Welcome to the second half of the season! The Cleveland Indians finished the first half with a healthy lead in the AL Central. Just before this new series of games kicked off, the team made a blockbuster trade that netted them two really good bullpen arms, which immediately fixes the biggest problem on the team for years to come. With reinforcements in hand, the Tribe opens up the second half against a struggling Texas Rangers team.
After finishing up in Texas, the Indians travel back home to welcome in the Pittsburgh Pirates for three games before heading to Comerica Park to take on Detroit next weekend for three games. The Rangers, on the other hand, will stay home and welcome in the Oakland Athletics for a four-game series before heading south to Minute Maid Park to face the Houston Astros for three games.
Friday, July 20 8:05 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) v. Martin Perez (LHP)
Trevor Bauer is in the middle of his best season to date, and his amazing first half led to his first ever All-Star Game appearance. He didn’t end up pitching since he had just pitched two days prior, but his inclusion on the team was well deserved. For the first half of this season, Bauer has pitched in 136.1 innings and allowed 34 earned runs while walking 42 and striking out 175 (which translates to an ERA+ of 198). His last start before the break came on July 15 against the New York Yankees; in that game, Bauer went 7.0 innings and allowed just 2 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 1 and striking out 7. You have to go all the way back to May 27 to get to the last game in which Bauer gave up more than three earned runs.
Martin Perez put up his best season in 2013. Since then, he’s been at best slightly above average and at worst slightly below average. This year, however, he’s pitched very few innings due to a lengthy DL stint. He had surgery on his non-pitching elbow previously and discomfort in that elbow sidelined him on April 30 and he wasn’t able to return until mid-July just before the break. In his 29.1 innings of work this year, Perez has allowed 25 earned runs while walking 14 and striking out 17 (which translates to an ERA+ of 61). He’s got a decent sinker (92 mph) and change up (83 mph) that can both get ground balls, while his fastball (91 mph) and curve (76 mph) induce fly balls. His last start before the break came on July 14 against the Baltimore Orioles. In that game, Perez went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4.
Saturday, July 21 8:05 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) v. Bartolo Colon (RHP)
Carlos Carrasco has dealt with injuries of his own this season and has been trying to bounce back ever since returning to the fold on July 6. He made two starts and one relief appearance after his injury before the recent break (he got three wins, though. Stats are weird). On the whole, Carrasco has had a down year; in 102.2 innings of work, Carrasco has allowed 47 earned runs while walking 23 and striking out 112 (which translates to an ERA+ of 108). He had a relief appearance on July 15 just before the All-Star break, but his most recent start came on July 11 against the Cincinnati Reds. In that game, Cookie went 5.0 innings and gave up 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out 7.
Everyone’s favorite pitcher-turned-meme Bartolo Colon continues to pitch into his mid-40s with some level of success. In his age 45 season, Colon has thrown 106.2 innings and has allowed 55 earned runs while walking 17 and striking out 62 (which translates to an ERA+ of exactly 100). Brooks Baseball describes Colon’s primary pitch, his sinker, like so: “His sinker is so slow that it is substantially gravitational, generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has slight armside run and has some natural sinking action.” Basically, all of his pitches are on the lower end of the velocity scale (hence the low number of strikeouts). His pitches aren’t fast, they don’t have the same movement that they used to (except for his “rising” cutter), and yet he still manages to pass as an average MLB starter. His most recent start came on July 11 against the Boston Red Sox; in that game, Colon went 6.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 9 hits while walking 2 and striking out 3.
Sunday, July 22 3:05 p,m, ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) v. Cole Hamels (LHP)
In my last preview before the break, I said that Mike Clevinger could surpass his 2017 innings total if he went six innings in his last start. Well, he went six innings and has hit a new career high in innings pitched in a single season. So far this year, Clevinger has pitched in 122.0 innings and has allowed 47 earned runs while walking 40 and striking out 118 (which translates to an ERA+ of 128). His last start before the break came on July 14 against the Yankees; in that game, Clevinger went 6.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8.
Cole Hamels is a far cry from the years when he was garnering some Cy Young votes, but he’s still pitching well for the Rangers this season. In 109.1 innings of work so far in 2018, Hamels has allowed 53 earned runs while walking 40 and striking out 109 (which translates to an ERA+ of 106). His fastball (92 mph) and curve (79 mph) can get hitters to pop up, while his cutter (88 mph) and change (83 mph) can fool hitters and get them to swing and miss. His most recent start before the break came on July 13 against the Orioles; in that game, Hamels went 6.1 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out 3.
Players to watch
- Shin-Soo Choo: The 35-year-old LGFT member has had a bounce back year after two seasons of just above average play. It’s resulted in one of his best seasons to date and his first All-Star Game selection. His first half was fantastic; in 416 plate appearances, Choo slashed .293/.405/.506 (which translates to a wRC+ of 148). He leads his team in hits (102) and walks (62), so expect Choo to find his way on base one way or another.
- Nomar Mazara: The 23-year-old has continued to improve every year since his debut in 2016, and he’s having his best season to date this year as the starting right fielder for the Rangers. Across 388 plate appearances this year, Mazara is slashing .272/.332/.450 (which translates to a wRC+ of 109). He leads the Rangers in RBIs (58), so expect him to move runners around if he comes to the plate with men on base.
- Jose Leclerc - The 23-year-old was stellar out of the gate in 2016 when he made his debut. He came back to earth a bit last season and has taken off again as one of the best relievers in the Texas ‘pen. This season, Leclerc has pitched in 33.0 innings and has allowed just 8 earned runs while walking 18 and striking out 48 (which translates to an ERA+ of 213). His splitter (81 mph) and fastball (95 mph) pair extremely well together, and the combination of velocity difference and movement allows him to get a lot of batters to swing and miss. He’s also stranding over 75% of runners, so expect him to come in and close the door in a tight spot.
- Jake Diekman - Diekman has had very similar stats to Texas closer Keone Kela, but the difference is that he’s stranding far more runners (77.8% as opposed to Kela’s 70.6%) when he pitches. So far this season, Diekman has thrown 33.2 innings and has allowed 12 earned runs while walking 19 and striking out 41 (which translates to an ERA+ of 145). He’s a two-pitch pitcher: sinker (95 mph) and slider (83 mph). His sinker works well to get hitters to swing and miss and his slider has some compact movement.
How will Brad Hand and Adam Cimber do?
Hand and Cimber will be with the Tribe to begin the second half of the season, and the expectation is that they will provide much needed depth to a struggling Cleveland bullpen. The expectation shouldn’t be that they are Andrew Miller 2.0 and 3.0, but they should be able to give Tito some options late in games so that he doesn’t have to run the rotation’s arms into the ground.
Will the Indians make another trade before leaving Texas?
After just giving up Francisco Mejia in the Hand/Cimber trade, the Indians are still in a position to pick up some help in the outfield. The problem is that the available outfielders are not great options, and definitely not for any significant prospects. One of the most intriguing targets is actually playing against the Indians this weekend, and that’s Shin-Soo Choo. Could he leave town with Cleveland?
Texas Rangers roster
How many games will the Indians win against the Rangers?
This poll is closed