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Series Preview: Indians @ Orioles

There is no Q&A with Let's Go Tribe today due to some scheduling conflicts. Hopefully it'll work out for their next series against the O's. Instead, here is the series preview from my perspective.

Starting Pitching

Game 1: Justin Masterson (0-3, 5.23 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (1-4, 4.67 ERA)

When Justin Masterson was with the Red Sox he pitched primarily in relief and was fairly successful. He faced the Orioles four times when he was with Boston, all in relief. He got knocked around in one of those appearances (but what could he do, it was Birdland Day), but was very good in the other three, pitching to a combined line of 6 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 6 K.

Since being traded to the Indians last year, Masterson has been a starter. Given the state of their rotation it makes sense the Indians would try him out there. He had some success starting in the minors, he's relatively young, and their rotation has more holes than a Connect Four board. Unfortunately for Masterson, it hasn't gone very well. He is averaging less than 5 1/2 innings per start and has an ERA of 5.23. Both FIP (3.85) and xFIP (3.01) paint a much prettier picture, as does the fact that his BABIP has been an insanely high .411, but he's been giving up less fly balls and more line drives which doesn't bode well for him.

Masterson made one start against the Orioles last year as member of the Indians, pitching 5.2 innings and allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 8 H, 4 BB, and 6 K.

Game 2: Mitch Talbot (4-2, 3.43 ERA) vs Brian Matusz (2-3, 4.91 ERA)

Don't let Mitch Talbot's record and ERA fool you; he's not that good of a pitcher. Talbot had three good starts in a row this season, but he's come back to earth in his last two. His 3.43 ERA is impressive, but just as Masterson has actually pitched better than his ERA, Talbot has definitely pitched worse. His FIP is an ugly 5.37 and his xFIP isn't much better at 4.94.

Talbot has faced the Orioles just once as a member of the Rays in 2008, pitching 4.1 innings and allowing 1 run on 4 hits.

Game 3: Jake Westbrook (1-2, 5.06 ERA) vs. David Hernandez (0-5, 5.84 ERA)

I cannot believe that Jake Westbrook is still pitching. He's only 32 years old but it seems to me like he should be at least 50. Westbrook has started 8 games against the Orioles in his career but none since 2007. Westbrook pretty much is exactly what he looks like on paper: a mediocre pitcher who doesn't strike out enough (5.54 K/9) to make up for his walk rate (4.58 BB/9). 

Position Comparison

Catcher: Lou Marson has been making most of the starts for the Indians this year. He's young, just 24 years old, and he hasn't done much with the bat. He's hitting .197/.260/.254 in 23 games. He hasn't hit a home run and has one double. Contrast that to Matt Wieters, also 24 years old, hitting .276/.306/.407 with 4 HR and 4 2B. Defensively both have been good at stealing out baserunners. Wieters is 8-for-20 (40%) catching baserunners, Marson is 6-for-19 (31.5%). And of course Wieters loves to give the bad ass over his shoulder glare at the runner who dared tried to steal on him as he walks back to the dugout. Advantage: Wieters

First Base: Russell Branyan started the season on the disabled list, but has been back in action since late April. He has played in just 14 games, but is hitting .273/.347/.545 with 3 HR and 3 2B in 50 plate appearances. Garrett Atkins has giant teeth. Advantage: Branyan.

Second Base: 24 year old Luis Valbuena  has gotten the most starts at 2B for the Indians this season, although a fair amount have also gone to Mark Grudzielanek (seriously? that guy is still playing). In 24 games, Valbuena is hitting .197/.310/.290 with 2 HR and 3 2B. His old man platoon partner has played in 17 games, hitting .290/.344/.290. Yes, all 18 of his hits have been singles. Ty Wigginton is hitting .291/.368/.627 with 10 HR and 7 2B and has captured the hearts of Orioles fans everywhere (even if he can't capture himself an MBP). Advantage: Wigginton

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera has been a bright spot offensively for the Indians. He's not lighting the world on fire, but he hits quite well for a shortstop and quite well compared to most of the other Indians. In 29 games the switch hitter is batting .303/.341/.393 with 1 HR, 6 2B, and 1 3B. Cesar Izturis has an OPS+ of 35. That's not a typo. Advantage: Cabrera

Third Base: Jhonny Peralta is manning 3B for the Indians this season and is hitting an underwhelming .229/.325/.371 with 2 HR, 7 2B, and 1 3B. Compare that to Miguel Tejada, who is batting .281/.323/.438 with 4 HR and 7 2B. It's almost useless looking at defensive data for just a month plus of a season, but if you take a look, Tejada has been much better than Peralta. Advantage: Tejada

Left Field: Austin Kearns has played the majority of LF for the Indians and he's having himself quite a year so far. He's always been a good defensive corner outfielder, but this year has really come on with the bat.  He's hitting .341/.418/.518 with 2 HR and 9 2B and has been perhaps the Indians best all around hitter so far. As for the Orioles, they are undefeated with Corey Patterson in left field! Advantage: Kearns

Center Field: I'm not gonna lie, when those nudie pictures of Grady Sizemore found their way to the internet, I looked. A couple times. Baseball-wise, Sizemore is having his second tough year in a row (his 2009 line was pretty good for a CF as good defensively as he is, but still down from the numbers he'd put up prior), hitting just .215/.278/.298 with 6 2B and 2 3B, and he's striking out nearly 30% of the time. Also disappointing is the Orioles centerfielder, as Adam Jones is hitting .258/.263/.354 with 3 HR, 4 2B, and 2 3B. It's a close call as to which one as been worse offensively, but at least Sizemore hasn't let his defense deteriorate along with his offense. Advantage: Sizemore

Right Field: Shin-Soo Choo is awesome, and also quite underrated. He's very good defensively as well as at the plate, where he's hitting .303/.410/.459 with 4 HR and 7 2B. His hitting line is in fact very close to the right fielder we all love. Nick Markakis is hitting .303/.396/.447 with 2 HR, 11 2B, and 1 3B. Nick also plays a good right field although UZR doesn't generally give him much love. Advantage: Too close to call.

Designated Hitter: Remember about five years ago when Travis Hafner was ridiculous? He's not so much anymore, hitting .237/.367/.371 with 3 HR and 4 2B. Compare that to Luke Scott, who is at .213/.275/.468 with 6 HR and 6 2B. It's funny how the only thing you have to do to be a designated hitter is hit and these two guys don't do a very good job at it (although Pronk gets on base at quite a good rate). It does appear that Luke is entering into one of his familar hot streaks, so I have to say the advantage goes to him.

Must like the Orioles last series against the Mariners, neither team is great shakes on offense so the games will likely come down to the pitching. My prediction is the that Orioles take 2 of 3.