Time For Tribe To Put Up

The Cleveland Indians continue to be a very difficult team to watch.

We know they won the second most games in the American League a year ago and advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1997.

Yes, they lost Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis in the off-season, but they signed the top slugger on the market in Edwin Encarnacion to replace the former.  By the way, both Napoli and Davis are suffering through terrible seasons.

They have the second best ERA in the American League despite a starting rotation that has suffered through an injury to Danny Salazar, and wild inconsistency from Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer.

However, they sit with a 48-44 record through 92 games.  It’s not early anymore, the Indians have played more than half of their schedule.

They looked to be turning the corner in the middle of June when they took seven of eight on a trip to Minnesota and Baltimore, and after a brief hiccup against the Twins at Progressive Field, went 8-5 before taking time off for the All Star Game.

The offense still hasn’t returned from the break.

The Tribe was swept in Oakland without scoring more than three runs in a game, and after a 5-3 win in San Francisco on Monday, they lost to the Giants 2-1 in 10 innings.

We understand Terry Francona’s crew is missing Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall due to injuries, but Kipnis wasn’t hitting before he was hurt.

The schedule for August features games against the Red Sox, Yankees, Rockies, Rays, Twins and Royals.  What do all those teams have in common?  They are very much in the thick of the post-season race.

It is clearly time for the Cleveland Indians to put up or shut up.

Yes, we know the apologists for the team will point out they remain in first place, currently a game and a half ahead of the Twins.

But really, does anyone think this team is playing up to its potential?

Last night’s ninth inning illustrates one of the problems the hitters have had this season.

After a lead off walk to Encarnacion, two of the next three hitters, Jose Ramirez and Yan Gomes, swung at the first pitch they saw.  Ramirez did it immediately after the free pass.

Gomes swings at the first pitch in clutch situations on a consistent basis.  You are helping out the pitcher in that situation by doing this.

With all the struggles, Francona continues to use basically the same batting order.  In the hot streak we talked about earlier, Ramirez was hitting third, but Tito doesn’t want to move him out of the #5 hole.

This could be another case of the skipper being more stubborn than patient.

We have written about this before, but moving Michael Brantley and his .361 on base percentage to the leadoff spot, especially he has just 23 extra base hits for the season.

The only regular with less is Gomes, whose offensive struggles are well documented.

Should Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff be looking for another bat?

Cody Allen should also be under a little scrutiny.  After recording a 0.90 ERA in April in 10 innings, he’s allowed 12 earned runs in 27 innings (4.00 ERA) since the beginning of May.

If Salazar can regain his form, perhaps the front office should be looking for another bullpen arm.

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and we know this front office has been aggressive about improving the Indians.

Right now, the leaks are popping up quickly.  The real issue is there is talent on this roster and it is time for the players to start playing like they can.

MW

 

 

 

No GM, No Big Moves, But Cavs Still Team To Beat In East

Ever since the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals, thus losing the series, it seems like a black cloud has followed the franchise, at least if you listen to the national media.

First, GM David Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert couldn’t reach an agreement on the former’s future with the team and parted ways.

Then, they tried and failed to get Paul George in a trade with Indiana before the draft, and despite the lack of a GM, this one is really on the Pacers, because their general manager killed the deal.

And according to who you listen to the Cavs have lost out on other free agents too, even though most of those players received contract offers much greater than the Cavaliers can pay because of the salary cap.

However, one thing has not changed with the franchise.  They are still the best team in the Eastern Conference and the odds on favorite to return to The Finals for the fourth consecutive year.

That, my friends gives them a one in two chance to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champs.

The team with the best record in the regular season in the East, the Celtics added the prime free agent available this summer in Gordon Hayward, but they also lost Avery Bradley, an excellent defensive guard in a deal with Detroit to clear cap space.

The other challengers in the East, the Wizards, really haven’t added a significant piece, although they helped their bench, and Toronto’s point guard, Kyle Lowry got another year older, and they traded D’Marre Carroll and lost P.J. Tucker as a free agent.

Meanwhile, the Cavs still have the big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, who together have lost just one playoff series in the last three seasons.

They also still have Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and kept shooter extraordinaire, Kyle Korver.

The only players lost to this point by Cleveland are the free agents, Deron Williams and James Jones, and the latter is probably going to retire.

