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

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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.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.