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The Indians offense hasn't been quite as good as last year. Will they start turning it on today against the White Sox?
Free Daily MLB Picks - May 30th
Welcome back to our MLB Free Picks column. We got a win yesterday thanks to our guy Zack Godley, who kept his walks down as we hoped and kept the Reds offense in check in a 5-2 D’Backs victory. As that MLB.com article notes, that clinches the first series win for the Diamondbacks in over three weeks - amazing that they’re still above .500. We hope that they can keep it rolling.
For those of you out there who like a safe bet -- say, for example, you’re the kind of person that invests their money in savings bonds rather than the stock market -- we’ve got just the pick for you today. We’re taking the team with the highest odds to win because we believe that it’s one of the biggest mismatches of the year. Let’s get into it.
Chicago White Sox (Lopez) at Cleveland Indians (Kluber)
Reynaldo Lopez's ERA currently sits at 2.93, but we think that number is on its way up.
We’ve said it in this space before - we believe that Corey Kluber is one of the best four pitchers in baseball, and is probably the least discussed of the bunch. He’s off to another phenomenal start, with a 2.17 ERA over his first 78.2 innings in 2018. That ERA is actually lower than either of his Cy Young seasons in 2014 and 2017. His ERA will probably rise as he gets a little less lucky with runners on base - he’s currently 3rd amongst qualified starters in LOB% - but with stuff like Kluber’s, we expect him to remain dominant for the rest of the season.
The Indians have undoubtedly needed Kluber’s production this season, as they’ve stumbled a bit out of the gate at 28-25. That’s way off of the 102 win pace they had last season despite returning nearly everybody other than Carlos Santana. Their offense currently ranks 8th in wRC+, which is solid, but we think they’ve still got room to improve - they finished 3rd last year, and still have amongst the most talent of any lineup, with Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley and many others leading the way. While others may be focused on the hot starts of the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox, we aren’t forgetting about the Tribe - they should still be considered one of the true contenders this season, and one of the best teams in baseball.
The White Sox have been bad this season, but that’s by design - they’ve been rebuilding their farm system by trading off their core pieces for a few years now. The true culprit of their 16-36 start has been their pitching, which collectively has the worst xFIP in all of baseball. One guy who has contributed to that is Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez’s 5.38 xFIP is awful, but he’s managed to keep his ERA at a sparkling 2.93 over his first 10 starts due to some extreme batted-ball luck - he’s currently 3rd in baseball in BABIP, his homer rate has been about 50% lower than projected, and his LOB% is about 7% higher than projected. Needless to say, Lopez’s ERA is going to start heading in the wrong direction in a hurry.
The White Sox offense actually hasn’t been bad - they rank 13th in wRC+, shocking for their level of talent (or lack thereof). It starts to make sense, though, when looking at their top five hitters by plate appearances. Each of them - Jose Abreu, Yolmer Sanchez, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Matt Davidson - have overproduced based on their rest of season projections. Much like Lopez’s ERA, the White Sox offense is primed to regress for the remainder of 2018.