Now, we aren’t thrilled with the Jose Calderon signing, but getting Jeff Green is a solid move, and we will have to wait and see if Cedi Osman will be able to play in the NBA.

Whoever the new GM is, and it will probably be Koby Altman, still has some of the mid-level exemption to use to sign more players, and of course, there is the veteran minimum as well.

Some of the players we have talked about recently (Shabazz Muhammad, Jeff Withey, etc.) are still available and with cap space drying up around the league, who knows, perhaps a player like that will fall into the wine and gold’s hands.

As for James’ future, which everyone nationally has him leaving after the 2017-18 season, for every reason “experts” speculate why he will leave, we can think of one why he will remain in northeast Ohio.

FYI, that’s not a prediction, because we don’t think anyone, except for LeBron and his people, knows what he is thinking about right now.

What we do know is the Cavaliers will be a very good team at the start of the regular season and everyone should enjoy it because they will be the team to beat in the East.

As for the West?  Houston and Oklahoma City are challenging Golden State, and you can never forget about San Antonio.

The national media’s worries?  First, the off-season still has about two and a half months to go, so more moves could be coming.

But really, nothing has changed since the Cavs rolled through the East with just one loss in the conference playoffs.

JK

 

The Mejia Question For Tribe.

The All Star break is over, and now the eyes of baseball shifts to the trading deadline at the end of this month.

And that leads to speculation about the Indians’ top prospects, catcher Francisco Mejia and pitcher Triston McKenzie.

Mejia gets even more scrutiny because of the offensive production on the catchers on the big league roster, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez.

Gomes has an OPS of 680, and is hitting just .222 with a .315 on base percentage.  Perez is even worse with a 517 OPS and his batting average is just .178.  Combined, the two backstops have 6 HR and 36 RBI.

Mejia has all the look of a professional hitter.  A switch-hitter, he is hitting .334 with 9 HR and 34 RBI at AA Akron, and has a 928 OPS.  This following a season where he had a 50 game hitting streak, and combined at Class A Lynchburg and Akron, he hit .342 with 11 homers and 80 runs batted in.

He also doesn’t strike out, which is huge in today’s game where swinging and missing is plentiful.  His high in whiffs is 78 in 446 at bats, and that was during his worst year in the minors, when he hit .243 at Lake County in 2015.

One thing we know, or should know, about the Tribe front office is they value defense, pitch framing, and handling a pitching staff the most from their catchers.  If they can hit, that’s great, but they don’t seem to be in a hurry to replace Gomes or Perez behind the plate, because they do those other things very well.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Mejia as the third best prospect in the game, and said they would rank him first if they knew the Dominican native was going to remain behind the plate long term.

The reason for that is Mejia’s size, he’s 5’10” and weighs 180 pounds.  By contrast, Gomes is 6’2″, 215, and Perez is 5’11”, but weighs 220 pounds.

Ivan Rodriguez, who will be inducted into Cooperstown later this month, was only 5’9″, but weighed 205 pounds, so Mejia can get a little bigger and be a catcher for a long time in the big leagues.

On the other hand, Mejia looks like the kind of hitter that is special, and do the Indians want that bat to be subject to the daily grind and pounding a catcher takes, and perhaps shorten his career.

Look at Joe Mauer, who is much bigger than Mejia, but was an elite hitter as a catcher, with an OPS over 800 nine times in his first ten full seasons, and a winner of three batting titles.

He was basically done as a premier hitter at age 30 in 2013.

Do the Indians want to subject Mejia to that pounding or perhaps move him to another position and keep a possibly elite bat in their lineup for a long time.

Obviously, the Tribe front office would rather not deal Mejia, but they may have to if they are making a deal like the one that brought them Andrew Miller last year.  In fact, remember he was involved in the ill-fated deal with Milwaukee that Jonathan Lucroy vetoed.

By the end of the month, we will see if the Indians dodged a bullet with that move, or they don’t think Mejia can become the type of catcher they would be comfortable with defensively.

He is purported to have a great arm and gets out of his crouch quickly, so we would be talking about pitch framing and handling the hurlers.

When you understand what Cleveland wants from the position, you can understand why Mejia is not in the Indians’ plans for this season.

Is he is their plans long term?  We will find out in a couple of weeks.

