ALCS: Cleveland’s pitching staff is its biggest advantage

Cleveland’s deeper and more consistent pitching staff is big advantage over the Blue Jays.

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Both the Indians and the Blue Jays swept their opponents in the ALDS to get the American League Championship Series. When these two teams meet it will be a battle between two very different pitching staffs.

The Indians had one of the best staffs in the major’s this season as they held opposing offenses to just 3.98 runs per game. And they’ve done it without the defensive help that the Blue Jays’s staff has gotten — Toronto allowed 4.14 runs per game.

Team ERA FIP xFIP
Toronto Blue Jays 3.79 4.04 4.02
Cleveland Indians 3.86 3.91 3.80

Just a reminder, FIP means Fielding Independent Pitching

When you take the defense out of the picture, the Tribe’s pitchers have done a far better of job of limiting their opponents’ from scoring runs than the Jays. Yes the defense is an important part of the game, but so is the pitching staffs ability to prevent runs from scoring.

Cleveland’s pitching staff was better at limiting its oppositions ability to score runs during the season than the Blue Jays. The Indians strike out more batters (22.5% to 21.5%) and walk less (6.9% to 7.5%) than Toronto; the Tribe been consistently better than the Jays and that’s a huge advantage in a seven game series.

Relief pitchers

The biggest advantage for Cleveland is in the bullpen, as they’ve been ridiculously good at shutting down opposing offenses, while Toronto’s been mediocre at best.

Team ERA FIP xFIP
Toronto Blue Jays 4.11 3.98 3.88
Cleveland Indians 3.45 3.66 3.71

For Cleveland, the pen’s biggest selling point has been its strike out capability; the Tribe’s pen has struck out just over 24% of the batters its faced. While the pen has only induced swings on nearly 31% of its pitches outside of the zone; they also have induced swinging strikes on almost 11% of pitches outside of the zone. Toronto’s relievers have actually outperformed the Tribe’s here as they’ve generated swinging strikes in 12% of their pitches.

For manager Terry Francona, it has to be a secure feeling that he can turn to his bullpen after the starters exit from the game and know that there is a good chance they’ll be able to lock down the game.

Starting pitchers

The two starting staffs haven’t been the best at shutting down their opponents offensive output, but Toronto’s defense helped keep the starting staff’s ERA low.

Team ERA FIP xFIP
Toronto Blue Jays 3.64 4.07 4.09
Cleveland Indians 4.08 4.05 3.85

If the Blue Jays can jump on Cleveland’s starting staff early on, and take control of the games early, it’ll take a lot of pressure of their starting staff. But jumping on the Indians’s starting staff isn’t going to be easy as their starting staff excels at generating swinging strikes on pitches . Opposing batters have swung at 10.4% of pitches outside of the zone, which is the sixth highest swinging strike rate in the majors.

As a result Cleveland’s starters had a strikeout rate of 22.6% during the regular season, fifth highest strike out rate in MLB. With a high strike out and swinging strike rate (at pitches outside of the zone).

For the Blue Jays’s offense, it’s going to be imperative for them to be selective and wait for pitches in the zone. If they get into pitcher’s counts against the Tribe…they’re going to run into a world of hurt.

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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