There’s a lot going on in Cleveland this week, and lots to look forward to in the coming week. The Indians, of course, just finished a weekend sweep of the Chicago White Sox. It was a series that featured two walk-off wins, raucous crowds, and was enough to keep the Tribe in first place ahead of the Royals by a 1/2 game.
Today is also Father’s Day. For those fortunate enough to have their father in their lives, I hope this is a day you all can cherish together. There’s nothing like baseball to spark a lifetime conversation between father and son, and I was lucky enough to continue that conversation at the ballpark today with my own father and son.
And of course, today is Game 7. But you’re not here to read basketball analysis. You’re so deep into baseball that you’re dying to dig into the minutiae. I salute you. Without further ado…
The Week Ahead
Some nuggets from MLB’s game notes prior to Saturday’s game against the Giants:
+ The Rays have scored 47.6 pct. of their total runs with 2 outs, far and away the highest rate in the majors…the next highest teams are the Mariners (41.7) and White Sox (41.1)…the major league average is 37.2.
+ The Rays have hit 57 HR in 32 road games, 2nd in the majors to Toronto (58 in 36 games)…they are on pace for 144 HR on the road—which would break the major league record held by the Barry Bonds-powered 2001 Giants (138)…Bonds hit 36 of his major league-record 73 that year on the road.
From the Tampa Bay Times, an interesting preseason read about Rays’ ace Chris Archer. You’ll be forgiven if you did not realize that Archer passed through the Indians system before he broke out in Tampa Bay in 2013 and finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Archer was the Indians’ fifth round selection in 2006, and actually the best player selected by the Indians that year in terms of career WAR. Josh Tomlin (19th round, 4.6 WAR) and Vinny Pestano (20th, 4.4) were the other notable selections that year. David Huff was the Tribe’s top pick at #39 overall.
From the Times:
“The 27-year-old All-Star pitcher with the fascinating mixed-race backstory, indefatigable charitable spirit and charming personality has become one of the faces not just of the Rays but all of Major League Baseball.
“From our perspective,” commissioner Rob Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times, “Chris Archer may be the sort of ideal major-league player — he’s articulate, he’s inquisitive, he’s community-minded and he loves the game. You just can’t ask for a better package than that.”
Archer has earned that praise on many fronts.
He is involved in several youth-oriented causes, from starring in a national TV spot for the Boys & Girls Clubs to become a leading man for the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program to speaking at the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center and making unannounced visits to All Children’s Hospital. He has served as an MLB ambassador on trips to South Africa and Taiwan, with a goal of visiting the other four continents. He did postseason TV work to rave reviews for ESPN, which is already angling to have him back. He established his own Archway Foundation. And he emerged last season as an elite pitcher, making his first American League All-Star team.”
Projected Starting Pitchers
Monday, 6/20, 7:10PM ET – Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.27) vs Drew Smyly (2-7, 4.75)
Tuesday, 6/21, 7:10PM ET – Corey Kluber (6-7, 4.23) vs Blake Snell (0-1, 2.16)
Wednesday, 6/22, 7:10PM ET – Trevor Bauer (4-2, 3.46) vs Chris Archer (4-9, 4.60)
@ Detroit Tigers (Friday thru Sunday)
34-35, 4.5 GB of Cleveland
The Tigers just finished a rough weekend in Kansas City, losing three straight by a combined score of 28-9. Detroit is also without right fielder J.D. Martinez, who hit the 15 day DL with a fractured elbow after running into a wall. Noted Tribe tormentor Martinez will not be missed, but his replacement, Steven Moya, is no slouch.
The 24-year-old Moya, who stands 6’7″ and 260 pounds, has raked in Toledo this season. Through 50 games in AAA, Moya has slashed .298/.326/.571 with 13 home runs and 13 doubles. His weakness, common among AAA sluggers and often what is the difference between a Richie Sexson and a Russell Branyon, is his strikeout to walk ratio. In Toledo, Moya had eight walks and 46 K’s. He has one walk against 13 strikeouts in Detroit this season.
Martinez, by the way, has hit fifteen career home runs against the Indians in 183 plate appearances. He hasn’t hit more than ten home runs against any other franchise.