MW

 

Tribe Won’t Do This, But We Would

The Cleveland Indians should be considered a conservative organization, although at times they do make some aggressive moves.

They may have cost themselves a playoff spot in 2015 with their stubbornness in leaving Francisco Lindor in the minor leagues until his service time would not be an issue.

They give some veterans every opportunity to succeed before replacing them with a possibly more productive young player.  Think about the long rope vets like Michael Bourn and Juan Uribe received from the current regime.

That said, here are some things we would like to see the Indians do, even though we know it will never happen:

A change in position for Jason Kipnis.  Kipnis was an outfielder in college and moved to second base when he was drafted.  However, it is pretty clear to us that Kipnis is the third best defensive option at the position for the Tribe, behind Jose Ramirez and Erik Gonzalez.

The Indians leave outs on the field more than they should because of plays not made up the middle or double plays not turned.

We understand Kipnis is a key member of the team both on the field and in the clubhouse.  The simplest thing would be to just flip flop Ramirez and Kipnis and move the latter to 3B.

In these days, where offense continues to put up numbers, outs are at a premium, you can’t give them away.

The Brantley Dilemma.  Michael Brantley’s return to the everyday lineup is a boon for Terry Francona, with an OPS of over 800 on the season.

However, it is evident that his defense in left field has slipped greatly.  Sunday night, a groundball single went for a double for Jose Iglesias because he couldn’t cut the ball off.

There have been other deep flyballs which haven’t been caught either throughout the season.

Where can Brantley go?  Perhaps first base if Carlos Santana goes elsewhere via free agency after the season, but if Santana resigns, Francona may want to consider a defensive replacement in the late innings.

Swap Gomes and Perez.  The Indians are blessed with two very good defensive catchers who can handle (frame) pitchers.  And we understand Roberto Perez is hitting just .178 with a 517 OPS, compared to Gomes’ 680 OPS.

However, Gomes hasn’t really been an effective hitter since winning a Silver Slugger Award in 2014.  And with men on base, Gomes becomes very impatient at the plate.

We would like to see what Perez would do offensively if he were given the bulk of the playing time.  Our gut feeling is he would hit better.

We would just like to find out, because in a year or two it will be a moot point (hopefully) because of Francisco Mejia.

Keep Mejia/McKenzie.  In order to make a big move at the trade deadline, the Indians will have to trade one of the studs in their farm system.   We would love to not give up either because as a small to mid market team, it is important to keep players like them.

Besides, the Indians have other players that would be desirable to other teams.  Gonzalez is good enough defensively to start for several major league teams, and we would consider moving Bobby Bradley because we fear he could be like Texas’ Joey Gallo.

And don’t forget Yu-Cheng Chang is another shortstop blocked by Frankie Lindor.

The Tribe has a lot of depth in the system, we know it might be a fantasy, but we would like to keep these two after moving Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield last season.

MW

Cavs Making Moves Anyway

The Cleveland Cavaliers might not have an official general manager, but the acting one made a move yesterday, and it looks like a solid one.

Koby Altman signed free agent forward Jeff Green, last with the Orlando Magic to a one year contract to a one year deal.

Green will be 31 years old this season, making him considerably younger than most of the players the wine and gold has signed or been linked with so far this summer.

The well traveled Georgetown product is 6’9″ and can play both inside and outside, especially in today’s NBA, where teams seem to be using smaller lineups.

The downside is he is coming off his worst season as a pro with Orlando, averaging just 9.2 points per game on 39.4% shooting, well off his career numbers of 13.5 points and 43.5% accuracy from the floor.

Hopefully, this is a case of a veteran playing better on a good team, because the year before, a season he spent with both the Clippers and Grizzlies, he scored 11.7 points per game on 43% shooting.

It has been reported that LeBron James spoke to Green prior to his agreement with the Cavaliers, and also it has been written that James is speaking to free agent Jamal Crawford as well.

This flies in the face of earlier news that The King is not actively recruiting players to join the franchise in Cleveland.

Perhaps this is a sign that James isn’t headed to the Lakers after this season.

As for Crawford, we are a little ambivalent about that because of his age, he will be 38 during the 2017-18 season, and he is a defensive liability which Green isn’t.  The latter has had success guarding on the perimeter.

