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Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Minnesota Twins

This one’s for all the marbles. Well...a lot of the marbles, anyway.

2019 MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After a week off, the Cleveland Indians are rested and ready to kick off the second half of the season and they’re facing the team currently sitting atop the AL Central. The Twins got off to a brilliant start this year and, for a time, were the best team in baseball. Did the break cool them off? Or will the Twins continue to dominate teams left and right on the way to their first AL Central title since 2010?

Team in a box

2019 Minnesota Twins

Record 56-33
Record 56-33
Runs Scored 509
Runs Allowed 393
Run Differential +116
Last 10 4-6
AVG .272
OBP .336
SLG .497
OPS .833
wRC+ 116
K/9 8.70
BB/9 2.84

LGT user Stale Lips was right to point out in the comments yesterday that it’s important to look at projections going forward and not rely too much on what’s already been done, and that’s absolutely true, Going forward, the Indians are projected to be slightly better at the plate than the Twins, so if you feel more comfortable with Cleveland’s lineup moving forward than Minnesota’s, there’s a justifiable reason to feel that way. When you look at how the teams have performed up to this point, however, there’s no denying that the Twins have been the better team (so far). Will that change from here on out? Only time will tell.

Projected starters

Friday, July 12 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Kyle Gibson (v. Mike Clevinger)

Despite his slow start to the season, Kyle Gibson has steadily been pitching better and better as he made his way into the All-Star break to the point where his overall numbers on the year actually look pretty good. Across 94.2 innings so far in 2019, Gibson has allowed 43 earned runs while walking 28 and striking out 94 (ERA+ 111). ZiPS tends to believe that there’s some room for regression, however; it projects Gibson’s numbers to be worse across the board, including his K/9 (currently 8.94, projected to be 7.68), his BB/9 (currently 2.66, projected to be 3.22), and his ERA and FIP (both would be about .4 points higher than what he’s done so far). His last full start before the break (he had a 1-inning appearance on July 7) came on July 3 against the Oakland Athletics; in that game, Gibson went 6.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 4 and striking out 5.

Saturday, July 13 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Jake Odorizzi (v. Trevor Bauer)

Jake Odorizzi is scheduled to pitch on Saturday, but he’s been sidelined with a blister, so it’s unclear whether he will actually make his start. Some reports say that yes, he will pitch. Others say that he won’t be back until the end of the month. If he does pitch, that’s good for the Twins because he’s been fantastic for them so far this season. In 88.2 innings pitched, Odorizzi has allowed 31 earned runs while walking 30 and striking out 96 (ERA+ 144). Similar to Gibson, ZiPS thinks that Odorizzi is going to come back down to earth a bit in the second half; his ERA is projected to be a whole run+ worse than it was early in the season, and his FIP may be more than half a run worse to go with less strikeouts, more walks, and more home runs. His most recent start came on July 2 against the Athletics; in that game, Odorizzi went 3.0 innings and allowed 5 earned runs on 4 hits while walking 3 and striking out 2.

Sunday, July 14 1:10 p.m. ET: RHP José Berríos (v. Shane Bieber)

The ace of the staff for Minnesota will face the Tribe in the series finale on Sunday against the All-Star Game MVP. Should be a fantastic game. Berríos has been dominant this year; across 117.0 innings of work this season, he has allowed just 39 earned runs while walking 23 and striking out 104 (ERA+ 151). ZiPS thinks that some of those numbers will get better (he’ll strike more batters out and allow fewer home runs), but it also projects some areas to get worse (he’ll walk more batters and give up more runs to account for a full run jump in ERA and FIP). Berríos still projects to be an above average pitcher, however, so he may give the Tribe trouble this weekend. His most recent start came on July 4 against the Athletics; in that game, Berríos went 5.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 3 and striking out 2.

Lineup highlights

  • DH Nelson Cruz - Cruz continues to mash and rage against Father Time. In 267 plate appearances this season, Cruz is slashing .279/.367/.554 (wRC+ 138). He’s been striking out 28.1% of the time, but ZiPS thinks that that’ll drop down to around 22-23% while still walking almost 10% of the time. He’s also projected to still OPS at .868, so watch for Cruz to cause problems for Tribe pitching this weekend.
  • SS Jorge Polanco - Polanco was great last season as a part-time player. This season, as the starting shortstop for Minnesota, he’s been even better. Across 395 plate appearances, Polanco is slashing .312/.368/.514 (wRC+ 129). He’ll strike out a bit more and walk a bit less down the stretch according to ZiPS, but his biggest hit is going to come to his slugging, which is projected to drop by about 70 points.
  • RF Max Kepler - Resident Bond villain Max Kepler has been terrorizing baseballs all over the country this season. Across 365 plate appearances, Kepler is slashing .263/.337/.523 (wRC+ 122). Similar to Polanco, ZiPS doesn’t think that Kepler is going to keep slugging over .500 and sees some regression coming his way in that department. His BB% and K% will be close to what he’s done this year, so look for the main change to be a drop in slugging.

Minnesota Twins roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Twins?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    3
    (45 votes)
  • 51%
    2
    (101 votes)
  • 16%
    1
    (33 votes)
  • 9%
    0
    (19 votes)
198 votes total Vote Now