The Cleveland Indians will hit the halfway point of the 2016 Major League Baseball season today in Toronto on pace for either 98 or 100 wins for the year.
And although we did predict them to win the American League Central Division title, even we didn’t think they would be this good.
Moreover, the Tribe’s club record 14 game winning streak has not only drawn attention to them nationally, but also within northeast Ohio, where they were becoming an afterthought to the Browns and the world champion Cavaliers.
We were at the Hard Rock Casino Friday evening, and when Francisco Lindor fielded the last grounder in the bottom of the 19th inning and threw to first for the out, a cheer went up throughout the venue.
Yes, people in this area are excited about the Indians.
While everyone figured the pitching staff would perform well, and it has, ranking 1st in the AL in ERA by a pretty good margin, the Indians have also scored a lot of runs, 6th in the Junior Circuit in scoring per game.
How? That’s a mystery based on the other offensive stats.
Cleveland is 10th in on base percentage, 6th in slugging, and 6th in OPS. They are 8th in batting average.
They have used their speed though, leading the league in stolen bases and triples.
They also have the most sacrifice flies and the fourth least runners left on base, meaning they have made the most of their opportunities to score runs.
That’s something you have to wonder will hold up in the second half, and that’s why many experts think the Indians need to get another hitter at the trade deadline.
While that would be nice, the back end of the bullpen is a concern too.
Bryan Shaw has been in 37 games and Cody Allen in 34. The next most games appeared in by a Cleveland reliever is 28 by Zack McAllister.
It is obvious that Terry Francona only has confidence in the first two pitchers listed and both of those guys have flaws.
Shaw is prone to giving up long balls (7 homers in 31-2/3 innings), and Allen has control issues (17 walks in 34 innings).
For those who say it is not a big deal, bringing Bryan Shaw into a one run game is a nail biter. He gives up a dinger, and it’s a tie game.
As for Allen, the walks mean he pitches himself into trouble more than he should. That’s something you can’t have in a pennant race or in the playoffs.
McAllister has been a disaster recently, so much so that Francona doesn’t use him in high leverage situations anymore. He can’t throw anything but a fastball for a strike. We know it, and so do big league hitters. There is no reason to look for anything but a heater facing the big right-hander.
We would start using Dan Otero and/or Joba Chamberlain with more regularity in close games to see if they can handle the load. But, we all know about Tito’s loyalty to those who have performed in the past.
Making a move for top flight relief pitcher would enable Allen to pitch the eighth inning and leave the 7th for Shaw.
The Tribe doesn’t need to shorten games like Kansas City because their starters are much better than the Royals, but it would make the bullpen as lethal of a weapon as the rotation.
The front office is anticipating large crowds during this week’s homestand after a 22-6 record in June and a six game lead in the division.
Who knew that winning would be the best marketing plan?
And don’t forget that after the convention leaves town, the Indians will be home for long stretches in August and September. The way the Tribe plays at Progressive Field this season, that’s a huge advantage.
But the front office can’t stand pat, and we don’t think they will. They know this is one of baseball’s best team this season.