Tribe Can’t Mortgage Future Either

It is funny to listen to fans of the Cleveland Indians these days.

Granted, 68 years of waiting for another World Series title will make you irrational and downright crazy, especially when the franchise is poised to make such a run this season.

This is particularly true in terms of the July 31st trading deadline.  There are many people willing to give up prospects, and a lot of them, to get a piece guaranteeing a spot in the Fall Classic.

But baseball doesn’t work that way.  In fact, there is no move out there that will cement the American League pennant this season.  That’s the nature of the game.

The farm system is deep enough to move one or two prospects for players who can help this season, without a doubt.

Remember, though, there were people who wanted the Indians to trade Francisco Lindor in 2013 to make a run at the post-season.  The front office (and us, patting ourselves on the back) saw his special talent and realized he shouldn’t be moved.

We see the same short-sighted thinking in terms of the major league roster, particularly when it comes to Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.

Since both players have contributed greatly to the success of this year’s edition of the Tribe, we are already hearing media and fans alike talking about extensions for both players.  Usually around a three year deal.

This would be a horrific mistake.

Napoli has made himself a big part of the Tribe clubhouse, and is having his best season since 2013.  And that’s terrific, but he’s also 34 years old and will turn 35 on Halloween.

A three year deal, which would probably cost the Indians over $10 million per season, would have the first baseman/DH in Cleveland through his age 37 season.

If he has his 2014 season (.248, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 789 OPS), do you want to pay $10-12 million for that?  Neither does the Cleveland front office.

The same applies to Davis, who will turn 36 years old sometime during the post-season (October 19th).  Davis has probably played more than the brass thought when they signed him last winter, but he has also helped in a big way.

He has already achieved a career high in home runs (9) and should also reach a career high in walks (he has 23 now, his high is 29).

If either player were willing to sign another one year deal, with a club option for a second season, we would do that, but after the solid 2016 seasons they’ve had, our guess is someone will give them a better contract than that.

Remember, the Tribe’s core is Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Lindor, with players like Clint Frazier, Bradley Zimmer, Yandy Diaz, etc. on the way.

The Indians could be set for another long run at the top of the AL Central Division, just like the one in the 1990’s.  It doesn’t make sense to be hampered by some bad contracts.

The smart move for Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff is to find a couple of other players in similar situations to Napoli and Davis this off-season, and give them one year deals.  It’s simply a less risky proposition for the front office.

If the powers that be on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario play their cards right, they will be a contender perhaps through the end of the decade.

Fans can’t think about that, but the management has to.


Tribe Offense Has Been Big Surprise Due To Long Ball

Without a doubt, the biggest surprise for the Cleveland Indians this season has been the offense.

Everyone expected the pitching staff to excel, based on the Tribe having the best rotation in the American League, and perhaps the best in all of baseball.  The bullpen could use some help, but for the most part, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen have done a solid job in the back of the ‘pen.

They haven’t disappointed either, as the staff has the lowest ERA in the AL.

There were many who expected the offense to struggle, and had those who thought this known that Michael Brantley was going to play in just 11 of Cleveland’s first 94 games, it would’ve have been felt it was too much for the pitching staff to overcome.

The reason for the surprise is simply this–the Tribe has found the long ball.

Last season, the Indians finished 13th in the American League in home runs, led by Carlos Santana with 19.

Only four other Indians hit more than 10 dingers:  Brantley and Brandon Moss (traded in July) hit 15, and Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor hit a dozen each.

That’s it.

Turn the calendar to 2016, and things are drastically different.

The Indians are 5th in the junior circuit in home runs and the power is dispersed throughout the lineup.

You have Mike Napoli leading the way with 22 bombs, waging a seemingly day to day battle with Carlos Santana for the club lead.  The latter has already topped his ’15 total by belting 21 homers this season.

Jason Kipnis is closing in on his career high of 17 home runs, and his next one will tie that mark.  And Lindor and rookie surprise Tyler Naquin have each hit 12 circuit clouts.

