It is Memorial Day weekend, the quarter pole for the major league baseball season, and the Cleveland Indians sit in first place in the American League Central Division standings.
They are also just two games away from having the best mark in the AL, as the Seattle Mariners, who have the junior circuit’s top record, are at 28-19.
Terry Francona’s club has done this pretty much without Michael Brantley, who has played just 11 games, and with Carlos Carrasco, arguably the Tribe’s best pitcher, out for a month.
Cleveland ranks 2nd in the league in runs scored, and is fifth in the AL in ERA. This means there hasn’t been any luck involved, the Indians are a legitimate contender, just as we thought before the season started.
The biggest area of concern (yes, social media folks, you can be supportive of the team and have concerns) is the bullpen, particularly the Tribe’s set up guys, Zack McAllister and Bryan Shaw.
Cody Allen has had outings that make us nervous too, but mostly because he loses the strike zone at times. He is 11 for 11 in save opportunities.
First, McAllister. Before yesterday’s mop up appearance with a six run lead in Baltimore, the big right-hander allowed runs in each of his last three appearances. And in May, he has come into the game 10 times, and allowed a run in five of those games.
That’s 50% for you sabermetric guys. Also, that’s not good.
He made 11 appearances in April, and allowed a run in just one game.
Shaw has been one of the American League’s best late inning guys over the past three seasons.
He is like the proverbial little girl with the curl, when he is good, he is very good, but when he’s not…aye, aye, aye.
First, we don’t like relievers who allow home runs. Shaw has allowed five dingers in 20 innings of work this season.
If he keeps the ball in the yard, Shaw is tremendous. He’s only had one game this year where he allowed a run without giving up a bomb (April 24th vs. Detroit).
In our opinion, he allows too many homers to be an elite set up man.
Only five AL relievers have allowed more long balls than Shaw this season, and three of them (Steve Geltz, TB, Shawn Tolleson, TEX, and Tom Wilhelmsen, TEX) have been sent to the minor leagues.
A fourth, Chasen Shreve of the Yankees, is on the disabled list.
Shaw gives up too many homers. Remember, he gave up 8 last season in 64 innings. Francona needs a better option in a one or two run game.
The Tribe has lost 21 games this season. In six of those losses, they have had the lead or were tied after six innings. In two other games, they rallied to tie up a game, only to lose on a walk off hit.
That’s eight late game losses. Give the Indians a split in those games, and they sit at 30-17 and have the AL’s best record.
We hope the front office is out there trying to upgrade this part of the the team.
In the meantime, it wouldn’t kill Francona to try some other options late in games. Perhaps Dan Otero (0.95 ERA in 19 innings–no HR allowed) or Austin Adams, who pitched three scoreless games since his recall.
We know Tito likes to give veterans the benefit of the doubt, but we believe the American League will be so tightly contested this season, that a couple of games could be the difference in making the playoffs or going home after game 162.