Baseball bettors get a little bit of a respite on Thursday with a smaller card than usual as teams enjoy an off day or endure a travel day to head into the weekend. One game with some division implications is the matchup between the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins.
Jean Carlos Mejia will give it another go for the Indians, who have run out of actual starting pitchers on the MLB, and Jose Berrios will counter for the Twins. With Berrios on the bump, the Twins are a -180 favorite with a total of 9 at BetOnline Sportsbook.
It is very easy to focus on what the Indians don’t have right now instead of what they do. This is and has been one of the top bullpens in baseball for most of the season, anchored by a strong 1-2 punch in the late innings with James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase. That has to be viewed as a weapon for the Indians in virtually every game, especially against a team like the Twins that has a bullpen that ranks near the bottom five in both ERA and FIP.
The Indians have also been a pretty solid defensive team this season, which has come in handy with the lack of starters and all of the balls in play coming from the replacements. While the defensive metrics show a league average kind of unit, it sure feels like they’ve been a lot better than that, especially compared to past teams.
The Indians offense has been slightly better lately thanks to some weaker competition, but this is still a unit that ranks 22nd in wOBA at .299. The Indians put a lot of balls in play, but have been a major laggard in the BABIP department at .267. That is one of the lowest in baseball. It is unfortunate because the Indians are 12th in Hard Hit%, which is pretty respectable all things considered.
It would be great if they could unlock some of that offensive potential because they might need it with Jean Carlos Mejia on the hill. Mejia has a 6.11 ERA on the season, but has a 3.67 FIP and a 3.70 xFIP. Mejia has fallen victim to quite a bit of bad luck, as his LOB% sits at just 52.1%. He has respectable K/BB numbers, but has allowed a .294/.368/.588 slash with men in scoring position.
Mejia just allowed six runs on seven hits to the Pirates in his last start on June 18. He’ll be on a little bit of extra rest here, so we’ll see if that helps. He has allowed 12 runs on 16 hits in his 12.2 innings as a starter.
Jose Berrios is worth watching closely in this start. Berrios saw a huge spin rate decrease in his last start down in Texas. He allowed three runs on six hits with six strikeouts over six innings in that start. Berrios now has a 3.56 ERA with a 3.57 FIP on the season in his 83.1 innings of work. The right-hander has sustained last season’s strikeout increase and has cut down the walks. He has a career-worst 9.8% Barrel% on the season, so the command is still a little bit of a work in progress.
As mentioned above, Berrios will need to give the Twins some length, as the bullpen has been putrid this season. That has been a strength in recent seasons and Rocco Baldelli’s aggressive managing has allowed that bullpen to be an even bigger weapon. This season, Baldelli probably has nightmares about having to go to his relievers.
The Twins pitching staff has been a hindrance as a whole this season. Minnesota’s offense ranks second in Hard Hit% at 42.3% and went into Wednesday’s off day eighth in wOBA at .323. The Minnesota offense has not been the problem this season to say the least. The Twins have hit 107 homers, which is just off the pace set by the Giants, and they’ve set themselves up well with the bats.
Things in baseball do have a way of evening out and the Twins are 6-2 in their last eight one-run games after starting just 5-9 in that department. It was a big part of their early season struggles, a byproduct of both the bullpen and the starting staff’s inability to allow the team to pitch from in front. Things have stabilized, but the Twins are still a last-place team in the division.
Indians vs. Twins Free Pick
This is a pretty big line for a last-place team against a second-place team, which is a pretty telling indicator of what the markets think of the Indians. Cleveland is the biggest overachiever per the alternate standings metrics, as BaseRuns lists Cleveland more like a 33-38 team. BaseRuns has the Twins at 34-39, for what it’s worth.
Still, this is a big number in this game. The Indians offense has been pesky and persistent and the Tribe’s bullpen is better than that of the Twins. It’s just a matter of whether or not Mejia can keep the team in the game while Berrios is out there. I think that can happen.
Pick: Cleveland Indians