Rajai Davis is poised to join the double figure club sitting at nine, and Juan Uribe and Lonnie Chisenhall should also hit more than 10 before the year is out.

Last season, the champion Royals based their offense on an up and down the lineup attack which featured six players with OPS of over 800 in their lineup.

The 2015 Indians had just three in Kipnis, Brantley, and Lindor, who didn’t join the team until the middle of June.  Against left-handed pitchers, Ryan Raburn was added to the lineup.

That’s why the offense sputtered.  There were too many inconsistencies in the hitting on a night to night basis.

This year, it’s the Indians who have the ability to keep pressure on the opponent’s pitchers throughout the lineup.  Napoli, Kipnis, Lindor, Naquin, Chisenhall, and Santana all exceed 800 OPS.

That’s a solid lineup that Terry Francona puts out there every day.

We also shouldn’t lose the fact that runs scored are up around baseball this year, and it does make teams with good pitching stand out.  When run scoring is down in the sport, everyone has good pitching numbers.

It gives the Tribe a bigger advantage against the teams they are competing with in the American League and throughout baseball.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt to add another bat before next Sunday.  There is nothing wrong with making a strong unit even stronger.

The Indians need bullpen help, so they are looking to make their pitching better, so why not make the hitting better as well.

With a seven game lead in the division, the goal isn’t making the playoffs, it should be giving the Tribe the best chance it can have to win the World Series.

That’s a realistic goal.  Right now!



Tribe Has More in Minors Than Zimmer, Frazier

With the Indians in first place and a 7-1/2 game lead in the American League Central Division, most baseball fans in the area are thinking about how the front office will fortify the ballclub for the home stretch.

The trade deadline (without having to clear waivers) is at the end of the month, and we feel one of the lazier topics on sports talk radio is talking about should the Tribe move one of their top two prospects, OF Bradley Zimmer and/or OF Clint Frazier, both first round draft picks, to upgrade the major league roster.

The reality is the Cleveland farm system isn’t what it was two or three years ago when it was kind of Francisco Lindor and a bunch of guys.  The Indians’ farm system is quite deep these days, thank you.

There are prospects that should be appealing at every level of the minor league system, and it is quite possible, probable in fact, that it will be one of these guys who will be moved if the front office makes a splash by the end of the month.

At Columbus, there is RHP starter Mike Clevinger (9-1, 2.82 ERA, 88 strikeouts in 82 IP), who we have already seen at the big league level.  The right-hander is 25 years old, and really is ready for the big leagues now.

In addition to Clevinger on the hill, there is also a pair of lefties, Ryan Merritt (5-7, 4.44 ERA) and Shawn Morimando (11-4 at AAA/AA).  Both have made cameos with the big club this season.

And you can’t forget 3B/OF Yandy Diaz, a native of Cuba, who is currently raking at AAA (.326, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 873 OPS).  Diaz played in the Futures Game, and is a guy who puts the bat on the ball, something rare in this era where strikeouts don’t matter.

Besides Zimmer and Frazier at Akron, you have 1B Nellie Rodriguez, who has belted 18 HR, but strikes out a ton (132 whiffs in 348 at bats), and a pair of pitchers, lefty Rob Kaminsky (4-6, 3.84 ERA), and righty Julian Merryweather, who is 2-2 with the RubberDucks after going 8-2 with a 1.03 ERA at Class A Lynchburg.

Merryweather’s former teammates include 20-year-old slugger Bobby Bradley (.265, 17 HR, 70 RBI after hammering 27 bombs at Lake County a year ago), and catcher Francisco Mejia, who has hit over .330 at two levels this season.  Those two get the most ink.

However, you can’t forget 20-year-old switch hitting OF Anthony Santander (.285, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 838 OPS) and 23-year-old Greg Allen (.298, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 37 steals), another who hits from both sides of the plate.

At Lake County, you will find OF Connor Marabell (.308, 6 HR, 47 RBI, 835 OPS) and Nathan Lukes (.305, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 833 OPS. And you can mix in RHP Matt Esparza (8-6, 3.19 ERA, and 107 strikeouts in 96 innings).

