Tagged: Cleveland Indians

Previewing The American League Central

Only one team had a winning record in the AL Central last year, and that team (Cleveland) only pulled that rabbit out of their Wahoo-bedecked hat by way of having to play their 4 counterparts over 70 times. Has the division improved any for 2019? Perhaps, but this is still a flyweight of a divivision. Team by team:

Chicago – the Sox have more than just a former president (Obama) cheering them on to give them hope. The Chisox have one of the best farm systems in the game and the #3 overall prospect, outfielder Eloy Jimenez. They decided to buck the trends and sign him to a multi-year deal up front to negate years of arbitration bickering, and start him in the lineup from day 1 unlike other, ahem Blue Jays ahem, teams with superstars-in-the-making. That alone is reason to cheer, and not the only one, but the fact still remains this is a team that lost 100 games last year. It’s improved, but hasn’t improved that much. Besides Jimenez, he of .336 average, 22 homers last year in minors, they have a couple of stars-in-the-making in 2B/3B Yoan Moncada and OF Daniel Palka. Moncada is seen as a major star in the making if he can develop a better eye at the plate and cut down on his 200+ Ks last year. It’s said he put in extra work to do that in the off-season. Similarly, Palka hit more homers last year than any White Sox rookie in 35 years (27) but had an on base pct. under .300 due to his free swinging and strikeout rate of about 40% of all at bats. Add in aging veteran power hitter Jose Abreu and you have a team that can whack that ball out of the stadium regularly… but also boost opponents’ pitchers strikeout totals very quickly! Veterans Jon Jay and James McCann add some veteran stability in the clubhouse but are a few years beyond their prime. Pitching is wonky however, even with Ivan Nova (9-9, 4.19) and reliever Kevin Herrera added to the mix.

Cleveland: no more Chief Wahoo on the caps. The cynic might speculate that with him, winning teams might also be a relic of the past the Indians have jettisoned. That’s not correct, but northern Ohio fans have reason for concern. Last year’s team scored the same number of runs as the 2017 one (818), but allowed more than half a run a game more. The 648 allowed was still very respectable but what happens if the runs scored begins to drop off precipitously? Fact is, this is a team that looked fantastic on paper but fizzled in the post-season, which wasn’t that much of a surprise given that they feasted on games within their lacklustre division (49-27) but actually had a losing record against all other teams combined. Losing power-hitting dH Edwin Encarnacion, multi-talented catcher Yon Gomes and franchise icon Michael Brantley won’t help much at that. Nor will the gradual rise of some divisional rivals. Starting rotation is still best going by far – Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer and young phenom Shane Bieber. They combined last year to go 73-36, hurl just shy of 900 innings with just over 1000 strikeouts and keep the ERA at 3.18. Hard-throwing Danny Salazar could be back by June too, and ready to fill in if need be. Brad Hand and Andrew Miller anchor a decent bullpen. But, MVP-candidate Jose Ramirez is limping, second baseman Jason Kipnis starts on the injured list and Francisco Lindor, another MVP-candidate, has a damaged ankle that the team says reminds them of an injury Brantley suffered that cost him half a year. The OF is poor and new first baseman Hanley Ramirez is an old 35. In 2016, he still clubbed 30 homers and drove in over 100 for the Red Sox, but cumulatively in the past two, he’s had 29 HR and 91 RBI with a dropping average. Which hardly makes it seem the added baggage he seems to bring with him. Bottom line is its not really as good a team as last year; they’d better try a lot harder if they want to keep on winning.

Detroit : the Tigers looked alright in their opening series in Toronto. But it’s a long season and its one that’s not likely to be the cat’s pyjamas for Michigan fans. Their everyday lineup consists of two stars – Nicholas Castellanos, a free agent after this year making him grade trade bait come July, and fast-aging superstar Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera played well in spring but has been on a downwards trajectory of late, and being signed through 2023, isn’t likely to draw much trade attention. You’ll need the program to know your tabbys. Jacoby James? Grayson Greiner? Not household names, but worse, nothing much in their resume suggests they’re going to change that. The pitching is a wee bit better, but still a big question mark. 2016 Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer started with a bang, but hasn’t followed up. His home run rate nearly doubled last year, and his ERA has gone 3.06/3.83/4.69 while his WAR has dwindled from 5.3 to 3.4 to 0.9.Some suggest he’s looking better this year; Detroit better hope so. Likewise, Matt Boyd, the lefty “thrown in” with Daniel Norris in the Toronto trade for David Price, has outpaced the supposed star in that deal and has really mastered a good slider. Jordan Zimmerman shut out those Jays through 7 very strong innings on opening day but there’s a long ways to go to make them confident in him. His final 3 campaigns with Washington yielded 613 innings, 46-24 and a3.20 ERA. His first three in Motown: 397 innings, 24-28, 5.24. Casey Mize is seen as a “can’t miss” pitching prospect, but with only 14 innings of pro ball experience is optimistically a 2020 arrival.

