Sexton Is A Solid Pick For Wine and Gold.

In today’s NBA, what happens on draft night could be totally different two weeks or two months from now.

As it stands right now, the Cavaliers drafted a point guard with the eighth overall pick in the draft last night, grabbing Alabama’s Collin Sexton, a pick that received mixed reviews.

We believe the reason was the expectation that GM Koby Altman was going to swing a deal to bring in a veteran star player in an effort to keep LeBron James with the team, but James is said to like Sexton too.

Of course, there is still time for Altman to swing a deal before the end of the month when the free agency period begins in earnest.

In our opinion, Sexton is a very good pick.

There is no question that he needs to work on his shot.  He shot just 44.7% from the floor and just 33.6% from behind the arc.  However, he demonstrated a tremendous ability to get to the basket.

He did shoot 78% from the line which shows he can shoot a bit, and remember, he’s just 19 years old, and although a player can’t improve his lateral quickness, they can work on their shooting, and get better through spending time in the gym.

One thing that was evident watching the Cavs in the playoffs, was they needed players who can create offense by attacking the basket.  Too often, the only guy doing that was James.

Let’s face it, after the Kyrie Irving deal last summer, the Cavs needed a penetrating guard who can finish around the basket, although that could be a problem without a reliable jump shot to keep defenders honest.

Sexton will need to improve his playmaking ability to be successful in the NBA, because he was more of a combo guard in college, but again, he’s just a year out of high school, and we have seen a lot of scorers in college become playmakers in the pros.

His reputation is that he is a hard worker and plays well in big games.  We love that.  Players can improve by working hard, and when players don’t pan out in the NBA, many times it is because they don’t put the time in during the off-season.

And as a bonus, Sexton is considered a solid defender, something that outside of George Hill has been missing from the games of Cavs’ point guards for awhile.

Another reason for disappointment with the choice of Sexton is that the wine and gold passed on Michael Porter Jr., considered one of the most talented players available.

However, Porter’s back problems (also at age 19!) were simply too much of a red flag.  Everyone seems to look at his upside, but what if he’s this decade’s Greg Oden, a player who simply can’t either get on the floor or stay on it.

As for the big picture, keeping the pick and taking Sexton doesn’t mean James is leaving Cleveland, nor does it mean he is staying.

We said it before the Cavs have another week to make moves in an attempt to make James see this is a good place for him to try to win another title.

It could be the most important week this franchise has had off the court in a long time.

JK

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Having Taylor Means Browns Can Take It Slow With Baker.

By nature, Cleveland sports fans are a nervous lot.

Do the Indians have enough pitching, particularly in the bullpen.  Will LeBron James leave the Cavaliers in the off-season?

For Browns’ fans, the worry is always the quarterback position.  That comes from not having a franchise QB since Bernie Kosar was given his release by Bill Belichick in 1993.

When the Browns draft a rookie at the position, the front office and the fans invariably want to get him on the field, sometimes at the detriment to the player.

Tim Couch was supposed to be the foundation for the Browns when they returned to the NFL in 1999.  He came into the first game he suited up for, and started the second game.  Behind a makeshift offensive line, it was an expansion team after all, Couch took a beating and lasted just five seasons.

He did guide the Browns to a playoff spot in 2002, however.

Last season, DeShone Kizer was thrown into the fray before he was ready, and the result was an 0-16 season that everyone would like to forget.

So, now the attention falls upon first overall pick Baker Mayfield, and already some fans and media alike are wondering when he will start for the Browns.

Here are the arguments they use, and our response:

The Carson Wentz/Deshaun Watson Factor:  Both of those QBs were picked in the first round and started right away, and if they could, why can’t Mayfield?

In Wentz’ case, the Eagles traded away Sam Bradford for a first round pick, and the alternative was Chase Daniel, who had (and still has) started just two NFL regular season games, and had thrown 77 passes total.

And for Houston, it took just one half of football for Bill O’Brien to decide Tom Savage shouldn’t be his starting passer, a job given to him with two NFL starts.

Even Russell Wilson beat out Matt Flynn, signed to a big contract as a free agent after, you guessed it, two NFL starts.

