Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Trevor Bauer
- After splitting the first two games of their four-game series, the Indians and White Sox meet again tonight.
- Trevor Bauer will look to continue his stellar form, thanks to the recent development of an effective slider.
- Meanwhile, Dylan Covey comes off a great start in Boston and has shown significant signs of improvement from last season.
Well, on Tuesday we previewed the current favorite World Series matchup with the Yankees and Nationals. Today, we cover a game that has zero World Series potential. Not only do both teams play in the same league, only one (Cleveland) has any legitimate shot at playing baseball in October.
After the teams split the first two games of a four-game set, let’s take a look at whether the Sox or Tribe have the edge tonight.
Cleveland Indians (-178) at Chicago White Sox (+163) | O/U: 8.5
Trevor Bauer (5-4, 2.62 ERA) vs. Dylan Covey (2-1, 2.22 ERA)
8:10 p.m. ET
Bauer has nice career splits against the White Sox. He has compiled a 3.55 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and an impressive .213 BAA in 14 games (12 starts) against Chicago. The 2011 first-round pick twirled two gems (both wins) against the Sox last year, allowing only three earned runs in 12.1 innings, while striking out 16 and walking just one.
Considering that Bauer finished 2017 with a 4.19 ERA, the natural question becomes, what is he doing differently this year? For starters, he did get a little unlucky last season with a .337 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play). Also, as you may recall, he finished the 2017 season on a roll — going 10-1 with a 2.60 ERA in his final 14 appearances. He’s really just picked up right where he left off, but there’s even more reason for Cleveland fans to be optimistic.
While he has similar walk and ground-ball rates, he’s struck out a few more batters per nine innings (11.41 vs. 10.00) this year. I attribute that jump to three factors:
- Velocity: His fastball velo has increased from an average of 94.3 mph to a career-best 95.4 mph.
- Slider: He’s thrown his slider (a pitch he worked on in the winter) almost three times as much as he did in 2017. Per FanGraphs, his slider has a value of 7.5, which ranks in the top 10 in the league. Having an effective slider to mix in with his fastball and curve makes him that much filthier.
- Experience: Since Bauer is a notorious advanced metrics and film junkie, I believe he will benefit from experience more than the average pitcher will.
And the other glaring difference that sticks out when evaluating his metrics? He’s keeping the ball in the park at a career-best 0.52 HR/9, which ranks in the top five among all qualified starters.
Luck, or a result of the factors mentioned above? Only time will tell, but I like what I see from the right-hander so far this season. — Stuckey
Covey has pitched significantly better in 2018 than he did in 2017.
Now, there are some things I like and some things I don’t. He’s obviously been lucky in regard to not allowing a single home run through nearly 30 innings this year. But he’s not going to get anywhere near that absurd 2.57 HR/9 last year if he keeps inducing grounders at a 60% clip.
Last time out, Covey took down Chris Sale in Boston for the fourth-biggest upset of the year as a +281 underdog. He’s throwing harder, getting more swing-and-misses and causing batters to chase more often. I expect bettors to bet heavily on Cleveland, but Covey and the ChiSox should provide some value. — Mark Gallant
Bauer, who has never finished a season with an ERA below 4.00, has gotten off to a solid start in 2018 with a 2.62 ERA. That could spell trouble for the South Siders, as they are just 2-8 this season against starters with an ERA below 3.00 — losing bettors 5.3 units. Since May 1, the White Sox are 0-5 in this spot, including two losses to these Indians. — Evan Abrams
The Indians have owned the White Sox over the past two seasons, taking 17 of 23 games and winning by an average of 2.5 runs per game. The Tribe opened as -185 favorites Wednesday. In the past calendar year, Cleveland has gone 12-1 as a favorite of -180 or greater against Chicago. The Indians won those games by a ridiculous 4.2 runs per game. — John Ewing
The Indians have a 9-3 record in Bauer’s 12 career starts against the White Sox, profiting bettors 4.9 units. That makes the White Sox Bauer’s second-most profitable opponent. (Bauer has an 8-0 moneyline record against the Astros.) — Evan Abrams
All stats via FanGraphs, Baseball Reference and MLB.com