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The Indians are going with Trevor Bauer, not Corey Kluber, to open ALDS

Indians manager Terry Francona has set his ALDS rotation, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports, and it’s interesting. Trevor Bauer, not Corey Kluber, will open the series. Kluber will go in Game 2 followed by Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin. Kluber would pitch Game 5 if necessary.

The first two games of the ALDS will be held in Cleveland on Thursday and Friday. It resumes on Sunday and continues on Monday either in New York or Minnesota, depending on who wins the AL Wild Card Game. And Game 5 would be held on Wednesday. So, Kluber would have four days of rest if he were to start Game 5.

According to Baseball Reference, Francona is playing to Kluber’s strength based on 2017 stats. On four days of rest, Kluber posted a 1.67 ERA in 124 innings this season. On five days of rest, he had a 3.64 ERA in 47 innings. However, this was not true last year. He had a 3.53 ERA in 120 innings on four days of rest and a 2.85 ERA in 60 innings on five days of rest. There was hardly a difference in 2015. In 2014, when Kluber won the AL Cy Young Award, he had a 2.08 ERA in 160 1/3 innings on four days of rest and a 2.84 ERA in 63 1/3 innings on five days of rest. The fluctuation within this split are more or less what we should expect given these relatively small individual samples of data.

The Yankees and Twins are using their best pitchers in tonight’s Wild Card game, so neither pitcher will be available in Game 1 of the ALDS. So Francona could also be trying to line up Kluber against Luis Severino or Ervin Santana in Game 2 possibly, and letting Bauer face either team’s second-best pitcher in Game 1.

As Francona showed last year with his bullpen management, he’s not afraid to buck the trend. The Indians also have some very smart people in their analytics department who are likely looking at reams of data beyond the rudimentary stuff I’ve listed above and see enough justification to do something unorthodox. We’ll see how it pans out over the next week.