By contrast, the QB the Browns plan to open the season with, Tyrod Taylor, has started 42 NFL games, has a winning record in those starts, and guided the Buffalo Bills to a playoff spot last season.

This isn’t to say Taylor is an All Pro.  But he is a professional quarterback with a proven track record.  And for a team that has won one game in the past two seasons, that’s very appealing.

His Age. Mayfield is 23 years old, hardly an advanced age.  Aaron Rodgers was 25 years old when he started his first NFL game.  Brett Favre was also 23.  Russell Wilson was 24 years old.

The point is this–if Mayfield sits this season, he could still wind up as the Browns’ starting QB for 12-15 years, based on how long players like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Favre have started.

The Bust Factor.  If Mayfield doesn’t start right away, clearly he is a bust.  Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs picked Patrick Mahomes in the first round and he started one game, the last game of the year after KC clinched a playoff spot.

Is anyone saying he’s a bust?

Look, if the best veteran QB the Browns had was Brian Hoyer or Brock Osweiler, we could understand being upset if Mayfield couldn’t beat them out.

That’s not the case here.

If Mayfield overwhelms Todd Haley and wins the job by being better than Taylor, then so be it.  Otherwise, why not let the future franchise quarterback, learn how to be a professional by observing both Taylor and Drew Stanton, two guys who are pros.

Relax, Browns’ fans.  There’s no rush here.

If the Browns are 4-8 with four games left, then they can let Mayfield get a chance to show what he has learned.

But, here’s a novel approach.  Why not try to win some football games?  It doesn’t mean you are stunting Mayfield’s growth, nor does it mean the Browns blew the first overall pick.

JD

Tribe’s Stars Are Offset By Some Horrific Performances

So far, the 2018 baseball season has been filled with question marks for the Cleveland Indians.  They have been solid offensively, ranking 4th in the American League in runs scored.

Four-fifths of the starting rotation has been very good, with Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer having all star first halves of the season, yet the pitching staff’s ERA ranks 8th in the AL, mainly because the bullpen has been dreadful for a good portion of the season.

Yet, the Tribe is just 36-33 on the season.  They lead the AL Central Division by 2-1/2 games, but that is mostly because the division is probably the worst in the majors.

They have struggled mightily against the other teams in the AL with winning records, going 6-14 vs. Houston, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle.  And that can be expanded to 8-20 if you include the Indians struggles against the Twins.

On the other hand, they did take six of eight against the two leaders in the NL Central, the Brewers and Cubs.

So, they have dominated the bums, which good teams are supposed to do, with a record of 22-11 against everyone else on the schedule.

Offensively, the top three hitters in the batting order, Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley, and Jose Ramirez, are having fabulous seasons.  On the other hand, the positions of second base and centerfield are black holes in terms of hitting.

At what point do the Indians reconsider there loyalty to Jason Kipnis?  We attributed last season’s struggles to injuries, but this season, Kipnis has had 250+ plate appearances and is batting just .198 with a 580 OPS.

It might be time to start mixing in Erik Gonzalez at second, or maybe bring up Yandy Diaz to play some at the hot corner with Jose Ramirez moving to the keystone.

Centerfield is another matter.  Bradley Zimmer started the year, but he had extreme contact problems, fanning 44 times in 114 plate appearance.  He was sent to the minors after recovering from an injury and because Greg Allen was hitting, but as soon as Zimmer left, Allen went into a deep slump.

So Terry Francona has returned to his 2016 platoon of Tyler Naquin and Rajai Davis.  Naquin has hit very well thus far, but Davis is showing his lone offensive skill right now is stealing bases.

What is being demonstrated right now, is the Indians have a number of dead spots on their 25 man roster, and no matter how great the performances of Lindor, Brantley, Ramirez, Kluber, Bauer, and Mike Clevinger have been, they have kind of been balanced by mediocre jobs by the bottom of the roster.

We aren’t including Kipnis in this group right now, but certainly Davis, and relief pitchers Josh Tomlin and Tyler Olson have basically unusable right now.