Mahoning Valley has two high school hurlers picked early in last year’s draft, RHP Triston McKenzie (3-2, 0.48 ERA in 37 IP) and southpaw Juan Hillman (2-0, 0.89 ERA in 30 frames).

And at the rookie level, you have the comeback story (from Tommy John surgery) of last year’s top selection Brady Aiken, once the top overall pick in the draft.

We haven’t even mentioned the bullpen depth in the system either.  Other teams covets arms like Ben Heller, David Speer, and Billy Strode.

If GM Mike Chernoff does make a move, and we believe he will, it is more likely one of the players we’ve talked about here will go in return, not Zimmer or Frazier.

While the system is deeper than in the past, you can’t move players like those two, with the potential to be special.


Last Night Reminds You Tribe Needs Help.

The Cleveland Indians have a comfortable 6-1/2 game lead in the American League Central Division, yet last night’s contest was one of the most frustrating in recent weeks.

The Tribe had a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the 7th inning against the Twins when some curious decisions were made, albeit some of them by the constraints of the roster.

Trevor Bauer wasn’t sharp in the six innings he worked and gave up a run on back-to-back two out hits in the last frame he worked.  He was also over 100 pitches for the night.

But Terry Francona sent him back out for the seventh, even though the Tribe is coming off the All Star break and the bullpen is rested.

Based on what happened in the inning, it looks like Tito and Mickey Callaway wanted Bauer to pitch to Joe Mauer, because as we all know, Cleveland doesn’t have a lefty in the bullpen right now.

Bauer gave up a deflected single to the leadoff hitter, Edwardo Nunez, and then walked Mauer to put the tying run on base with no one out.

Our question would be why not have Jeff Manship or Dan Otero come in and start the inning clean.  As it was, Manship was victimized by a error by Carlos Santana, and gave up a single to Brian Dozier to tie up the game.

Otero came in and got out of the two on, nobody out situation without any more runs scoring.

Our point is since Bauer wasn’t sharp, he should’ve called it a night after six innings of work.  And this isn’t a second guess, we are stunned he came out for the seventh.

Not that T.J. House was setting the world on fire (he allowed six hits in 2-1/3 innings), but you need a southpaw in the bullpen.  Francona got burned in the Yankee series bringing in Otero to face Brett Gardner with a 5-3 lead, only to see the slap hitter bang a three run triple to give New York a lead.

And that the Twins tied the game made Francona use Bryan Shaw for two innings on the second night of back-to- back appearances, meaning he likely cannot be used today.

The next odd decision came in the bottom of the 7th, with a man on first and two outs, when Francona sent Erik Gonzalez to the plate in his first major league at bat in a tie game and a runner on first, over Tyler Naquin, who had two hits on the night, and if 5 for 20 in his limited at bats vs. lefties.

Yes, Fernando Abad, the Twins’ reliever is tough on left handed hitters, but why take the bat out of Naquin’s hands in favor of a rookie in his first career at bat in the bigs?

If Tito would have had Juan Uribe on the bench and used him in that situation, there is no question. We would have had less of a quizzical expression had he used Abraham Almonte there. But Gonzalez?

Again, this is why the Indians need bullpen help.

They don’t have a reliable lefty to get tough left-handed hitters out. They also need more people that Francona trusts, because he clearly doesn’t want to use anyone but Allen, Shaw, Otero, and Manship in high leverage situations.

It is incumbent for Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff to do something quick. The Indians don’t want to give the Tigers or Royals any hope of getting back into the race for the division title.


Why Tribe Can’t Stand Pat

The second half of the baseball season starts tomorrow night, and the Cleveland Indians are in good position to make the playoffs.

They have a 6-1/2 game lead in the American League Central Division and after they return from the trip they start tomorrow, they will play 39 of their last 65 contests at Progressive Field.

So, the question is does the Tribe need to make a move before the July 31st trading deadline?  After all, they lead the AL in ERA and rank third in the league in runs scored per game.

Don’t they have enough on the current roster to win the division?  Isn’t Michael Brantley getting ready to come back, giving the team an added bat?

