It’s hard to believe, but the Indians 3-2 win over Detroit on Wednesday means the ballclub has completed 1/6th of the season.
Their record is 15-12 which doesn’t sound very impressive, but over a complete 162 game season, winning at that pace computes to a 90 win season.
Terry Francona’s club has been a little inconsistent, but it does say a lot about this baseball team that they have a winning record despite only one phase of the team, the bullpen, performing up to expectations.
The offense ranks just 7th in the American League in runs scored (they were 2nd last year), and they have scored three runs or less in 14 games to date, more than half of the schedule. They are 4-10 in those games.
This means when they get to four runs, they are virtually unbeatable at 11-2.
Why has the offense struggled?
Edwin Encarnacion is off to a slow start at .198 with 4 HR and 10 RBI (667 OPS). This is his history, so we aren’t concerned about that. His lowest numbers in his career by month are in April.
What is concerning is his strikeouts. Encarnacion has struck out 39 times in 118 plate appearances, well above the normal rate for his career.
We believe he is just trying to justify his new, hefty contract, and once the weather gets warmer and he relaxes, he will be fine.
Carlos Santana is also off to a slow start, with a 663 OPS and only 2 home runs. He does continue to take his walks with 17 compared to 13 strikeouts. The walks rank second to Encarnacion.
Jason Kipnis didn’t get many at bats in spring training, and it has shown, as he is hitting just .132. Perhaps he would have benefited from an extra week in the minors for rehab.
On the other hand, the two youngsters in the batting order, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are raking.
Lindor is taking his place as one of the game’s new stars, adding power with 7 homers, 17 RBIs and a 976 OPS.
Ramirez is showing his 2016 season was not a fluke (we didn’t think it was), batting .323 with a 986 OPS and a team leading 23 RBIs, tied for 4th in the American League.
The starting pitching has also been up and down. Corey Kluber is now on the disabled list with lower back tightness, and has an ERA of 5.06. He’s pitched some very good games, but has also had clinkers.
Carlos Carrasco has been the best starter, with a 2.18 ERA and allowing only 26 hits in 41 innings. If Danny Salazar can get past the first inning he has been solid as well.
However, Josh Tomlin hasn’t pitched like he did in the post-season last year (currently an 8.87 ERA) and Trevor Bauer has had only one start where he allowed less than four runs.
Still, if you remove his two starts vs. Detroit, his ERA is 5.00.
The bullpen has been the strength of the team to this point.
The combination of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller has been spectacular. In 24-2/3 combined innings, they have struck out 42 batters, and allowing just one run.
Bryan Shaw continues to be a workhorse and has been effective, but newcomer Nick Goody has impressed as well.
Acquired from the Yankees over the winter, he has thrown nine scoreless frames, allowing just two hits. He seems to have moved ahead of Zack McAllister in the bullpen pecking order.
The offense will get more consistent and so will the starting pitching, so you have to be very satisfied with the Tribe’s start to the 2017 season.
There is nothing to change our mind that this edition of the Indians will win the American League Central Division.