Kansas City: Have only three seasons elapsed since the Royals won it all? Surprisingly, yes. But it seems a world removed, no less to the fans than anyone else. Alex Gordon is the only significant part of the Series team still playing; superstar catcher Sal Perez is still with them but is going to miss the entire season after Tommy John surgery. There are some lights at the end of the post-championship tunnel now, but the exit from the dark could be a ways away still. Whit Merrifield may be the second best second baseman in the league now behind Jose Altuve and is getting better in the field and at the plate by the month. With his 45 steals from last year and former Reds-speedster Billy Hamilton, this is a team which can run. Adalberto Mondesi is like his father Raul in a number of ways, such as being a 5-tool talent who also is uneven in mental attitude and approach from day to day and who tends to run into a lot of needless outs on the path. Pitching has some potential, but even if lived up to, is going to be middle-of-the-road at best. Brad Keller was a Rule 5 rookie from Arizona last year and already seems the ace, He didn’t let them down giving 7 shutout innings on opening day this year, improving on his fine 3.08 ERA he posted last year.Ian Kennedy on the other hand, has the big contract but is 8-22 in the past two seasons and has bested the league average ERA only once in the last 8 years.

Minnesota: Out with the old, in with the new. In the Twins case, the old includes manager Paul Molitor and franchise hero Joe Mauer, who retired. The new includes young manager Rocco Baldelli, much more of a stats/Sabermatics guy than Molitor was. Question is, will he be more of a motivator of young, arguably lazy stars than Molly was? In particular, Byron Buxton (not long ago the top-prospect in the game) and infielder Miguel Sano? Sano, one scout says is “always hurt and always fat” and the twins may have given up on waiting for him to mature and develop into the star they thought he’d be, bringing in nose-to-the-grindstone types Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Schoop, relegating Sano to the bench. Buxton on the other hand, is really needed to step up and rebound from a horrible year in which he was limited to 90 at bats due to a wrist injury, a broken toe and then arguments with management late in the year. He posted all of a .200 slugging percentage. 2017 had been a bit of a breakthrough, with a .253 average, 16 homers, 29 steals in 30 attempts and a dazzling 24 defensive runs saved. However, given that the two prior years combined for 138 games, a .220 average only 12 HR and 162 strikeouts to just 29 walks, and one has to ask if ’17 was the outlier, not the other campaigns? Twins are betting it wasn’t. Nelson Cruz is a good addition to add some oomph to the hitting. This being his 14th full season, he has a shot at making his 400th homer this year, sitting at 361 right now and having 5-straight 590+ at bat, 37 or more HR years. Jose Berrios is turning a lot of heads as the new ace, after a 12 win, 3.84 ERA, 200+ strikeout year last season at age 24. Michael Pineda could be a great #2 if he’s healthy, but with him that’s always a huge “if”. Taylor Rogers added a slider to his repetoire mid-year in ’18 and became almost unhittable; he’s one of the premier lefty relievers around now, but the rest of the ‘pen is forgettable.

PREDICTIONS:

CLEVELAND – 90 – 72

MINNESOTA 82 – 80

CHICAGO – 72 – 90

KANSAS CITY – 63 – 99

DETROIT – 62 – 100

And Into The AL We Go

Well on Day 2 of the season, we’ll shift our gaze westwards and look at the American League’s Central and West divisions.

