Yes, Tribe Has Good Young Core, but Can’t Sit Out the Winter

Well, the Cleveland Indians kept it interesting for a little while.

They hung in the race for a post-season spot until the middle of September, but last weekend’s sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers means there will not be consecutive post-season spots for the first time since 1999, and it is time to look forward to the 2015 season.

We understand that Terry Francona and the players will not make any changes to the lineup or the starting rotation until the Tribe is officially eliminated from playoff consideration, which probably won’t happen until the weekend, but we can still speculate on what needs to occur prior to spring training in February.

The Indians do have a good young core of players.  They can build on several solid position players in Michael Brantley (who will turn 28 next May), Carlos Santana (29), Yan Gomes (28), Lonnie Chisenhall (26), and we believe Jason Kipnis (28) will rebound next year based on his track record and the fact he was battling injuries this year.

They also have Jose Ramirez (23), who has impressed this year since playing everyday after the Asdrubal Cabrera trade, and of course, Francisco Lindor, one of the game’s best prospects.

The organization will likely do the service time game with Lindor, which would be a mistake if he shows in spring training that he is ready to play everyday at the big league level.  Too often, the Tribe gets off to slow starts because they don’t keep the correct players on the Opening Day roster.

The starting rotation is also very young with a lot of room to get better.  Staff ace Corey Kluber will be just 29 years old in 2015, and he is joined by Carlos Carrasco (28), Danny Salazar (25), T. J. House (25) and Trevor Bauer (24) to form a rotation with a lot of upside.

However, Francona has said in the past that when you think you have enough pitching, you go out and get some more.  Therefore, the front office cannot stand pat with the rotation and should look to bring in some reinforcements during the winter.  You have to think at least one of those guys will not perform up to this year’s standards next season.

The one area that will need to be addressed in the off-season is the bench, which was a key component of last year’s squad, but had a huge drop off in ’14.  We know Jason Giambi won’t likely be back, but GM Chris Antonetti should also look to replace Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles, both of whom haven’t produced offensively.

Raburn is under contract for 2015, so that may be a challenge, but whenever Francona has wanted to rest a regular or an injury keeps a starter out of the lineup for an extended period of time, there has been a drop off in the offense.

Perhaps David Murphy can fit in as the fourth outfielder if Antonetti comes up with another alternative in right field.

And you really can’t use young players in bench roles because they don’t know how to handle it.  It is better to find veterans who used to play everyday that can accept not doing that anymore or guys who have made a living playing in a reserve role.

It is difficult to be productive playing sporadically, and it is a challenge to find guys who can hit while getting 200-300 at bats in a season.

Yes, the Indians future does look bright, or at least it isn’t dismal.  However, Chris Antonetti can’t afford to stand pat like he did last winter.  They have to improve this club in order to avoid the wild card race and win the American League Central Division.

The bigger question is whether or not they will do just that.

KM

No Almost Win Today for Browns, They Get It Done

So many times in recent seasons, there are times the Cleveland Browns had a valiant effort on the field only to fall just short on the scoreboard.

It happened so much, former Brown Josh Cribbs once said the team almost always almost wins.

Today was different for Mike Pettine and his team as he picked up his first win as an NFL head coach with a 26 -24 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Billy Cundiff’s 29-yard field goal with :03 left on the clock.

To win the game, Brian Hoyer took his team 85 yards on 14 plays to set up the kicker, including a 28-yard pass to Andrew Hawkins to set up the final kick with 13 seconds left.

The game started with the Browns on fire, forcing a three and out on the Saints’ first series and basically shutting down New Orleans throughout the first quarter allowing Cleveland to take a 10-0 lead.

But Drew Brees figured with the amount of emphasis the Browns were putting on the passing game, it might be time to start running, and the Saints did that successfully all day, gaining 174 yards on the ground, getting 6.4 yards per carry.

After the success Pittsburgh had in week one on the ground, the defense better get this under control or they will see a steady diet of opponents just beating them with the run.

John Hughes missed today’s game once again and he plays the run very well, but it is doubtful one player makes that much of a difference.

