Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Texas Rangers

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Pitching Matchups

The Rangers have had a lot of success producing players, and even if they haven’t quite popped out aces from the system Martin Perez is another example of a fine pitching pipeline. This is Perez’s second stint in the Majors, throwing 38 innings in 2012 to middling success. This year though he’s had much better results even if the peripherals aren’t magical. His home run rate has jumped from .71 per nine innings a year ago to 1.06 per nine this year. I can’t help but think the latter is more realistic, pitching in Arlington so much and facing much better hitters than in the minors. He pitches to contact a lot and gets a solid 49% ground ball rate. I won’t say anything bad about him because I tried that with the Mariners and Harang pitched a 7-inning gem. He’ll compete.

Is Kluber the second best pitcher on the team? At this point, till McAllister makes a strong comeback, yeah. He only lasted five innings against the Twins but it was a great five – seven K’s and only three hits. His change is improving to the point where  Fangraphs’ Carson Cistulli is gifting it, and if he can keep the walks down he can stay great. Now doesn’t that sound simple? He faced the Rangers on June 11th and was a beast – eight innings of one run ball off a homer by The Most Hated Man in Baseball For Baseball Reasons, Not Steroids, A.J. Pierzynski. So why not do it again? The only real worry is his injured hip that got him removed from his last start. With McAllister just getting back, the team can’t afford to have Corey go down. He’s just too important.

You know what’s totally incredible? This. Actually, Yu Darvish is pretty incredible in general. Those of us who saw him in the World Baseball Classic were impressed, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be THIS good. And the Rangers are only paying him $9.33~ a year until 2017. It’s almost not fair. He’s dropped his walk rate from 10.9% to 8.5% in his one season in the league while raising his strikeout rate nearly five points to 31.8% and leads the league in K’s. Considering the spike in home run rate, I’ve surmised he’s gotten away from nibbling, something I’ve found many Japanese imports have a tendency to do, and challenges hitters with his filthy, filthy stuff. So filthy. Like a New York sewer after Cinco de Mayo.

He may not have the repertoire of Darvish, but Masterson is a beast, and I couldn’t be happier with a top of the rotation guy. He went seven last time out and hit 97 on the gun a couple of times. It was amazing. Much like a year ago, Masterson isn’t getting a ton of run support – only 3.88 runs per game (the Indians average 4.74 for the season), so he has to be sharp or the team won’t have very positive results. The Rangers average 4.24 runs a game so as long as he’s above average, you’d have to think it would work out for him. As long as the slider is biting.

  • Alexi Ogando (4-2, 3.13 ERA, 4.47 SIERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (7-5, 4.49 ERA, 4.38 SIERA)

You could call this the denouement of the series if you wanted. After all, a day after aces clash it’s kind of a bummer to see a converted long man (who admittedly can throw some heat when he’s healthy) and a shell of a former superstud. Despite all that, this could be fun. Ogando looked like he was going to be great a couple of years ago, and he was a demon coming out of the ‘pen in the 2010 playoffs. He started a year later and has yo-yoed back and forth from the bullpen ever since. Turns out throwing as hard as he does isn’t always good for your arm. He’s making his second start since his second stint on the disabled list this year and despite his power arm he hasn’t been getting the strikeout numbers you’d expect – only 6.7 per nine, same as 2011 when he started consistently. Whatever else, Ogando is very good when he’s healthy. He’s lost a (relative) bunch on his fastball  – down to 94.7 this year from 96.9 last July and as much as 98.53 last August. Everything else is slower too, but his slider in particular has gained a host of bite, averaging 5.17 inches of horizontal last month compared to just 1.83 a year prior. If he can develop that and a change more solidly he could be legitimately great. We’ll see.

The only knock I have on Ubaldo’s last start (5.2 innings, two runs, six strikeouts) is the amount of fly ball outs he got  – 14 compared to only four grounders. While he’s not a groundball pitcher with a .86 GB/FB ratio this year, that’s a bit much. It’s a good thing they’re playing in Cleveland because if he did that again and it was in Texas, he’d give up about seven homers. So he shouldn’t do that. He faced Texas back in June, lasting the usual five innings, walking four and striking four out while allowing a run. That would be nice, but who knows. He still hasn’t filled me with anything resembling confidence. With the wildcard that is Ubaldo and the potential of Ogando, what a fun game this could be!

FInal Thought

With the holes this dinged up Rangers offense has right now, I have a good feeling about this series. Of course, I had that about the last two as well, and look how that turned out. But the day off, some practice and getting back in the swing of things or whatever, it should be a good couple of days at the yard. Pitching will win the day here.

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