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Series Preview: Cleveland Indians at Tampa Bay Rays

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Rays and Indians escape what passes for "spring" up north for the comfort of Tropicana Field.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians boast one of the best starting rotations in baseball. Their top three is in the discussion for best in the American League. The Rays are unfortunate enough to have to face their three top starters in this series,  but with luck could be fortunate to catch them before they've hit their stride.

The pitching match-ups:

Tuesday: Corey Kluber vs Matt Moore

Wednesday: Carlos Carrasco vs Drew Smyly

Thursday: Danny Salazar vs Chris Archer

The starting rotation will give an advantage to the Indians, but the series will come down to how well the Rays left handed bats perform against the right handed heavy Indians rotation. The Indians bats will have to perform against the Rays lefties along with their left handed heavy bullpen.

Indians Offense vs LHP (last 3 seasons):

Player PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Mike Napoli 507 25 5 16.0% 25.6% 0.285 0.402 0.526 0.399 152
Francisco Lindor 166 5 1 7.2% 15.7% 0.333 0.380 0.520 0.387 149
Rajai Davis 448 11 33 6.3% 20.3% 0.300 0.346 0.493 0.363 131
Carlos Santana 665 18 2 14.3% 15.0% 0.279 0.383 0.439 0.361 131
Marlon Byrd 497 23 2 5.4% 22.9% 0.291 0.332 0.516 0.359 131
Yan Gomes 391 13 0 5.4% 22.5% 0.295 0.332 0.474 0.346 122
Juan Uribe 308 14 1 8.4% 22.1% 0.263 0.325 0.466 0.341 120
Roberto Perez 92 1 0 15.2% 26.1% 0.233 0.360 0.342 0.315 100
Collin Cowgill 288 6 3 5.6% 22.2% 0.257 0.304 0.399 0.310 102
Jason Kipnis 650 8 14 5.8% 21.5% 0.259 0.312 0.372 0.302 90
Jose Ramirez 207 2 8 7.2% 11.6% 0.250 0.303 0.332 0.283 78
Tyler Naquin Has not faced a LHP in MLB.

The Indians brought in some veterans who have been used heavily as platoon bats against LHP in the recent past, including Rajai Davis, Marlon Byrd and Mike Napoli.  Although these guys are reaching the end of the road of their usefulness,  they still have the ability to be effective against LHP. We are likely to see a lot of them this series as the Indians await Michael Brantley's return.

Indians Starting Pitchers vs LHH (last 3 seasons):

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Corey Kluber 316 25.7% 6.9% 11.2% 0.257 0.318 0.409 0.319 3.56 3.13
Carlos Carrasco 173.2 24.3% 7.8% 13.0% 0.229 0.290 0.369 0.289 4.04 3.44
Danny Salazar 161.2 27.8% 7.9% 12.1% 0.228 0.295 0.390 0.300 3.34 3.49

The Rays will face a tough task in as they hit against the best starters of the Indian's staff. They will need to see their left handed bats to step up this series to put some runs on the board.

The Indians starters haven't been sharp the first time through the rotation as they have combined to put up a 5.17 ERA, 6.67 FIP, and 29.4% HR/FB rate over 15.2 innings.

All three starters are capable of making life difficult for any lineup, so the bats will have to wake up to give the Rays pitching a chance to win these games.

Indians Relievers vs LHH (last 3 seasons):

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Cody Allen 107 37.4% 7.7% 9.5% 0.178 0.246 0.302 0.242 2.02 2.24
Trevor Bauer 171.1 21.5% 12.8% 12.3% 0.232 0.336 0.391 0.323 4.41 4.83
Joba Chamberlain 65.1 17.6% 11.2% 13.8% 0.269 0.360 0.413 0.340 5.23 4.72
Zach McAllister 147 20.3% 9.7% 4.9% 0.256 0.330 0.396 0.318 3.67 3.40
Ross Detwiler 65 15.4% 5.2% 2.7% 0.247 0.321 0.300 0.280 2.63 3.17
Jeff Manship 38 13.1% 10.6% 8.0% 0.254 0.342 0.350 0.300 3.32 4.11
Dan Otero 70 14.6% 5.0% 6.9% 0.284 0.328 0.389 0.311 3.21 3.32
Bryan Shaw 86.1 17.8% 8.8% 12.9% 0.260 0.330 0.389 0.313 3.34 3.94

The Indians' bullpen features an elite closer in Cody Allen and only one left handed pitcher in former National's starter Ross Detwiler. Many of the relievers are converted starting pitchers such as Trevor Bauer, Zach McAllister, and Joba Chamberlain.

The strategy of running up the starter's pitch count to get to the bullpen has come into disfavor as so many teams have dominant high leverage arms these days, but the old approach might be best against the Indians.   If the Rays are able to get to the bullpen early that will likely be the path of least resistance in putting runs on the board. However, if the Indians are able to hold a lead coming into the ninth inning it will be tough to mount a rally against Cody Allen.

Home Sweet Dome

Thanks to terrible weather, the Indians have only played two games in the last five days. Let's hope they are more rusted than rested!

This should be an exciting series if you enjoy pitching and strike outs. Hopefully the Rays offense can lead them to their first series victory of the season.