Series Preview

Gotta get down to it

Cincinnati and Cleveland play a four-game series in a battle for bragging rights in Ohio and post-season relevance. The first two games will be played at Progressive Field (an ironic name given the team’s logo) and the third and fourth games are at Great American Ball Park.

The Cincinnati-Cleveland series has ended in a tie the past couple seasons, with each club sweeping the games at its home field. The last time the Reds won a game on the shore of Lake Erie, Orlando Cabrera was batting lead-off (going 0-for-5), Laynce Nix was the hitting hero and Nick Masset was healthy enough to pitch.

The Reds have yet to win a game in an American League stadium this season, having dropped two in Boston and three in New York. Designated hitters are supposed to be better at the plate than the pitchers they replace. However the 2014 Reds’ roster is threatening to offer evidence against that theory; their DHs are batting .125 while their pitchers are hitting .124 (that’s looking at just batting average, which you should only do when you’re trying to make a smart aleck point like this.)

Last week, Cleveland traded two key players, sending SP Justin Masterson to St. Louis and SS Asdrubal Cabrera to the Washington Nationals. As pending free agents, both of them were logical trade candidates.

The two teams enter the game with identical 56-55 records. Cleveland is three games out of the AL Wild Card but trails four teams. The Reds are 3.5 out but are behind only Atlanta. [Correction: The Reds are also behind two of the NL Central teams.] It’s an important series for both teams in their efforts to stay connected to the front-running teams.

When Neil Young penned the lyrics “this summer I hear the drumming” about Ohio, he was writing about a vastly different context. But if you’ve ever attended a game in Cleveland, you know they have their own annoying, monotonous drumbeat related to runners in scoring position that dates back to the early 70s. John Adams still pounds the same 26-inch bass drum that he bought for $25 at a garage sale in 1973. He’s missed fewer than one game per year over 41 seasons.

Run Production

Cleveland ranks fifth in the AL in runs scored, sixth in on-base-percentage and eighth in power (ISO). Their center fielder, Michael Bourn, is on the DL with a left hamstring strain. He may start a rehab assignment this week but is unlikely to play in the series. Nick Swisher left yesterday’s game with soreness in his right wrist.

1. Jason Kipnis (L) 2B
2. Jose Ramirez (S) SS
4. Carlos Santana (S) 1B
6. Nick Swisher (S) DH
7. David Murphy (L) RF
8. Yan Gomes (R) C
9. Chris Dickerson (L) LF
hihi

Carlos Santana has ceded most of Cleveland’s catching responsibilities to Yan Gomes (.283/.326/.469). Santana has played 1B and 3B, mostly at first. Overall, he’s had a good season, despite batting just .234 – his OBP is .374 and he’s slugging .448 with 20 home runs. His walk-rate is 17.7%. But in the last month, Santana has been on a tear. Since the All-Star break he’s hit .375/.500/.768 – that’s right, slugging .768.

The 2014 season has been a coming out party for RF Michael Brantley. He has hit .322/.383/.508 with 16 home runs and 12 stolen bases. His walk-rate (8%) matches his strikeout-rate (8.3%) and Brantley ranks tenth in the major leagues in wRC+ at 152. From a personal financial standpoint, the timing of his breakout was poor. Brantley had just signed a 4-year deal with Cleveland for $25 million. The way he’s playing, he’ll produce that much value for Cleveland in 2014 alone.

3B Lonnie Chisenhall has also blossomed (avoiding the word bloom) this year hitting .305/.370/.473 and putting up a wRC+ of 140.

Cleveland acquired former Reds outfielder, Chris Dickerson, from the Pirates in a trade on July 7. In Dickerson’s limited time with Cleveland, he’s hit well (.300/.375/.460) with two home runs and two stolen bases. Dickerson has played LF for Cleveland and has been sidelined recently, but not DL’ed, with left knee pain.

Run Prevention

Cleveland’s starting rotation is 13th in the AL in ERA but first in xFIP. The fielding-independent metrics are more favorable because Cleveland’s starters have suffered through a relatively unlucky .327 BABIP and also because of Cleveland’s porous defense. They are ranked either dead last or next-to-last in every measure.

Probable Pitching Match-ups

The Reds won’t face Trevor Bauer (4.25 ERA/3.86 SIERA) this series. Bauer is noteworthy as the 23-year-old pitcher Cleveland received from Arizona in the Shin-Soo Choo/Drew Stubbs/Didi Gregorius trade.