The reason is simply this…president Chris Antonetti, GM Mike Chernoff, and skipper Terry Francona cannot assume that everything that went well in the first half is going to continue after the All Star break.

Jose Ramirez has been arguably the team’s most valuable player in the first half, filling in for Brantley and hitting .295 with a 769 OPS.  His prior career high in these categories is .262 with a 646 OPS.

Now, Ramirez is just 23 years old and is improving day by day as he should be, but what if he wears down because this is the most he’s played at the big league level?

Tyler Naquin was a solid hitter in the minors, but what he has done at the big league level is eye popping.  He has a 965 OPS and 21 extra base hits in 159 at bats.  Even the most ardent supporter of the rookie can’t think that’s going to continue.

Lonnie Chisenhall is 27 years old now and should be entering the prime of his career.  He entered the break hitting .299 with a 819 OPS, both highs for his time in the bigs.

He has had hot streaks like this before, though.  In 2014, Chisenhall was hitting .332 with 9 HR and 41 RBI in the first half of the year.  After that, he hit .218 with an OPS of 591.

You have to have an alternative if this happens again.  We aren’t saying it will, but you have to be ready.

Rajai Davis (35 years old) and Mike Napoli (34) have been huge for the Indians in the first half, but Francona has leaned on them a lot, probably more than he planned going into the season, but Brantley’s injury and the suspensions of Abraham Almonte and Marlon Byrd changed those plans.

The front office has to be prepared for a possible fall off in production from that duo.

And while Brantley should be back by at latest the beginning of August, there is no telling if he will hit like the guy who finished 3rd in the MVP voting in 2014.  There may be a period of adjustment or he may wind up being 75%.  Still a solid player, but not producing like normal.

Look, we aren’t saying all of these players will decline in the second half, but a good front office has to anticipate that things will go wrong.  Getting another bat will allow Francona to give some players a rest and that player could be plugged in if someone regresses after the break.

And it never hurts to upgrade your bullpen, but that has been addressed before.

Yes, the Indians have good chemistry and have a very good team.  However, you can still make it better.

The Tribe needs to do everything it can to win the division and avoid the dreaded, one game wild card playoff.

That’s why you make a move.  It may just put you in the World Series.


Cavs Get Older, But Better

It is incumbent for a champion to not stand pat, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are no exception.

Even though they delivered the first championship for the Cleveland area in 52 years, there is no question every other team in the NBA is now gunning for them, especially the squad they defeated in the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors.

They signed one of the league’s top five players (probably top three) is Kevin Durant, to go with a unit that won an NBA record 73 games this past season.

We all know by now the wine and gold lost two players in free agency, Timofey Mozgov going to the Lakers, and Matthew Dellavedova to Milwaukee in a sign and trade scenario for a trade exemption.

Using that trade exemption and preying on the Bulls need to shed salary to sign Dwyane Wade, GM David Griffin picked up another veteran shooter for the bench in Mike Dunleavy.

Soon to be 36 years old, the 6’9″ former third overall pick is a career 38% shooter from behind the arc, but he’s been improving with age, making 40% of his shots from distance since turning 30.

To be sure, the Cleveland bench has a lot of age on it, adding Dunleavy to Richard Jefferson (36), Mo Williams (33), and Channing Frye (33).  But if you limit these guys to 15-20 minutes per night, they can be highly effective for Tyronn Lue.

It appears the bench will get another veteran soon, as Lue intimated the organization is talking to another of LeBron James’ former Miami teammates in big man Chris Andersen, who just turned 38.

He’s a guy who doesn’t need to score, just wanting to play defense and rebound. He grabbed 4.5 per game in 18 minutes with Memphis last season.

As we have said before, we also expect Jordan McRae to be a rotation player for 2016-17 too, getting many of Dellavedova’s minutes.

Rookie Kay Felder has shown in the summer league that he has some ability, but when you are the defending champs (that sounds awesome, no?), it will be difficult for Felder to see minutes in Cleveland.

More likely, he will be getting a lot of minutes for the Canton Charge.

