Series Preview: Battle for Ohio, Part 2

061712-indians_mediumWhat a difference a week makes! The Reds are in the thick of a six-game winning streak, and across the board are looking like an improved ballclub. Their offense continues to inch up toward MLB average, while their rotation continues to be strong and their bullpen is top of the line. Even their fielding numbers are looking pretty rosy at this point--maybe not elite, but solidly average to above average. That's a lot better than they were a month ago when I started doing these previews for the 2012 season.

The result is that the Reds are sitting four games above the Pirates in the NL Central, and a full five games above the Cardinals. There are 97 games to go. If the Reds can go .500 the rest of the way, they'd finish 86.5-75.5 (I know, the half game...bear with me). Is 86-87 wins enough to win the NL Central? I don't know...I'm convinced that the Cardinals are going to go on a tear at some point here. They really scare me. So how about if the Reds go their component W% the rest of the way? That would give them a 90-72 record. And that might just be good enough to make it. There's a long way to go, but I like where the Reds are right now.

The Indians, on the other hand, are in the middle of a 1-5 slide. This is thanks in part, of course, to the Reds' sweep last week. Fortunately for them, their division leader, the White Sox, haven't been playing well either, and as a result they're only 1.5 games back. This is looking right now, however, like a team that isn't atrocious, but also a team that doesn't do anything particularly well. ... aside from, maybe, getting on base.

Park Factors: Progressive Field

Runs: 0.99

Home Runs: 1.00 LBH, 0.93 RHB

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via hittrackeronline.com

This is one of those times when I look at the park factors, and then I look at the field, and I sort of shrug. Progressive (formerly Jacobs) Field plays pretty fair for the most part, but historically hasn't been particularly friendly to right-handed batters in terms of home runs. I do not know why that is. But it's based on multi-year data (5 years, I think), and is (I think) regressed. ::shrug::

Position Players

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I'm taking a stab in the dark with this Rolen situation. When I'm writing this, Sunday night, I'm assuming that Rolen will play third and that Frazier will probably DH at least the first game. I wouldn't be surprised to see Rolen DH a game or two in this series while it's an option. I also don't know who will be sent down to make room for him, though I'd guess either Kris Negron or Willie Harris. By the time you read this, you probably already know the answers to these questions!

There's not a lot of newness here given that the Reds just faced these guys a week ago. Jack Hannahan returned from the DL, and has taken back over at third base. The guy who used to be considered the third baseman of the future, Lonnie Chisenhall, seems to be sitting the bench. But he hasn't performed at the big league level yet, and it's not clear to me that the Indians still consider him a key prospect. And really, Hannahan has been just fine for them over the past year he's been starting over there, so they're not in a big rush to get him out of the starting job. Hannahan's best skill offensively is that he gets on base.

Probable Starters

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The new face among the Indians starters, at least as far as the Reds are concerned, is Justin Masterson. He had a heck of a year last year, and there was nothing really lurking in the background numbers that would suggest that it was anything but legit. It basically looked like a prospect who was finally making good on his promise. This year, however, he seems to have just lost sight of the strike zone, with his walk rate shooting far too high. This has severely reduced his effectiveness. That problem has been trending downward, however, and I still see him as a legitimate threat.

The Reds miss Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians' big mid-season pickup last year. He has been an unmitigated disaster for both the Indians and my fantasy team. His strikeout rate (5.95 k/9) is so low that it's almost the same as his walk rate, which is terrible (5.4 bb/9). On top of that, he's become a fly ball machine. I don't know what happened, but he's clearly not the pitcher he used to be. And I don't know if he'll ever be back where he was, which is a shame.

Bullpen

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The new name in the Indians' pen is Esmil Rogers, who came over from Colorado last week. Esmil has been on the cusp of having a steady rotation job for a few years now in Colorado, and might get a chance in Cleveland at some point. He's been walking too many this season, but his other peripherals are pretty impressive. He's worth watching.

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