The Cleveland Indians played their best 27 game stretch of the season (1/6th of the year) going 17-10 over that time, and remaining on the fringe of the wild card race, just five games behind.
The problem right now is the number of contests in dwindling to a precious few, so the Tribe will need to be even better than 17-10 over the balance of the schedule to have even a chance.
The biggest news over the span of these games was the deal that sent underachieving and overpaid veterans Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to Atlanta. Immediately, the team started playing better.
Why? Because of what we’ve been saying all along, replacing Bourn with even a decent player would help the team and the resurgence of Lonnie Chisenhall, the continued development of SS Francisco Lindor, and the addition of Chris Johnson (who came from the Braves in the deal) has helped.
Bourn, and his 608 OPS were replaced by Abraham Almonte, who was acquired from San Diego for reliever Marc Rzepczynski, and has improved the hitting with his 857 OPS.
Lindor’s OPS is 785, much better than Jose Ramirez, who was playing SS and had a figure of 542. And Chisenhall’s second half OPS of 897 is far superior than the man he replaced, Brandon Moss, who had a 695 figure.
Once again, the Tribe’s over patient approach got them in a rut that will be very difficult to escape.
The pitching got better as Josh Tomlin and Cody Anderson has turned the fifth spot in the rotation into a more that serviceable turn.
The staff ERA has now improved to the 4th best in the American League.
The bullpen has sprung some holes, mostly from the home runs allowed by set up men Zack McAllister and Bryan Shaw, who combined have allowed 13 dingers on the season.
The recent good play has fans the happiest they have been all season, but the worst thing the front office can do is buy in to this stretch of winning baseball.
In our view, Cleveland has four everyday spots that should be etched in stone going into the winter: LF Michael Brantley, 2B Jason Kipnis, C Yan Gomes, and Lindor, who the front office still needs a possible replacement around in case of a sophomore slump.
That would leave CF, RF, 1B, 3B, and DH as spots to fill.
In center, although Almonte has been very good defensively, there is no evidence he can hit like this on a regular basis. In right, Chisenhall has done nothing more than prove he is streaky, although his defense has been surprisingly good.
At 3B, Giovanny Urshela’s bat concerns us that he cannot hit enough to be a regular, and Carlos Santana has been better lately, but still doesn’t provide the offense needed at a premier offensive position.
We would like to leave the rotation as is, but GM Chris Antonetti may have to move a starter to get the bat needed. The Tribe is developing some depth with Tomlin, Anderson, currently disabled T.J. House, possibly Gavin Floyd, and youngsters Ryan Merritt and Adam Plutko ready to help in 2016.
The bullpen is wide open, and we would be open to dealing one of the three back end guys (Cody Allen, McAllister, and Shaw) with the bounty in the farm system, guys like Shawn Armstrong, C.C. Lee, Tyler Sturdivant, Trey Haley, and lefty Giovanni Soto ready to help next season.
The point is the front office cannot get complacent and believe this kind of play will occur all year in ’16 with these players. They have to improve the roster, simple as that.
If not, they might have the same problems that started this season and will discourage the fan base even more.