We would like to see the Cavs somehow get another younger player to help out next season.  We like Terrence Jones, who played with Houston last season.

Jones will start the season at 24 years old and is 6’9″.  He averaged 12 points per game in his second year in the league, but saw his minutes drop a year ago.

The league is putting a premium on guys from 6’7″ to 6’9″ who can play out on the floor, and Jones fits that bill.

He is a free agent, and might be worth a look for the Cavaliers.

Of course, the most important signatures that Griffin needs to get on paper are James and JR Smith, who are both free agents.  It has been reported that Smith is close to a deal, and James has already told the world he will be back to defend the title.

The Cleveland Cavaliers appear to be better than they were the night they won their first NBA Championship, and we doubt Griffin is finished trying to improve the team, because he is always looking.

To be sure, he will be creative in getting this done.



Tribe Needs To Improve ‘Pen and Catching

The Cleveland Indians enter today’s play, the last game before the All-Star break, with a 6-1/2 game lead in the AL Central Division.

That lead is tied for the largest in Major League Baseball, as the Cubs have the same lead over the Pirates and so do the Giants over the Dodgers.

The Tribe will not be back at Progressive Field until July 26th, as they resume the schedule with another 10 game trip to Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Baltimore.  It will be their third trip of that length in a two month span.

When they return home, they will play almost two-thirds of their remaining games at home, a huge advantage for Terry Francona’s club.

And of course, at the end of July comes the trade deadline, where teams can bolster themselves, addressing weaknesses before the home stretch of the schedule.

The Indians rank third in the AL in runs per game and lead the league in ERA, so there aren’t gaping holes on the roster.

However, the biggest right now is the bullpen and the catching situation.

Most teams could use more depth in the ‘pen, and Cleveland is no exception.

Right now, Francona appears to have confidence in only Bryan Shaw (8th inning) and Cody Allen (9th inning).

Jeff Manship appears to be easing his way back into Tito’s good graces as well.

Shaw, though, is susceptible to the gopher ball (7 in 34 innings), and Allen walks too many hitters (18 in 39 innings).  So, GM Mike Chernoff needs to get help there, although perhaps the answer is currently on the roster or in the organization if the skipper and Mickey Callaway would just give them some opportunities.

Dan Otero (1.31 ERA in 31 games) has been much better than expected, and maybe fireballing Austin Adams could do the job too if given a shot.

The other problem the management needs to address is the Yan Gomes issue.

Gomes is simply the worst offensive player in the sport right now, hitting .168 with a .200 on base percentage.  That’s right, his OBP is at the Mendoza line.

Yes, the pitchers say they like throwing to Gomes, especially Corey Kluber, but did you know that the staff’s ERA with Chris Gimenez behind the dish is 3.47, compared to 3.70 with Gomes and 3.71 with Roberto Perez (only 4 games).

We know that Gomes is a leader on the team, one of the “core” players Francona turned the clubhouse over to a year ago, but he’s been terrible.

Yesterday, he came up with Abraham Almonte on 2nd with nobody out and while he did hit a line drive, he didn’t move the runner.  When you are hitting .160, you better be able to get a bunt down.

No one definitively has said Gomes has an option left, but if he does, the smart move is to send him back to AAA when Perez is ready.

No matter how good Gomes is defensively and handling pitchers, his lack of hitting should be costing him at bats.

And if Michael Brantley can return, Francona needs to give some players some time off in the second half.  The Tribe roster has been pushed hard and is running on fumes a bit with the break coming.

They also have to protect Rajai Davis, who has been a huge contributor, but is 35 years old and makes his living with his legs.

This is a much better situation than the last two years, when there were gaping holes on the squad.  This team just needs some tweaks.

With the lead they have, the pitching they have, and the schedule they have, this team should be playing in October.  But the organization can’t be complacent.


Tribe Needs To Get Better…At Accomodating Crowds.

The Cleveland Indians have a growing problem.

No, it’s not a willingness to improve their team, which currently resides at the top of the American League Central Division, although the issue is a result of their success.

