERA+ of 680). That lone run was on his one home run he’s given up this season; in 2018, if you aren’t hitting the ball out of the park, you aren’t scoring on Kelvin Herrera (so far).
  • Brad Keller - Keller made his MLB debut on March 29 of this year. He pitched a clean inning against the Chicago White Sox and got a strikeout. When Keller entered that game, the Royals trailed 8-4, but they were still within striking distance to get the win. Keller left after the sixth and the rest of the bullpen gave up 6 more runs, but Keller did his job. So far this season, Keller has been doing his job. In 13.1 innings, Keller has allowed just 4 earned runs on 14 hits while walking 3 and striking out 6 (which translates to an ERA+ of 166). He doesn’t strike hardly anyone out, but he also won’t really walk anyone either. He throws hard, with his four-seam and sinker both being in the mid-90s, his changeup touching the low-90s, and his slider sitting in the upper-80s. Don’t be surprised if this rookie comes out and baffles some Cleveland hitters.


You there, Andrew Miller?

As of this writing, Andrew Miller has not been activated for this series despite it being reported that he may be. The bullpen has had significant rest this week, so I’m not overly concerned if Miller needs the weekend off, but I would like him to come back so I can start writing about how dominant he is once again.

BABIP hates Cleveland

Brandon Guyer, Roberto Perez, Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez. All of these players have one thing in common: their BABIP numbers are all significantly lower than what they normally put up. BABIP doesn’t tell the whole story, obviously, but when everything you hit is finding glove, it’s hard to get on base. As these numbers start to regress a bit, expect these guys to start busting out of slumps and hitting like we know they can.

Who is Tyler Naquin really?

Way back in 2016 when Naquin made his debut, he was the electric rookie that had a gigantic hole in his swing but no one really figured it out, allowing him to put up a fantastic rookie campaign highlighted by his inside-the-park-walk-off-home-run. In 2017, he had hardly any playing time in Cleveland (40 plate appearances) and the playing time he did have was dreadful. Now, in 2018, he’s back to getting semi-regular playing time in Cleveland and he’s off to a solid start. His walks are way down, but his strikeouts are also slightly down. He’s slashing .329/.364/.438 (which translates to a wRC+ of 115), but his BABIP is buoyed a bit at .440. The truth is, with fewer than a full season’s worth of plate appearances, we really don’t know who the real Tyler Naquin is. As of right now, however, he’s a 27-year-old who’s playing really good baseball, so enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

Kansas City Royals roster



How many games will the Indians win against the Royals?

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  • 48%
    (38 votes)
  • 42%
    (33 votes)
  • 7%
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    (1 vote)
78 votes total Vote Now