No one is asking these guys to produce like all stars, but they can’t be this bad either.  It’s like Francona goes into each game with 22 players, with the other team having a full compliment of 25.

The way Tito likes to have specific roles for everyone, it puts the Indians at a disadvantage.

Of course, some of this is because of Francona’s famed loyalty.  Davis has an OPS of 573 and isn’t a great defensive player, particularly in CF, anymore.

And having a pitcher on the roster who has allowed 18 home runs in 39 innings, and is a guy you are afraid to bring into a game where you have the lead, is ridiculous.

Until this is corrected, we are afraid the Cleveland Indians are just going to tread water, which they have done all season.  Everyone has to be pulling in the same direction.

MW

 

What Cavs Should Do Now…

Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers just ended their season after getting swept in the NBA Finals, it is still a busy time for the franchise.

The NBA Draft is next Thursday, and of course, the Cavs have the 8th overall pick, a result of the Kyrie Irving trade last summer.

There is also the free agency period which starts on July 1st.

Oh, and there is the whole will LeBron James decide to stay with the franchise or will he go through the free agency process once again.

So, the wine and gold are one of the last two teams standing and yet the next three to four weeks are critical to the future of the franchise.

Unless they hear something differently, they should use this period to show James the best place to win, right now and in the future is right here with the Cavaliers.

How do they do that? First, listen to what he was saying prior to and after Game 4 of The Finals.  He repeatedly said he liked playing with guys who have high basketball IQs.  How many guys do the Cavs have like that?

We would say Kevin Love is one.  Larry Nance Jr. is another.  From hearing James’ comments throughout the season, we believe he holds Cedi Osman in high regard.

George Hill is a playmaker, good shooter, and solid defender.

Kyle Korver and Jose Calderon are cerebral players too, but are a little long in the tooth to be productive NBA players on a nightly basis any more.

Are we missing anyone who you would consider is a smart player?  And being a hard worker or skilled in a particular area is not the same as being cerebral on the court.

So, GM Koby Altman has about two weeks to make some moves that would entice James to stay in northeast Ohio and try to lead the Cavs to a fifth consecutive NBA Finals.  And we would bet he would want a roster that could finish the deal, and not just win one game against the Warriors over the past two years.

Many of said the Cavs can’t do anything because of their salary cap situation and lack of expiring contracts.  However, they do have the 8th pick in the draft.  And remember, teams all over the NBA will give up good players for the chance to get great ones.

These same people said Altman wouldn’t be able to do anything about the roster at the trade deadline, and instead, he turned over 40% of the roster.

Nobody is saying it is easy, and no doubt the Cavs’ front office will have to be very creative and flexible to get something substantial done before the free agent period starts.

What we would not do is accept that James is leaving and start preparing for life after LeBron.  Look, it is really simple.  If James is on the team, the Cavaliers are a contender for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, without him, they are probably bound for the draft lottery.

Until LeBron or his representatives tell Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman that he has decided to play elsewhere in 2018-19, the Cavs need to make the roster something James will want to return to.

Plus, if you do that and he does decide to move on, you can always trade some of the veterans for young players and/or draft picks.

It should be an interesting two weeks.  And hopefully there is a new deal at the end for James, keeping him in wine and gold for a few more years.

JK

Outfield Moves Coming For Tribe.

The Cleveland Indians roster is going to be in flux over the next week or so as several players, mostly outfielders, are getting healthy.  It will be interesting to see what the front office decides to do.

Roberto Perez’ hand injury caused the recall of Francisco Mejia from Columbus, but that is only temporary, because he will likely be sent back today to make room for Adam Plutko, who will start tonight.

The bigger decisions will need to be made when Brandon Guyer is ready to go, and Tyler Naquin will follow soon.

Who stays and who goes when those two are ready to return?

Certainly, the offense has been helped by the return of Lonnie Chisenhall to the lineup.  The former first round pick has been plagued by a calf injury since last year’s All Star Game, but he has been very productive since 2014.

Except for an off year in 2015, Chisenhall has had an OPS over 767 in three of the last four years, with a high of 881 last season.  He pitched in immediately after coming off the disabled list with a bases loaded single in his first at bat.

