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2021 Series #12 | Indians @ Mariners | May 13-16, 2021

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Wham with the Right Hand

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The Tribe heads west for a four-game series against the 18-19 Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have a run differential of -23, suggesting they're not quite as good as their record. They are slightly better at home with a 9-8 record. However, they are in something of a tailspin lately. After starting the season 13-8 they are 5-11 since then and have lost four in a row. They have seven pitchers out with injuries, including two starters. Offensively they've scored only 30 runs in the last 9 games. We appear to be catching them at a good time.

The Mariners rank pretty low across the board in offense: 13th of 15 in wRC+, 14th in wOBA, and last in the A.L. in on-base percentage. They have some power, ranking 8th in ISO. They're 11th in speed. They look like a team that scores a high percentage of its run via the long ball, similar to the Indians. Both teams are very similar offensively.

Pitching is the difference. The Mariners' starters are 14th in xFIP and their bullpen is 10th.

They have three hitters who are performing above average so far; RF Mitch Haniger (wRC+ 137), Kyle Seager (wRC+ 118), and Ty France (wRC+ 111). Nobody else is higher than 101. Haniger and Seager have 10 and 7 home runs, respectively, with 27 and 26 RBI's. Nobody else has more than 14.

On to the starting matchups:

Tonight it's Plesac against RHP Logan Gilbert, making his first big league appearance. Gilbert is their #1 prospect and was ranked #35 overall by BA prior to the season. He pitched in A, A+, and AA last year. This season he made one start in AAA and pitched five innings. He was described by ESPN as a "bulk inning mid-rotation starter with solid average stuff and plus command".

The fact that he's only pitched five innings this season due to the delayed minor league start could be a factor, in addition to the usual jitters associated with stepping onto a major league mound for the first time.

Plesac has allowed zero earned runs in his last two starts covering 13.1 innings. If Zach can hold them to 0 or 1 run through 6-7 innings I like our chances.

ESPN's schedule lists Chris Flexen starting tonight with TBD tomorrow, but I saw a column saying Gilbert will actually start tonight so I assume Flexen will be bumped to tomorrow.

Friday it's Civale v. RHP Chris Flexen, 3-1, 3.78. Flexen has allowed 50 hits and walks in 33 innings so he allows base runners. His home ERA is 2.40. Flexen mans up with runners on base. Opposing batters are hitting .338 with the bases empty, .268 with runners on, and .219 with RISP, which explains why he has a fairly low ERA despite allowing a lot of baserunners. I'm hoping we don't see another game where the Indians go 1-for-11 with RISP but it seems likely.

Flexen is a guy you can get to if you hang in there. First time through the order batters are hitting .275 off him. Second and third times it's .313 and .355. The more hitters see of him the more they hit him. The Indians need to get runners on base and get to the third time through by the 5th inning and they should be able to do some damage. He's given up 7 earned runs in his last two starts covering 10.1 innings.

Civale has a 2.91 ERA and is coming off an excellent start where he held the Reds to 1 run in 7 innings.

Saturday McKenzie goes against LHP Justis Sheffield (2-3, 4.91) who we all remember as being part of the Andrew Miller deal. Included in that trade was J.P. Feyereisen, who finally made it to the bigs last year at age 27 with Milwaukee. This year he's killing it, allowing one earned run and five hits in 18 innings for the Brewers.

Sheffield has not been as successful this season. His WHIP is 1.52, so he, like Flexen, allows a lot of traffic on the bases. He's also been better at home with a 3.78 ERA against 6.06 on the road. He's been better against right-handed hitters (.265/.758) than lefties (.364/.936). Teams are hitting .343 against him with RISP and like Flexen, he gets worse each time through the order, although not as dramatically. But he's been pretty solid at home.

Sunday it's Bieber against a starter who has yet to be determined.

Overall, I like our chances to win 3 of 4. The M's are struggling and are 5-11 after their hot start. They are bringing up a rookie to pitch his first big league game tonight and they don't know who they're pitching against Bieber on Sunday. Their other two starters have been decent but not spectacular at home. Their offense is struggling and ranks near the bottom in all major categories except home runs.

In terms of ballpark factors, T-Mobile park ranks 24th in home run factor in 2021, meaning only six other parks are more difficult to hit a home run in, so that may work to the Tribe's advantage since the Mariners are dependent on the long ball. The park ranks 19th in scoring. Last year it was 24th in and in 2019, the last full season, it was 21st. Runs might be hard to come by this weekend, especially for the Mariners, who don't hit well to begin with and have to face Plesac, Civale, McKenzie, and Bieber in a park that is not friendly to the long ball or to scoring in general.

The M's have hit 14 home runs at home against 29 on the road, although they have played three more games on the road. They're averaging 3.9 runs per game at home against 4.1 on the road.