The problem has to do with attendance, and we aren’t complaining about the club’s rank among major league teams in getting fans to show up.

The current homestand has seen a sellout on Monday, the fourth of July, and a crowd of 24,000 plus for a noon start on Wednesday.  This weekend’s four game set against the Yankees promises more large crowds at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

Who could have figured that winning baseball is the best marketing plan?

The problem is handling these larger crowds.  It doesn’t seem like Progressive Field is equipped to accommodate the growing throngs of people who want to be part of Indians’ baseball.

Keep in mind that the ballpark holds approximately 8,000 people less than it did two years ago, and when 42,000 fans regularly showed up at then Jacobs Field, there didn’t seem to be the problems there are today.

Maybe our memory betrays us, but that is our perspective.

At the games we have attended over the last month or so, we have noticed long lines waiting to get in the park, and we have confirmed with several other fans that this is not unusual.

If you arrive at the park at least a half an hour before the game starts, or any event for that matter, you should be able to be in your seat by the time the contest starts.  We don’t believe that is in unreasonable request.

The lines getting into Progressive Field 15-20 minutes before the first pitch should be a concern to the front office.  They simply have to have a better way to get people in the seats.

Once in the stadium, we have noticed restroom doors locked and poor staffing at concession stands.  The latter means standing in line 15-20 minutes to get something to eat or drink.  That’s unacceptable.

The Indians are finally getting good crowds going to Progressive Field, and they must improve the customer service.

Fans shouldn’t be expected to have to arrive an hour before a game begins in order to be in their seats when the first inning begins.

After this homestand, the Tribe will be on the road again because of the Republican Convention and won’t return until July 26th.  This gives them plenty of time to fix the problem.

Because in our estimation, the crowds are going to continue to increase as the season progresses because the Indians are a very good team.

Our guess is that there will be more attendance figures over 20,000 the rest of the year, than there will be smaller crowds than that figure.

In fact, for many games, they would probably be able to sell more than 34,000 tickets, something we thought about when they put the storage containers in the right field upper deck.

What the organization doesn’t need is fans finally deciding to go to an Indians’ game, and having a bad experience due to standing in lines for extended periods.

The front office has done the hard part.  They’ve put a team on the field that people want to see.  Now, they have to make sure fans can be in their seats to watch it.



Once Again, Ignore The Warriors Until Next June.

Last year, when all the hullabaloo from the national media was going on about the Golden State Warriors, we said we would escape the noise until if or when the Cavaliers had to play them in the NBA Finals.

Now that they have signed Kevin Durant as a free agent, we will comment about them now, and then ignore them again until if or when the wine and gold have to play them in a playoff situation, which, of course would be the rubber match between the two franchises for an NBA Championship.

Many national pundits are conceding the 2016-17 title to the Warriors while wondering if they can go 82-0.

Basketball doesn’t work that way.  It will be interesting to see who’s game or shots are altered by Durant’s arrival, and how it affects the player who will get less looks.

Since Stephen Curry is the two time MVP, our guess is that Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will have to change the way they currently play, and how will that play out.

And to fit Durant’s salary in, the Warriors will have to sacrifice the roster depth they’ve had over the past two seasons.  This means more minutes for the starters.

We saw how the extra playoff minutes took a toll on Curry during The Finals, and will it take a toll on the remaining squad if all of them have to play two to three minutes per game over an 82 game season.

And don’t forget, an injury could derail the best laid plans of Golden State too.

What should the Cavs do to combat the Warriors move?

There isn’t much they can do, because of salary cap constraints, but with the limited resources they do have, we would look for another wing defender (preferably someone 6’7″ or 6’8″) who can have shooting range.

Kind of a smaller version of Channing Frye.

Remember that there are players on bad teams, non-playoff teams that when used in the right situation can be a perfect fit on a club with championship aspirations.

Before LeBron James came back to Cleveland, people were upset with Tristan Thompson, because at that point, he was the second best player on the team, and was limited offensively.

But when the Cavs became a title contender, Thompson’s skills of being able to defend smaller players out on the floor, and his ability to get offensive rebounds were invaluable to the wine and gold.