Around the AL Central
Kansas City Royals – The Mysterious Case of Hosmer’s Golden Gloves
If a detailed look at defensive metrics aren’t your thing, let me summarize this article from the Kansas City Star – Eric Hosmer is having the best offensive season of his career (.320/.380/.523, career best 138 OPS+) but his defensive metrics continue to grade him as below average, even as he far exceeds the eye test and has won three consecutive Gold Glove Awards at first base.
Defensive metrics continue to confound analysts and I think it’s fascinating. It also allows room for a little bit of mystery in a sport so dominated by numbers that can be used (and misused) to help prove any point.
Chicago White Sox – Poor, Poor Big Game James
Not to pile on the poor guy, but James Shields just continues to look worse and worse for the ChiSox since his acquisition from San Diego. As this Chicago Tribune article notes, Shields has allowed 21 runs over his first 8.2 innings in Chicago (21.98 ERA!) and 31 runs in 11.1 innings over his last four starts. Saturday’s 13-2 loss in Cleveland was Chicago’s largest margin of defeat this season.
Baseball-reference.com has a great feature called Similarity Scores which matches current players to their best comparable players from history. Five of Shields’ seven most comparable pitchers were done by their 34th birthday. Shields is 34 this season.
Great Father’s Day read, also from the Tribune, about fatherhood from the perspective of a few Cubs and White Sox players.
Detroit Tigers – Fulmer’s Streak Ends
The Tigers continue to juggle their pitching staff, as this article in the Detroit Free Press notes. The Tigers demoted Matt Boyd and his 6.44 ERA after a thumping by the KC Royals. It seems Daniel Norris, who has a 4.99 ERA in 11 starts in Toledo but a 9.9 K/9 rate, may be in line for a promotion and may see action against Cleveland next week. Norris tossed seven shutout innings in his last start on Friday in Toledo.
Last week’s Tigers capsule went into the success of rookie SP Michael Fulmer. On Friday night against Kansas City, Fulmer allowed a two-out home run to Salvador Perez, snapping his scoreless innings streak at 33.1. The streak was the longest by a Tigers rookie in franchise history and longest by any Tiger since 1961. It was also the second longest by any rookie since Fernando-mania in 1981 (hat tip to MLB game notes). Fulmer stands at 7-2 with a 2.43 ERA in ten starts this season.
Also, Miguel Cabrera now ranks 50th in ML history with 422 career home runs. The sure-fire Hall of Famer’s next home run will tie him with Ranger third baseman Adrian Beltre, a player who’s amassing his own Hall of Fame argument with a productive second decade. The 33-year-old Cabrera also has the highest career batting average of any current player at .321 (minimum 1,000 plate appearances – 2nd best is Ichiro at .314)
Minnesota Twins – David Ortiz Was a Mariner, Too
Oswaldo Arcia has been designated for assignment by the Twins. The 25-year-old slugger was once viewed as a potential cornerstone player when he hit for a lot of power in his first two seasons at age 22 and 23. As this StarTribune article details, Arcia became expendable when his bat didn’t develop as expected and his defensive limitations became too large to ignore.
I’m sure I won’t be the only one to point this out, but the Twins once made the same evaluation about a young prospect named David Ortiz. Not to say that every promising slugger will turn into a masher who reverses decades-long title droughts, of course.
This article in the Boston Globe is actually a fantastic read on the early years of Ortiz’s career, including his few years in the Seattle system before being traded to Minnesota as a “player to be named later” for Dave Hollins. Hollins, incidentally, his .351 down the stretch for Seattle in 1996 in his lone half-season in Seattle. That ’96 team missed the Wild Card to Baltimore by three games.
Ortiz, now 40-years-old, is having one of the best years of his career, posting career highs in batting average (.342), slugging (.715) and OPS (1.136). His 29 doubles also leads the league.
Sunday Night Matchup at Wrigley
Let’s consider this a mere formality on a night when the Cleveland Cavaliers play the most important game in franchise history.
But it deserves mentioning that the Cubs will host the Pirates and rookie hurler Jameson Taillon (pronounced TIE-own) tonight at 8pm. Taillon has been excellent in his first two Major League starts, both against the Mets, allowing eight hits and three runs across fourteen innings of work.
You’ll be forgiven if you just read the boxscore tomorrow in a coffee-fueled haze.