After the opening stanza, the Saints moved the ball seemingly at will with the only hiccups being a Brees’ interception being returned for a touchdown by Tashaun Gipson, which gave Cleveland a 16-3 lead because the extra point was botched.  It looked for a long time like that might come back to haunt the Browns as well.

The main reason for that was the inability to stop Saints’ TE Jimmy Graham, who 10 throws for 118 yards and a TD.  The Browns simply had no answer for him.

In the fourth quarter, with Cleveland needing a stop on their own 31 yard line, Karlos Dansby made the key play of the game defensively as he sacked Brees, forcing the Saints out of field goal range.

The ensuing punt was the last snap made by New Orleans for the rest of the game.

Cleveland used a balanced attack throughout the game and the rookie running backs continue to shine as Terrance West gained 68 yards and Isaiah Crowell picked up 54 more with West getting a touchdown.

Hawkins was once again Hoyer’s favorite target, grabbing six throws for 70 yards including the decisive offensive play of the game.  And TE Gary Barnidge took up the slack for Jordan Cameron, catching 4 balls for 41 yards.

And also kudos to Hoyer, who is quieting any calls for Johnny Manziel thus far, completing 24 of 40 for 204 yards and leading the winning drive, which again started from his own four.

He may not be pretty, but he’s also 4-1 as the Browns’ starting quarterback.  And there shouldn’t any more talk about Manziel being the starter when the Browns come back from their bye week.

Defensively, Dansby is showing more and more how vital his leadership is with eight tackles including the huge sack on the Saints’ last offensive play.  And Paul Kruger had another sack, his second straight game with one after struggling last year.

Whatever happened at halftime at Heinz Field, the Cleveland Browns look like a different football team.  Not just different from the first half of the Steelers’ game, but different from the last five years.

Next week’s game against the Ravens is another chance to show the progress this football team has made.

JD

 

Tribe Has Four Hitters Having Good Years. Why Are They Struggling?

This weekend is the biggest weekend of the season for the Cleveland Indians.

Win two out of three against the Detroit Tigers in Motown and the Tribe keeps their slim playoff hopes alive.  If they lose two out of three, then those hopes will be dashed and the last two weeks of the campaign should be used to evaluate young players.

While the offense exploded for eight runs in the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader sweep of the Twins, the second game was back to the same attack, in which getting runs seems to be like getting blood from a stone.

It seems that if the starting pitching can’t hold the opposition to one or no runs, the Indians don’t have a chance to win.

When looking at the statistics, it is clear that the Indians have a very strange offense.

We feel having an OPS of over 800 stamps a player as very good offensively.  Currently, Terry Francona can write down the names of four players who fit that criteria in the lineup everyday:  Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Carlos Santana.

That would seem to be a good start having a solid offense.

For example, the Angels lead the American League in runs scored and have only three batters (Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Kole Calhoun) with OPS over 800.  The Tigers are second in the AL in scoring and also have three hitters over that figure:  Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez.

So why is the Cleveland offense sputtering?

Mostly because the other five players which make up the rest of the batting order for the Indians are having terrible offensive seasons.  The only two players with figures near the league average of 709 are Michael Bourn and David Murphy, and there is no one in the category of a solid offensive player, which would be an OPS around the 750 range.

By contrast, the Angels have four hitters with OPS in the 750 range–Josh Hamilton, Chris Iannetta, C. J. Cron, and Howie Kendrick.  The Tigers have two in Rajai Davis and Torii Hunter.  Surprisingly, Ian Kinsler’s figure is virtually the same as Murphy.

That’s why they have more consistent offenses than the Indians.

As currently constituted, the Indians have a lineup with four very good offensive players and five mediocre offensive players.  That isn’t a good formula for scoring runs.

Francona tries to group his four big bats together in the batting order, but for some reason he has been sticking Jason Kipnis right in the middle of the foursome and that isn’t helping the situation.

He should move Gomes up to the 5th spot followed by Chisenhall with Kipnis dropping to 7th.  Perhaps that will generate some more runs.

With Bourn and Murphy being the best of the rest of the hitters, and rookie SS Jose Ramirez contributing a bit at the plate, that leaves two spots for Francona to try to use the best match up to generate the offense.

