Series Preview: Cleveland Indians @ Oakland A's

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If Masterson could go out and not lay any more eggs like his last time out, that would be grand. In August he’s got a 5.00 ERA in 18 innings while walking nine, hitting three and giving up two homers. That last isn’t so bad, but just like last year he’s having an August Swoon (6.75 ERA 12 months ago) and he needs to avoid it, what with the playoff drive hopes and his being the workhorse of the staff and all. The Coliseum is a good cure for what ails pitchers, hopefully he gets back on the right track. The one problem – he’s a ground ball pitcher and Oakland is a haven for fly ball guys. At least he won’t let many oopsies become donkers.

The most amazing stat young Griffen has posted this year, at least to me, is he leads the league in homers given up with 28. He doesn’t walk many so perhaps it’s a step in a 25-year old becoming confident in his stuff prior to the jump to ace-hood. He plainly takes advantage of his home, only 11 homers given up there compared to 17 on the road and in only two less starts. The A’s second highest rated prospect by Baseball AMerica is a righty named A.J., unfortunately that’s Cole, not this guy. Griffen is good though – gets a decent number of K’s (7.1 per 9) and walks about 2 per nine. If he progresses as the A’s expect him to, it’s the beginnings of a great rotation. Expect four-seamers, he throws them nearly 60% of the time, with a supplementing of cutters, changes and curves. Brooks Baseball tells me he hangs the change a lot, it’s the second most homered pitch behind his fastball (.97% of the time compared to 1.16%), and he throws it a quarter as much, while it’s also hit hard the most, a 5.61% line drive rate. So look for that I guess?

As much as we all hem and haw about Ubaldo, he’s been pretty alright the last little while. Since a June 1st start against the Rays he’s got a 3.04 ERA over 71 innings with the only real knock being the 39 walks given up. That’s a lot of walks, but he’s minimized damage and been getting a ton of ground  balls which helps to get those free passes neutralized. His last time in Oakland he allowed two runs in six innings, which would be just great if it happened again. But hey – who knows.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Strailey is another young (24) pitcher the A’s have developed, and like Griffen he looks promising. He relies on a low 90’s fastball and he likes his slider as well, though since it doesn’t have a ton of movement it acts more like a cutter than anything. He gets more swing-and-misses with his change than any other pitch, nearly 20% of the time compared with 15.69% on his slider, his next best whiff-inducer or whatever you want to call it. He’s got a strong sinker too, though it all obviously is based off the four-seamer. He’s an unknown quantity to Indians pitchers, and the last time that happened they got shut out  by a 27-year old rookie.

Kazmir really laid an egg against his sort of former club (he was dreadful for them, I don’t think anyone including him wanted him to be there) with the Angels lighting him up for five runs in three innings. So lets avoid that happening. The first inning really did him in, that’s where the Angels got their runs. What to draw from that? I don’t know – give up fewer hits early. Hopefully he’s not hitting a dead arm period, always a worry this time of the season but he’s been so good all year let’s just not worry about it. He faced Oakland back in May, lasting six innings with one earned run and 10 K’s. Notably, three of those strikeouts came against Yoenis Cespedes. There’s not a lot of offense on this team so neutralizing that monster will be key.

I’m glad Bartolo Colon wasn’t suspended for the whole Biogenesis thing. For one, it’d be some double jeopardy type jive, and I also happen to like redemption stories. What Indian fan doesn’t love Bartolo? He gave a few good years for them then was the centerpiece in the trade that set the Indians on the right track for the next six or seven years. His name also sounds funny. He’s effectively a two pitch pitcher these days, mostly sinker and four-seamer with movement though he occasionally mixes in a change (5.44%), slider (9.48%) and the rare cutter (.54%). Thanks again, Brooks Baseball. Colon locates though and is the A’s best pitcher getting a lot of grounders with his sinker and really relying on a sterling defense.

Final Thought

Gotta get wins, simple as that. It’ll be a low scoring set of games but the Indians have a good set of line drive hitters on their team, so that should play well by the bay. I’d like it if Yan Gomes went off, it feels like that hasn’t happened in a couple of days. The A’s are talented, confident, hungry to win and fundamentally sound – it’s going to take a lot of work to take this series.

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