The baseball season is half over, and the Cleveland Indians have shown pretty much nothing in the way of consistency.
If you divide the season into six equal pieces, the Tribe has improved as each slice of the pie unfolds. They were 11-16 after the first 27 games, went 13-14 in the next sixth of the 2014 season, and finished the first half with a record of 15-12 over the last 27 contests.
However, to this point in the season, it doesn’t feel like a playoff squad.
The Tribe sits 6-1/2 games behind Detroit in the AL Central Division standings, and is just 4-1/2 games out of the last wild card spot, currently held by Seattle.
So, with the trading deadline coming at the end of July, right now you have to consider the Indians buyers. You can’t give up on a season when you are within striking distance. Remember, Cleveland was five games out at the end of July a year ago, and still made the post-season.
Will the Indians’ front office make the necessary moves to reach the playoffs in back to back seasons for first time since 1998-99? That depends on whether or not the brass thinks changes are required to compete for a spot in the post-season.
We all realize GM Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona are very patient, and even the latter admitted earlier this year that sometimes that quality turns into stubbornness.
Will the belief that Francona has in his players preclude the GM from improving the current roster?
Yes, the Indians rank 5th in the American League in runs scored per game, but they have also scored three runs or less in almost half of their games (38 out of the 81 played).
That points to lack of consistency and means Antonetti should be looking for another reliable stick in the lineup. We all know about Nick Swisher’s horrible season to date, but Ryan Raburn has been equally disappointing with a .203 batting average, his second flirtation with the “Mendoza line” in three years.
The defense has been deplorable, leading the American League in errors with 70. Asdrubal Cabrera has been the chief culprit in that area, making most of his miscues on routine plays, including dropping three throws on possible double plays.
Swisher is here to stay because of his contract, but how long does management wait before making changes with Raburn and Cabrera? After reading in the newspaper this weekend that the team isn’t concerned with Cabrera’s glove, it doesn’t seem like any move will be coming any time soon.
On the pitching side, the only reliable starter has been stoic Corey Kluber. Trevor Bauer has kept the Tribe in the game in most of his starts, but has had issues holding leads when he gets one. Justin Masterson has been up and down more that a pogo stick, and the skipper can’t be sure what he’s going to get on a nightly basis when he takes the hill.
Josh Tomlin was not good in June until his one-hitter on Saturday night, and the last spot in the rotation has been less than stellar with rookie T.J. House and Zack McAllister not providing a lot of quality innings on a start by start basis.
The bullpen has been ridden hard with Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, and Mark Rzepczynski all ranking in the top ten in the AL in appearances. The heavy workload is a result of Francona’s lack of trust in anyone else in the ‘pen. That may be changing with Carlos Carrasco’s good work since joining the relief corps.
The key will be when does the management feel enough is enough with the performance of certain players? And when they do, will it be too late to do anything about it?
The success of the 2014 season depends on the timing of making these changes. That doesn’t bode well based on past performance.