Our beloved Cleveland Indians are in the midst of another stretch of good baseball, winning 8 of 11 since the debacle double shutout in Baltimore, and now sit just two games below the .500 mark at 42-44.
The starting pitching has carried the Tribe over this stretch allowing just 29 runs in the 11 contests, which nine of those tallies coming in the opener of the current home stand against the Astros.
That means, in the other ten games, the opponents have scored 20 runs, and even those bad in math would recognize that averages to two runs per night.
Even with the Indians’ anemic offense, you can win a lot of games that way.
Which is the problem the Tribe faces going forward, after play resumes next Friday in Cincinnati. Can they win games consistently when the pitching isn’t overwhelming.
To put together a long sustained streak of success, Terry Francona’s squad is going to have to win some 6-5 or 8-6 games.
When Indians’ pitchers allow five runs in a game this year, they are basically screwed. Their record is 3-27. Which, of course, when they hold teams to four runs or less, they are 39-17.
The problem is that they’ve allowed five or more runs in 30 of their 86 games.
As a comparison, the first place Kansas City Royals are 7-20 when they allow five runs or more. The Astros are 9-21. The AL East leading Yankees are 6-25, and the Twins, who would qualify for the post-season if the season ended today, are 8-23.
We understand that no team is going to be over .500 allowing over five runs a game, but notice that the better teams in the AL have all doubled the Indians win total in that situation.
And if the Tribe had the six wins these other teams have, they would be 45-41 for the season, and be sitting just 1-1/2 games out of a spot in the post-season.
So, will the front office try to do something to help the Indians score more runs after the All Star break?
As usual, we are skeptical. Sure, they may try to use the “we are getting Nick Swisher back, and that’s like adding a bat in a trade” line. Or “if Carlos Santana can get hot, that would be better than making a deal” baloney.
But the reality is they need to do something, and it doesn’t have to be a big splash like trading for a guy like Carlos Gomez, although he is under contract through 2016, and would be a dramatic upgrade in centerfield and a right-handed bat.
However, dealing for him would be a great move and as a bonus, might get people who buy tickets interested in this team.
Knowing the Indians’ conservative management, they could also simply make some internal moves to help the offense.
First, they could add a bat from Columbus (yes, we are advocating for Tyler Holt again), because with the starting pitching doing well, there is no need for eight relief pitchers. Guys like Jeff Manship and Ryan Webb are collecting cobwebs in the ‘pen because they are rarely used.
Why not convert them into someone who can play CF vs. lefties, therefore eliminating the need to use Michael Brantley there and also there would be no need to use Mike Aviles in left.
Perhaps it is because of his bulky back, but Brantley is no longer even a decent defensive player in center. And we believe DHing more often would make him drive the ball more.
Was it a coincidence that Tuesday night as a DH, he had three hits and hit his first home run in more than a month?
The organization also has to be thinking (or at least they should be thinking) that the platoon of David Murphy (lifetime .276 hitter currently hitting .326) and Ryan Raburn, will show some regression at the season wears on.
To be fair, Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela, who have shored up the left side of the infield, should improve at the plate going forward.
At any rate, the onus is squarely on GM Chris Antonetti. If the Indians can make it to the playoffs, their starting pitching can be dominant enough to carry them deep into October.
But you have to get there. Your move, Mr. Antonetti.