Kipnis is taking one spot, leaving DH, the one spot on the team were the only skill necessary is hitting as a huge gaping hole.

Our preference would be to just put Jesus Aguilar in their and let him play everyday to see if he can get something going.  He has the best minor league track record among the rest of the roster.  However, because he’s a rookie, the skipper seems hesitant to put him in there and leave him alone.

What this means is the Tribe misses Nick Swisher a little more than people realize.  And it’s definitely an area that needs addressing over the off-season.

MW

Lack of Home Runs Killing Tribe Attack

In yesterday’s 12-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, four visiting batters (Kole Calhoun, David Freese, Albert Pujols, and Howie Kendrick) all hit home runs.

In the home dugout, Terry Francona had to be jealous.

Why?

Because that kind of power hasn’t been seen for the Indians in a month.  In fact, no Tribe player besides Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall have went deep since Zach Walters’ two run shot in the 10th inning on August 26th at Chicago.

And former Oriole manager Earl Weaver would cringe at this statistic:  No Indians’ player has hit a three run homer since Santana went deep off of former Tribe pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez on August 16th.

No wonder Francona’s team has trouble scoring runs.

Without power, offenses are dependent on scoring by getting multiple base hits in an inning or a mixture of walks and hits.  That may work if you have a lot of hitters batting in the .270 range.

Once again, the Indians do not.

Among the regulars, only Michael Brantley, Chisenhall, and Yan Gomes have batting averages over .280.  So, even if you get a couple of men on base, you are likely dependent on someone hitting around .250, meaning they get a hit one out of every four times up, to come up with a big hit.

The lack of offense puts a lot of pressure on a pitching staff.

Somehow, Cleveland remains in the top half of the American League in runs scored, currently ranking 7th in the junior circuit.  This is despite the team scoring more than four runs just once since the calendar turned to September.

Someone has to step up and soon if the Indians are to stay relevant in the wild card race, and their presence in that situation is a day-to-day proposition to be sure.  All it would take is consecutive losses to a team like the Indians are facing tonight, Minnesota, and any chance of making the playoffs will be doused.

And they need to have the ability to score without piecing together several hits and/or walks, and to score with one swing of the bat.

The Tribe has played eight games this month and have received no homers from Brantley (last one:  August 16th vs. Baltimore), Gomes (last HR:  August 18th), and Jason Kipnis (last HR:  July 31st) in that period.

Note that these guys are usually hitting in the middle of the Cleveland batting order, anywhere from 3rd to 6th.  And this isn’t to denigrate the years that Brantley and Gomes are having, as both are among the most productive hitters in the game at their position.

The point is that no one has stepped up and helped out, most notably Kipnis, who is suffering through a horrible season.

Walters filled the void for awhile, hitting six bombs, but recently has shown his true Russell Branyan tendencies by striking out at an incredible rate (28 times in 76 at bats).

Chisenhall has mixed in a couple of home runs, but Michael Bourn and Jose Ramirez aren’t known for power, and David Murphy is just coming off an oblique strain.

The other players getting playing time from Francona aren’t long ball threats either, guys like Tyler Holt and newly acquired J.B. Shuck.

This might be the most convincing argument to giving minor league slugger Jesus Aguilar an extended shot in the lineup.  He’s a threat to hit one out.

There is no question the Cleveland Indians need to start scoring if they want to remain in the race.  However, without the threat of the home run, it will be a very difficult task, indeed.

KM

Unlike Other Browns’ Teams, This One Didn’t Quit After Early Deficit.

At halftime, it looked very much like the same ol’ Cleveland Browns.

They were dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers especially defensively and trailed 27-3 after 30 minutes.

Brian Hoyer didn’t play well in the first half, but the chief culprit for the deficit was a defense appeared to be butter compared to the Pittsburgh hot knife.

But whatever happened during the intermission may have turned around the entire season, and gave Browns’ fans everywhere hope that this season may be indeed different.

This football team didn’t lay down, and didn’t say woe is us.  They came out of the locker room determined to get back in the game and that’s exactly what they did.