The long and short of it, the way I see it:

Central

Cleveland 97 65 —

Minnesota 86 76 -11

Chicago 70 92 -27

Kansas City 69 93 -28

Detroit 66 96 -31

West

Houston 99 63 —

Seattle 84 78 -15

L.A.Anaheim84 78 -15

Texas 75 87 -24

Oakland 69 93 -30

The skinny: Cleveland could actually over-achieve this year, with a schedule thick on weak opponents. Their top of rotation 1-2 of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco is as good as any in the league and the rest of the rote is better than most as well. Francisco Lindor is quickly becoming recognized as up there with Jose Altuve as the best all-around player in the league; third baseman Jose Ramirez might join the ranks this year . He’s 25 and over past 3 seasons his average has gone .219/.312/.318 and his slugging percentage, from a dismal .340 to a rather stellar .583. A bounceback year from Jason Kipnis wouldn’t be surprising, after missing nearly half of last year with injuries. But, as much as I like EE, I think Encarnacion is following his buddy Jose Bautista on the downward slope.I’ll be surprised if he hits .250 or 32 homers this year.

Minnesota were the surprise of ’17, and congrats to Paul Molitor for turning the team around. The addition of Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi to the rotation improves the team, and I’m not alone in thinking Byron Buxton is about to become the superstar everyone projected him as a few years back. Still, Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier have seen better years, the bottom of the rotation is shaky and Fernando Rodney was a risk as a closer back when he was in his prime- which was long ago. They’re not quite there yet, but are a team going in the right direction.

Likewise, the White Sox. Yoan Moncada signals a movement towards good young players, catcher Wellington Castillo was a great addition at, and behind,the plate but there are a lot of holes to be filled. Six years back, I would’ve liked James Shields as the Opening Day pitcher. By now I’d be wary of having him on the roster, let alone the “Ace.”

Heading in the opposite direction, KC. Little remains of their 2015 championship team, and the parts that are there (like Kevin Herrera) are largely on the downward slope. Mike Moustakas is back, of course, and probably disgruntled. I expect him to be moved on elsewhere by the end of July.It’s gonna be a long ninth season on the bench for Ned Yost.

The best new addition to the Tigers is aging manager Ron Gardenhire. No Justin Verlander, no Ian Kinsler. Miggy’s still there, but the future Hall of famer is a very old 34 as he heads into his 16th season. His .249 average and .399 slugging last year were career lows – they’re not going to go up anytime soon (but he doubtless ads a maturity to the young clubhouse.) The Blue Jays look pretty smart with the David Price trade of ’15… neither Daniel Norris nor Matt Boyd look like they’re amounting to much so far but both are in the rotation.

Westwards, hello Harris County! The reigning World Champions look like World Champion repeaters on paper at least. They’ll have timeless workhorse Justin Verlander for the whole season, added a rising star in Gerritt Cole and already had a good rotation. Brad Peacock is bumped to the bullpen, which shows how strong the pitching is. Then there’s multi-time batting champ Jose Altuve, and the likes of Carlos Correa (23) and Alex Bregman (24) who are young still and improving, believe it or not. Even Yuli Gurriel, 33, is possibly not at his peak , given that he’s only had two MLB seasons behind him. The only reason I project Houston to win “just”99 is the possibility of a bit of complacency setting in, or injuries.

Seattle have in recent years always seemed better on paper than on the field, which is why I don’t see them hitting the post-season in 2018. A big comeback from 3B Kyle Seager and one-time superstar “King Felix” could change that. Canadian James Paxton could take over the Hernandez “crown” as king of the mound, if he can stay healthy all year and go past 180 innings.

The Angels may be the most interesting team to watch this year, with their additions and of course, the Japanese sensation, Shohei Ohtani. He’s really the key to the team’s success. He can throw very hard (past 100mph) but was hit hard in spring and may not be just a hurler rather than a real “pitcher” at his young age. Will the power hitters catch up to his speed ? We’ll have to watch and see. Even more of a question, can he hit? Spring training suggested “No”, but he did score a single in the opener. If he’s a flop at the plate, the Angels are in a hard place. He picked their team essentially on a promise of being a regular DH, but what happens if his bat costs them games? There are other problems Anaheim way anyway; although they should score runs, they’ll give up plenty too. whether they opt for a normal 5-man rotation or a new 6-man, the pitching is mediocre at best.

Texas do things big,and with the likes of Nomar Mazara, Adrian Beltre and Joey Gallo, they’ll hit a lot of big flies. But the fielding looks questionable and beyond Cole Hamels…there’s a whole lot of “ifs” on their mound. “If” Mike Minor can come back from all those surgeries, “if” Martin Perez can become more consistent, “if” Tim Lincecum can return to 2011 form (the last time he had an ERA below 4 or limited runners to less than 1.25 per inning) and convert to the bullpen, maybe they won’t be so bad.

