With all of the rainouts and off days this early in the baseball season, it is hard to evaluate any team, including the Cleveland Indians.
That said, we do have some early thought about the Wahoos, a team we picked to win the AL Central.
We have seen fans complaining about the lack of runs scored by the Tribe in this young season. After all, they rank 10th in the American League in tallies at this point of the season.
However, these people need to look closer. The Indians rank 10th in the league because they’ve played the least number of games.
In actuality, Cleveland ranks 6th in runs per game at 4.2 a game, one notch ahead of the Blue Jays. While we aren’t saying this will hold up all year, and we mean scoring more than Toronto, it does show the offense has improved a bit.
The pitching which was supposed to be the strength of the ’16 Indians, has not rounded into form as of yet, ranking 14th in the junior circuit, ahead of just Boston, who seems to give up eight runs per game, and Houston.
The staff ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of strikeouts per nine innings, whereas last year, the Indians led the AL in this statistic.
We said coming into the year that the bullpen was one spot that concerned us, and the first ten games haven’t eased those fears. Bryan Shaw has been a disaster in two of his four appearances, one costing the Indians a game, and in the other turning a laugher into a game where Cody Allen had to get four outs.
If the Tribe has a lead in a close game tonight, who does Terry Francona go to in the eighth inning?
He can’t use Shaw again, so our guess is it would be Zack McAllister, but then who will be used if needed in the seventh?
Jeff Manship? Trevor Bauer? Those are the things that managers have to decide on the fly. Handling the bullpen is one of best skills a major league skipper can have.
By the way, saying Shaw’s velocity is fine isn’t proof that his arm is sound. Sometimes, a loss of command is a tell tale sign of arm problems. Just saying.
In the meantime, losing games late is demoralizing to a team that needs to get off to a good start. That’s the biggest reason Francona needs to use Shaw is some low pressure situations until he is right.
Back to the offense, it has been a bit inconsistent, but remember, the Indians are still missing their best bat in Michael Brantley. Hopefully, the brass doesn’t rush him back, so that when he does return, he will stay in the lineup all year, and he hits like he normally does.
Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall will be back soon, which means some rosters moves are coming.
Here’s hoping Tyler Naquin isn’t a victim. The rookie has had limited playing time because of all the lefties the Indians have seen, but he has looked good. He definitely deserves a roster spot over Collin Cowgill, but if Francona isn’t going to play him everyday, he may be better off in Columbus.
We would let Cowgill go, and send down a bullpen arm and keep Naquin because Brantley will probably need sporadic days off for his shoulder.
You could have a Marlon Byrd/Chisenhall platoon in right field, and a Naquin/ Rajai Davis platoon in center, with Davis getting extra time in relief of Brantley.
We bet the Tribe will go another way.
Remember though, it’s still early. The first real opinions here will be made after 27 games, the 1/6th pole of the long season.