For a team as inconsistent as the Cleveland Indians are, it is fitting that their record at the halfway point of the season is right around the .500 mark, although slightly below at 38-43.
And they start the second half of the year against the same team and pitcher they opened the regular season against, with Houston pitching Dallas Keuchel tonight.
Terry Francona’s squad went 12-15 over the last 27 games (1/6th of the season), down from the 16-11 in the second sixth of the season.
The first 27 games was a disaster at 10-17.
Such is the fate of the up-and-down Tribe, who can’t get anything going this season, and probably won’t be able to as long as the roster is made up of the same group of players.
The trip that just ended was a microcosm of the Cleveland season.
They looked horrible against Baltimore, getting shutout in the last two games, a doubleheader, which ended a sweep of the series by the birds.
Then, they visited Tampa, with the Rays owning a share of the top spot in the AL East, and took four straight from Tampa, the first three with their starting pitchers flirting with no-hitters.
They won the first game in Pittsburgh, then reverted back to their anemic offense, losing 1-0 on Saturday, and getting a paltry five hits on Sunday in a 5-3 loss, although the NL’s winningest pitcher, Gerrit Cole, was on the hill for the Bucs.
The best thing about the Indians’ season to date has been the jumbled nature of the American League, where no team is more than 6-1/2 games out of the second wild card spot.
On the other hand, the Tribe has the 10th best record in the AL, meaning there are more teams ahead of them than behind.
This clumping reduces the number of teams that will be sellers at the trade deadline at the end of the month, so it will be difficult for GM Chris Antonetti to make a move to improve the roster.
Unless, however, they do it from within, which has been our contention all along.
There isn’t a blockbuster trade out there, and really, we don’t want the Indians to give up their core position players (Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Francisco Lindor) in any deal.
Nor do we want to deal the young, controllable starting pitchers either.
What should be done is more incremental moves, even subtle ones, that make the team better.
Cleveland did just that over the last 30 days by bringing up Giovanny Urshela to play third base and Lindor to play shortstop.
The defensive matrix says Lonnie Chisenhall did a solid job on defense this season, but at the very least, we can say Urshela is as good with the glove (our opinion is he is better), but he is hitting better (Urshela’s OPS is 651 compared to Chisenhall’s 585).
And the rookie has shown consistency, with a 13 game hitting streak just ending yesterday.
Lindor has struggled at the dish, as expected, but he is still performing better than Jose Ramirez did (Lindor’s OPS is slightly higher), and the defensive statistics say he is already the Tribe’s best glove man.
Which brings us to our favorite whipping post, Michael Bourn.
Let’s say the Indians replace Bourn with Tyler Holt, and Holt hits .265 with an OPS of 700, which is slightly below average in the AL. That batting average would be 25 points higher than the veteran’s, and the OPS figure would be more than 100 points better.
Think the Indians would be a little better then?
We understand the contract status of Bourn, but right now, you are paying him to hurt the ballclub, and you don’t have to.
Yes, yes, we know he had a decent weekend against the Pirates, but that’s what we talk about in terms of consistency.
He had two good games. He may go 0 for 12 this week against the Astros and A’s.
Can the Indians make a run? Of course, but it will take a significant run of good play to do it, something they were unable to piece together in the first 81 games.