Mired in a six-game losing streak, Cleveland returns home to Progressive Field to face the White Sox, who lost their last two games against the Tigers. Cleveland compiled a 17-2 record against the White Sox last season, and I expect similar domination tonight behind the electric arm of right-hander Danny Salazar. While Salazar is 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA and 1.65 WHIP this season, his peripheral statistics indicate that his ERA should be at least two runs lower than it is. Moreover, Salazar is coming off his best outing of this season wherein he limited the Giants to one run on five hits in seven innings of work (8/1 K/BB rate). Overall, Salazar is averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and owns an impressive 12% swinging strike rate.
I also like the fact that Salazar is supported by a very good Cleveland bullpen that owns a 3.24 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in2 2014, including a 2.61 ERA and 1.21 WHIP at home and a 3.18 ERA and 1.56 WHIP at night. Meanwhile, the month of May is like kryptonite for Chicago southpaw John Danks as evidenced by the following numbers:
John Danks in May:
2013: 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA & 1.10 WHIP (2 starts)
2012: 1-1 with a 5.01 ERA & 1.46 WHIP (4 starts)
2011: 0-4 with a 6.89 ERA & 1.72 WHIP (5 starts)
2010: 1-4 with a 4.79 ERA & 1.49 WHIP (6 starts)
2009: 2-2 with a 6.32 ERA & 1.76 WHIP (6 starts)
While Danks is 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.42 WHIP this season, his peripheral statistics indicate that his ERA is closer to 5.24. Specifically, his high walk rate, low BABIP and high xFIP suggest future regression that will likely start tonight. The biggest concern facing Danks is his lack of control as he has issued seventeen walks in just 31 innings pitched this season, including giving up 11 walks in his last eighteen innings of work. Danks has also struggled on foreign soil as evidenced by the following numbers:
John Danks on the Road:
2013: 1-8 with a 4.93 ERA & 1.37 WHIP
2012: 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA & 1.32 WHIP
2011: 3-8 with a 5.05 ERA & 1.35 WHIP
Let’s also note that Danks is 5-9 with a career 5.04 ERA and 1.37 WHIP versus the Indians, including yielding a combined ten runs on 15 hits and five walks in his last two starts against Cleveland (10 IP). The other issue facing Danks is a pedestrian Chicago bullpen that owns a 4.33 ERA and 1.56 WHIP this season, including a 4.82 ERA and 1.66 WHIP on the road and a 4.62 ERA and 1.65 WHIP versus division opponents.
Finally, if there is a manager that can guide the Indians through adversity, it is Terry Francona. “My feelings about our team don’t change on a road trip. It was a really tough trip,” Francona said. “There’s no way around it. We’re going to have to be strong enough now to go home and be able to look at our record for a little while and not be happy with it, knowing that the best way to remedy it is to play better.” Look for Cleveland right-hander Danny Salazar to reward fantasy baseball owners with a quality start tonight.