Monday, 7:05 p.m. in Cleveland

Pitcher Match-upsCLE.MON

Corey Kluber might well be the best pitcher in the American League. In Kluber’s last start, he squared off against presumptive AL Cy Young leader, Felix Hernandez and threw a two-hit shutout on 85 pitches, striking out eight and walking none. It was Kluber’s second complete game in a row allowing no earned runs. He ranks second in Tom Tango’s Cy Young formula for the American League. Kluber has never faced the Reds, but he has to be licking his chops at the prospect of his third straight complete game and second consecutive shutout.

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. in Cleveland

Pitcher Match-upsCLE.TUE

Josh Tomlin is making his 69th career start, all of which have been for Cleveland. He’s started 3 games against the Reds with a 1-1 record. Tomlin hasn’t made it through the sixth inning in either of his post All-Star break starts. His major weakness has been giving up the long ball – 16 in 86.2 innings. To put that number in perspective, Tomlin and J.J. Hoover have virtually identical HR/9 rates.

Wednesday, 7:10 p.m. in Cincinnati

Pitcher Match-upsCLE.WED

Remember when Johnny Cueto figuratively and literally dropped the ball in last season’s Wild Card play-in game? Well, the next day, Cleveland’s Danny Salazar took the mound against Tampa Bay in the American League’s match-up. Salazar had earned the honor with ten impressive starts (3.12 ERA/2.72 SIERA) in that, his rookie year. Unfortunately, in 2014, Salazar’s much anticipated sophomore season began less well and he was sent back to the minors for more than two months. Since his call-up he’s made three successful starts (2.00 ERA/3.74 SIERA) and on July 27, he rang up the 2-millionth strikeout in major league history (only half of which have been recorded by Aroldis Chapman).

Thursday, 7:10 p.m. in Cincinnati

Pitcher Match-upsCLE.THU

Left-handed rookie T.J. House has made ten starts for Cleveland. He’s basically a 5-6 inning, extreme ground ball pitcher.

Homer Bailey won his first professional start on June 8, 2007 against Cleveland at GABP. He hasn’t had much success against them recently, including a disastrous start last year when he gave up a season-high seven earned runs.

Bullpen

Cleveland has a solid bullpen. They are 3rd in the AL in ERA, fourth in SIERA and fifth in strikeout-rate. Cody Allen has been their closer since early May. He’s converted 14 of 15 save opportunities since taking over those duties from John Axford. Bryan Shaw has been a capable set-up reliever in the eighth inning. Allen and Shaw pitched on Saturday and Sunday for Cleveland, so they may not be available tonight. Then again, with Corey Kluber pitching, it might not matter.

Conclusion

Let’s play four!

28 thoughts on “Gotta get down to it

  1. I am surprised, refering to your progressive comment, that a bigger deal hasn’t been made about the Indians mascot with the amount of scrutiny that is applied to the Redskins. I understand that calling some an Indian is not as offensive as calling them a Redskin, but based on the fact that our geographic knowledge has expanded some since 1492 we should really stop calling them that as well, but the Indians mascot is WWWAAAAYYY more offensive than the Redskins. Who knows, probably just because one is in the Nation’s Capital and the other is in the armpit of Ohio.

    • I think the lack of scrutiny has come from the Indians willingness to make the Indian logo less visible. They have changed their hats to include the block “C” and that unique “I” logo. Since they haven’t been so brash and combative publicly, they have gotten looked over. Whether that is right or wrong is another matter entirely.

  2. Simon certainly drew the short straw in this series, but if Simon continues his season-long mastery and out-duels Kluber in game 1… Well Reds fans can still dream of great things this season.

  3. Looking solely at the pitching matchups, I’d have the Reds favored in 3 of the 4 games. Then again, their offense is quite a bit better than ours.

    Prior to yesterday’s 7 run explosion, you have to go back to July 7th to find a game where we scored 7 or more. Gheesh……

  4. Disclaimer: This is totally nitpicking a point because of my personal feelings on the subject and the fact that I’m having a bad day, so I’m being grumpy.

    I do wish that those doing the season previews would stop pointing to career/last season records against clubs. Example: the blurb at the end regarding how the Indians clubbed Homer Bailey like a baby seal last year.