Little hope of that inOakland. Jonathan Lucroy was a great addition both in his veteran stature and as an above-average catcher but there’s not a whole lot there to turn one’s head. Not a terrible team, but one that doesn’t stand out in any way at all.

So, later this weekend we’ll look to what we Jays fans care about- the AL East!

Does Rob Manfred Understand The Fans?

The good news for fans is that the gates to training camps will creak open in just a week and in less than three weeks there’ll actually be games (of dubious quality mind you, as is always the case early in Spring training) taking place. For the Jays fans, the good news is that most pundits see the team as middling but one having the potential to make a run for the glory, should everything fall into place. Those things mostly consisting of Aaron Sanchez not getting blisters after every dozenth pitch again, Marco Estrada sleeping well (he says his terrible stretch in the middle of last season was a result of insomnia), Josh Donaldson being healthy and wanting to show off his talents for potential free agent suitors in 2019 and the bullpen being as good as it was last year.

The bad news of course is that some of the most prominent players in the game don’t have a team yet, and there’s even going to be a separate camp for unsigned free agents, with them being so numerous. Hostilities between players and owners are at their worst since the bad ol’ 90s and some hotheads (LA’s Kenley Jansen for instance) are urging a wildcat strike just when most fans are either too young to remember, or old enough to have forgotten the fiasco that was the last, World Series-canceling,1994 strike.

Now I’ve made the point here recently that I don’t think there is collusion taking place. The unsigned free agents largely have to look in the mirror and around their old clubhouses to see why the offers aren’t rolling in like they once did. I think by this time in the Off Season, fans probably don’t care if JD Martinez plays or not in 2018 – he’s got a 5 year, $125M offer from the Red Sox, seems to have stated that he refuses to play for any of the other 29 teams but he’s holding out for more nonetheless. Or take Eric Hosmer, by common agreement a decent enough hitter and teammate. He’s got a lot going for him. He was a 2015 World Series champ; he’s durable (missing only 8 games over the past 3 years) and is still just 28. He’s coming off a very good .318/25/94 year with a .882 OPS – career high on the average and OPS- and has averaged 23 homers and over 90 RBI per year since 2015. On the other hand, he plays first base, and not very well at that. For the second year in a row, he had a negative defensive WAR, meaning that he likely cost his team wins by his poor defence compared to just an “average” player.

Hosmer has, its reported, two offers for 7-year deals, at or above $140M. One might think he’d jump at it, but of course the opposite is true. He’s balking and feeling insulted and wants either more per year and/or a much longer deal. It’s not hard to see why he may not be on the field when teams come out and play on March 29. It is however,hard to feel sorry for him.

All that said, it still is worrisome that the players and their bosses are so antagonistic towards each other. A strike would be the last thing anyone would, or should want. The second-last thing would be for the year to get going with a large number of stars like Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Hosmer, Martinez and about 100 others sitting out. The fans lose out with either and if we lose, the teams lose out to at the turnstile, at the concession stands and when it comes time to renew their TV contracts.

One would think this would concern the game’s Commissioner, Rob Manfred. But instead, all indications are that he is pleased as punch at his personal successes with the minutia he’s obsessed with – game length and what hat Cleveland players don.

Ever since he took his position, his main priority seems to be to speed up games. So far, he’s failed,as last year the length of an average game rose to a record 3 hours, 5 minutes.It rose to over 3 hours for the first time in 2014; in 1975 remarkably the game was typically under 2 and a half hours. Of course, much of this results from changes to the way the game is played these days, particularly the use of bullpens. In ’75, teams used an average of 2.4 pitchers per game . Nowadays the average is 4.2/game ( a starter and 3 or 4 relievers). Complete games are Whooping Crane rare. What’s more, the number of pitches per plate appearance keep rising, to 3.9 last season, up from 3.7 in 2001 when they started keeping tabs on that. More strikeouts, more foul balls…more windups, more batters stepping out. It adds minutes to the game.

Manfred has thus threatened players- speed up or else! He’s promised to bring in a pitch clock by 2019 if they don’t change the pace on their own. This would have a clock ticking off 20 seconds from when the pitcher gets the ball. If they don’t start their pitching windup, a ball would be called. Easy to see some slow pitchers issuing a whole lot more walks with that in place! Furthermore, he wants to limit the number of trips to the mound , by catchers as well as managers or coaches , to two per inning. Any more than that and the pitcher is removed (leading to a new pitcher coming in and wasting time running to the mound, warming up etc!). Players hate the proposal; Manfred essentially sticks his tongue out at them and says “try to stop me!”