They scored 24 unanswered points to tie the game before giving up a last second field goal by Shaun Suisham from 41 yards away to drop yet another season opener, 30-27.

They did it by going to a hurry up offense and by running the football to set up the pass, exactly the way the Browns need to play to be successful in 2014.

The Browns rolled up 183 yards rushing despite losing Ben Tate to an injury in the first half, as rookie Terrence West showed he was worth a higt pick by gaining 100 yards on 16 carries, and another rookie Isaiah Crowell showed his performance in the last pre-season game was no fluke, getting 32 yards in five attempts, scoring two touchdowns.

Hoyer wasn’t spectacular, but he was efficient, completing 19 of 31 throws for 230 yards with a touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin.

The running game was so solid in the second half, we would have run it one more time in the fourth quarter.

The Browns had a first down on the Pittsburgh 35 with 5:20 remaining and the Steelers clearly back on their heels.  Unfortunately, Cleveland tried three passes, one completed to Miles Austin for three yards, and never gave the ball to West and/or Crowell.

They were forced to punt, and after an exchange of defensive stops, the Steelers got the ball back on their own 43, and moved the ball enough for the winning field goal after a pass to Markus Wheaton when CB Justin Gilbert, who had a rough debut, fell down.

The biggest problem for the offense all day was converting third downs, making just two first downs in 11 opportunities.  The Cleveland defense did much better than last year in the opener, stopping Pittsburgh eight times in 12 tries.

Defensively, newcomers Donte Whitner had 12 tackles and Karlos Dansby had the Browns only turnover, a second quarter interception of Ben Roethlisberger, that the offense, struggling at the time, could do nothing with.

After halftime, the defense improved and wound up sacking Roethlisberger four times, with Paul Kruger doing the honors twice.

However, they had problems all day dealing with screen passes, and as we said before, Gilbert struggled in the NFL debut, which is understandable.

The unit got better when it appeared they put veteran Buster Skrine on the outside.

That’s another thing that is encouraging about this game regardless of the result.  How many times lately has a Browns’ team failed to make any adjustments to what the opposition was doing.

That didn’t happen today.

One thing that was painfully evident on offense though, is the team really misses Josh Gordon, because they have no one on the outside that can make plays.  Andrew Hawkins was the leading receiver with 8 catches for 87 yards, but he plays mostly in the slot.

One of the other receivers simply has to step up to make it easier for Hoyer to throw downfield and to keep the running game effective.

Whatever happened in the second half has to continue next week against New Orleans, because starting 0-2 is something the Browns have to avoid.

As former coach Pat Shurmur once said, progress with victories isn’t progress.

JD

Browns Need to Concentrate on Fundamentals

Most every football fan in American would like their favorite team to be a squad that puts on an aerial circus each and every week.

It’s an exciting and sexy way to play the game.

However, if the Cleveland Browns try to play this way in the 2014 season, it will be a long, long year for coach Mike Pettine and the fans of the brown and orange.

They simply don’t have the personnel to win in that matter.

Part of being a solid coach is knowing what kind of personnel you have and putting together game plans that utilize the talent at hand to win football games.  And until we see otherwise, we have to believe Pettine knows what he is doing.

So, here’s hoping fans aren’t expecting an air show every Sunday afternoon from the Cleveland Browns.

We understand that there are a great many fans that want to see Johnny Manziel at quarterback so they are seeing footballs flying around the stadium, but Pettine is more interested in winning games, and if he does that, the fans will be entertained.

Time and again, Pettine has said the Browns want to follow the “Seattle model”, which is based on a strong running game and a very good defense.  So, how do you think the Browns will play starting this Sunday?

A tried and true way to win football games having the ability to run the football and also be able to stop the run.  When you think about it, this makes total sense.

If you can run the football, you make the defensive unit have to respect both the ground game and the passing game.  Too often since the Browns returned in 1999, they haven’t been able to gain yardage running, and that puts the quarterback at a terrible disadvantage.  It’s a lot tougher to play when you are consistently in 2nd and 9, and 3rd and 7 situations.

With Ben Tate and Terrence West, if the offense can get four or five yards on first down, it will make Brian Hoyer’s job much, much easier.

