Forget about the last series completely. The Cleveland Indians had a much needed day off yesterday after what seemed like an eternity of baseball without a break. Today, they start a quick 2-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers before another probably needed off day.
The Indians play these two interleague games at Miller Park before having a day off to travel back to Cleveland to prepare to welcome the Royals for the weekend. After that, the Tribe travels to Comerica Park for three games against the Tigers. For the Brewers, they’ll hit the road to face the Rockies for 4 games in Colorado followed by 3 games against the Diamondbacks in Arizona.
Tuesday, May 8 7:40 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Wade Miley (LHP)
Corey Kluber may very well be the best pitcher in the American League once again. He started the year with his best April to date and has continued to look dominant as the calendar flipped to May. So far in 2018, Kluber has been relentless in his excellence; in his 52.1 innings of work, Kluber has allowed just 14 earned runs while walking 9 and striking out 53 (which translates to an ERA+ of 190). His last start came on May 2 against the Texas Rangers; in that game, Kluber went 7.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 6 hits while walking no one and striking out 6. If there’s a criticism of Kluber so far in 2018, it’s that he’s giving up too many home runs. His HR/9 rating is 1.4, which would be the worst of his career. But then again, it’s hard to complain when everything else is going so, so well for the Cleveland ace.
Wade Miley is long removed from his All-Star days of 2012 when he was allowing hardly anyone to get on base. Fast forward 6 years and 4 teams and you have a 31-year-old who is making just his second major league start of the year after being sidelined by a groin injury earlier in the season. Injury or not, Wade Miley hasn’t been a good starting pitcher since 2013. Last season in Baltimore, for example, he pitched in 157.1 innings and allowed 98 earned runs while walking 93 (a career high) and striking out 142 (which translates to an ERA+ of 77). Brooks Baseball describes his cutter as “blazing fast”, but then their own velocity chart has it having an average velocity of 89.90 mph. Control seems to be an issue for Miley as all of his pitches are thrown for balls over 40% of the time. His one and only start of 2018 came on May 2 and against the Cincinnati Reds; in that game, Miley went 6.0 innings and he allowed 1 earned run on 3 hits while walking 3 and striking out 4.
Wednesday, May 9 1:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) v. Junior Guerra (RHP)
Carlos Carrasco just hasn’t looked sharp in his most recent outings. After his clunker start to begin the season, he looked fantastic and allowed just 4 earned runs across his next 4 outings. However, he then had 2 outings that were worse than the one that he started the season with. His combined pitching line for his previous 2 starts: 8.1 IP, 10 ER, 14 H, 4 BB, 11 K. Not good. His overall numbers in 2018 are buoyed by those 4 excellent starts in April; so far in 2018, Cookie has thrown in 43.1 innings and has allowed 19 earned runs while walking 10 and striking out 39 (which translates to an ERA+ of 116). As alluded to above, his most recent start was not good. On May 3 against the Blue Jays, Carrasco went just 5.1 innings and allowed 6 earned runs on 9 hits while walking 3 and striking out 7. Please be good Cookie again, Carlos.
Junior Guerra, on the other hand, has only had one bad start all season. Aside from his bad outing last time he pitched, he’s been absolutely dominant all season long. So far in 2018, Guerra has pitched in 27.0 innings and has allowed just 7 earned runs while walking 12 and striking out 25 (which translates to an ERA+ of 175). He has a four-seam that generates swings and misses and a sinker that generates ground balls, which are the two pitches that account for most of his success this year. His slider and splitter, on the other hand, are hard to control at times and wind up outside of the strike zone almost 50% of the time. Finally, remember that one bad start I mentioned earlier? It came the last time that Guerra was on the mound. On May 4 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Guerra went 5.0 innings (his shortest outing of the year) and allowed 5 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 4 and striking out 4. His ERA shot up from 0.82 before the game to 2.33 after the game. #scrub
Players to watch
- Lorenzo Cain - The former Royal is back with the team he made his debut with in 2010, and he’s on fire to start the 2018 season. Over 139 plate appearances, he’s slashing a solid .267/.381/.431 (which translates to a wRC+ of 125). One of the reasons for his offensive prowess so far is his walk rate. A career 7.1 BB% has more than doubled for Cain in 2018, who’s sporting an elite 15.8% walk rate. Additionally, his BABIP is ~40 points below his career average, so he’s got some room to improve even more as the season unfolds. He’s also tied for 6th in all of baseball in stolen bases with 8.
- Jesus Aguilar (?!) - You read that right. Yes, the very same Jesus Aguilar who barely touched the majors when a part of the Cleveland Indians organization is now destroying baseballs left and right for the Brewers. He played part time last season and did well (except for striking out 30% of the time), and he’s improved so far in 2018. Across 69 plate appearances, Aguilar is slashing .350/.406/.517 (which translates to a wRC+ of 150). With Eric Thames on the DL after a recent thumb surgery, this could be a great opportunity for Aguilar to show some real value to the Brewers, and he’s done tremendously thus far.
- Jeremy Jeffress - Jeffress was having a poor season in 2017 before getting traded back to the Milwaukee Brewers midway though the season. He ended the year on a strong note for the Brewers and has taken off in 2018. He’s appeared in 18 games for Milwaukee so far; across 18.2 innings, Jeffress has allowed 1 earned run on 9 hits. He’s walked 5 and has struck out 14 (which translates to a SSS-aided ERA+ of 852). Jeffress has a great HR/9 career rate (0.6), but he’s been even better so far this season in that he hasn’t given up a home run yet.
- Matt Albers (?!?!) - I’m just as surprised as you are. I have this memory of Matt Albers being awful during the one season he had with Cleveland, but the numbers don’t actually support that (63.0 IP, 22 ER, 23 BB, 35 K, 121 ERA+). He had a down year in 2016, but every other year since 2012 has been...pretty good for Albers. And the 35-year-old is still having a great career here in 2018. In the 16.0 innings so far, Albers has allowed just 2 earned runs while walking 3 and striking out 12 (which translates to another SSS-aided ERA+ of 366).
We all know the bullpen has been a unique kind of terrible as of late. Our own Matt Lyons detailed it very nicely here. Between positive regression and Andrew Miller coming back at some point between now and my death, the bullpen should get better. And they’re facing a Brewers team that is struggling at the plate (the team is slashing .235/.304/.380, wRC+ of 24, which is 4th worst in baseball); this would be a great opportunity for the bullpen to bounce back with some scoreless innings.
Don’t look now, but Yan Gomes is good again
Remember how Yan Gomes, in the seasons following his Silver Slugger award in 2014, has been six kinds of terrible at the plate? Well in 2018, it seems that the Yanimal has found some of his old magic and has been a consistently good presence in the Cleveland lineup. Across 92 plate appearances, Gomes is slashing .256/.337/.451 (which translates to a wRC+ of 114). He’s striking out far too much (34.8%), but he’s also walking more than usual (7.6% v. 5.2% career), which has been the calling card of Roberto Perez for the past couple of seasons.
The Indians aren’t walking
As a team last season, the Cleveland Indians were tied for third in all of baseball with a 9.7 BB%. This was thanks in large part to the ever patient presence of Carlos Santana in the lineup. This year, however, the Indians are all the way down at 23rd with a 7.9 BB%. Conversely, they are striking out way more than there were last season (23.0% in 2018, 17.3% in 2017). The interesting part is that the team isn’t seeing a drastically reduced number of pitches per plate appearance (3.90 in 2018, 3.99 in 2017). All of these numbers point to a team that is not being as patient at the plate as they need to be.
Milwaukee Brewers roster
How many games will the Indians win against the Brewers?
This poll is closed