The Week Ahead
@ Kansas City Royals (Monday thru Wednesday)
46-45, 8 GB of Cleveland
With eight games to make up in the Central Division race and 71 games remaining on the schedule, the Royals need to start making up some ground if they want to avoid the Wild Card game. The sweep suffered in KC from June 13-15 were three of the Indians six losses in all of June. The Royals have lost eight of their last eleven including their loss in Detroit on Sunday.
Projected Starting Pitchers
Monday, 7/18, 8:15 PM ET – Corey Kluber (9-8, 3.61) vs Edinson Volquez (8-8, 4.85)
Saturday, 7/19, 8:15 PM ET – Danny Salazar (10-3, 2.75) vs TBD
Sunday, 7/20, 2:15 PM ET – TBD vs Ian Kennedy (6-7, 3.86)
@ Baltimore Orioles (Friday thru Sunday)
53-37, +1.5 ahead of Boston
The 5.10 ERA posted by Baltimore starting pitchers is only better than one other American League team (Minnesota – 5.26). The walk rate (3.47 BB/9) and K rate (7.08 K/9) are both third-worst in the league as well. Outside of All-Star Chris Tillman (13-2, 3.29) and Kevin Gausman (1-6, 4.15), no other starter has an ERA under 5.22. Former Indian Ubaldo Jimenez has a 7.38 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP. Terrible numbers.
The Orioles’ strength lies in their bullpen and their offense. The 3.06 bullpen ERA is second only to KC’s pen, although their relievers have logged the second-most innings in the AL as they scramble for that rotation.
The offense has scored more runs than any team in the AL other than Boston and Toronto, although they’ve only scored three runs more than the Indians this season (448 to 445). They’ve also hit the most home runs in the Major Leagues (140).
Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday, 7/18, 7:05 PM ET – TBD vs TBD
Saturday, 7/19, 7:05 PM ET – TBD vs TBD
Sunday, 7/20, 1:35 PM ET – TBD vs TBD
Around the AL Central
Detroit Tigers – Hanging With the Tribe
The Tigers remain the closest competition to the Indians in the AL Central at 6.5 games back. Since the Indians snapped the Tigers’ six game win streak on the Fourth of July, the Tigers have lost six of their last ten. They have a chance to right the ship this week against Minnesota and the Chicago White Sox.
Today’s Detroit Free Press had a look at some minor leaguers in the Tigers’ system and includes a paragraph about Anthony Gose, who is now mired in AA Erie. Gose, who has played 372 games in the Majors for Toronto and Detroit, had some words with his AA manager and then was a no-show for a game, putting him far down the Tigers depth chart. Gose is just 25 years old.
Kansas City Royals – Injury Update
As the Royals work a few players back from injury, there is speculation that they could ease Lorenzo Cain back into the line-up in right field instead of his usual spot in center. Cain, now 30 years old, has started 470 games in center in his career compared to 62 starts in right field. Cain may begin a rehab assignment as soon as this week. Jarrod Dyson has gotten the bulk of the playing time in center in Cain’s absence.
In other injury news, closer Wade Davis has already returned from his forearm strain and pitched a perfect 1-2-3 inning on Saturday with a strikeout against Detroit. Davis has been electric in his three years in Kansas City, posting a 1.01 cumulative ERA in 169.2 innings with a 0.85 WHIP and 11.5 K/9.
Davis was acquired on December 9, 2012 from the Tampa Bay Rays along with James Shields for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. While Shields helped the Royals in their run to the World Series in 2013, Davis has been a real difference maker in the bullpen for three years now. He has one year remaining on his contract – a $10 million team option.
Chicago White Sox – Offense is Struggling
The offense has been in a funk, according to an article in today’s Chicago Tribune, scoring one run in their last 41 innings and going 34 consecutive innings at one point before scoring today against the Angels. They still lost their fourth in a row. The Sox are currenly 5.5 games behind Toronto in the Wild Card with four teams in between them.
Indians’ fans may remember Todd Frazier from the offseason trade rumors last winter that had the Indians interested in obtaining his services. So how has Frazier done this season? His power has been immense with 25 home runs, but he has only nine doubles and is hitting .211/.301/.468. Frazier makes $8,250,000 and has one year of arbitration remaining before he hits the open market.
Minnesota Twins – Former Twins in the News
The Minnesota Star Tribune catches up with former Twin Joe Nathan, the franchise’s all-time saves leader, who is attempting a comeback at age 41 with the Chicago Cubs. Nathan, who’s never pitched beyond the Division Series in the playoffs, may not have a shot at the closer role but could help as a piece in a relatively leaky pen. Nathan has made nine minor league appearances this season, allowing two runs in eight innings with eight strikeouts.
In other former-Twin-in-Chicago news, the White Sox just activated former AL MVP Justin Morneau. Morneau, now 35 years old, will likely see time as a DH in the second half for the White Sox. Morneau hit a combined .316/.363/.487 over the past two seasons with the Colorado Rockies with a 120 OPS+.
Around the Majors
3,000 Hit Chase
Ichiro Suzuki moved to within six hits of the historic milestone this weekend at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Ichiro, 42 years old, has a chance to be the 30th player to join the 3,000 hit club this week with four games in Philadelphia, followed by a homestand over the weekend against the New York Mets.
It’s been a huge rebound season for Ichiro, who hit just .229/.282/.279 in 438 plate appearances last season but has hit .337/.413/.392 with 56 hits this season as he pushes towards the milestone.
Historic Home Run Rates
A recent Effectively Wild podcast recently pointed out something that I hadn’t realized – this season has witnessed the second-highest home run rate in league history. Yep, higher than any steroid-era season other than the 2000 season. This season’s home run rate, 1.15, ranks only behind 2000’s rate of 1.17 and slightly ahead of 1999’s rate of 1.14
It’s hard to easily see this if you’re just looking across the leader boards. The biggest home run hitters this season may only top 50 at best, so there’s no historic chase to point everyone’s attention towards the historic pace.
Playing around with baseball-reference’s historic indexes, I noticed another interesting strikeout trend – this season’s pitcher K-rate of 8.1 K/9 is on pace to best last year’s new Major League record of 7.8 K/9. Last year’s rate topped the 2014 season’s Major League record of 7.7. And so on and so on going back to 2008. In other words, pitchers have set a new strikeout record every season for eight consecutive seasons with a ninth likely this year. In fact, this year’s jump of 0.3 from 7.8 to 8.1 is higher than any other rate over the past nine seasons, so the strikeouts are just piling up faster and faster.
Sunday Night Matchup at Yankee Stadium
Red Sox and Yankees at Yankee Stadium. I feel like I’ve seen this before, but I don’t remember the last time the Yankees were on the verge of being sellers at the trade deadline.
The Yankees open the second half against Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco and Houston and should know more concretely whether they are buyers or sellers by the end of that stretch on July 27th.