On the other hand, the man can still shoot, hitting 36% of his three point attempts last season, and at age 37, he played in all 82 games.

Still, we believe Cleveland needs to get longer, younger, and more athletic off the bench, and inking Crawford to a deal doesn’t accomplish any of that.

Nor did agreeing to a deal with Jose Calderon, and bringing in one of James’ old mates in Miami, Udonis Haslem, doesn’t do it either.

One of the players we suggested last week, Tyreke Evans, went to Memphis for less than the full mid level exemption.

We can definitely see Altman or whoever is running the Cavs try to move Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and even Richard Jefferson for younger players and/or non-guaranteed contracted players, who Cleveland could release and thus create some space under the salary cap.

With the huge deals given out to players already this off-season, there will be good players, who will be available on veteran minimum contracts.

At the very least, the Cavs have to still be considered the favorite to get to The Finals again next year.  Yes, Boston signed the best free agent in Gordon Hayward, but let’s match up the “Big Three’s”…

Kyrie Irving > Isaiah Thomas
LeBron James > Hayward
Kevin Love > Al Horford

We maintain the biggest threat to Cleveland in the East will be Washington and Milwaukee.

However, we are sticking with our theme of younger, longer, and more athletic for the wine and gold this summer.  Still, if you can get Carmelo Anthony without moving a valued rotation piece, we are on board.

And we will ask this question to those criticizing owner Dan Gilbert for not paying David Griffin or Chauncey Billups…would you rather have him spend cash on players or front office people?

Thought so.

JK

 

Some Options For Cavs Still On The Market.

As the NBA free agency period is going on, the Cleveland Cavaliers have made one major move in re-signing three point shooter Kyle Korver, and a minor move in inking point guard Jose Calderon as a free agent.

At the end of The Finals, we thought the Cavaliers needed to get younger and longer on the bench, but neither of the moves made accomplished that as Korver is 36 years old and Calderon is 35.

And Calderon is coming off his worst season as a pro, averaging just 3.4 points per game, and seeing his three point shooting percentage drop to just 31%, down from his career norm of 41%.

His defense is also non-existent

Also, Richard Jefferson announced he will be returning for his 17th season, and he will be 37 years old for the 2017-18 season.

Not exactly accomplishing what we think should be the goal for next year, is it?

Here are some guys who are still out there as unrestricted free agents that we would be interested in for the wine and gold this summer:

Shabazz Muhammad:  He will be 25 years old next season and is 6’6″.  His career scoring average in 9.7, with a high of 13.5 in his second year with Minnesota.

He’s a decent defensive player too, and should get better with experience.

Terrence Jones:  He’ll be 26 years this season, and at 6’9″ has a career 10.5 scoring average and 5. 7 rebounds in 24 minutes per night.

He also has solid defensive metrics for his career.  The negative is he’s been with three teams over the last 12 months.  He scored 36 points in a win over the Cavaliers last season while with New Orleans.

Tyreke Evans:  Evans will be 28 this season and is coming off two injury plagued seasons.  In his last full season, he averaged 16.6 points and 6.6 assists per game with New Orleans in 2014-15.

He’s 6’6″ and before he was hurt, his defensive metrics were okay.  He is a player who can create his own shot.

Jeff Withey:  We like Withey as a veteran big off the bench.  He’ll turn 28 during next season, and averages about two rebounds and a blocked shot per game in the 10 minutes he gets.

He’s not spectacular, but does a solid job.  He may not be able to play in a Finals matchup with Golden State, but you have to win the Eastern Conference first.

We understand these guys aren’t familiar to many basketball fans, and they don’t shoot the three like the players Cleveland has pursued for their bench in recent years.

And in spite of our contention that the Cavs need to get younger, if the New York Knicks do buyout Carmelo Anthony, we would love to have him as another scoring option for the team.

Remember that in The Finals, Tyronn Lue received little or no production from his bench outside of Jefferson.  They didn’t contribute on offense, and that was supposed to be their strength.

So, if you can’t get offense, perhaps giving the team better defenders off the bench would be a different tact vs. the Warriors.  We believe younger players would give you a better chance of that.

The longer the players listed remain unsigned, the better chance the Cavs have of getting these guys with the limited room they have due to the salary cap.

That might be their best chance to improve this off-season.