On defense, the Browns spent the last two pre-season games playing a lot of zone defense, but that will change in Heinz Field on Sunday.  With Joe Haden and Buster Skrine back on the field, and rookie Justin Gilbert playing as well, the defense will play much more press coverage.

And if they are successful at stopping the Steeler running game with an improved front seven, it will make the Pittsburgh offense one-dimensional, and to be sure, Pettine will be dialing up a variety of blitzes to make Ben Roethlisburger very uncomfortable in the pocket.

Really, it’s the way football was played in the 70’s and 80’s, before every rule to help the passing game was put in place.

This style of play will ideally shorten games thus hiding the lack of talent Cleveland has in certain areas.

Pettine doesn’t strike me as a coach who is interested in being flashy and exciting, he wants to win, and if the best way to do that is to dominate on the ground, then that’s how they will play.

And after watching 15 years of futility, putting numbers in the win column should be fine with Browns’ fans everywhere.

JD

Why Don’t Tribe Fans Show Up? Front Office Needs to Look in Mirror.

It is an annual rite every fall in Cleveland, especially if the Indians are in contention.  Why doesn’t anyone go to Progressive Field?

Last night, they drew just under 10,000 fans for a game with post-season implications because the Tribe is still under five games behind for a wild card spot in the American League.

Certainly, there is interest in the Indians, their local television ratings ranking near the top in all of major league baseball.  However, those ratings don’t translate to putting people in the seats.

We are sure that the front office has conducted polls and surveys to find out why fans do not turn out for games, and it appears they respond to some of the comments by making changes to the game day experience at the now 20-year-old ballpark.

However, they ignore the real reason for people staying home and that would be the lack of trust in the current ownership and front office.

Instead, they spend a lot of time trying to contradict the opinions of the masses, mostly by pointing out market limitations, etc., and they also have many media people backing them up in regard to the perception of the fans.

They need to realize that perception is reality and they need to do something to change the mindset of the playing public.

Fans do not believe there is any real commitment to winning with the Indians, and they can back that up by the total inactivity of GM Chris Antonetti both at the trading deadline this season, but also during the winter when the Tribe was coming off a 92 win season, and interest in baseball was up all around the town, because of the sizzling September that put the team in the playoffs.

Instead of striking while the iron was hot in terms of interest, the Tribe didn’t make any significant moves this winter (sorry, David Murphy) to show the fans they weren’t satisfied with being ousted in the single game wild card contest.

Then they followed that by trading away two veterans who were key parts going into the 2014 season at the trading deadline even though the Indians were very much in contention at the time.

If Antonetti did make a trade to bring in let’s say David Price at the deadline, would there have been instant sellouts at Progressive Field?  Of course not, but there is no question there would have been a buzz around the city, and the talk shows would have been filled with Tribe talk.

Which brings us to another failure of the front office, and this is something we’ve addressed before.  The Indians made a terrible short-sighted move in staying with WTAM as the team’s flagship station instead of moving to an all sports stations like WKNR or 92.3.

No doubt both stations would have more Indians’ based programming if a significant amount of their spring and summer programming was Tribe baseball.  As it stands right now, the baseball team is an afterthought on both stations.

The continue to misjudge their market.  What draws people to game in Cleveland, Ohio is winning and the hope of winning.  All the other stuff is nice, but it doesn’t give fans a reason to go to the ballpark.  If the Indians make the playoffs again this year, they will start to see fans returning to watch.

Even the Browns have suffered attendance loss because of their terrible record over the last several years.

Is there a solution?  A good start would be lowering ticket prices and putting individual game tickets on sale around Thanksgiving Day so fans can buy them as Christmas presents for hard-core baseball fans.

But the Tribe needs to make a splash this winter and show fans they want to win.

Until that perception is changed, there is going to be a problem.  The Indians are the third sports option right now in Cleveland now that LeBron James and Kevin Love are with the Cavaliers.  That means it could be June before the Tribe has a stage all to itself.

They need to give fans a reason to show up at Progressive Field, but they need to stop ignoring the basic problem–that they aren’t interested in winning big.

