MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians

Date/Time: July 27, 7:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Edinson Volquez (9-5, 3.15) vs. Cody Anderson (2-1, 1.91)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Cleveland -115

Total: 7.5

Oddsmakers haven’t given up on the Cleveland Indians, given the line for Monday night’s game between the Kansas City Royals and the last place Tribe. The Indians were swept by the Chicago White Sox in a four-game series that seemed to signal the end of the team’s playoff hopes. While the Indians were busy dropping to 45-52, the Royals were winning their game and adding for a postseason push. Regardless of all of the circumstances surrounding these two teams, the Indians are a small favorite on Monday night.

One team’s Sunday ended with a rejuvenated sense of optimism. The other team’s ended with a team meeting that covered topics like “accountability” and “effort”. The Royals made a blockbuster trade on Sunday afternoon with the Cincinnati Reds that sent Johnny Cueto to the American League and Brandon Finnegan and two prospects to the National League. The Royals desperately needed a front of the rotation starter, since Edinson Volquez is masquerading as one thanks to a lot of fortunate batted ball luck.

Volquez gets the start on Monday night for the Royals. He is 9-5 with a 3.15 ERA, but his advanced metrics indicate just how beneficial the Royals defense has been for him this season. Volquez has a 3.59 FIP and a 4.02 xFIP on the season, with a .279 BABIP against. It isn’t as good as the .263 BABIP he posted with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, nor is his strand rate as high. But Volquez, who has below average strikeout and walk rates, has been one of the Royals’ most consistent starters this season.

Even though Volquez’s fastball rates as one of the worst in the American League, his changeup rates as one of the better ones, so he has been able to keep hitters off-balance while relying on offspeed and breaking stuff throughout most of the season. Volquez is actually missing more bats on pitches in the zone this season as well. The Royals lead all of baseball with 47 defensive runs saved and also have the best UZR/150 at 9.8. That’s how they have been able to be the best team in the American League with a subpar starting rotation.

Predicting regression with the help of sabermetric stats is not foolproof, though their predictive value is hardly questioned. When Cody Anderson got blasted to the tune of four runs on 10 hits in 2.2 innings in his last start, that was not surprising at all. Anderson had given up just three runs over his previous 30.1 innings of work with a lot of batted ball luck. He has only struck out 12 of the 125 batters he has faced this season. Even with that horrible start against Milwaukee, opposing batters have posted a .224 BABIP against him. Anderson’s 1.91 ERA, 3.79 FIP, and 4.05 xFIP suggest that more regression is likely.

Anderson was the minor league pitcher of the year for the Indians in 2013, so the upside is definitely there. He had a very rough 2014 season, as the Indians tinkered with some of his offspeed stuff and the death of a close relative played a big role. Anderson was excellent over 13 minor league starts this season and got the call to fill the much-maligned fifth spot in the Indians rotation. He sits in the 92-93 range with a good sinker and has shown a plus changeup this season.

MLB Prediction: Kansas City Royals

Team meeting or not, the Indians drew all of two walks in their series against the White Sox and scored five runs in four games. The odds of the team magically finding its offensive stride are pretty slim, especially against the top defensive team in baseball. Anderson has a good future as a back of the rotation starter, but his first four starts probably aren’t indicative of his true talent.