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2021 Series #11 | Cubs @ Indians | May 11-12, 2021

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Wham with the Right Hand

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The 17-17 Cubs come to town for a short two-game midweek series. The Cubs won five in a row before losing to the Pirates by a run on Sunday. They've been playing good ball. However, 8 of their 17 wins have been by one run. Their run differential is -5 which combined with their record makes them about as average as you can get.

That being said, they are 13-8 at Wrigley and 4-9 on the road, so they've been two different teams altogether depending on where they're playing. The Indians may be catching them at a good time as they are having some injury problems. SS Nico Hoerner, hitting .389, is out and CF Jake Marisnick, hitting .264/.973 is day-to-day. Hoerner and Marisnick rank 1 and 3 in OPS. Their top healthy hitter is Kris Bryant at .308/1.047.

The Cubs are 12th in the majors in runs per game at 4.62 but if both Hoerner and Marisnick are out it will be a problem. Their wRC+ is 95, good for 8th in the N.L.

Relief pitcher Dan Winkler, 0.84 ERA, is also out. FanGraphs ranks their starters last in xFIP. Their bullpen is average.

However, we are only facing two of their starters. Tonight it's Bieber against RHP Adbert Alzolay, 1-2, 4.50. Alzolay is in his third year with a career record of 3-4, 4.53. In five starts this year he's only made it through six innings one time. Opposing batters are hitting .174 against him, so he's been an effective five-and-fly guy. His problem has been home runs; he's allowed four in 26 innings.

Wednesday it's Hentges vs. Zach Davies, 2-2, 6.30. Davies is listed at 6'0", 155 pounds, which you never see in a starting pitcher anymore. He's really struggled, allowing 55 hits and walks in 30 innings over 7 starts, barely averaging 4 innings per start. But in his last start he pitched seven shutout innings against the Pirates allowing five hits and inducing 15 ground balls.

According to FanGraphs, Davies throws his "sinker curve" 54% of the time at an average velocity of 88. He also throws a cutter at 87 mph, a changeup at 78 mph, and a curve at 73. IOW, a soft-tossing righty, the kind that drive the Indians nuts. They're the worst team in baseball at hitting changeups and this guy will give them lots of opportunities to embarass themselves. I can already see them beating every ball into the ground.

FanGraphs' National League rankings have the Cubbies 8th in offense, 13th in fielding, and 5th in base running. Their pitching is 11th in xFIP. Based on these rankings they should not be 17-17 but somewhat lower, but they have benefitted from playing 21 games at home against only 13 on the road along with a lot of one-run wins.

The Indians are 14th in offense, 7th in fielding, 10th in baserunning, and 3rd in xFIP. Their pitching is carrying them until the offense gets going. Or should I say "if" the offense gets going?
 
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The Athletic has the Indians 12th and the Cubs 17th in their latest power poll. Here is their comment on the Cubs...

As our Patrick Mooney pointed out, it’d be a whole lot easier to feel good about a 5-1 week for Chicago if the organization didn’t put Ian Happ, Jake Marisnick and Nico Hoerner all on the IL. Marisnick in particular had become a spark plug for a resurgent Cubs offense that had rebounded from a slumbering start to the year to pull them back over .500.

The key to that offense, all year long, has been Kris Bryant. Bryant hasn’t started a game at third base in three weeks, instead taking turns at all three outfield spots — including a couple games in center — and at first base. He’s mashed regardless of which glove he’s worn, with a 1.047 OPS and a WAR that trails only Ronald Acuña Jr. in the National League.
 
Cubs trend post 2016 has been fascinating. It was an assumption that they were geared for the longer term contention window. I allow that the Indians haven't set the playoffs on fire(at least in a good way) since then either.
 
Here is The Athletic's comment on the Indians:

12. Cleveland Indians
Record: 18-14
Last Power Ranking: 23

José Ramírez is having perhaps his best season, which is saying a lot. Shane Bieber, too, is still awesome and on pace for a career year. The Indians also have a good bullpen, a couple of other good starting pitchers, and a couple of pure home run threats in the lineup. They also have a pretty decent record.

So why do they feel like a team about to crash and burn?

For starters, they’ve been no-hit twice this season. Their lineup has been one of the worst in the American League, the back of their rotation has been well below average, and the two big leaguers they acquired in the Francisco Lindor trade are each hitting below .200. There are just too many holes to think this ship can stay afloat much longer. For now, we have them slightly above the middle-of-the-pack.


About to crash and burn? I wouldn't be too sure about that. I agree they haven't found a #5 starter yet (hopefully Hentges will step up) and their defense is a problem. But I disagree about the lineup. Don't look now but the Indians are 8th in the A.L. in runs per game. They were 12th just 11 days ago. They're moving up.

