The Royals, fresh off a real-life win and two days off head to Cleveland to take on the best team in the division. The Indians have had a bit of a tough go to start the year, but it’s just six games. Last year’s sensation, Jose Ramirez, has just one hit in 23 at bats to start the year, which means he’s probably due for about a 10 for 13 type weekend. While there isn’t really a break with the Indians pitching staff, missing Corey Kluber does qualify for good news, and the Royals have that at least. Michael Brantley is expected to be activated off the disabled list for this series, which could provide a nice shot in the arm for them, but it’s hard to know what he’ll contribute.
|102-60, 1st Place, AL Central
|Team SP DRA
|Team RP DRA
|Team WARP Leader
|Corey Kluber, 8.0
|2017 Record vs. Royals
Royals vs. Indians
Since his time in the bullpen a few years ago, Carrasco has been one of the better pitchers in the American League, going 43-26 with a 3.41 ERA from 2015 to 2017. He limits hits, gets way more than a strikeout per inning and has very good control. That he’s not his team’s best starter is just one of the things that makes Cleveland so good. He was hit hard in his first start against the Mariners, and it’s worth monitoring his velocity, which averaged a mile per hour less in his first start than last year. It’s also a first start, so no reason to raise too many red flags on that one. One thing that is puzzling to me about him is that his stuff is so good that you’d think he’d be able to get behind in the count, but he’s allowed a .306/.438/.526 line when he’s behind in the count. The Royals have done a decent job of working counts in their first four games with 3.91 pitches per plate appearance, so if they can keep that up and then some, they might find some success.
Duffy was scheduled to pitch in the series finale, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here. Here’s what I wrote for that one. Duffy’s first start was kind of a disaster, but it wasn’t all bad. He did a nice job early in the game before he started missing down the middle against a team that appears like they won’t miss many mistakes. As I said the other day, I’m not convinced he’s healthy, but if he is, he’s going to need to find some velocity for his fastball and find some better command because baseball in 2018 will punish you for mistakes pretty often. Duffy had a couple very good starts against Cleveland last year and one clunker, including the game where he hurt himself the first time. He’s really handled most of the Indians bats well, but if he’s sitting 89-92, I don’t see this one ending too well.
2018 is the fifth full season of Bauer’s career and he’s still searching for his first sub-4.00 ERA. He has posted a DRA that low once in his career in 2015, but the point is that even with all the talent he possesses, he remains an enigma. He has great stuff, but also gave up more hits than innings pitched last year. He did finally exceed a strikeout per inning last season, and maybe he’s going to be on his way to finally reaching that ceiling, but until then, Bauer can’t be considered anything more than a solid middle of the rotation starter with very good stuff. Bauer gave up 16 home runs and a .276/.346/.492 line to lefty bats last year, which plays into the Royals power strength with Mike Moustakas and Lucas Duda. He also was blasted when he faced a lineup a third time, allowing a .322/.377/.546 line, so there are ways to beat him. That’s true of any mid-rotation starter, though.
Kennedy had a fantastic first start of the year against the White Sox last weekend. He looked rusty in the first and threw a ton of pitches, but ended up giving six innings and allowing just one run. Including spring training, he still hasn’t allowed a home run in 2018, which if you’ve watched Ian Kennedy pitch means he’s due to give up a few in this one. As so many have said, it’s all about his hamstring. If it’s healthy, he’s probably pretty solid. If it’s not, it’s going to be another long year for him, and a good Cleveland lineup could eat him up, healthy or not. It’s probably a good thing that Michael Brantley is due back for this series because Tyler Naquin has hit two homers off him in 14 plate appearances. Really, a lot of Indians hitters have done well against Kennedy, which may not bode well for him.
Clevinger is one of those underrated pitchers. It’s interesting because I’d probably take him over Bauer, but Bauer gets all the publicity. He found serious success last year with his breaking pitches, getting 45 strikeouts with a nasty slider and 22 with his curve ball even though the slider only accounted for 19 percent of what he threw and the curve for only 11.4 percent. I think his delivery makes him tough to pick up for right-handed hitters, which explains why he held them to a .180/.288/.282 line last year compared to .257/.345/.474 to lefties. I’d expect Ryan Goins to get a start in this one knowing that, and I have a hunch it’ll be at the expense of Whit Merrifield, so that’ll be fun to see the reaction. No Royals have hit him well, but Moustakas does at least have a home run against him. Of course, so does Alcides Escobar, so you know how that goes.
Hammel had a rough first start against the Tigers, with the third time through the order striking against him again. That’s no surprise. He had some bad luck, but he also just didn’t pitch very well, and the Indians are a much better offense than Detroit boasts. Hammel did actually pitch pretty okay against the Indians early in the year last year, so maybe some of that magic will carry over. I’d really like to see Brad Keller be used in almost a piggyback role for him in this one, though he’s only pitched one inning in each of his outings to this point. If you play daily fantasy, Edwin Encarnacion seems like a good bet in this one. He has five home runs in 32 at bats in his career against Hammel, which is a lot, if you didn’t know. I have to say that I don’t feel so good about this matchup.
The Indians have gotten off to a slow start this season at 2-4, but it’s still obvious that they’re the class of the division. The Royals have also gotten off to a slow start, but it’s still obvious that they’re not. I have a fear that the Indians sweep this series, but I think the Royals find a way to win one they probably shouldn’t and salvage something.