The Miami Marlins had to settle for splitting their two-game series with the Atlanta Braves, after a second straight disappointing start from Ricky Nolasco. The Marlins are now 9-2 in their last 11 home games. The Marlins will not be taking their talents to Cleveland, to face the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland fans are not too big on neither the city of Miami nor the Marlins. It will be interesting to see if any Miami Heat hecklers show up to the game. The Marlins will be making their third trip to Cleveland in club history, the first since 2004. The Marlins first trip to Cleveland occurred during the 1997 World Series.
I had a nice chat with Lewie Pollis, the editor of Wahoo’s on First, the Indians Fansided site. Lewie is one of the more active writers that Fansided has. He also came up with the “simple WAR calculator,” a tool that I use quite often for both Marlin Maniac and my own personal numbers crunching. In our chat, Lewie and I talked about everything, from Lebron James and his impact on this series, to Giancarlo Stanton. Here is a look at our chat:
Ehsan: I know that baseball and basketball are two completely different sports, but will the Marlins face any taunts being from the same city that Lebron James left Cleveland for? This is the Marlins first trip since 2004 to Cleveland, is that 1997 World Series still fresh in the minds of Clevelanders?
Lewie: I don’t follow basketball very closely, but I can’t imagine you’ll see too much Lebron-related animosity. Clevelanders’ problem with Lebron isn’t that he left. We’re used to that with our stars. It’s that he dragged it out and humiliated the Cavs with a self-indulgent TV special to announce he was leaving. It’s personal, not geographical. To be honest it hadn’t even occurred to me until you asked this, and I’m guessing most fans won’t think too hard about that connection.
The 1997 series is a little more relevant, but I think time has generally healed that wound. Most people today talk about that series as if Jose Mesa beat us, not the Marlins. There was never a huge Marlins-Indians rivalry, and I think most of us were rooting for you guys in 2003. Game Seven broke my five-year-old heart, but by now it’s just another in a long stretch of Cleveland sports tragedies.
Ehsan: The Indians have shocked the baseball world early in the 2012 season by taking charge in a division that everyone had the Detroit Tigers running away with? Are you as shocked as the rest of baseball?
Lewie: I don’t think anyone really doubted that the Tigers were the best team in the AL Central coming into this year, but the Tribe’s hot start really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. This is a team that played .500 ball last year despite being hampered by youthful inexperience, struggling veterans, and injuries to what seemed like almost every key player on the roster. So why is it such a shock that they’re good now that they have more experience, the benefits of offseason improvements, and better health?
Much as I hate to say it the Tigers still look like the best team in the division, so I’m not clearing my October schedule yet. But it shouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone that this team is contending. Anyone who predicted doom and gloom for the Tribe in 2012 simply wasn’t paying attention.
Ehsan: Derek Lowe has been extremely impressive in the early part of the season, this coming one season after he struggled mightily in Atlanta. Can Lowe keep this up or will he regress to what he was last season?
Lewie: That’s a bit of a false dichotomy. It truly pains me to say this, but there’s no way he keeps pitching like a Cy Young candidate while striking out less than a batter every four innings (you read that correctly). When his sinker is on he looks magical on the mound and I have no problem envisioning him continuing to outperform his DIPS numbers so long as he’s forcing batters to beat the ball into the ground. But you can’t expect him to maintain a 2.05 ERA. That’s just not happening.
That said, he wasn’t nearly as bad in Atlanta last year as he looked. His .327 BABIP and 65.9% strand rate suggest that he suffered from some bad luck. A lot of people said that Lowe is just the kind of pitcher who doesn’t meet his peripherals, but a quick look at his career stats (3.90 ERA against a 3.79 FIP) shows otherwise. It was clear that he’d bounce back, the surprise is just that he’s bounced back this much.
Anyway, some positive regression was in order after last year and he’ll probably come back down to earth soon from his great start. The way Lowe’s pitched so far I have no trouble envisioning him putting up a mid-3.00’s ERA over the course of the rest of the season.
Ehsan: Who’s pitching for the Indians this weekend, and what should Marlins fans look for from them?
Lewie: First up is Justin Masterson (5.40 ERA, 4.58 SIERA). He was our ace last year but he’s really struggled out of the gate in 2012. His velocity is down, his walk rate is up, and he’s not trusting his fastball/sinker nearly as much as he normally does. He’s shown flashes of brilliance this year (like in his phenomenal Opening Day start) but his command really doesn’t look nearly as sharp as it did a year ago.
Next you’ll see Jeanmar Gomez (3.75 ERA, 4.33 SIERA). He’s been a real pleasant surprise for the Tribe this year, and the fact that he’s done well while taking the ball every fifth day is a big part of how the Indians have managed to get by while Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez have struggled. He’s another real pitch-to-contact sinkerballer—a poor man’s Lowe, if you will—so he’ll never be utterly dominant but he’s usually good for a solid outing.
Finally, you’ll draw Derek Lowe (2.05 ERA, 4.29 SIERA). Hope you guys like grounders because that’s all you’re going to get from him when his sinker’s working—there isn’t much else you can do with his sinker. He doesn’t get many strikeouts or allow many walks, so it’s really a matter of how many worm-burners sneak through the infield.
Ehsan: What are your predictions for this series?Lewie: Usually I make it a personal rule never to bet against Justin Masterson, but it’s been hard to feel confident with him on the mound this year. I’ll say the Marlins take game one but the Indians come back to win the latter two.
Ehsan: Bonus Question: How many home runs will Giancarlo Stanton hit this series?
Lewie: I’ll say two since Stanton is on my fantasy team, but with the bias-related caveat that neither affects the outcome of a game.
Would like to thank Lewie a lot for taking his time out and answering some questions for us today. I also answered some questions for Lewie as well. I will have a link to my chat with Lewie up as soon as I can get a chance to do so. I will have the series preview up later tonight, hopefully before the game, but if not, it will be up during the game.