Series Preview: Mariners at Indians

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UPDATE: Both teams have announced their Tuesday nightcap starters. For Seattle, it’ll be Anthony Vasquez. Cleveland gives the ball to Zach McAllister.

Brendan Ryan makes his triumphant return to the lineup in time for this critical four games series. The Mariners are only 18.5 back with 37 games to go. If they are to get back in this thing, it starts tonight!

In this preview:

  • Guti, Ryan and Wilson notes
  • Graphical Explorations!
  • Pitching Matchups
  • Beatin’ the Drum
  • Guti, Ryan and Wilson notes

Franklin Gutierrez looked around, saw two new outfielders and thought “Uh-oh!” He’s performed well enough in the two-hole while Ryan has been out that Eric Wedge isn’t fiddling with it. He’s still not hitting for power and his patience is still an issue, but a pretty batting average over a small sample has bought him more time to show he’s improving from his stomach woes.

It would have been interesting to see what the club would do with Ryan and Jack Wilson had the latter not got hurt. Only Mike Carp and Casper Wells have been hotter this month, but Wilson’s surge appears to involve much less luck. I suppose this is all moot, however, as Wilson is on the DL. Again.

  • Graphical Explorations!

I’ve removed fielding from this for now. I’m just not thrilled with the defensive metrics we have available and how they look on my pretty chart. Super sad panda, as it reduces the scope of these explorations. We’ll see if they return next time. I’m never satisfied with stuff, you know.

You know, the Indians just shouldn’t be much better than the Mariners. Here they are though, in the thick of a three-team divisional race. They are, I imagine, where the Mariners would be sans 17-game losing streak.

Sweet! A negative manager score. I’ve been waiting for one of those. Much love to Manny Acta for that. As for Eric Wedge, he used to manage these here Indians, taking them to the playoffs once. The 50 points he got from that post-season is being wiped out as each loss piles. I’m certain he’s aware of this and frantically working to get the score back up.

  • Pitching Matchups

Tonight, the festivities are kicked off with Jason Vargas trying to recapture his first half form against a struggling Fausto Carmona. Carmona is coming off one of his better starts of the year, however. He went 8.1 against the White Sox in his last turn, only giving up one run. Vargas had been righting his ship in his last few starts until the debacle of last Tuesday when he allowed the Blue Jays to score a touchdown and two-point conversion.

Tomorrow is a double header. In game one, Blake Beavan faces Justin Masterson. Masterson is having a pretty nice season, which makes some wonder if that supposed Felix Hernandez trade to Boston a couple seasons back wasn’t such a bad idea. Beavan’s hot start has turned into him pitching the way most had expected. He still has BABIP on his side, though, so it’s possible things get worse before they get better.

Game two should be a hoot. Who will start for each team? Will someone be moved up? Bullpen tandem? Call-up? No one knows! It’s exciting! I suggest each team call upon a former pitcher to take the hill. If I’m Seattle, and I can pick from any of my old timers, I’m going with Bob Stoddard. Cleveland? Who else would they take besides Chris Codiroli?

In the finale, King Felix faces Josh Tomlin. Felix had no-hit stuff in his last outing. Unfortunately, so did his offense. The defense wasn’t so hot, either. Talk about 2010 all over again. It’s amazing to think that starts like that were the norm for Felix last year. How have none of us jumped out a window?

Small Sample Concers! Vs. Felix – Jack Hannahan is batting .500 in 12 ABs with two dingers.

  • Beatin’ the Drum

I talked to Lewie Pollis over at WahooBlues.com and it was a gas. Check out my answers about the Mariners on their page. And see below for his answers to questions I asked about the Indians.

The Tribe have been in the race all season. How much of a surprise has this been and do you feel they have a legit chance to win a three team race?

 
That this team had the talent to compete didn’t surprise anyone. This organization is overflowing with young talent—the fruits of fire sales from years past. What came as a surprise was that the rebuilding phase ended at least a year earlier than expected. A competitive Cleveland club didn’t seem impossible before the season, it just seemed unlikely. Breakouts from players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson, and Michael Brantley are the kinds of things we knew were possible (though I admit, Cabrera’s power surge seemed to come out of nowhere), it’s just that most people weren’t betting on them.
As for their competitiveness going forward: with Ubaldo Jimenez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Jason Kipnis now in the fold and Shin-Soo Choo healthy again, the Indians may be the most talented team in the division. Three days ago, when the Indians were 1.5 games back and about to start a three-game set with Detroit, I’d have said my money was on Cleveland to win the division. A sweep later, we’re 4.5 games back, and while it’s definitely not too late for a comeback, it’s hard to say they’re the favorites now.
 
2) Ubaldo Jimenez. Thoughts on the trade and his performance?


At first, I was livid about the deal—trading Drew Pomeranz and Alex White seemed like exactly the kind of “mortgaging the future” we’d been promised wouldn’t happen. But given the volatility of pitching prospects (White’s already been injured and Pomeranz just got shut down for the year after an appendectomy) and Jimenez’ favorable contract, the deal has grown on me. Interestingly, according to a survey of other Indians writers I took, I’m not the only one who liked it better after the fact.

As for his performance with Cleveland…well, I’d have been able to sound a lot more optimistic before his meltdown yesterday. That being said, he’s been getting unlucky all season, and while his 3.47 SIERA after four starts with the Indians doesn’t fully absolve him of his 7.29 ERA, it’s worth noting that he’s struck out 22 batters in 21 innings and his 2.8 K/BB ratio would be the best of his career. So I’m still optimistic.
 
Do people in Cleveland hate Ichiro? Would you like to make his wish come true and punch him in the face?

 
Brother, please. Everyone hates on Cleveland. You think we even notice when some visiting athlete talks smack about us when we have to deal with things like LeBron James humiliating us on national TV? To be honest, I had completely forgotten about that. Plus, a lot of Clevelanders would probably agree with him (I happen to like it here, but a lot of people don’t). If anything, I’d be mad that he thinks he has a right to whine when all he does is visit for a few days while he gets paid millions of dollars to play a children’s game—you want to complain? Try living here.
 
Why does mother nature always screw with Mariners/Indians series?

 
I don’t know, but I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Seattle for Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, and Ezequiel Carrera—all of whom came to Cleveland from the Mariners via trade. Pleasure doing business with you.
 
The Indians have some payroll relief coming next season and beyond. Do you ever see a payroll increase as an option or will they continue to be frugal and play young talent and spin them for more young talent when they hit peak value?

 
I’m not so sure about that. Jimenez is on payroll now, and Sizemore and Carmona get more expensive next year. Plus Cabrera, Choo, and Masterson highlight a class of nine arbitration-eligible players. It’s possible that the Indians will still go shopping (Opening Day payroll was $32 million higher in 2009 than it was this year, and team executives have been saying they’ll spend to win), but unless we unload Hafner the payroll will increase even without offseason spending.
 
Of all the players the Indians have traded the last several years, who do you wish was still there the most?
Ignoring current salary and contract, I’d have to go with Cliff Lee. If I have to factor those in, I’d probably take Drew Pomeranz back. Or maybe Rocky Colavito.