A week ago, the Tribe decided to keep Greg Allen over Bradley Zimmer as the primary centerfielder, and were rewarded with Allen going into a slump.

The switch-hitter has gone 1 for his last 22 after raising his average to .286 on June 1st, but he had cut down on his strikeouts until fanning three times on Sunday.

We don’t believe Allen is in jeopardy right now, but when Naquin is ready, the club may decide to go with a platoon of he and Rajai Davis, assuming the latter survives the moves.

That could mean veteran Melky Cabrera gets the gate when Guyer is ready.  Cabrera is no doubt a defensive liability, but he is a professional hitter.

Cabrera is hitting just .204 in 54 at bats, and his OPS is just 532, but he has knocked in 11 runs in those at bats, partly because he’s delivered four sacrifice flies already.  That leads the team.  Getting runs in from third base with less than two outs is a lost art in today’s game, so it is nice to see someone who can get the job done.

By the way, who is second in sacrifice flies?  Another professional hitter, Michael Brantley.

Our guess is Cabrera will be let go when Guyer returns, although the right handed hitter has struggled since the end of 2016, hitting .208 in that span, and is unplayable vs. righties, with a .140 batting average since the beginning of ’17.

He’s also hitting just .245 vs. southpaws, well off his .278 career mark.  So, it may not be a lock for Guyer to return.

Andrew Miller should also be ready soon, but he will probably go on a rehab assignment first.  When he comes back, Tyler Olson will likely go back to AAA, as well traveled veteran Oliver Perez has taken his gig.

Terry Francona has used Perez four times since he arrived on June 2nd, and each time, he has done the job.  That’s critical given the state of the Tribe bullpen over the last four or five weeks.

And when Miller returns, it seems Neil Ramirez will get the first crack at being the seventh inning guy.  In his last six games, the veteran has thrown 7-2/3 scoreless innings, striking out eight.

The one thing consistent for the edition of the Indians has been change.  And it appears more of that is coming.

MW

 

 

What Could Cavs Have Done Differently?

Now that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season has ended with a sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, it is time for a look back at some of the reasons the season was filled with ups and downs.

One of the things that failed Cleveland in the Finals was their defense.  The Warriors shot 51.3% for the four games, and shot 60.5% from inside the arc, a whopping percentage.

Many of these shots were uncontested layups and dunks by the Warriors’ “non-stars”. JaVale McGee shot 16 of 20 from the floor, Shaun Livingston was 13 of 15, Jordan Bell was 10 for 14.  That’s 39 of 49 from that trio alone.

McGee in particular got a whole bunch of easy shots because the Cavs couldn’t defend the high pick and roll, something they struggled with all season.

We have railed all season long about a solid defensive plan for the team, something it could hang it’s hat on.  As we have written previously, this lack of a basic defensive scheme came back to bite the wine and gold in the end.

The failure to manage LeBron James’ minutes also played a factor.  While James wanted to play in all 82 games for the first time in his career, he didn’t have to lead the league in minutes.

That also falls back on the coaching staff’s reluctance to build some kind of offense when The King was sitting on the bench.  We understand the plan was to put the ball in LeBron’s hands and let him orchestrate things, but when he wasn’t playing, there wasn’t a different attack.

That meant the Cavs struggled with James sitting, meaning coach Tyronn Lue had to rush him back in there to win games.

Early in the season, Cleveland was a veteran laden team, with Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Jae Crowder playing key roles.  Rose got injured and left the team for awhile, and Crowder never fit in to the way to play off of James.

Wade initially was a starter, but after a few games, found his niche as the leader of the second unit, and the Cavaliers took off.  We may never know what happened, but when the deals at the deadline were made, they involved Wade going home to Miami, which we feel everyone signed off on.

After those deals, it never seemed like the coaching staff involved or did anything to maximize the talents of Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, particularly the former. Larry Nance Jr. fit in because he’s instinctual and athletic.

And Cedi Osman, another good athlete already on the roster, and a contributor after the deals, never got back in the mix after he suffered a hip injury.

