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Series Preview: Cleveland Indians @ Miami Marlins

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Time for silly NL baseball for a couple of days

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

All told, the Houston series was one of the most competitive, entertaining set of games so far this season. Sure the Indians split the four-game set with the Astros, but every game was competitive and the Indians could have won the series outright had a couple of things broke the other way. But regardless, the Indians looked good against a tough team. Now, they’ll have two games against a decidedly worse team in the Miami Marlins. The Tribe just faced the Marlins recently; the main difference this time around is that the Marlins get home field advantage and the Indians have to send their pitchers to the plate.

Team in a box

2019 Miami Marlins

Record 8-20
Record 8-20
Runs Scored 78
Runs Allowed 136
Run Differential -58
Streak L3
AVG .227
OBP .284
SLG .335
OPS .619
wRC+ 69
K/9 9.33
BB/9 3.61

Last week, I said that the Marlins were an average pitching team with awful offense. Not much has changed in a week. If anything, the offense has gotten worse; they are dead last in the league in terms of wRC+. The Indians aren’t faring much better at #28. So expect a couple of low scoring affairs dominated by pitching. Some would call that boring. I call that baseball.

Projected starters

Tuesday, April 30 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Sandy Alcántara (v. Trevor Bauer)

Sandy Alcántara will make his second start against the Tribe this year, and it conveniently comes after his first start against the Tribe just a week ago. Alcántara did everything he could to keep his team in the game last week on April 24; in that game, Alcántara went 5.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 4 hits while walking 4 and striking out 2. His bullpen came in and melted in the ninth. In case you forgot, Alcántara throws hard; sinker (96 mph), fourseam (96 mph), and change (89 mph) all come in hot and can prove to be troublesome for hitters if he’s attacking the zone.

Wednesday, May 1 7:10 p.m. ET: LHP Caleb Smith (v. Corey Kluber)

The Indians were fortunate to miss Caleb Smith during the last series. They won’t be so fortunate this time around. As the calendar flips to May, the Tribe will face off against one of the toughest left handed pitchers in baseball right now. Smith is in his second season with the Marlins (his first year in the majors was with the Yankees) and he’s become an absolute force in the Miami rotation. His strikeouts are up (11.48 K/9), his walks and home runs are down (2.17 BB/9 and 0.93 HR/9). Across his 29.0 innings this year, Smith has allowed 7 earned runs while walking 7 and striking out 37 (ERA+ 182). He does it with only three pitches. His fourseam (93 mph) and his change (83 mph) both generate a lot of whiffs, whereas his slider (84 mph) gets a good amount of flyballs. And holy crap are all three pitches good:

Yikes. His most recent start came on April 25 against the Philadelphia Phillies; in that game, Smith went 6.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 3 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8.

Lineup highlights

Since we last saw the Marlins, like I said above, their offense has gotten worse. Two of the three players I featured last time (Miguel Rojas and Martin Prado) have fallen off a bit and are now below average bats. Catcher Jorge Alfaro is still hitting extremely well (.297/.342/.500, wRC+ 127) and is clearly the engine of the Miami offense right now.

  • C Chad Wallach - It’s sad that one of the other top hitters on the Marlins is the backup catcher to the starting catcher, who also is hitting well. Managers wouldn’t do this because they like to keep their backup catcher available in case of an emergency, but wouldn’t it be neat if the Marlins had some way that they could get a good hitter in the lineup even if he’s not in the field that day...hmm, something to ponder. Anyway, Wallach only has 33 plate appearances under his belt this season, but they’ve been good ones. In his limited time, Wallach is slashing .289/.394/.429 (wRC+ 129). He’s walking a lot (15.2%), and he’s even striking out way less than normal (21.2% compared to career 36.5%). It’s very possible we don’t even see Wallach this series, but don’t expect much drop off at the plate between him and Alfaro. If only Cleveland had that luxury.
  • 2B Neil Walker - Walker had a down year last season, but he seems to be on track again in 2019 with the Marlins. Across 87 plate appearances, Walker is slashing .260/.345/.429 (wRC+ 112). He’s walking a bit more (10.3%), but he’s also striking out a bit more (20.7%), but overall he’s still producing for a Marlins team that has virtually no one producing.

Storylines

The Indians and left handed starters

If you’ve heard Tom Hamilton say anything about the Tribe needing a right handed bat, it’s for games like Wednesday when they are facing an elite left handed pitcher. Granted, any quality bat would vastly improve the Tribe offense, but specifically against left handed pitchers, the Tribe lineup leaves a lot to be desired.

The Corey Kluber Redemption Tour

It’s not fun to watch Corey Kluber not be...well, Corey Kluber. When he’s sharp, he’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball. The problem is he hasn’t been sharp this season. He may be a bit unlucky right now (there’s a good 1.5 run difference between his ERA and his FIP), but some of the poor results are his own doing. His WHIP is 1.677 on the year, meaning he’s letting way too many people on base to succeed. With a hapless Miami lineup as his next test, hopefully Kluber can use this game as the turning point for his season.

Trevor Bauer gets to bat again

This has no relevance other than I desperately want to see Bauer imitate his teammates’ batting stances again. And then I went him to hit a dinger.

Miami Marlins lineup

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Marlins?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    2
    (36 votes)
  • 48%
    1
    (38 votes)
  • 6%
    0
    (5 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now