The Cleveland Indians have hit the first snag in an otherwise good start, losing four of six on a road trip to Kansas City and Minnesota.
That after they won the first game of the trip.
Except for a 10-3 blowout on Saturday, all of the games were tight and could have gone either way. In fact, if Chris Perez hadn’t blown a save against the Royals, the Tribe would have split on the road.
A couple of things that give us cause for concern are the fact that these were division games, and the Indians now have a record of 3-6 within the Central Division.
If you want to win the division, you have to play well against opponents you will meet 72 times throughout the year. There are many, many games to go, but they have to play better in the division starting this week, when they take on KC and Detroit.
The other thing that was a problem on the trip was the disappearance of the early game offense. The Indians have not scored in the first three innings in five straight games, which puts a burden on a very young starting pitching staff.
Certainly, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana’s early season struggles have something to do with this, but when you add in Asdrubal Cabrera’s recent slump, you are getting nothing out of your 2-3-4 hitters.
And all three of those guys will hit. They just aren’t right now.
One area that has improved so far is the offense has cut down on the number of strikeouts. After ranking in the top three or four teams in the AL the past few years, the Indians currently rank 7th, and are also 6th in walks received.
They currently are 4th in the league in runs scored.
Michael Brantley and Santana have walked more than they’ve fanned, and Matt La Porta is close to even, with 9 walks to go with 11 whiffs.
Another potential problem are the injuries that are starting to occur among the starting pitchers. Sunday, Carlos Carrasco left the game with tightness in his elbow, joining Mitch Talbot on the shelf with problems in that joint.
This will test the organizational depth. Southpaw David Huff will probably replace Carrasco in the rotation as the Tribe needs a fifth starter this Saturday against the Tigers.
The next man on the depth chart is probably 2008 first round pick, Alex White, who has a 2.00 ERA in three starts with Columbus, with 20 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched. However, there is no doubt the front office would like to see him get some more AAA innings under his belt.
Also, White is not on the 40 man roster, which means Cleveland would have to release someone to make room for the right-hander.
The Indians need to continue to play solid defense because their pitchers rank second to last in the AL, ahead of only Minnesota, in strikeouts.
Unfortunately, the walks are starting to pile up from the staff, as Tribe pitchers rank 6th in the junior circuit in allowing walks. If you don’t have power arms, you have to be able to throw strikes.
As a side note, the walk total is partially the result of the umpiring crew in Kansas City’s horrible strike zones, particularly those of Joe West and Angel Hernandez. And in the interest of fairness, they were bad for Royal pitchers as well.
But why fix the umpiring when you can look at expanding the number of teams in the playoffs?