So, now that Thompson is the fourth or fifth best player on the roster, he is regarded as a very good player.

The same is true with Matthew Dellavedova, who parlayed his contributions the last two seasons into a $38 million contract with Milwaukee.

When he was a rookie, we wondered aloud why Mike Brown kept putting him into games.  He was a solid defender, but at that point didn’t have a reliable jump shot and wasn’t a particularly good ball handler.

However, on the James-led Cavs, Delly’s defensive skills and gritty play earned him minutes.  He improved his jump shot too, and became a solid threat from beyond the arc.

It will be interesting to see how he plays with a team that will probably be in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference next season.

So, there are guys in the league who could come here and be very productive in the Cavaliers’ situation.

We trust in GM David Griffin’s ability to find those guys.

As for the Warriors, they will be the story in the regular season, much like they were this year.

We know how it all turned out in the end.



Tribe Not A Secret In Cleveland Anymore

The Cleveland Indians will hit the halfway point of the 2016 Major League Baseball season today in Toronto on pace for either 98 or 100 wins for the year.

And although we did predict them to win the American League Central Division title, even we didn’t think they would be this good.

Moreover, the Tribe’s club record 14 game winning streak has not only drawn attention to them nationally, but also within northeast Ohio, where they were becoming an afterthought to the Browns and the world champion Cavaliers.

We were at the Hard Rock Casino Friday evening, and when Francisco Lindor fielded the last grounder in the bottom of the 19th inning and threw to first for the out, a cheer went up throughout the venue.

Yes, people in this area are excited about the Indians.

While everyone figured the pitching staff would perform well, and it has, ranking 1st in the AL in ERA by a pretty good margin, the Indians have also scored a lot of runs, 6th in the Junior Circuit in scoring per game.

How?  That’s a mystery based on the other offensive stats.

Cleveland is 10th in on base percentage, 6th in slugging, and 6th in OPS. They are 8th in batting average.

They have used their speed though, leading the league in stolen bases and triples.

They also have the most sacrifice flies and the fourth least runners left on base, meaning they have made the most of their opportunities to score runs.

That’s something you have to wonder will hold up in the second half, and that’s why many experts think the Indians need to get another hitter at the trade deadline.

While that would be nice, the back end of the bullpen is a concern too.

Bryan Shaw has been in 37 games and Cody Allen in 34.  The next most games appeared in by a Cleveland reliever is 28 by Zack McAllister.

It is obvious that Terry Francona only has confidence in the first two pitchers listed and both of those guys have flaws.

Shaw is prone to giving up long balls (7 homers in 31-2/3 innings), and Allen has control issues (17 walks in 34 innings).

For those who say it is not a big deal, bringing Bryan Shaw into a one run game is a nail biter. He gives up a dinger, and it’s a tie game.

As for Allen, the walks mean he pitches himself into trouble more than he should.  That’s something you can’t have in a pennant race or in the playoffs.

McAllister has been a disaster recently, so much so that Francona doesn’t use him in high leverage situations anymore.  He can’t throw anything but a fastball for a strike.  We know it, and so do big league hitters.  There is no reason to look for anything but a heater facing the big right-hander.

We would start using Dan Otero and/or Joba Chamberlain with more regularity in close games to see if they can handle the load.  But, we all know about Tito’s loyalty to those who have performed in the past.

Making a move for top flight relief pitcher would enable Allen to pitch the eighth inning and leave the 7th for Shaw.

The Tribe doesn’t need to shorten games like Kansas City because their starters are much better than the Royals, but it would make the bullpen as lethal of a weapon as the rotation.

The front office is anticipating large crowds during this week’s homestand after a 22-6 record in June and a six game lead in the division.

Who knew that winning would be the best marketing plan?

And don’t forget that after the convention leaves town, the Indians will be home for long stretches in August and September.  The way the Tribe plays at Progressive Field this season, that’s a huge advantage.

But the front office can’t stand pat, and we don’t think they will.  They know this is one of baseball’s best team this season.