Just for yucks, I divided the Indians hitters into three groups; those that are exceeding expectations based on career OPS, those that are matching expectations, and those are below expectations.

Exceeding expectations

Franmil Reyes, .914 OPS (career .830)

Matching expectations

Jose Ramirez, .891 OPS (career .850 but over .900 three of the last four years). He actually might be a little under.

Josh Naylor, .724 OPS (career .699)

Jordan Luplow, .789 OPS (career .782)

Below expectations

Cesar Hernandez, .613 OPS (career .731, over 100 points off his career number)

Eddie Rosario, .662 OPS (career .783, over 100 points off)

Andres Gimenez, .548 OPS (.732 last year as a rookie)

Roberto Perez, .569 OPS (career .662, almost 100 points off)

Jake Bauers, .580 (career .683, over 100 points off)

Amed Rosario, .585 OPSD (career .698, over 100 points off)

Harold Ramirez, .650 OPS (.728 in 2019, his only other season in the bigs)

Austin Hedges, .473 OPS (career .607, over 100 points off)

So that adds up to one player who is exceeding his career OPS and might be regressing somewhat against 8-9 players who are well below their career norm and can be expected to improve their offensive production. We're already seeing it starting to happen with Eddie Rosario, Cesar Hernandez and Jake Bauers.

Hernandez is hitting .276/.881 in May. Rosario is hitting .273/.883 in May. Bauers is at .235/.762 against a career OPS of .683.

As a team the Indians are still last in the A.L. in BABIP at .242 with the average being about .284. This is despite ranking 5th in hard hit percentage. They've been extremely unlucky which explains in large part why most of the team is well below their career OPS numbers.

So I don't expect the Indians to "crash and burn". I think the pitching will stay right where it is (barring injuries) and the hitting will pick up, maybe dramatically.
 
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The 17-17 Cubs come to town for a short two-game midweek series. The Cubs won five in a row before losing ....... 7th in fielding, 10th in baserunning, and 3rd in xFIP. Their pitching is carrying them until the offense gets going. Or should I say "if" the offense gets going?
If the middle word in life...

with apologies to dennis hopper and others..
 
Here is The Athletic's comment on the Indians:

12. Cleveland Indians
Record: 18-14
Last Power Ranking: 23

José Ramírez is having perhaps his best season, which is saying a lot. Shane Bieber, too, is still awesome and on pace for a career year. The Indians also have a good bullpen, a couple of other good starting pitchers, and a couple of pure home run threats in the lineup. They also have a pretty decent record.

So why do they feel like a team about to crash and burn?

For starters, they’ve been no-hit twice this season. Their lineup has been one of the worst in the American League, the back of their rotation has been well below average, and the two big leaguers they acquired in the Francisco Lindor trade are each hitting below .200. There are just too many holes to think this ship can stay afloat much longer. For now, we have them slightly above the middle-of-the-pack.


About to crash and burn? I wouldn't be too sure about that. I agree they haven't found a #5 starter yet (hopefully Hentges will step up) and their defense is a problem. But I disagree about the lineup. Don't look now but the Indians are 8th in the A.L. in runs per game. They were 12th just 11 days ago. They're moving up.

Just for yucks, I divided the Indians hitters into three groups; those that are exceeding expectations based on career OPS, those that are matching expectations, and those are below expectations.

Exceeding expectations

Franmil Reyes, .914 OPS (career .830)

Matching expectations

Jose Ramirez, .891 OPS (career .850 but over .900 three of the last four years). He actually might be a little under.

Josh Naylor, .724 OPS (career .699)

Jordan Luplow, .789 OPS (career .782)

Below expectations

Cesar Hernandez, .613 OPS (career .731, over 100 points off his career number)

Eddie Rosario, .662 OPS (career .783, over 100 points off)

Andres Gimenez, .548 OPS (.732 last year as a rookie)

Roberto Perez, .569 OPS (career .662, almost 100 points off)

Jake Bauers, .580 (career .683, over 100 points off)

Amed Rosario, .585 OPSD (career .698, over 100 points off)

Harold Ramirez, .650 OPS (.728 in 2019, his only other season in the bigs)

Austin Hedges, .473 OPS (career .607, over 100 points off)

So that adds up to one player who is exceeding his career OPS and might be regressing somewhat against nine players who are well below their career norm and can be expected to improve their offensive production. We're already seeing it starting to happen with Eddie Rosario, Cesar Hernandez and Jake Bauers.

Hernandez is hitting .276/.881 in May. Rosario is hitting .273/.883 in May. Bauers is at .235/.762 against a career OPS of .683.

As a team the Indians are still last in the A.L. in BABIP at .242 with the average being about .284. This is despite ranking 5th in hard hit percentage. They've been extremely unlucky which explains in large part why most of the team is well below their career OPS numbers.