MW

 

Tribe Front Office Doesn’t Seem to Believe in Squad

The Cleveland Indians have won the first two games of their weekend series against the first place Kansas City Royals and now sit just 3-1/2 games out of first place in the AL Central Division.

They are the same amount of games out of the second wild card spot in the league, giving them two chances to claim one of the five playoffs spots in the American League.

Supporters of the Tribe are very well aware of this, but it seems the front office and ownership is not.  We say this because there has been no move to add talent to the gritty bunch of Indians.

Despite moves that many fans don’t agree with, including ourselves, Francona should once again be in contention for the Manager of the Year award, as he kept a team that had struggling starting pitching for most of the year, and now can’t score runs consistently in the race as the season hits the final stretch.

The front office appears to be asleep at the switch, though.

As we have said before, we understood dealing SS Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson at the end of July, both players were not performing to expectations and both were free agents at the end of the year.

However, we did criticize GM Chris Antonetti for not finishing things off by bringing in someone who could help in the short-term.

Yes, people have talked about Zach Walters contributions, and there is no doubt he has had some big hits for Cleveland, but in reality, he is a younger switch-hitting version of Russell Branyan, an all or nothing hitter who doesn’t walk a lot.

Walters does have six dingers for the Indians, but he has also struck out 23 times in 63 at bats, while walking three times.  Unless he changes his approach at the plate, he is not a major league regular going forward.

At the very least, Antonetti could have brought in someone who is an upgrade over veteran journeyman Chris Dickerson, who continues to receive regular playing time despite a .227 batting average (642 OPS).  Since the all-star game, those figures are worse (.175 average, 562 OPS).

As we have said before, you don’t need to get an all-star, if you got someone better than Dickerson, it would improve the ballclub.

To be sure, the starting rotation, led by Corey Kluber, but getting tremendous contributions from youngsters Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar, as well as a rejuvenated Carlos Carrasco is the main reason for the club’s surge, but had the Tribe lost last night, their starter in perhaps the biggest game of the season would have been rookie T. J. House.

House has done better than expected (2-3, 4.18 ERA), but he’s allowed 86 hits and 21 walks in 71 innings pitched, meaning he’s seemingly always on the edge of disaster.  To his credit, he’s mostly pitched out of it, but wouldn’t Francona be better served putting someone more reliable and with more experience out there?

The front office again seems unwilling to get the team some help.

Don’t you think the players question why the front office/ownership doesn’t believe in this group of players?  Especially when they see other teams adding players for the stretch drive.

Even the Yankees added a left-handed reliever on Thursday in Josh Outman, who they got from…the INDIANS!

What more do you need to see regarding the management’s view of this squad than the fact they helped a team who is competing with them for a playoff spot.

If you have a fan of the Cleveland Indians, you have to wonder about how much the current front office wants to win.

MW

The Time for Lindor is Next Monday

Next week the major league baseball rosters can expand to 40 active players, and the Cleveland Indians will be faced with a very difficult decision, one we think they will make a mistake with.

Their prized prospect, SS Francisco Lindor, could be called up to the big leagues, but we think the Tribe will pass on that at this time and will cite having to add him to the 40 man roster and that he wouldn’t receive enough playing time to justify the move.

In our opinion, the real reason is the Indians do not want to start the service clock on the prized prospect by calling him up now.  They are also hoping that Lindor struggles a little in spring training next year, so they can justify not bringing him up until the time has passed so he doesn’t receive a full year service in 2015.

We believe that is shortsighted thinking, and Lindor should make his MLB debut on Monday afternoon against the Tigers at Progressive Field.  Why?  Because he makes the Tribe better right now.

In 121 games combined at Akron and Columbus, the switch-hitter is hitting .278 with 10 HR and 60 RBI, stealing 28 bases.  He has had contact issues at AAA, striking out 31 times in 144 at bats, walking just six times.

However, up until his time at Columbus, he has had a very good strikeout to walk ratio.

Defensively, Lindor is rated as an excellent defender and could combine with Jose Ramirez to field a dynamic duo with the glove up the middle for the rest of the year and going forward.

