Series Preview: Indians at Royals 4/26-29


Cleveland Indians (8-11) at Kansas City Royals (10-8
Series 8, Games 20, 21, 22 and 23
Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City: 0.863, Extreme pitchers park.  

Friday, April 26 8:10 EDT (STO)
Scott Kazmir (0-0, 16.20 ERA)  vs. Ervin Santana (2-1, 2.48 ERA)
Santana now has quality starts in each of his past three appearances, a 2-1 record, 2.48 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 26:5 K:BB ratio in 29 innings over four outings. Considering his previous career best in ERA (3.38 in 2011), it remains to be seen if he can sustain his peripheral numbers, namely a 1.55 BB/9IP, according to ESPN Stats and Info. He'll attempt to do so in this game vs. the Indians, against whom he's racked up a 3.72 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 33 strikeouts in 46 frames in seven starts over the last three seasons. However, this is an entirely new lineup he faces. As a four-seam fastball pitcher, Santana is naturally more of a flyball pitcher. Although it worked for him in Angel’s Stadium, it will be interesting to see what heppens once the midwestern heat and humidity reaches Kansas City this summer as he never had success away from his home ballpark in Los Angeles. Santana does tend to put unpredictable spin on the fastball though, which I’ll assume helps him sit around a 38.3% groundball rate for his career. He also does fairly well with strikeouts. His slider is the main culprit for swings and misses, and at a 17.6% whiff rate, it’s something to watch out for in the batter’s box, especially with 2 strikes. Look for the Indians left-handed hitters to have good success against Santana, as the pitch f/x data indicates that his stuff certainly does not favor them. The first thing I noticed when analysing the data is the most of his pitches are down and away. This is typical of any pitcher facing opposite side hitters. The fastball and changeup match up most with each other, but while you can see that the fastball includes pitches up and in, if he missed with his changeup, it was almost always down or away. A changeup in from a right handed pitcher to a left handed batter is not a good combination. Then there is the slider, and it’s pretty evident that if he’s throwing a slider, it’s probably going to be a strike or lower. In fact he had the greatest success in 2011 throwing the slider for strikes at a 65.7% clip, compared to a fastball at 63.1% and the changeup at 57.4%. Of how often each pitch was thrown, it was 62.3% fastballs, 32.4% sliders, and 5.4% changeups. Michael Brantley, who I think will have a big night in Kansas City, in 17 AB's against Santana is hitting a mild .294/.333/.529.
Saturday, April 27, 7:10 EDT (STO)
Ubaldo Jimenez (0-2, 10.06 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (2-0, 3.86 ERA)
The 34-year old right-handed Guthrie was drafted in the 1st round of the 2002 draft out of Stanford University by the Indians and made his major league debut in 2004. He had several lackluster years with in the Tribe farm system, before he was released in 2007. Guthrie has a compact delivery, throwing from a high 3/4s arm slot. He throws 2 and 4-seam fastballs in the 89-94 mph range (average of 92 mph, down from 94 in 2008) and gets good downward movement with the 2-seam, but his 4-seam is straight as an arrow. He also throws a sharp, late-breaking slider (84 mph), a tight curve (will only throw it once or twice a game) and a decent change (85 mph). He falls behind in the count often. His fastball and slider are his two best pitches, and he throws them a combined 86% of the time. This year he's increased the use of his slider to 26%. He has had a very good season so far for the Royals. His last start was another strong start for Guthrie, who was able to maintain his current 15-game streak without a loss, dating back to August of last season. This will be a tough game for the the Indians to win, as they have exhibited a tendency to struggle against pitchers who have sharp sliders, as Guthrie has.

Sunday, April 28, 2:10 EDT (STO)
Justin Masterson (4-1, 1.85 ERA) vs. Luis Mendoza (0-1, 6.17 ERA)

Mendoza was skipped over in his last scheduled start since he last started on April 12 against Toronto. He pitched out of the bullpen on Wednesday against Detroit and threw 2 1/3 and did not give up a run but walked three. He will make his next start against the Indians and it should be interesting to watch him pitch. Mendoza is a big guy (6-foot-3 235 pounds) so one would think Mendoza would be a bit of a power pitcher. But in reality, he is not anything close. He comes from a high 3/4rds arm slot, could almost be considered overhand. According to most scouts, out of the stretch he is slow to the plate. This is mainly caused by his long arm action. He hides the ball from righties fairy well, will show the ball to lefties. Mendoza has bounced around the majors. Signed in 2006 by the Red Sox, he was part of trade that sent him to Texas that same year. In 2007 he made the jump from AA to the majors and saw most of his time from the bullpen while collecting one start. He did get 11 starts in 2008, but went 3-8 with at K/9 of nearly 5 and a BB/9 of nearly 4. While at AAA he was used as a starter, but in the majors he is a bullpen/six starter/long relief arm. His career BB:K is as close as 1:1 as your can get.  He certainly does not have amazing stuff, but he wants you to hit his pitch. He favors his sinker which averages 92 MPH. In an odd way, this pitch reminds one of former Indians pitcher Roberto Hernandez as he uses it to keep the ball off the fat part of the bat and induce weak contact. When you see it, it looks more like a 92 MPH changeup. His fastball is his go to pitch when he is in negative counts and needs a strike. It averages 93 MPH, which favors the batter. It should be easy to sit on the sinker and react to the fastball. His curveball is big and loopy, tops out at 81, and loves to throw it to righties when he is ahead in the count. In fact, when he gets to 0-2 on RHH, that is what he will throw 95% of the time. With the free swinging Indians, he could cause some headaches.
Monday, April 29, 8:10 EDT (STO)
*Corey Kluber (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Wade Davis (2-0, 2.25)
Davis is coming off an absolutely terrible outing against the Tigers after looking steller against the Braves on April 17th. In his fantastic outing against the Braves, Davis didn't allow a base runner past first until Jason Heyward hit a two-out double off him in the sixth.  According to ESPN Stats and Info, he threw 92 pitches (62 for strikes) and induced seven ground ball outs. While the Tigers fair much better against righties, (.326 as a team), there was no excuse for how badly Davis threw. He only lasted 3 2/3 innings while giving up three earned runs while walking four. To his credit, the game temperatue was listed at 41 degrees (so he probably couldnt feel his fingertips as Royals manager Ned Yost alluded to.)
(*As of this publishing, this is Corey Kluber's scheduled start in the rotation as he is filling in for the injured Brett Myers. However, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka could very well be given the nod for this one as his outing Tuesday for Columbus was his best of the year thus far going 6 1/3 and striking out eight while only allowing two earned runs, suggesting Trevor Bauer may not be at the top of the list should the club make a change between now and when Myers returns from the disabled list. Stay tuned.)
Prediction: Royals win three out of four.
Mike Melaragno

About Mike Melaragno

A 2010 graduate of Lee University, Mike loves writes about the game he loves most-- baseball. From an early age, he learned to live and die with the Tribe-- mostly die. Died a little when they lost the 1997 World Series in extra innings; died a lot when they were one game away from advancing to the fall classic in 2007 but fell to the Red Sox in game seven of the ALCS. He currently resides in Northeast Ohio.