Would it speed up the games? Possibly, although in all likelihood only by a minute or two. Until we bring in the DH rule to the NL to reduce pitching changes and change teams’ attitudes that a different reliever is called for every time a decent hitter comes to the plate late in the game, we’re not going back to 2 and a half hour g

 

ames. But wait- is that a bad thing?

Consider that for all the slagging the game gets

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Looking ahead to ’17

Well enough time has passed to be over the disappointment of this year’s ALCS and sit back, give props to the 2016 Blue Jays and look forward to what should be another exciting season a few months from now!

First off, should anyone from the Blue Jays team or office even chance to look at this, I want to say “thanks”. The 2016 season didn’t end like we hoped , but it was a hell of a run. The team was one of the best we’ve seen and the fans certainly responded in numbers rarely seen before in the Great White North. Kudos to you all, and yes, good luck to the Cleveland Indians. They simply outplayed Toronto even with all their cuts, scrapes and DL’d pitchers. This Jays fan is now pulling for that city by the lake in Ohio to have its second big sports championship of the year.

Onto 2017. While it seems, barring some totally unexpected blockbuster trade, that most of the core of the Jays team will be back , there are questions to be answered and holes to be filled. A few suggestions from this seat as to what the team should – and shouldn’t – do between now and April.

First, the obvious big question is Edwin and Jose. Encarnacion and Bautista are not only T.O.’s biggest pending free agents but (unfortunately for fans and for Rogers’) the biggest names in a rather thin crowd of free agents this winter. It’s going to cost a pretty penny to keep them both but Toronto should. Of course, there’s no guarantee that either or both of them even want to stay in Toronto, but I think they will if the money is there. Boston needs a new David Ortiz and he himself already speculated EE would be the perfect fit and it’s no stretch to imagine them offering Edwin a 5 year, $125M sort of deal . That’s about how high the Jays should go to keep him around.

Yes, he’s not much of a defensive strength for the team, but given his bat, that can be overlooked. In 2016, working DH quite often, he hit career highs in games (160), at bats (601) and runs (99). Surprisingly, his average (.263) was lowest since 2010 and his OPS lowest since ’11. So, even at 34 (by spring training) there’s still room to go back up and have a monster season or two. But we’d take his 39 HR, 110RBI that he’s averaged over the past 5 years. One thing the team should work on in ’17 if he returns is getting him to be a bit more selective again; his 138 whiffs last year was about 23% of at bats, almost double his rate back in 2012. (more on that later). Cutting down his strikeouts to 2012 rates should bounce his average back towards .290 and increase his already league-leading ribbie tally.

Which leads us to #19. We can rely on Jose Bautista for some wild stories and quotes every year. And to be the driving force behind a powerful offense. Certainly his ’16 was a little disappointing ; his .234 average for instance was lowest of his career in years he racked up more than 100 trips to the plate, for instance. But to these eyes, that’s more a factor or knee and foot injuries that had him on disabled list for nearly two months and being slotted into the leadoff spot (noted here before, not a spot he excelled at) than his 36 years. His 87 walks and .366 OBP show he still has a good eye at the plate and his admittedly fiery disposition seems to get the rest of the team going. Ironically, his “off” season may lower his market value enough to make him affordable for the team, even with Encarnacion. On his side, it’s tough to envision another city, or country, taking to him like Toronto has. Even if NY or Detroit were to offer him an extra million or so, he might lose a lot more in cereal box covers and winter-wear endorsements. Bautista should be back in ’17, although perhaps as the first baseman, leaving EE to be full-time DH and right field for a speedier,younger player.

One place the team might save a few dollars, as much as I hate to say it, is letting homegrown Michael Saunders walk away (unless he is without work come March and will take a major pay cut.) Saunders was an All Star this season, but it’s rather obvious he really tailed off in the second half to the point where he was routinely benched by John Gibbons in favor of the redoubtable Melvin Upton (whom, if lucky, the Jays will be able to trade.) Saunders played a career high 140 games and his 24 homers were welcomed, but his 157K’s in 490 at bats was rather troubling and he did manage only a .204 average with runners in scoring position. Not to mention his .187 average with only 5 HR after July. His position could be filled adequately for a lot less by Ezequiel Carrera, who had career highs in games (110) and at bats (270). His .248 average and 6 HR/23 RBI weren’t too inspiring but he did hit .333 with runners in scoring position and in the playoffs showed he can deliver under pressure. Given the luxury of being an everyday player, I think he might surprise a lot of people and post better numbers. It’s a gamble worth saving $5-8 million a year on, which is what I think the team would do by not going with Saunders.