From game 42 through 52, Osman played at least 15 minutes every game, of which the Cavs won eight, and he averaged almost nine points, and 3. 5 rebounds per game.

After the injury, he played more than 15 minutes three times, a win over Washington, the loss to Philadelphia where the Cavaliers almost won after being down by 30, and the last game of the season.

Could Osman’s athleticism and basketball IQ have helped in the playoffs?  We won’t know because he played only in garbage time.

The failure of getting athletic young players like Hood, Clarkson, and Osman, and even Ante Zizic, a former first round pick, hurt the Cavs in The Finals.

These were things everyone was concerned about as the season went on, so much of this is not a second guess.

But if James returns to the Cavs next season, these things need to be addressed for the betterment of the franchise and more success going forward.

Being younger and having a smarter team will help going forward.

JK

Bad Old Defensive Habits Haunting The Cavs.

The backs are firmly to the wall for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  They can’t lose a game for the rest of the playoffs, and will have to beat Golden State four straight times to win the NBA title.

What happened last night was simple.  Too much Kevin Durant.  On a night where the second leading scorer for the Warriors was two time Stephen Curry with 11 points, Durant was magnificent.

He made 15 of 23 shots, and not many of them were layups or dunks.  He added 13 rebounds and seven assists, as he kept Golden State from getting blown out early, and then once the game was close, he supplied the dagger with a three pointer from about 35 feet out.

To us, the biggest problem last night was the basic tenets on defense that the Cavs have failed to establish all year long.

How many times did a mix up on the pick and roll result in a wide open dunk by a Golden State player?  This is the Cavaliers’ 103rd game of the season, and by the looks of it, they still don’t have a set way of defending this most basic of basketball plays.

You can blame it on the roster turnover, but if the team had a defensive model, the new players would have adjusted to it by now.

We have railed against the switching scheme defensively all season long too.  Our basic problem is it is lazy and more so, it allows the offense to dictate who is guarding whom.

Our question is this, who does Tyronn Lue want guarding Durant?  Our preference would be Jeff Green and/or Larry Nance Jr. when they are in the game.  However, the Cavs seem to be happy to use pretty much anyone else.

Most possessions end up with Durant being guarding by players like JR Smith, George Hill, and Kyle Korver.  Why?

Look, you aren’t going to stop Durant, he’s a gifted offensive player, who because of his length can get his shot off wherever and whenever he wants.  But you can make him more uncomfortable, and putting players five to six inches smaller on him doesn’t exactly do that.

When Cleveland made the deadline trades, the players they received in return were longer and more athletic.  Unfortunately, the coaching staff either didn’t develop the newcomers well enough to contribute against a team that needs length and athleticism to defend them.

Rodney Hood is 6’8″, Nance is 6’9″, even Jordan Clarkson, who although he has been terrible offensively, has been decent on defense, is 6’5″.  Are these guys just not good players, or were they minimized by the staff?

Someone said last night that the Cavs don’t appear to be obsessed with Golden State.  The Rockets are.  Maybe it’s because the wine and gold won in 2016.

It still looks like the Cavaliers are surprised by the new wrinkles the Warriors throw at them.  Steve Kerr adjusts and uses JaVale McGee, and the Cavs have no answer, or at least it takes them five minutes to adjust.

Offensively, the Cavs still seem to go away from Kevin Love, their second best scorer.  Love had a great first half last night, and then took three shots in the second half.  That’s a crime.

And it wasn’t like Love was shrinking or playing tentatively.  One of his second half hoops was a play where he took the ball right to Durant and got a layup.

Can the Cavs win on Friday and send the series back to the west coast?  Perhaps, it’s not like the wine and gold have been blown out each game.  It is similar to the 2007 Finals vs. San Antonio, when Cleveland lost by 9, 11, 3, and 1 points.

Unfortunately, the defensive issues won’t be going away.

JK

What Do Cavs Need To Do.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are down two games to none to Golden State in the NBA Finals, and many feel it is a foregone conclusion that the series will end quickly, with the same result as a year ago.

That’s the popular view.

