Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians (4/18-4/20)

I love the dingy lucky hat. (from Left of Center Photo)

The Indians come to town for a weekend series after trading blowouts with the Tigers over the last two days (an 11-1 win yesterday, and a 13-2 loss on Wednesday). The Tribe currently sit at 6-10, with a 2-4 record on the road. One might be tempted to blame Cleveland’s slow start on the fact that they were resting on their success of last year, when they nearly made the World Series, and maybe just didn’t want these early games as much as their opponent. Thankfully, Mistake by the Lake has run the numbers on “wanting it more” and found that baseball is the sport that actually shows the least correlation betwixt the team that wants it more, and the team that wins.

Much of the discussion (of the non-tongue-in-cheek variety) this year has been about the pitching staff. And there has been a lot to discuss. C. C. Sabathia came into the season with questions about a contract extension or his pending free agency looming. He has proceeded to massively disappoint those who expected another Cy Young season from him thus far. The other part of the Indians’ 1-2 punch of 2007, Fausto Carmona signed a big contract earlier this month, which supplied plenty of material for discussion. But, the Twins won’t see either of these pitchers in this series, so we’ll just move on.

In memory of Edward Lorenz, the man credited with developing chaos theory who passed away earlier this week, I ask you to consider the Cleveland bullpen. It just seems like every year this bullpen defies expectation. Either it’s good when it’s expected to be bad (2007), or the other way around (2006). Most noticeably the Indians have suffered from a closer who went from ineffective (79!) to “injured”. To replace him, there are some options, but it’s not the sure thing that fans like to have coming in to close out the game. Fortunately, fans are never shy about coming up with suggestions (as long as they follow rule #1: No good ideas.)

Pitching probables:

Liriano versus Lee

Once again, Twins fans will be watching to catch a glimpse of 2006 from the F-bomb. The opposing pitcher, Lee has been trying to turn back the clock a little bit as well. In 2005, Lee posted a 3.79 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting (no doubt helped by his 18 wins). So far this year, he’s been very good, and some think this is the real Cliff Lee, and the 2007 version (6.29 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, no Cy Young votes) was the aberration.

Blackburn versus Westbrook

Blackburn hasn’t had a start this season where he’s earned a negative WPA, ((Win Probability Added)) although he hasn’t got a win to show for it. Westbrook has likewise made three good starts, and he’s at least gotten one win to show for it. So expect a low-scoring game decided after the starters are gone, I guess.

Baker versus Byrd

Paul Byrd started off with two very bad starts, but had a better outing last time (6 IP, 1 unearned run) but came away with a no decision. Perhaps he just pitches better knowing he’s in the clear?

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