Arizona Diamondbacks (3-1) vs Cleveland Indians (3-0)
Arizona did about as well as you could ask for this past week against the Giants, winning 3 of 4. They scored 27 runs in the series, almost 7 per game. The pitching (starters or relievers) was not outstanding however, holding the opposition to under 5 runs only once. This fun start to the year has me excited, despite concerns about the pitching. The team has a test ahead of them this weekend, when they take on the reigning AL champs.
The Other Guys
The Indians picked up right where they left off last season, sweeping the Rangers in a 3 game series to open the year. On paper, Cleveland is even stronger than they were last season, with the addition of Edwin Encarnacion and a healthy Michael Brantley boosting the lineup. You almost overlook Jason Kipnis when glancing over their roster. Jason Kipnis does not get overlooked on most rosters. Shortstop Francisco Lindor is a dark horse MVP candidate, while 1B Carlos Santana hit 34 homers last year. Everyone in their lineup had an OPS+ last year of 96 or higher, other than catcher Yan Gomes. This team will not be fun to deal with at the plate, and I haven’t even gotten to their pitching. The starters will discussed in depth further down the page, but the D-Backs luck out on the matchups for the most part, apart from facing Kluber on Sunday. To finish it off, the Indians had the 4th-best bullpen in baseball ERA-wise last year, because I guess they get all the nice things.
(all stats from 2016)
Game 1: Shelby Miller RHP (3-12, 6.15 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) vs Josh Tomlin RHP (13-9, 4.40 ERA, 1.19 WHIP)
After a 2016 campaign in which Shelby had an ERA almost 2 and a half runs worse than his previous career worst, this first start for Shelby means a little more than any other start. While you can’t predict a pitcher’s entire season by one start (or by 5 or 10), it’ll be important for Miller to get the demons out of his system which haunted him last year. The key for Shelby will be his control: his 1.67 K:BB ratio was bottom 10 for guys with 100+ innings pitched. I predict he comes out of the gates with a quality start.
Tomlin was very okay in 2016, with an ERA just over league average. He is a pitch-to-contact type of guy, striking out just over 6 batters per 9 while walking just 1 per 9, best in the majors. He features a fastball and cutter, along with a curve and change-up for his off-speed stuff. Neither of his off-speed pitchers are particularly effective, so if the D-Backs can time his fastball, they’ll be in good shape.
Game 2: Zack Greinke RHP (13-7, 4.37 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) vs Trevor Bauer RHP (12-8, 4.26 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)
Greinke didn’t exactly look spectacular in his Opening Day start, allowing 2 runs over 5 innings, with a pitch count that exceeded 90. His command looked less than stellar, with only 41% of his fastballs in the strike zone. He reached 93 MPH on his fastball, with an average of 91 MPH. This average is only 1 MPH less than it was in his 1.66 ERA 2015 season, so the velocity worries aren’t TOO concerning. Ideally, Greinke will get through batters faster in his second outing of the year, and go deeper than 5 innings.
The former top D-Backs prospect will make his first start against the team that drafted him (in case you forgot who Arizona got in exchange for him like I did, the D-Backs traded him to get Didi Gregorius, and then he was traded to acquire Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba). Entering his 4th full season in the bigs, Bauer needs to take another step if he wants to become a centerpiece of the Indians rotation. He is yet to have an ERA below 4 in his first 3 years. He has flashes of greatness, but nobody cares in the long run if all you show is flashes. Overall, I hope he breaks out this season; that can wait till their next series, though.
Game 3: Patrick Corbin LHP (5-13, 5.15 ERA, 1.56 WHIP) vs Corey Kluber RHP (18-9, 3.14 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)
Corbin struggled in his first outing of the season against the Giants, allowing 3 runs (1 unearned), 7 hits, and 2 walks over 4 innings. Like Greinke, a high pitch count ended up taking him out of the game, 87 pitches when he was removed. The lefty put runners in scoring position in each inning he pitched, not the best way to get through a game quickly. I am not too concerned about one bad outing, however.
Kluber had another excellent season in 2016, anchoring a rotation which made it to the World Series. He had an outstanding 1.83 ERA in the 2016 postseason. All signs point to another impressive year for Kluber, although blisters on his pitching hand may hinder him on Sunday. A 5 run, 6 inning outing on Opening Day will probably end up being one of his worst starts of the year. He’ll be tough to beat on Sunday.
Do the D-Backs continue to hit as well as they have? Well, it’ll be a little tough to keep up a pace of 7 runs a game. However, Tomlin and Bauer are no aces, and they should be able to keep the offense going.
Do the D-Backs continue to pitch as poorly as they have? I sure hope not. For the starters, Miller is a wild card, but I’d imagine Greinke and Corbin are both able to get further into the game this time around. The bullpen on the other hand... they don’t exactly inspire confidence in me, though Jorge De La Rosa has been pleasantly surprising thus far.
I would ask a question about the Indians... but they don’t have a whole lot of question marks on their squad.
The D-Backs come back down to earth, and take one of three in a competitive series.
How many do the D-Backs win against the Indians?
This poll is closed