Indians to Continue Rolling vs Struggling Tigers: MLB Picks

Rainman M.

Saturday, July 8, 2017 1:47 PM UTC

Saturday, Jul. 8, 2017 1:47 PM UTC

The Indians have won their last two games by a combined score of 22-4. They’ll look to pound Detroit for a 4th time in a row on Saturday Night.

Tigers vs Indians

It looks like the Tigers will remain a mystery right up to the All-Star Break. Despite all of the talent in their lineup and rotation, they currently sit nine games below .500 and one game ahead of the White Sox for second-to-last in the AL Central. Disappointment ALS turned into embarrassment last night when three Tigers’ batters struck out in a total of nine pitches in the fifth inning. On the contrary, the Indians’ offensive performance has been anything but embarrassing. Out of Cleveland’s plethora of offensive talent, Jose Ramirez will be most worthy of watching out for. He is 5-for-9 with 4 RBI’s in his past two games. When he faced Verlander on July 2nd, he went 3-for-5 with two home runs and 4 RBI’’s. In his career against Verlander, he is 11-for-25 (.440) with three doubles, two home runs and five RBI’s. Francisco Lindor and Lonnie Chisenhall are the two other Indians who are batting over .300 lifetime against Verlander in 25+ at-bats.

Probable Pitchers

Justin Verlander (5-5 4.96 ERA) takes the mound for Detroit. He has faced Cleveland three times this season: in two outings, including the last one on July 2nd, he got shelled. Sandwiched in between those two outings was one on May 2nd in which he gave up two runs in seven innings. While Verlander is capable of dominating Cleveland, he has rarely dominated any lineup so far this season. He has been struggling with his stuff. For example, on July 2nd, he did not strike out a single batter. The vertical movement of his fastball this season has declined to an average number that is similar to the number in the worst seasons of his career. On July 2nd, his fastball was also his biggest problem. Not only could he not generate whiffs with it, he struggled to throw strikes with it. That day and throughout the season, he has generally been failing to get opposing batters to chase pitches out of the zone. When they do swing, they are making contact a higher rate. They are reading his pitches easily and are not getting fooled by them. They are able to foul pitches off until they see something that they like, while they tire him out. Verlander is also walking batters at a higher rate than ever, indicating struggles with his ability to locate his pitches. He has insisted that he is physically fit. But even though his velocity is actually up from last year, his struggles with stuff and location indicate that there may be an underlying health issue. He’ll look to turn things around, especially if he is hoping for more teams besides the Cubs to express interest in him before the trade deadline. But he faces a Cleveland lineup that is hitting the ball well and is already extremely familiar with him and the Money Line betting lines reflect this.

Mike Clevinger (4-3 3.33 ERA) counters for Cleveland. The young up-and-comer already squared off with Verlander on July 2nd. He got into a jam early in that outing: he threw 30 pitches and walked the bases loaded. But he got out of his jams relatively unscathed and ultimately allowed just one run in six innings. Walks have been a recurring problem for him. He can be a wild pitcher. In too many at-bats he’ll put himself at a disadvantage by throwing a pitch or two way out of the zone. This is an issue that might be related to his unconventional windup. Clevinger is a nibbler of corners, particularly in the lower half, as he likes to keep his pitches down in the zone. In some at-bats, he’ll barely miss a corner a couple of times or he’ll approach an at-bat with the anticipation that the batter will chase his pitches out of the zone and therefore get behind early. But he has also done a good job of bending-without-breaking. His ability to get out of jams speaks to the quality of his stuff, which is indicated by his 10.33 K/9 rate. His stuff is the reason why I am not concerned that Detroit batters have just seen him. Clevinger enjoys such a variety of pitches with which he can keep opposing batters off-balance that he can do well against the same team multiple times in a row. He only needs to develop consistency on the mound by not throwing too many wild pitches, by keeping pitches down in the zone and by having his stuff with him, so that he throws a variety of pitches.

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The Verdict

The starting pitching match-up features a falling star who is looking for answers and an up-and-coming talent. There is a lot of reason to be optimistic about Clevinger. He will continue to have ups-and-downs as all rookies do. But tonight he also has the insurance of a hot lineup that is very familiar with Verlander, and he will face a lineup that is struggling for production. The Indians are first place in their division also because they possess baseball’s statistically best bullpen: their relievers rank first with a 3.22 combined FIP (this is like ERA, but factors out luck). Don’t think twice about this one: history will repeat itself on our MLB Picks.

Free MLB Pick: Indians RL -1.5 (+135)
Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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