So I don't expect the Indians to "crash and burn". I think the pitching will stay right where it is (barring injuries) and the hitting will pick up, maybe dramatically.

I would make 2 corrections, and i think this further points out why we will get better. I dont see Reyes as exceeding expectations by much. He is 25 years old, his Career OPS is lower than expectation as he is entering his prime. He is a very good hitter and as a young hitter was .830, but i think around .900 is what we can expect through his prime. Basically move him down, numbers dont tell all, but Franmil should make some all star games over the next 7 years or so.

Luplow has been all or nothing, the lack of hitting is concerning. Sure he gets walked allot, but he is batting .179. He needs to bring that up to around .225. I might be wrong, many more baseball experts, but even in new stats where OBP means allot more than hitting average, you cant ignore a .179 hitting, its not the whole story, but its still below the Mendoza line.

I am very encouraged on the Indians, i thought this was a rebuild year only, and we are rebuilding, but we are competing with the lowest payroll and that is exciting.
 
So many of the Tribe position players are at an age when career trajectories normally are going up. Even with expected variations from the norm, the sheer volume points to an offense with a general upward trend.

The Atlantic article also ignores the depth of young pitching, as if the only thing that counts is the opening day rotation.
 
Today’s lineups is probably the best lineup with this team we can expect.....Hopefully Bauer bat continues to wake up
 
Hitting Bauers second in the lineup instead of Naylor makes absolutely no sense. Jake Bauers should not be receiving the second most plate appearances in any major league lineup.
 
Hitting Bauers second in the lineup instead of Naylor makes absolutely no sense. Jake Bauers should not be receiving the second most plate appearances in any major league lineup.
Pretty much every number 2 hitter in this lineup has been trash......Bauer bats the last 5 games or so he have started have some hits in it.....So we should see.....
 
I would make 2 corrections, and i think this further points out why we will get better. I dont see Reyes as exceeding expectations by much. He is 25 years old, his Career OPS is lower than expectation as he is entering his prime. He is a very good hitter and as a young hitter was .830, but i think around .900 is what we can expect through his prime. Basically move him down, numbers dont tell all, but Franmil should make some all star games over the next 7 years or so.

Luplow has been all or nothing, the lack of hitting is concerning. Sure he gets walked allot, but he is batting .179. He needs to bring that up to around .225. I might be wrong, many more baseball experts, but even in new stats where OBP means allot more than hitting average, you cant ignore a .179 hitting, its not the whole story, but its still below the Mendoza line.

I am very encouraged on the Indians, i thought this was a rebuild year only, and we are rebuilding, but we are competing with the lowest payroll and that is exciting.
I agree that Franmil is probably NOT exceeding expectations based on his age. His performance curve should be going up but I wanted to be faithful to the data and not try to manipulte the numbers to the conclusion I wanted, so I had to put him in the "exceeding" category. But I agree - if he finishes the season with an OPS of around .900 I don't think that would be unreasonable. In fact, that's what I expect from him.

As for Luplow, I don't expect him to continue to hit .179 - he should be at a minimum 50 points higher despite getting more at-bats against RHP's. But his OPS is right on his career average because the few hits he's been getting have been doubles and home runs. I think his average will increase but he'll hit more singles and his OPS will probably stay the same. I'd be happy if he finishes at .789.

I'm also encouraged; youngest team, lowest payroll, everything says we should have the worst record in baseball. If every hitter listed above just matches his career average in OPS the team's run production will increase dramatically. Since we're 17-1 in games where we score four or more runs we could win a lot of games this season if the offense just comes around to the past norms.
 
I agree that Franmil is probably NOT exceeding expectations based on his age. His performance curve should be going up but I wanted to be faithful to the data and not try to manipulte the numbers to the conclusion I wanted, so I had to put him in the "exceeding" category. But I agree - if he finishes the season with an OPS of around .900 I don't think that would be unreasonable. In fact, that's what I expect from him.

As for Luplow, I don't expect him to continue to hit .179 - he should be at a minimum 50 points higher despite getting more at-bats against RHP's. But his OPS is right on his career average because the few hits he's been getting have been doubles and home runs. I think his average will increase but he'll hit more singles and his OPS will probably stay the same. I'd be happy if he finishes at .789.

I'm also encouraged; youngest team, lowest payroll, everything says we should have the worst record in baseball. If every hitter listed above just matches his career average in OPS the team's run production will increase dramatically. Since we're 17-1 in games where we score four or more runs we could win a lot of games this season if the offense just comes around to the past norms.

I was so splitting hairs with Luplow as his extra base hits have been in close games and where needed to win, thus his OPS is higher and he has been patient at the plate getting a high walk percentage, and a walk as we all know is as good as a single......but still .179, lol
 

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