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Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays series preview

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

After getting embarrassed by the Kansas City Royals in game 1 of the series, the Cleveland Indians bounced back and had strong games back to back in order to take the series from their division rival. Doesn’t matter which order you win the games in as long as you keep winning each series. With a series victory intact, the Indians head north of the border to take on the Toronto Blue Jays for a long, four-game series in Canada.

Looking ahead

After finishing up in Toronto, the Indians continue their tour of the AL East with a visit to Tropicana Field to take on the Tampa Bay Rays. Afterwards, the Indians will make their way back home to Cleveland to welcome in the Detroit Tigers for the final time this season. For the Blue Jays, they’ll hop down to Fenway Park for a three-game set with the Boston Red Sox before heading to New York for three games against the Yankees.

Pitching match-ups

Thursday, September 6 7:07 p.m. ET: Shane Bieber (RHP) v. Sam Gaviglio (RHP)

Shane Bieber had a tough start to September when he took the mound last time against the Tampa Bay Rays. On September 1, Bieber went 5.1 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 9 hits while walking no one and striking out 4. He looked great the first two trips through the lineup, but everything came crumbling down when the batting order turned over for the third time. His numbers this year have been a bit below average, but not bad for a rookie in his debut season; across 85.0 innings pitcher, Bieber has allowed 44 earned runs while walking 15 hitters and striking out 87 (which translates to an ERA+ of 95).

Sam Gaviglio had his first taste of the major leagues last year with both the Seattle Mariners and the Kansas City Royals (he was claimed off waivers from the Mariners by the Royals in September 2017 and then traded by the Royals to the Blue Jays in March 2018). He’s been in the minors for most of the year, but he did miss some time in June when he went on the paternity list. So far in the majors this year, Gaviglio hasn’t had a lot of success; across 100.1 innings, Gaviglio has allowed 56 earned runs while walking 31 hitters and striking out 92 (which translates to an ERA+ of 83). For a right handed pitcher, he doesn’t throw hard at all; his fastball and his sinker both top out around 89 mph, while his slider and change sit in the 83-84 mph range. His 12-6 curve (79 mph) is great for getting ground balls. His most recent start came on August 27 against the Baltimore Orioles; in that game, Gaviglio went 5.2 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 2 and striking out 2.

Friday, September 7 7:07 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) v. Marco Estrada (RHP)

Carlos Carrasco also had a rough start to September. His first start came on September 2 against the Rays and it could’ve gone better; in 6.1 innings, Cookie allowed 5 earned runs on 9 hits while walking 2 hitters and striking out 9. Despite a rough last outing, Carrasco has been good all year; across 161.0 innings, he has allowed 63 earned runs while walking 33 hitters and striking out 187 (which translates to an ERA+ of 125).

Marco Estrada is now in his fourth season with the Blue Jays and he does not look good anymore. Across 124.1 innings so far this season, Estrada has allowed 75 earned runs while walking 43 hitters and striking out 90 (which translates to an ERA+ of 77). Brooks Baseball describes his fastball (89 mph) as something that “explodes on the hitter”, so I’m assuming he has a deceptive delivery to make the ball seem quicker than it actually is. He has a very slow change and curve (77 mph) that get flyballs and groundballs, respectively, and he rounds out the repertoire with a flyball-inducing cutter (86 mph). His most recent start came on September 1 against the Miami Marlins; in that game, Estrada went 4.1 innings and allowed 6 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 3 hitters and striking out 1.

Saturday, September 8 4:07 p.m. ET: Adam Plutko (RHP) v. Sean Reid-Foley (RHP)

Adam Plutko has also had a tough go of it this year in the majors, but for a depth starter, he’s been serviceable. After all, it’s very hard to lose a top-tier, Cy Young caliber starter and get anything close to that level of production from your depth starters. Across 64.1 innings this season, Plutko has allowed 36 earned runs while walking 19 hitters and striking out 52 (which translates to an ERA+ of 88). His most recent start came on September 3 against the Kansas City Royals; in that game, Plutko went 6.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits while walking no one and striking out 8.

