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Game #140 Preview: Bieber vs Gaviglio

Cleveland (79-60) vs Blue Jays (63-76)

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays continue their homestand tonight, opening a 4 game set against Cleveland. Today’s game gets underway at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Sam Gaviglio is making his 20th start of the season, which ties J.A. Happ for the 2nd most starts as a Blue Jay this year, certainly not a name anyone expected to see up at the top of the Jays’ starts leaderboard.

Gaviglio last started on August 27, earning a couple extra days of rest due to taking a ball off his bicep, according to Mike Wilner. Now that he’s presumably healthy, he can continue his fight for a spot on the team in the new year. If he won the long man/spot starter spot for next season, I probably wouldn’t object, but I’m not sure I would want him for more than that.

Cleveland’s Starter

Rookie right hander Shane Bieber is making his 16th start of the season, taking the spot in late May following struggles by Josh Tomlin, and really running with the position. He is 8-3 with a 4.66 ERA, but FIP suggests he is pitching much better giving him a 3.23 mark. It all starts with his excellent command, which Fangraphs gives a 55 current value and a very impressive 70 future value on. This has led to just 15 walks in 85 innings, while he has still been able to get strikeouts as well, setting 87 opponents down. That all gives Bieber a 5.80 K/BB ratio, a mark that places his 6th among pitchers with 80+ innings, comfortably between Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer - and when you’re in a list sandwiched between those two, you know you’re doing something right.

So why does Bieber have such a high ERA? For that, you probably have to look no further than his .368 BABIP against. As a pitcher, BABIP is at least somewhat in your control, as you see guys like Marco Estrada produce low BABIPs when he’s healthy and on by inducing a lot of weak contact. So when we look at Bieber, we see a guy with an average exit velocity of 89.8 mph - the third highest among the 135 players with at least 250 batted ball events. While that high of an average exit velocity certainly will lead to more hits, his BABIP is probably a bit more elevated than what would be sustainable, and an improvement in his ERA is likely forthcoming for the young righty.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Rowdy Tellez got his first hit yesterday, and it was wonderful. I will be upset every time Kendrys Morales’ name is written in the lineup card instead of Tellez’s, which I anticipate a happening a lot.

Billy McKinney has turned me into a believer of his. He has certainly moved himself ahead of Teoscar Hernandez for the role of starting outfielder for next season at least in my eyes.

I used to use this spot to predict who was going to be playing where, but with expanded rosters, it’s even more of a crapshoot. I anticipate Lourdes Gurriel Jr playing, because he’s been good and should continue to be out there. Ditto for Danny Jansen, although I’d guess tonight is Russell Martin’s turn to catch.

Cleveland’s Lineup

Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are looking to put up one of the best season for a pair of infielder teammates in the history of the sport. They’re already setting impressive marks and there is still over 20 games left to play.

Together they are hitting .285/.379/.554 (146 wRC+) with 68 home runs and 51 stolen bases. Those are amazing numbers, not even counting the steals, for any pair of teammates. But once you add in the baserunning (+9.5 BsR) and fabulous defense (combined 19 DRS, 16.4 UZR), they have put together 14.7 WAR with a few weeks to play. I might start searching today to see what the MLB record for infielder teammates is, and I don’t anticipate finding a number higher than 16 (I’m not sure if I should be counting first basemen as part of my “infielders” calculus).

[a quick search finds the 2003 Cardinals with Albert Pujols (9.5 WAR) and Edgar Renteria (6.3 WAR) at 15.8 - throw in Scott Rolen (6.2 WAR), and that’s a pretty amazing infield even without a second baseman] [obviously using Lou Gehrig is a good place to start, as his 12.5 WAR in 1927 pairs nicely with Tony Lazzeri’s 6.3 WAR, giving 18.8 combined WAR and probably the highest among infielder teammates. Gehrig and Lazzeri also had 3 other seasons of at least 14.3 combined WAR]

Anyway, elsewhere in the Cleveland lineup you’ll find Michael Brantley finally having a good and healthy year, just in time for his impending Free Agency. And really, that’s about it as far as guys having a good season. Old friend Edwin Encarnacion has hit 29 home runs and driven in 94, but he’s also sitting at just a 106 wRC+, a huge fall from his glory years.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Trevor Story went 3-4, launching 3 home runs into the Colorado night to earn the Monster Bat award. His homers helped the Rockies to the 5-3 win over the Giants, and helping to widen their advantage in the very exciting NL West race.

Brandon Phillips got his first Red Sox game out of the way last night, as he went 1-3 with a pair of walks, a reached on error, and a huge home run to give the Red Sox the lead with 2 outs in the 9th, and the Red Sox held on to win 9-8 over the Braves. His WPA King total was .872, and he put everything he had into it.

Sandy Alcantara, making his second start of the season for the Marlins, threw 7 shutout innings last night. He allowed just 3 hits and 2 walks, while also hitting a pair of batters, but that’s still good enough for the Pitcher of the Day honours. He led the Marlins to the 2-1 win over the Phillies.

Find the Link

Find the link between Bieber and old friend Rob Refsnyder. (also, find me some great middle infield teammates - I want to see where Lindor/Ramirez rank).