Could Lindor be ruined by coming up to the bigs and failing?  Of course, anything is possible, but the folks at Baseball Prospectus feel the 20-year-old’s make up is off the charts.

Look at his progress at AAA. He’s hitting .278 in the state capital, but to get there he overcame a slow start.

As for playing time, we have a perfect solution.

Right now, Chris Dickerson is still receiving an inordinate amount of at bats with the Tribe, and Terry Francona could easily move the current DH, Zach Walters to RF, and give Jason Kipnis some DH at bats (before moving his to another spot), in order to give Lindor some at bats.

Therefore, the question would be could Lindor do more with the bat than Dickerson, who has hit .179 since the All Star Game. Based on that figure, we are pretty sure he could.

He and Ramirez would also add some much-needed speed to the Cleveland lineup.

As for the service time issue, do what Tampa Bay did with Evan Longoria and Houston did with Jonathan Singleton.  That would be signing him to a long-term deal right away to take him out of the arbitration process and a little beyond.  He would have to be interested if offered a 8-10 year deal before playing a month in the major leagues.

The added bonus would be finding out if he can play in the big leagues now, allowing the team to make the appropriate plans in the winter.  We don’t doubt he can, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure.

It will also create some buzz around town too.  Baseball fans have been waiting for the shortstop to arrive and it may put a few extra people in the seats at Progressive Field with Lindor’s debut.

The guess here is the Tribe will take the safe route with one of the game’s best prospects.  That’s the path they normally take.

KM

Doubt Browns Defense, Offense Will Look Like They Did Vs. Rams

If you look at the final score of Saturday night’s pre-season tilt between the Browns and Rams on Saturday night, you will be disappointed if you are a Browns’ fan.  A 33-14 defeat at home cannot be considered encouraging.

While nothing happened in that game to make a supporter of the brown and orange say the Browns should make the playoffs this season, a couple of things jumped out at us during the contest that gives us reason to shrug our shoulders and say that it is not the end of the world.

On defense, based on everything we have heard from Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, the Browns’ defense will be an attacking unit.  Without Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden and last year’s starter Buster Skrine, the defense was anything but aggressive against St. Louis.

It appeared to us the Browns played a lot of zone coverage and the Rams’ quarterbacks drilled them for playing passive.  Would it have been a different story with Haden and Skrine?  We think so.  It would have also put first round draft choice Justin Gilbert on St. Louis’ secondary receiver, which would have also helped the schemes.

It was a good learning experience for Gilbert, and he will get better for going through that on Saturday.

Being able to find receivers quickly because of the zone coverage also meant it was more difficult to mount an effective pass rush.  That said, Armonty Bryant still was able to make an impact, harassing Rams’ passers while he was in the game and his hit on Sam Bradford caused a season ending ACL tear for the former first overall pick.

When the Steelers have the football on September 7th, our guess is the Browns will play press coverage on both wide receivers and will get after Ben Roethlisberger in passing situations.

Yes, there was poor tackling up front on a few runs which led to nice gains, but we trust that for the most part, the Cleveland defense will be one of the better units in the NFL with two solid cornerbacks and the ability to rush the passer.

On offense, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan ran the football just 15 times for the game.  If the Browns only run the ball that few times on a regular basis, they will be in for a long season.  We believe the coaching staff would agree with that.

Shanahan is trying to get his quarterbacks, both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel ready to go, and he’s also figuring out which wide receivers will make the final roster.  So, he is passing the ball, probably more than he would like to.

The offensive coach has a history of running the football in his other stops around the league, and quite frankly, there is no reason to beat up Ben Tate during meaningless contests.  He is trying to get rookie Terrence West some reps, but when the whistle blows for real, we can see Cleveland running the ball 25-35 times per game, unless they fall way behind.

We envision the offense being a ground oriented attack with the quarterback using play action to move the ball down the field.  This style will also shorten the game, and keep the defense fresh.  And when Tate has been given the ball thus far, he has run it effectively.

There is no question Saturday’s game wasn’t enjoyable to watch, but it doesn’t mean that’s what the regular season will look like.

Until they lay an egg in a game that counts, just relax and keep repeating “the game doesn’t count, the game doesn’t count”.

JD