Bullpen a relief for Brewers, but not Indians

Not all division leaders are created equal.

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The Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians will each lead their respective Centrals when they meet Tuesday. But while the Brewers’ dominant bullpen has powered them to the top of the division, the Indians are holding on in spite of theirs.

SB Nation’s Indians blog recently dubbed the situation “an out-of-control self-feeding death spiral,” and that was before the Indians dropped three of four to the resurgent Minnesota Twins. Eddie Rosario’s walk-off homer Sunday pushed the bullpen’s ERA to a whopping 6.02, the worst mark in the majors.

The Brewers’ bullpen had its own issues Sunday — Matt Albers and Dan Jennings surrendered two runs each in a loss to the Chicago White Sox — but the group has been largely lights out this season.

Their bullpen has a major-league-leading 17-6 record this season and a 2.68 ERA, good for third. The Indians, meanwhile, rank last in three of those categories.

Brewers & Indians, 2018 – Bullpen Numbers

*Major-league ranking in parentheses

Brewers Indians
Wins 17 (1st) 5 (t-last)
Losses 6 (t-fewest) 13 (t-6th most)
Win % .739 (1st) .278 (last)
ERA 2.68 (3rd) 6.02 (last)

That final number is significant: The Indians lead the AL Central by just 2 1/2 games. Just one team in the live-ball era (since 1920) has finished in first place while sporting MLB’s highest bullpen ERA.

Their offense, however, is doing its part.

The Indians rank second in the American League with 88 home runs — tied with the Boston Red Sox — and third with a .767 OPS.

Third baseman Jose Ramirez and the infield are leading the way. Ramirez leads all major-league third basemen with 18 home runs, while the Indians’ infield leads the majors with a combined .833 OPS. Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw isn’t far behind.

MLB 3rd Basemen, 2018 – Most Home Runs

Player Team Home Runs
Jose Ramirez Cleveland 18
Christian Villanueva San Diego 15
Travis Shaw Milwaukee 13
Nolan Arenado Colorado 12
Mike Moustakas Kansas City 12
Yangervis Solarte Toronto 12

Other notes:

— The Brewers dropped two of three to the Chicago White Sox over the weekend. Milwaukee is 19-12 overall on the road, but just 1-6 in Chicago.

— Indians ace Corey Kluber‘s ERA, WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and BABIP (batting average on balls in play) are down again this year, but so is his strikeout rate, from 11.71 per nine innings last season to 9.35 this year.

— At .438, the Brewers’ Jonathan Villar currently leads the major leagues in batting average in interleague games

Statistics courtesy of STATS