On the other hand, the Cavs had an outstanding chance to win game one, until some questionable decisions, both by the wine and gold (JR Smith) and the officials, late led to an overtime loss, and really, on Sunday night, Cleveland still had a shot until Stephen Curry got hot in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors are shooting 54% from the floor in the first two games, compared to 43% for the Cavs, and based on that, you would think both games were blowouts.

This year’s games were decided by 10 (in overtime) and 19 points, compared to 22 and 19 a year ago.

Still, a few things need to be addressed for Cleveland.

First, the switching defense was horrible in game two.  There were far too many instances of Kevin Durant being guarded by Smith and George Hill, and Curry being checked by Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr.

We have said it all year.  Switching is lazy and it allows the offense to dictate who is guarding who.  The Cavs themselves like nothing more than to see Curry matched up with James.

The Cavaliers have to try something different and cannot allow wide open layups and dunks off the high pick and roll.  We say this knowing this has been a weakness all season long, so it will be difficult to improve at this stage of the game.

In terms of the players coach Tyronn Lue is using, it may also be time for some alterations.

Smith continues to struggle with his shot, hitting just 5 of 19 shots from the field, and just 3 of 10 from distance.  Although we have buried Rodney Hood recently, it may be time to see if he can provide some energy and shot making.

Jordan Clarkson is another who looks like the moment is too much for him.  He’s also not shooting well (3 for 13), and seems to be playing over 100 miles per hour when the game is being played at 60 MPH.

And Kyle Korver is struggling much like he did a year ago in the Finals.  It seems like the Warriors are long enough to contest his long range shots, and they are also doing what the Cavaliers did to him when he played for Atlanta.

They aren’t leaving him open.

The Cavs shot 37% from three in the regular season, they are making just 30% in the first two games of the series.  They need to find someone to make shots.  Only James and Hill have made more than 30% in The Finals.

It is also time for Cleveland to get more physical.  Golden State has collected ten more fouls in the series than the Cavs (they have probably really committed 30 more, but that’s another story), so Lue’s group needs to make their presence felt.

Don’t be afraid to play a little bump and grind with Curry, Klay Thompson, and Durant.  Because of the overtime game, this trio along with Draymond Green are averaging 40 minutes per game.

Make an effort to wear down the Warriors, and do a better job attacking players with foul issues.  Durant picked up two in the first quarter on Sunday, and it seemed like Cleveland did not attack him.

Obviously, the Cavs need to win Wednesday night and get back in the series, going down 0-3 means it is over for all intent and purposes.

It is not the time for out and out loyalty based coaching.  If guys aren’t getting it done, you have to try someone else.

A win in Game 3 puts the Cavs back in the series.  No question about that.

JK

One Third Of The Way In, Tribe Kind Of Treading Water

On the eve of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland completed the first third of their schedule with a 9-1 win over the White Sox, a game in which Corey Kluber earned his 8th win of the season.

That win made the Tribe 29-25 after 54 games, and in the last 27 games, Terry Francona’s squad went 14-13, slightly less than the 15-12 in the first 27 contests.

The offense is back on track, jumping up to third in the American League in runs scored per game.  They are sixth in on base percentage and third in slugging as a team.

Unfortunately, they are ninth in the league in staff ERA, and that’s despite having three starting pitchers with ERAs under 3.14 (Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger).

The offense has been led, or maybe a more apt phrase is carried, by Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Michael Brantley, who have formed a lethal top of the order.

Ramirez and Lindor both rank in the top five in the AL in extra base hits, the former is tied for second in the league in home runs, and the latter is tied for third in doubles.

And all three are in the top ten in OPS, with Ramirez ranking 4th, Lindor 7th, and Brantley 8th.

Edwin Encarnacion has gotten hot with the weather, now ranking in the top ten in the league in home runs with 14.

With Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, and Tyler Naquin getting ready to come back from injury, Francona and the staff will have difficult decisions to make in terms of the roster.

Rookie Greg Allen is making it very tough for the decision makers.  Not counted on to be a big contributor this season, the switch-hitter has hit .286 thus far, and has cut down on strikeouts over the last 11 games.

When the injured return, you have to think it will be difficult for Rajai Davis to keep a roster spot.

