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Oakland A's-Indians series preview: Balanced lineup vs. Stars and Scrubs

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The Athletics will try to end the first half on a good note in Cleveland against the Indians.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics (39-49) face the Cleveland Indians (41-44) for the final three games before the All-Star break. The recently streaky club is riding a three-game winning streak that followed streaks of three games losing and five games winning. They are 10 games back of the American League leading Kansas City Royals and are in seventh place in the Wild Card standings, trailing the Twins by 4.5 games for the second Wild Card.

The Indians and A's offer interesting variations on team building, featuring Cleveland's "stars and scrubs" against Oakland's balanced roster. Jonah Keri and Neil Paine, writing for fivethirtyeight.com, concluded both types of roster construction offer the same level of run scoring.

Both teams have the same wRC+ for non-pitchers (101). On the "stars" side, Cleveland has three batters with a wRC+ over 140 while Oakland's best regular hitter, Stephen Vogt, has a 138 wRC+, and has Friday's game off. On the "scrubs" side, Cleveland's probable starting lineup for the series contains four batters with a wRC+ worse than 75 while Oakland is keeping Eric Sogard (68) and Sam Fuld (75) on the bench. Third worst is Billy Butler's 94 wRC+.

On the mound

Starter Ranks
A's AL Rank Indians
1st (3.03) ERA 10th (4.23)
1st (3.37) FIP 2nd (3.50)
6th (3.76) xFIP 1st (3.30)

Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer own the third, fourth, fifth, and ninth best strikeout percentages among 48 qualified American League starting pitchers. All four have 100 strikeouts already. Jason Lukehart of Let's Go Tribe writes, "This is the first time in baseball history that four pitchers on the same team have struck out 100+ batters before the All-Star break."

Friday (4:10 PM PDT) Saturday (3:35 PM PDT) Sunday (10:10 AM PDT)
Kendall Graveman vs. Danny Salazar Chris Bassitt vs. Carlos Carrasco Sonny Gray vs. Corey Kluber
3.16 ERA 4.10 2.95 ERA 4.17 2.20 ERA 3.45
4.35 FIP 3.52 4.34 FIP 2.83 2.67 FIP 2.41
4.31 xFIP 2.95 5.69 xFIP 2.74 3.29 xFIP 2.59
13.8% K% 28.9% 15.4% K% 27.7% 22.5% K% 29.3%
7.3% BB% 6.7% 11.0% BB% 5.3% 6.4% BB% 5.1%
1.64 GB/FB 1.22 0.67 GB/FB 1.49 1.77 GB/FB 1.46

At the plate and in the field

A's AL Ranks Indians
7th (4.34) RS/G 12th (3.98)
T-6th (101) wRC+ 9th (100)
11th (73) HR 13th (70)
4th (.257) AVG 9th (.250)
7th (.319) OBP 5th (.322)
T-9th (.394) SLG 12th (.387)
13th (.137) ISO 12th (.138)
5th (51) SB T-9th (39)
15th (78) Errors T-7th (46)
5th (8) DRS 12th (-13)
14th (-25.6) UZR 12th (-12.0)
3rd (.721) DE 13th (.695)

Cleveland's heavy hitters—Jason Kipnis, Ryan Raburn, and David Murphy—are players that would be on a full season pace to hit something like 15-20 home runs. Kipnis, for one, is leading the American League in doubles (27) and is tied for 10th in walks (40).  The power threats in Cleveland's lineup so far are Ryan Raburn and Brandon Moss, who each own isolated power ratings over .200. Moss is still striking out (27.6% rate) and his batting average remains low (.226).

The Indians are not doing a lot of base stealing. Jason Kipnis leads the team with 10, and only four players have more than three.

Advanced defensive metrics roundly pan the Indians, especially in their range ratings. Their -9.2 Range component in UZR is 13th in the AL, their -12 Plus/Minus component of DRS is 12th.

Sogard Line

The Eric Sogard Line is Sogard's wRC+, representing my gut feel for what represents serviceable offensive production for a bottom of the order hitter with a good glove, but you probably don't want more than one or two of those in your lineup.

Sogard's wRC+ fell from 69 to 68 after going 1-for-4 against the New York Yankees. The Indians have given 31 percent of their non-pitcher plate appearances to batters at or below the Sogard Line.

Bullpen

Bullpen Ranks
A's AL Ranks Indians
4th (242.2) IP 3rd (242.1)
14th (4.30) ERA 4th (3.12)
11th (4.18) FIP 7th (3.57)
10th (3.96) xFIP 4th (3.51)

The starting rotation's strikeout proclivities must be contagious. Four relievers with at least 15 innings pitched own strikeout percentages greater than 20 percent. Indians relievers do walk batters at a pretty high clip, however, owning a 9.0 percent walk rate, fifth in the American League.

Cleveland's bullpen is led by Cody Allen, who is 18-for-19 in saves this year. He has allowed just one home run. Their main left-handed man is Marc Rzepczynski, who is enjoying a career-high strikeout rate so far and has also allowed just one home run.

2015 Stats Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA K% BB% GB/FB 9-Jul 8-Jul 7-Jul 6-Jul 5-Jul 4-Jul 3-Jul
Cody Allen R 37.0 3.16 37.4% 11.0% 0.69 21 10 20
Bryan Shaw R 30.1 1.78 23.8% 8.2% 0.97 11 7 15
Zach McAllister R 42.1 2.98 28.9% 6.7% 1.44 19 12 13
Marc Rzepczynski L 17.2 3.57 29.5% 11.5% 7.75 12 5 3
Ryan Webb R 25.1 2.84 17.0% 8.5% 2.28 24
Kyle Crockett L 3.2 0.00 30.8% 23.1% 5.00 36
Austin Adams R 15.0 3.00 19.1% 9.5% 0.81 23
Jeff Manship R 8.0 1.13 22.2% 7.4% 1.29 30 16

The games

Watch for the odd start time on Saturday which is probably a combination of a promotional giveaway and a weekend fireworks show.

Time (PT) Probable starters TV Promotion
Friday 4:10 PM Kendall Graveman vs. Danny Salazar CSNCA Trans Am Rock Fireworks
Saturday 3:35 PM Chris Bassitt vs. Carlos Carrasco CSNCA 1995 Sandy Alomar replica jersey and 80's Fireworks
Sunday 10:10 AM Sonny Gray vs. Corey Kluber CSNCA