    It’s simply irrelevant, has no predictive value, and says nothing about how Homer will fare against this year’s version of the Indians (note, Indians sans Cabrera and some others). I realize that it’s common practice across the ESPN-o-sphere to bring up past records and dig up stats like that, but I just wish it weren’t and I feel like the first step to killing this silly practice is to get thoughtful gents like yourselves to step away from the vehicle.

    Otherwise, I’m once again thankful the preview and this wonderful website. Cheers gents.

    • I’m with you on the small sample size/match-up stuff. I’ve even written long posts about it. I include them to the series previews for entertainment, not predictive, purposes. I’d be the last person to suggest that just because Homer got bombed by Cleveland last time out that it means anything about Thursday’s game.

      • I figured as much, given you guys’ (the editors) track records of being reliable baseball minds. However, the general public (and certain [ALL] announcers hired by ESPN) seem to take these numbers of past W-L/ERA/etc as predictive, so I just hate to see it show up here where the general level of baseball IQ is higher.

        It’s something I normally just glance right by and write off as silly, but today it bothered me. Not sure why, save lack of sleep.

        Cheers, Steve.

  5. The ‘armpit of Ohio’ is a new one for me. I’ve heard ‘mistake on the lake’ and have only been thru Cleveland on a couple of occasions. But it does have great cultural and medical institutions, and is the original home of the Rockefeller family and Standard Oil.

  6. I look at Cleveland this way. The river was on fire there – literally (in ’69). Only one other “place” I know of like that. They are comparable. Maybe they can rename the Cuyahoga River, the Styx.

  7. Holy crap, amazing. The Reds’ DH is a guy who hit .216/.317/.288 last year, is 34, had a surgically reconstructed shoulder that’s not fully healed, and is 0-9 with 4 K this year.

    That’s gotta be like world record level of awful DH. Classic.

    • Seriously…. of all the bench players, he is the best DH choice?…..ugh…..
      Oh well, as always I will be cheering them on…. Go Reds!

      • Kluber has a big platoon differential esp. as far as power is concerned. LHB have 8 of the 10 HRs he’s allowed and 30 out of 45 XBHs though RHB and LHB have almost the same amount of ABs against him. Hanhahan has slightly better than his career numbers at Progressive Park so he’s worth a shot; Lutz has shown very little.

  8. Hate to beat a deadhorse but when was the last time the Reds had a guy that was a good hitter for DH? Interleague isn’t exactly a new concept anymore…

  9. What’s funny and/or sad is that Hannahan was primarily signed because he was/is a plus defender at the corner IF spots. I am guessing that isn’t the case anymore since he’s the DH and Pena, the backup catcher who’s been good but not exceptional at 1B, is playing 1B. I would have thought he’d DH and Hannahan would play 1B.

    • Hannahan’s incapable of throwing with any velocity, so he’s automatically not able to play 3B and he can only play 1B if you don’t expect him to have to throw hard. Price’s words that his shoulder isn’t healed enough to make throws… or (not Price’s words, but every Reds observer) swing a bat quickly, or swing with power.

      • Stuff like that is frustrating. BP or Votto not playing at 100% and they are still able to contribute something. Hannahan not playing at 100%? Not so much.

  10. I’m kind of glad Jack is in the lineup tonight, as that reduces the odds that he will be tomorrow night, when I will be in attendance.

  11. test posting

    Tonight’s starter, T. J. House, for Cleveland is a left hander who has velocity traits similar to the Reds Mike Leake
    Source 2014 Fangraphs
    Splits versus RH/LH batters
    LH Batter
    K/9 7.91, BB/9 1.40, HR/9 0.93, WHIP 1.19, BABIP .305, xFIP 2.30
    RH Batter
    K/9 5.55, BB/9 3.28, HR/9 1.26, WHIP 1.68, BABIP .353, xFIP 4.17
    Pitch types, % and velocity
    FA 11.3%/91.5
    FT 45.5%/90.6
    FS 0.1%/83.9
    SL 24%/83.6
    CU 1.8%/75.8
    CH 16.8%/81.8
    Based on these splits and pitch quality I would start Ludwick in LF and Heisey in RF and sit Bruce.
    I would keep the infield and catcher the same as last night.
    Jay Bruce 2014 Splits
    VS LH- AB 84, H 15, RBI 14, SO 28, BB 5, AVG .179, HR 6, BABIP .176
    VS RH- AB 254, H 60, RBI 31, SO 76. BB 34, AVG .236, HR 5, BABIP .314

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