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Cleveland, Corey Kluber Look to Gain Ground in the A.L. Central

Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Indians

Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber remains one of the best starting pitchers in baseball as the 28-year-old takes the mound this afternoon with a 2.99 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, including a 2.98 ERA and 1.08 WHIP at home, a 2.70 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in day games, a 2.28 ERA and 1.01 WHIP versus division opponents and a 1.31 ERA and 1.01 WHIP over his last three outings. Kluber owns an elite 127/29 K/BB ratio in 117 1/3-innings pitched this season, and he has enjoyed success against the Royals with a 3.77 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in seven career starts (.630 OPS; 24% strikeout rate). Kluber’s underlying metrics also support his outstanding 2014 campaign to date:

Corey Kluber’s Underlying Metrics:

2.64 FIP
2.85 xFIP
2.92 SIERA
2.61 xFIP at home

I expect the talented right-hander to continue his success against an anemic Kansas City offense that is ranked 12th in the American League with a .688 OPS and is averaging a mere 3.9 runs in day games. Kluber is also supported by an under-the-radar Cleveland bullpen that owns a 3.23 ERA and 1.27 WHIP this season, including a 3.33 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in day games and a 1.53 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over the last seven games.

Is there a bigger impostor than Kansas City starter Danny Duffy, who owns a 2.66 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in eleven starts this season? Duffy made his Major League debut in 2011 wherein he posted a disappointing 5.64 ERA (51 walks in 105 1/3-innings pitched). After losing much of the following season to Tommy John surgery, Duffy appears to be a different pitcher in 2014. However, his outstanding peripheral statistics are nothing more than a mirage based upon the underlying metrics:

Danny Duffy’s Underlying Metrics:

4.57 xFIP
4.44 SIERA
4.09 xFIP on the road
4.06 xFIP in June

The 25-year-old possesses a pedestrian 55/29 K/BB ratio and is the beneficiary of an unsustainable .218 BABIP. Duffy’s terrible 34% ground-ball rate and 7% swinging strike rate further indicate significant regression is just around the corner. With an elevating fly ball rate, a dropping swing and miss rate and an increasing walk rate, Duffy is a perfect candidate to invest against at this juncture of the season.

From a technical standpoint, Cleveland is a profitable 40-18 (+20.9 units) versus teams batting .265 or worse on the season, 70-35 (+23.2 units) as a favorite, 50-23 (+17.8 units) as a home favorite and 51-37 (+12.9 units) in day games, while Kluber is 14-3 (+11.1 units) versus teams averaging less than 1.0 home run per game. Let’s also note that the Indians are 20-6 in their last 26 home games versus southpaws and 13-4 in Kluber’s last 17 home starts, while the Royals are 1-5 in Duffy’s last six starts as an underdog. Take Cleveland and invest with confidence.

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