Finally, on the topic of hitting, the Jays should rethink their re-upping of Brook Jacoby as hitting coach. Mark Shapiro has already announced his return as well as most of the other coaches, and this seems a bit questionable. Jacoby may be a good man and a hard worker but his results aren’t there. A team that was supposed to be a juggernaut this year took several steps backward at the plate. Only Houston, Oakland and Tampa in the AL hit below Toronto’s .248 and while they could still power the ball out (221 HR was third in league) their run total dropped off by 132, or almost a run per game. No doubt fueling that was the increase of strikeouts, to 1362 or about 90 more than the league average. That was 211 more whiffs than the ’15 team . More distressing, the team scored 3 or fewer in 70 games. Not surprisingly, they won only 15 of those contests; whereas they were a brilliant 74-18 when they scored 4 or more. A hitting coach who can teach batters to be more selective with their swings and play a bit of small ball when the long ball isn’t flying could help the team more than a new RF or better backup catcher ever will. A name that comes to my mind, prematurely I admit, is Paul Molitor. Yes, as of now he’s the manager in Minnesota but with a front office shakeup already underway there, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Molitor’s head offered up as an excuse for the poor player development and 103 losses in the Twin Cities. A return to Toronto could be a fresh start for him and a new way of approaching the batters.

Well, enough thoughts for one day. Next, we’ll look to the mound and see what to expect from the pitchers in ’17.

Toronto’s New Mantra : “We Like Cleveland!”

A solid return to form by sore-backed Marco Estrada last night ensured the team their third straight winning season and gave fans some much-needed reason for optimism. So far those have been in short supply this month.

While September hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster for the Jays, sitting tied for second, 4 games back of Boston is hardly where they’d hoped to be, or envisioned themselves going into this month. Sporadic hitting, sloppy fielding and so-so starting have undermined a good deal of the momentum they had going for them and that was giving the fans a sense of buoyant optimism. However, a look at the standings does give some reason for continued hope of a run well into the post-season. The key, not surprisingly, is not only making the playoffs but somehow re-taking the division and ideally, catching Cleveland in the standings. These two objectives make it vital that they now play every game like it was a Game Seven. Silly losses are a luxury they can no longer afford.

The reason for the emphasis on the win column is a look at their opponents. At this point there’s no point even giving a polite “what if” to the idea that the Central and West aren’t already won; no one’s going to catch the Indians or Rangers. Likewise, barring some kind of epic collapse, (I suppose not impossible), Texas will end up with the highest number of wins in the league and ensure themselves home advantage throughout the playoffs and an opening series against the Wild Card winner. This leaves a matchup of Cleveland vs. the AL East champion for the ALDS. This is the sweet spot for Toronto.

No one wants the added pressure of a one game, winner take all, wildcard game added in, which is reason enough for Toronto to concentrate on a division title. Avoiding that and taking on Cleveland is clearly optimal, particularly with the Indians pitching aches and pains. (Carlos Carrasco has a broken hand and will miss the rest of the year; Danny Salazar having forearm problems and having not pitched in eleven days, leaving Corey Kluber, who’s in a good groove, Trevor Bauer {11-8 , 4.24} and Josh Tomlin {12-8, 4.75 with 35 HR allowed in 153 innings} to carry the rotation. This is a club Toronto could beat, especially in Toronto. The Tribe do great at Progressive Field (49-26, tied with Texas for most home wins) but are only a .500 team on the road. The Jays, if you’d forgotten, are 42-32 at Rogers’ Centre. Another stat the Jays have to like about Cleveland: the Indians are decent in interleague play, are cleaning up against their divisional rivals (41-21 through the weekend including an incredible 13 out of 14 against Detroit) but are a losing 32-34 against the AL East and West. Toronto is 48-36 against teams outside of our AL East.

The road to the World Series may ultimately run through Arlington but the Jays would do best to get warmed up for that by ensuring an ALCS matchup with the Indians- ideally, one that opens up in Toronto.