The Cleveland Indians reached the 1/3rd point of the season yesterday, and they continue to be spinning their wheels to this point.
The Tribe went 15-12 during the first 27 games (1/6th of the campaign), and slipped to 13-14 over the last 27.
That isn’t what anyone was thinking when the Indians broke spring training with a road sweep of the Texas Rangers.
You could blame the below .500 record on the absence of Corey Kluber who basically missed the entire month of May with a bad back. Not having one of the game’s best pitchers doesn’t help any team.
However, Terry Francona’s team just hasn’t been able to put everything together. The only consistent part of the ballclub is the back of the bullpen, which has been spectacular.
Other than the trio of Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw, there isn’t one thing for Tito to hang his hat on a regular basis.
The offense has been up and down more than an elevator in a high rise. After winding up 2nd in the AL in runs scored last year, Cleveland ranks third from the bottom in 2017.
In 26 of the 54 games played to date, the Indians have scored three runs or less, and they are 7-19 in those games. When you are scoring three or less in basically half the time you take the field, it is difficult to put together a sustained period of winning.
On the other hand, the Tribe has scored 8+ runs a dozen times. So, as you can plainly see, it really is feast or famine for the Cleveland bats.
This team also doesn’t have a come from behind victory that fuels a winning streak from time to time. The only walk-off win this year came in the home opener, way back in early April.
Last year, once the Indians got the first walk off, they followed it with a bunch of them, so there is hope in that regard.
The loss of Kluber hurt because of his reliability and high level of consistency. Carlos Carrasco has been good, but he had issue with a chest muscle over the last month.
Danny Salazar has been moved to the bullpen for the time being, mostly because he’s has a problem giving Francona at least five innings.
Without Kluber, the most consistent starters have been the two youngest in the rotation–Mike Clevinger and the much maligned Trevor Bauer.
That can’t give Tito and the front office a warm and fuzzy feeling.
On the other hand, perhaps Kluber’s return will steady the rotation, and things will improve greatly over the next 27 contests.
The defense and baserunning also seem to have gone backwards to date. We talked about improving on the bases last week, but the defense, particularly in the outfield has been a concern.
It has improved since Bradley Zimmer was called up, but one thing to keep an eye on is Michael Brantley’s defense, which seems to have declined greatly over the past three seasons.
Francona spoke about a lack of veteran leadership with this group, that they missed a Jason Giambi or Mike Napoli in the clubhouse.
If true, then it’s time for Jason Kipnis and Brantley to be assertive with this group. There is too much talent to be just two games over .500 at this time of the year.
It isn’t panic, but it is fine to be a little concerned with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. It’s time to start establishing that they are the team to beat in the AL Central Division.