There is certainly no question the Cleveland Indians have gotten off to a slow start. They have one of the worst records in the American League to date.
However, if the season ended today, and we still have about 5/6ths of it remaining, the second wild card would be the Baltimore Orioles, who currently sit at 12-11.
For you math majors, that means the Indians are just 3-1/2 games out of the playoffs with a whole lot of season to go.
That doesn’t mean that the Tribe’s roster isn’t flawed and is in need of improvement, of course, we said that all winter.
The recent offensive resurgence has put the Wahoos 9th in the AL in runs scored per game, but the pitching staff, considered to be the reason Cleveland was supposed to contend this season, has gotten off to a woeful start, ranking 13th in the junior circuit in ERA, ahead of only Boston and Toronto.
Surprisingly, they’ve done that despite ranking second in the league in striking out hitters.
If not for Danny Salazar, who didn’t even make the team out of spring training, the rotation would be going through a two and a half week stretch with very few good performances.
We aren’t concerned about Corey Kluber as of yet, and Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco have really been more good than bad to this point, so the starters have done okay. Not spectacular, like they were in August and September 2014, but they’ve kept the team in games.
Unfortunately, the bullpen, which has been tremendous over the past two seasons, is leaking oil, and the team’s defense has not improved from a year ago, even though the errors are down.
The Tribe pitching staff ranks 14th in the league in walks and the relief corps has contributed greatly to that statistic.
The wildness plagued Nick Hagadone has walked five in nine innings. Marc Rzepczynski has issued four free passes in 6-2/3 innings. Bryan Shaw’s walk rate is up as well.
And although Terry Francona has supported closer Cody Allen, he has to be getting nervous. Allen has allowed a whopping 15 hits and seven walks in nine innings of work. He pitched on Sunday and gave up a bomb to Russell Martin. If you come into a game and starting walking people, you are going to get yourself in trouble.
The question is how long with the skipper be confident in the guys who have served him well for so long?
The Indians have enough problems getting leads to cough them up once they have them.
And the defense hasn’t helped the pitching staff either. Yesterday, the Blue Jay scored six runs in the fourth, an inning where Cleveland did not make an error, but gave Toronto five or six outs.
Jose Ramirez didn’t get to a ball good shortstops would have fielded. Lonnie Chisenhall didn’t get an out on a high chopper. Carlos Santana caught a runner straying too far from third base, but didn’t record an out.
Trevor Bauer fielded a chopper, looked home, realized he had no play, and didn’t retire the batter.
So, instead of no runs or maybe one, the Jays put up a six spot.
It should be a concern because it was a huge problem last season and it hasn’t improved much.
How can it be fixed? It probably can’t at this point without a drastic move. As far as the bullpen goes, it looks like the usage of the past may have caught up with these guys.
Several people suggested moving a couple of the current crew in the off-season, to bring in fresher arms, but the front office wasn’t proactive.
The Indians aren’t buried in the standings, but they do need to start playing better. Improvement in throwing strikes and in the defense would be two areas to help the Tribe improve.