The Cleveland Indians head to Chicago Tuesday for a quick two-game series with the Cubs. The Indians are struggling to stay above .500 on the year. But, despite the fact they have hovered right around .500 all year long, they are still leading the American League Central Division, holding a one-game lead over the second place Minnesota Twins. The Cubs aren’t as lucky as they are six games over .500 after a slow start, yet they find themselves in third place in their division, the very competitive National League Central.
Starting tonight for the Cubs is Tyler Chatwood (3-3 3.14 ERA), and for the Indians, it is Trevor Bauer (3-3 2.59 ERA). This game is currently an even pick ‘em as both teams are -110. The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 PM PST from Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Cleveland Indians are certainly better than their record shows. This is a team that should be running away with the AL Central. Instead, they are content with treading water and hovering right around .500. When you look at the talent on this roster, it is hard to imagine they aren’t going to figure it out at some point. When you take a bit of a deeper dive, the stats might tell you that this team has just gotten a little bit unlucky this year.
Sabermetrics tell us that baseball is pretty much random and winning or losing close games is a bit of a coin flip. The Indians have struggled to win those close games, and as it sits right now, they are the only team in the major leagues to have more losses than wins, yet still, have a positive run differential. The Tribe has a +18-run differential on the season, that is right around the same level as the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners, both teams that are well above .500.
I am not going to say the Indians struggles are all bad luck, but I also think this team being valued as a losing squad is probably a little bit off as well. This is a team with a lot of talent, and at some point, they are going to go on a big run, and I would be shocked if by the end of the year this team doesn’t run away with their division. Tonight’s starter, Trevor Bauer has remained consistent through this teams up and downs this year.
Bauer has given up two earned runs or fewer in seven of his nine starts and has done a great job getting deep into games. Bauer has pitched into the seventh inning in six of those starts and has an ERA of just 2.59 on the season. In his last start, Bauer was lights out as he pitched eight shutout innings and gave up just four hits and struck out ten against the Detroit Tigers, a game the Indians won 4-0. When Bauer is on his game, he can go out and win you a game all by himself.
Starting tonight for the Cubs is Tyler Chatwood. Chatwood came over from the Rockies in the offseason and is enjoying not having to pitch at Coors Field anymore. Chatwood had a career ERA of about 4.50 in his time with Colorado and has enjoyed a great start to his season in Chicago. In his eight starts this year he has given up two earned runs or fewer in six of them. The one big knock on Chatwood this year has been walking guys. He has thirty-four walks in just forty-three innings of work.
That is much too high for a pitcher that has eyes on winning double-digit games this year. If Chatwood continues to play with fire by walking so many hitters, eventually it is going to catch up with him, and he is going to get burned. As it sits now, even with his solid performance, the Cubs are just 3-5 in games he starts this year.
I took the Indians last week when they played against the Houston Astros with Corey Kluber on the mound. It was the first time in a long time that I had seen Kluber as a dog, and I loved getting to take a pitcher that is so good, at such a great price. The Indians won, and I cashed my ticket. Tonight’s game is very similar. You have a tough spot for Cleveland as they are playing on the road against a good team with a solid starting pitcher.
But, you get to back an elite pitcher like Trevor Bauer at even money. That is very rare. Bauer is no Kluber, but the Cubs aren’t the Astros either. This number is being dragged down by the fact that Cleveland has struggled winning games this season, and as we discussed above, that might just be a little bad luck. So, I will hope for that luck to turn around and back Cleveland and Bauer and feel like I am saving some juice for sure. Give me the Cleveland Indians tonight in game one in Chicago at -110!