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Indians vs. Tigers MLB Odds & Picks: Cleveland Too Shaky to Trust as Favorite (Sunday, April 4)

Indians vs. Tigers MLB Odds & Picks: Cleveland Too Shaky to Trust as Favorite (Sunday, April 4) article feature image

Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: JaCoby Jones and the Tigers celebrate their Saturday win.

  • The Cleveland Indians will look to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
  • Cleveland's offense has been a mess this season, and that seems likely to continue.
  • Michael Arinze previews the game and makes his pick below.

Indians vs. Tigers Odds

Indians Odds -135
Tigers Odds +115
Over/Under 8.5 (-105 / -115)
Time 1:10 p.m. ET
Odds as of Sunday morning and via Bet365.

The Cleveland Indians are a team I had significant concerns about coming into this season when you consider the departures of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana from their lineup.

If we look at their 2019 stats during the 162-game season, Lindor and Santana combined to hit 66 home runs and drive in 167 RBIs while hitting .280 with a .515 SLG percentage.

That’s a lot of offense to have to replace, and after two games this season, the Indians are showing that they’re not quite ready to do so just yet.

Not only has Cleveland lost their first two games of the year, but they’ve only managed to score four runs against a Detroit Tigers team that had a win total of 68.5 for the season.

If bookmakers continue to list Cleveland as a favorite, particularly on the road, they’re a team that should be on your fade list until proven otherwise.

Cleveland Indians

It was never going to be an easy task to transition away from Lindor and Santana. The Indians’ problem is they won’t commit the financial resources to hold on to their top players.

In June last year, it was quite telling when Indians president Chris Antonetti said he expected the team’s financial losses for the season to be “extraordinary.” Perhaps that explains why the Indians now have the second-lowest payroll in baseball at $49.7 million.

Teams around baseball knew of Cleveland’s financial struggles, and they’ve been able to use that as leverage in any trade negotiations. If you look at what Cleveland got back from the Mets when they traded Lindor, I’m not sure how you sell that to your fanbase.

We have acquired INF Andrés Giménez, INF Amed Rosario, OF Isaiah Greene and RHP Josh Wolf from the New York Mets in exchange for SS Francisco Lindor and RHP Carlos Carrasco.

— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) January 7, 2021

I’m surprised Cleveland’s win total was 81.5 this season. That is primarily due to the quality young pitchers it has on its staff. But to win ballgames, you have to be able to score runs. And right now, the Indians look allergic to crossing home plate.

I know we’re only two games into the season, but there isn’t much to be excited about with this Indians lineup. Their offensive numbers are woeful across the board. As a team, they’re hitting .206 with a .311 OBP and a .333 SLG. In terms of even creating runs, they’re below-average with a wRC+ of 80.

But perhaps the biggest flaw in their offense at the moment is how they’ve performed in the clutch.

FanGraphs defines clutch (Clutch = (WPA / pLI) – WPA/LI) as performance in high-leverage situations where WPA = win probability added and LI = leverage index. Using this metric, Cleveland’s -0.38 rating puts them 26th in the league.

Frankly, the only reason it’s not lower is because the Mets and Nationals have yet to play a game.

Cleveland already lost its first two games, and both times, they got quality starts from their two best pitchers in Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac.

On Sunday, it’ll be Aaron Civale’s turn in the rotation.

Even if he follows with another quality start, there’s no guarantee this Indians’ lineup will give him the necessary run support to notch their first win of the season.

Detroit Tigers

I’ve been impressed with Detroit, albeit with the small sample size this season. The hiring of A.J. Hinch is a boost to the club because he brings a more modern approach to the game with his use and understanding of analytics.

Hinch managed a stable of good young pitchers when he was in Houston, and I think he’ll be able to get the best out of the current Tigers staff.

Detroit will send the highly touted Tarik Skubal to the mound as it looks to complete the three-game sweep on Sunday.

Skubal is in his second season in the big leagues and went 1-4 with a 5.63 ERA last year. He struggled with his command at times, and when he walked batters, he often compounded his problems by surrendering a home run.

Even with a high walk ratio of 3.09 BB/9, not many hitters earned their pass to first base, as evidenced by his 1.22 WHIP. Skubal did face the Indians last year in a game the Tigers won 7-4, but he didn’t stick around long enough to factor in the decision.

In 2 1/3 innings, he gave up one run on three hits while allowing one walk. He struck out five batters.

Detroit will need to keep a close eye on Skubal if he struggles with his command on Sunday. In 17 innings of work this spring, he had a 1.59 ERA but issued nine walks.

If he can cut down on his walks, I like Detroit’s chances to win the game because the Cleveland hitters look like they couldn’t hit a beach ball right now.

Detroit’s bullpen should be in pretty good shape if called into action. No pitcher threw more than 16 pitches Saturday, and they all should be fairly rested, giving the day off on Friday after Opening Day.

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Indians-Tigers Pick

Aaron Civale went 4-6 with a 4.74 ERA last year. Opposing batters hit .280 against him with a .333 BABIP. Civale isn’t a better pitcher than Bieber or Plesac, and I think they’re just too big a favorite at -136 for a team that’s struggling to score runs at the moment.

These two teams are much closer than the odds suggest. If I were comparing the lineups, bullpens, and starting pitcher for Sunday, I would only give Cleveland the edge with Civale over Skubal. But talent-wise, I don’t think he’s that much better than the Detroit left-hander.

Once Skubal develops better command of his pitches, he’ll be a pitcher that can be one of the best in the division.

Skubal has a mix of five pitches that he throws and his 10.41 strikeouts per nine innings last year is more than promising for any young pitcher.

There’s no question that the value in this matchup lies with Detroit. You can find them at +115 across multiple sportsbooks, but I’ll be using Bet365 as my preferred choice.

Pick: Tigers (+115)

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