The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati ranks first in every category as the easiest park to score in. No wonder Bauer wanted out of there.

Progressive Field ranks as the 16th easiest park to score in - right in the middle.
 
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Indians batting .207 as a team, Seattle batting .205 as a team. I predict a high scoring weekend!!!
 
McKenzie vs. Sheffield is a fascinating matchup. The 31st overall pick in the 2014 draft taken by the Tribe against the 42nd overall pick in the 2015 draft taken by the Tribe.
 
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It’s been that long since we drafted Sheffield?! I’m starting to feel old.
 
It’s been that long since we drafted Sheffield?! I’m starting to feel old.
turns 25 today - as he seems to be more famous for being in trades than for his major league performance, I still think HR hitter when I see his last name - but what do you expect from a guy who thinks Mickey Callaway when he sees a post about the strength of our minor leagues being MIFs
 
FanGraphs had this on Seattle's call-ups:

Gilbert, who ranks 35th on the Top 100, has a short minor league track record, but the limited reports we have suggest that he’s also ready for the big leagues. The high-floor righty pitched well in last week’s apparently developmentally necessary outing in Tacoma, striking out five in as many innings while missing 11 bats, mostly on the fastball. He’ll be a breath of fresh air for anyone a little tired of 95-and-a-slider types with mediocre control, as he gets by with good command of a deep arsenal rather than overpowering stuff.

As Eric noted in Gilbert’s Top 100 writeup, “Even though it only sits 93-94, Gilbert’s fastball is his best pitch, and the way he most effectively whiffs hitters, though maybe his changeup will show some late development. While all of Gilbert’s secondary pitches are average and flash above, I think his command will enable them to play above their raw grades…”

As with Kelenic, Gilbert may not be Seattle’s best player on his side of the ball quite yet, but he’s probably close and he should add a dash of stability to the team’s intriguing but volatile rotation.

In both cases, the Mariners need the help. Even with Kyle Lewis back from the Injured List, Seattle’s lineup is disturbingly short and left field in particular has been a gaping hole. Mariners left fielders are batting .164/.276/.314 this year, and if anything they’ve looked worse than that, as Jake Fraley’s five-game experiment of stapling the bat to his shoulder and hoping for the best helped buoy that line considerably.

As a team, the M’s are hitting just .208/.285/.372. They have the second lowest wOBA in the league and have only scored four runs since April 23. That last part isn’t actually true, but it passes the smell test for anyone who’s been watching the team in recent weeks. A league average hitter would belong in the top half of this lineup, and there’s every reason to think Kelenic can hit better than that.
 
Indians batting .207 as a team, Seattle batting .205 as a team. I predict a high scoring weekend!!!

When you say high scoring weekend do you mean that the teams break protocol and smash a bunch of groupies?
 
I wouldn't be surprised if the Indians do a lot of running this weekend.

One, this ballpark is tough to score in and even tougher to hit home runs in, and the Indians are something like 5th in the majors in percentage of runs scored on home runs (about 47% IIRC). IOW, they can't expect to just wait for the home run to win the games.

Two, the Indians are 17 for 19 in stolen bases. They don't run all that much (11th in the A.L. in SB attempts), but they've been extremely successful when they do.

Third, the Mariners are pretty bad at preventing stolen bases. Opposing teams are 25 for 28. You can't get much worse than that.

This park makes it unlikely the Indians will hit a lot of home runs so they will have to find another way to score. With the Indians excelling at stealing bases combined with the M's weakness in preventing it I expect the Tribe to be off and running.

Tonight would be a great time to start. The M's are starting a 6'6" right-hander making his first appearance in a big league game. I don't know how quick he is to the plate but being that tall it probably takes him a while to get the ball out of his hand. Also, running on him, or threatening to, could rattle a kid who only has nine starts above A ball and has only pitched five innings in the last 21 months.
 
Well.....I'd prefer that the Indians put alot of round numbers up on the scoreboard, but your direction may be more true.
 
Remember when player were hitting 240, 250 were considered below avg hitters....The Avg MLB team is hitting 234......I wonder if they going to ever change how teams can play the shift game, I personally would like no infielder to have feet in the outfield grass.....
 
Headed to the game on Saturday! First live sporting even in some time and first baseball game for my son... to say I'm excited is an understatement. I might eat 10 hot dogs just because.

I'm sure my 4 year old will enjoy the anemic offensive production :chuckle:
 
I’m totally against eliminating the shift. Hitters can adjust, just as fielders can adjust. If batting averages were up, would we want to make it illegal for batters to hit the opposite way?
 
I’m totally against eliminating the shift. Hitters can adjust, just as fielders can adjust. If batting averages were up, would we want to make it illegal for batters to hit the opposite way?
Yeah, you're right--it WILL be interesting to see the young talent on this Seattle Mariners squad in the upcoming series.
 

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