Another young starter for the Blue Jays, Sean Reid-Foley made his MLB debut earlier this season on August 13 against the Royals. He went 5.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs while walking 3 and striking out 3. He’s made two starts since, with his most recent coming on September 2 against the Miami Marlins; in that game, Reid-Foley went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 4 hits while walking 1 hitter and striking out 10. Easily the best start of his major league career. He’s got a good fastball (94 mph) that can get hitters to swing and miss or hit a flyball with a relatively high frequency. He also mixes in a slider (84 mph), a change (85 mph), and a curve (82 mph) that can also yield flyballs. Overall this season, Sean has allowed 10 earned runs in 16.1 innings of work while walking 7 hitters and striking out 19 (which translates to a SSS-influenced ERA+ of 78).

Sunday, September 9 1:07 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) v. Thomas Pannone (LHP)

One pitcher who has not struggled since the calendar flipped to September is Mike Clevinger. In his last start on September 4 against the Royals, Sunshine went 6.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 3 hits while walking 1 and striking out 10. He’s eclipsed his last season innings total by a little over 50 innings. In 2018, across 176.1 innings of work, Clevinger has allowed 61 earned runs while walking 57 hitters and striking out 182 (which translates to an ERA+ of 141).

FanGraphs is of the opinion that Thomas Pannone, and not the formidable TBD (as reported by MLB.com), will be the starter for the Blue Jays in the series finale. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the Cleveland Indians drafted Pannone in the 9th round of the 2013 MLB draft. He made it up to Akron with the Indians organization before being traded last season for Joe Smith. After making his way through the Blue Jays organization, he finally made his MLB debut this season on August 10 against the Rays. He pitched out of the bullpen that day and gave up 2 earned runs in 1.2 innings of work, but he made it. He’s primarily been a bullpen arm for the Blue Jays, but he did make two starts (both against Baltimore) at the end of August. One went well (7.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 K) and the other went horribly wrong (3.1 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 0 K). All of his pitches are slow, according to Brooks Baseball. His fastball (89 mph), change (83 mph), and curve (72 mph), despite their depressed velocities, can generate whiffs, groundballs, and flyballs respectively.

Players to watch

  • Justin Smoak - Smoak has put together a couple of nice seasons for the Blue Jays, and this year he’s one of the best hitters on the team. Overall this season, across 539 plate appearances, Smoak is hitting .249/.356/.469 (which translates to a wRC+ of 126). He’s led his team this year in home runs (23), RBIs (71), walks (75) and OBP (.356), so if he’s not driving runners in, he’s setting the table for the hitters behind him.
  • Kendrys Morales - The 35-year-old former first baseman has been relegated primarily to DH duties for the past several seasons, but he’s still a productive member in the Blue Jays’ lineup despite not being effective in the field. In 425 plate appearances this year, Morales is hitting .261/.341/.468 (which translates to a wRC+ of 118). He’s got the highest batting average (.261) on the team, so expect him to keep the line moving for other hitters in the lineup when he steps up to the plate.
  • Ryan Tepera - Tepera has put together a good year for the Blue Jays. In 58.1 innings, he’s allowed 23 earned runs while walking 21 hitters and striking out 57 (which translates to an ERA+ of 118). He has a great LOB% at 78.9%, and he succeeds using a fiery fastball (96 mph) supplemented by a volatile cutter (90 mph) and a sinker (96 mph) that doesn’t really sink but still gets hitters to swing and miss. He can also pepper in a slider (84 mph) to change things up.
  • Tyler Clippard - Clippard has bounced around from team to team for the past few seasons, but he’s settled in for the Blue Jays this year and has pitched well. Across 61.1 innings, Clippard has allowed 26 earned runs while walking 19 hitters and striking out 73 (which translates to an ERA+ of 110). He’s incredible at stranding runners with a LOB% of 81.5%. He’s got a good fastball (92 mph) and slider (84 mph) that both generate swings and misses, whereas his change (79 mph) and splitter (83 mph) can get flyballs.

Toronto Blue Jays roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Blue Jays?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    4
    (14 votes)
  • 59%
    3
    (77 votes)
  • 24%
    2
    (32 votes)
  • 1%
    1
    (2 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (4 votes)
129 votes total Vote Now