The problem for the pitching staff continues to be the bullpen, as 43% of the runs the Indians have allowed this season have come in the 7th inning or later.  In addition, the relievers have coughed up more than a third of the dingers allowed by the pitching staff (28 of the 82) so far in 2018.

We thought Zach McAllister was prone to the gopher ball last season, allowing eight in 62 innings.  To date this year, he has allowed six in 21-2/3 frames.

Although he hasn’t been primarily a reliever, Josh Tomlin has allowed a whopping 18 round trippers in 36 innings.  He’s pitched in 12 games, and only NOT allowed a homer in four of them.

He leads the league in that category despite pitching 26 innings less than anyone else in the top five.

We understand the front office is aware of the problem, and brought in veteran Oliver Perez yesterday, and it may be the trade deadline before a permanent solution is sought, but until it’s fixed, it will be a very nervous time for Tribe fans in the late innings.

Yes, it’s true the Indians are 2.5 games ahead in the AL Central.  It’s also a fact that the second place team, Detroit, is in rebuilding mode and isn’t even over .500 for the young season.

Cleveland was supposed to be one of the four best teams in the American League heading into the season, so from that standpoint they’ve underachieved.

On the other hand, if the Tribe fixes its bullpen, there is no reason they can’t make a deep run in the post-season with their starting rotation and hitting.

Perhaps in the next 27 games, we will start to see answers for the relief corps.

MW

 

What Can Cavs Do To Pull This Off?

For the fourth consecutive year, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will meet to decide what team will be the NBA Champions.

Most in the national media don’t give the Cavs much of a chance, and really that feeling is based on Cleveland’s defense for much of the regular season (they ranked 29th), and that the Warriors are the defending champs and the darling of those who cover the sport.

However, right now, there are only two teams who have a chance for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and one of those teams is the Cavaliers.  Talking about the Rockets or Celtics or 76ers is fruitless.  They aren’t playing.

So, what can the coaching staff do to try and knock off the heavily favored Warriors?

The first thing we would do, and we said this a year ago, is slow down the pace.  We understand that coach Tyronn Lue likes to play up tempo, and we would still take advantage of fast break opportunities that are there, but the reality is that’s Golden State’s game and they are better at it than Cleveland.

One of the reasons Lue favored playing faster was that was how to get the most out of Kyrie Irving’s offense.  But he’s not with the wine and gold anymore, so the pace isn’t necessary, and the defense should be better as well.

Slow the game down, try to limit possessions for the Warriors, and see what happens.  The Cavs have the best player on the court, let him control things.

Another thing Cleveland has done over the past year is get longer.  While they don’t have a lot of height on the roster (which we have bemoaned all season), they did add Jeff Green (6’9″), and Larry Nance Jr. (6’8″), both of whom theoretically should be able to play Kevin Durant, who was the difference last season.

A year ago, Lue had to use Tristan Thompson (not quick enough), Richard Jefferson (not tall enough), and James (too important offensively) against Durant, and he had a field day.

We are sure Green was recruited to come to the north coast for exactly this situation.  Now we will see if it was the right move.  And don’t think for a minute that trading for Nance wasn’t made with a potential rematch with the Warriors in mind.

The other thing the Cavs need to do is match the physicality of Golden State.  Yes, the Warriors don’t have a lot of height, height that plays anyway.

But we have said for years that they are coached to basically commit a foul every time down the floor, knowing the referees will not call each and every one of the infractions.

Instead of complaining, match the contact.  Lue’s team is probably better suited for this after the tough series vs. Indiana and Boston, teams that banged the Cavaliers around a lot.

The last thing is to use your depth.  The Warriors only have seven players averaging more than 12 minutes per game in the post-season.  The Cavs have 10, nine if you discount Rodney Hood.

Use that to your advantage.  Try to wear Golden State down in each game, and even more so throughout the series.  Keep throwing fresh bodies at Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Durant.

This is not to suggest if the Cavaliers do this, it will work, and Cleveland will emerge as champions.  However, this is one blueprint for possible success.

We will see how Lue plays it starting tonight.

JK