Series Preview: Cleveland Indians at Tampa Bay Rays

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Probable Pitchers

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I still don’t quite have a grip on what Zach McAllister is as a pitcher. He looked good in spurts last year, his stuff seems fine, but the end result was anything but great. He had a 92 ERA+ in 125 innings in 2012, and he needs to be better, plain and simple. Spring was ugly too: 13 runs scored in 20 innings. He just needs to work on location. He gave up 9.6 hits per nine last season, evidence his location seems to be “middle of the plate”. So that’s got to change. Against the Rays McAllister has an 0.77 ERA in two starts, so it’d be nice to see more of that.

Matt Moore’s first full season was at times electrifying and at others frustrating. He’s real young though, so considering he ended up with a 4.08 SIERA (100 ERA+ too, exactly average) and striking out 8.9 guys per nine that’s not bad. Moore is a thrower right now, he’ll blow you away, but he’s got a developing curve and could have a solid change down the line. He actually threw his fastball only 65 percent of the time last year, so maybe he’s a smart young gun who knows that he’ll need an arsenal to be successful. He’s going to be around for a while though. He’s got a 6.52 ERA in two starts (9.2 innings) against the Indians and utility man Mike Aviles has a .375 batting average with a homer against him. Maybe we’ll see that.

It’s a little earlier than expected, but the Trevor Bauer era is beginning in Cleveland this weekend, at least for a moment. With Scott Kazmir getting hurt the Indians made the call to Columbus and are giving their prize pitching prospect a whirl. This will be Bauer’s second stint in the majors after he worked 16.2 innings in four starts last year for the Arizona Diamondbacks and was wild and mostly ineffective. Of course, that was when he and Miguel Montero got in a tizzy about Bauer’s shaking him off, precipitating his trade to Cleveland, so it was a net positive despite the 6.06 ERA and 13 walks. His time in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League yielded a 2.42 ERA over 22 starts with a K/9 of nearly 11, and we all know he could be great. It’ll only be a glimpse and hopefully he takes something away from it to work on with the Clippers, because we’ve all dumped a lot of hope into this kid already. Hopefully he can hold up in the pressure cooker that is the Cuyahoga Valley.

You could do worse than having Alex Cobb at the back of the rotation. Is he stunningly amazing? No, not really, but after two years in the bigs the 25-year old has a 99 ERA+ with a 1.27 WHIP. He doesn’t strike a ton of guys out, 106 in 136.1 innings last year, but he doesn’t walk a ton either, 40 in 2012. Luckily, he’s had trouble against the Tribe. Like Moore, he’s got two starts against Cleveland, 9.1 innings of work, in which he’s walked seven and struck out five. Generally Cobb gives the Rays a chance and makes use of a studly defense to get it done. I figure he’s going to turn into a great pitcher because the Rays do that, just to spite the rest of the major league.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This is battle of aces, as it were, though admittedly the Indians are on the short end of this one. Masterson was good but not great to open the season, lasting six innings and allowing only one run, though he did walk four. It was a problem last season too (3.8 BB/9). If he can get control of his pitches, Masterson can be great, but we have to see how it goes. The guy just has too much movement on his pitches. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. He’s been, well, shelled by the Rays really, with a 7.74 ERA in 13 appearances including nine starts. We just have to hope for better.

David Price, man is he incredible. The reigning Cy Young winner led the game in ERA last year at 2.56, had a 1.10 WHIP and 205 K’s in 211 innings. Price is a big, rangy dude who astonishes me with the power he can pour into the strike zone. He can work in the upper 90’s with a host of great secondary pitches. I worry for the Indians because so many of them like to swing pretty freely and Price is turning into a pitcher when once he just threw hard. In six starts against Cleveland Price has a 1.64 ERA. He’s crushed the Indians, plain and simple. But hey, it’s a new year, and along with all those K’s they’re likely to produce, the Tribe has some guys who can run into one.

Final Thought

The Rays are that pseudo-model franchise baseball doesn’t seem to like to talk about. While a team like the St. Louis Cardinals go about it in a classic seeming way, the Rays take advantage of all the little inefficiencies the rules have caused to occur. The Indians plainly copy them because the Rays do the small market hustle better than anyone. So it’s fun to watch them succeed, I’d just rather not see it here.

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Topics: Alex Cobb, Cleveland Indians, David Price, Evan Longoria, Joe Maddon, Justin Masterson, Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays, Trevor Bauer, Zach McAllister

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