JK

 

Tribe At Halfway Point…First Place To Stay?

The Major League Baseball All-Star is considered the midway point of the season, and that will occur a week from today in Miami, with five members of the Cleveland Indians participating.

However, the real halfway point of the campaign happened on Sunday, when the Tribe won the series against the Detroit Tigers with an 11-8 win, thus ended the first half at 44-37, a pace that would get them 88 wins in 2017.

The Indians seem to be getting it together though, as the last 27 games have produced a 16-11 mark, compared to the first 1/6th of the year in which the Indians were 15-12 and the second sixth of the season produced a 13-14 record.

The Tribe figured to half solid pitching this season, and that has come to fruition with Cleveland ranking second in the American League in ERA, trailing only Boston.

The starting pitching stabilized with the return of AL pitcher of the month Corey Kluber, who made his 2nd All-Star Game, and Carlos Carrasco could’ve been selected as well, with his 9-3 record and 3.50 ERA.

Trevor Bauer has started to be solid each time out and youngster Mike Clevinger has delivered more often than not.

The fifth spot is a concern right now, with Josh Tomlin struggling at 4-9 and the worst ERA in baseball, and Danny Salazar currently in the minor leagues rehabbing a shoulder problem.

It would not be surprised to see president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff look for another solid starter prior to the trade deadline at the end of this month.

The inability of the starters to provide innings has caused the bullpen to spring a couple of weeks over the last 27 games.  Andrew Miller was being overused and Francona recognized that and started using him just an inning at a time.

Cody Allen is also going through a period where he hasn’t been unhittable and leads the relief corps in allowing home runs.

Overall, when Tito goes to his ‘pen, the results have been outstanding.  As long as the usage is kept under control, that should be the team’s strength.

The offense had a bit of a surge because of the hot hitting for a trio of Tribe batters: Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, and Lonnie Chisenhall.

Ramirez continues to show his 2016 season is no fluke, making his first All Star Game.  The switch hitter is at .325 with 15 homers and a 963 OPS. He has been scolding since the first of June.

Encarnacion showed why he is one of the best power hitters in the AL over the last five years, and is now on pace for 34 HR and 90 RBI.

Chisenhall has had hot streaks like this before, but he is tied for the team lead in RBIs (with Carlos Santana) at 46 despite being in a platoon role, and has a 963 OPS.

However, the offense still needs Santana, Jason Kipnis, and Francisco Lindor to get going.

Santana only has 10 home runs and a 732 OPS, Kipnis still hasn’t hit his stride after dealing with a shoulder issue in spring training, hitting only .229 with a .284 on base percentage, which makes you wonder why Francona leads him off.

Lindor is showing signs he is human, batting just .229 since May 1st.  He’s become pull happy, which he acknowledges, and we actually saw Detroit putting the shortstop basically behind second base when he was batting left-handed.

If those three get going, the Indians will have as formidable attack as any team in baseball.

Terry Francona feels his club reached a turning point on this recent stretch where Cleveland played 20 games in 20 days.  If this is true, the Indians are heading for a second straight division title.

MW

 

Kyrie’s “Shot” Doesn’t Mean He Can’t Improve

Besides all of the Kevin Love trade talk swirling around the Cleveland Cavaliers this week, there were a couple of rumors involving another member of the “Big Three”, and that would be Kyrie Irving.

The wine and gold social media went crazy, insisting Irving is untouchable.

A bit of truth here.  One of the trade scenarios was Cleveland dealing Irving to Phoenix for the fourth overall pick in last week’s draft, and guard Eric Bledsoe, who averaged 21 points and six assists per game.

The Cavs would have spun that pick to Indiana for Paul George, giving the Cavaliers a starting five of LeBron James, Bledsoe, George, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson.

Our confession is we would have done that deal.

Look, we have said this before, Kyrie Irving is a gifted basketball player.  There may not be another player in the NBA who is as creative around the basket as Irving.

And he made the greatest shot in the history of the franchise with the go ahead basket in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.

He will always be a “made man” in Cleveland sports because of that.

But let’s not pretend Irving is perfect and doesn’t have room for improvement.

First, he doesn’t put forth a lot of effort on defense.  We know that many stars pick their spots defensively, and we get that.  That’s happened in the NBA for 40 years or more.

The problem for Irving is he takes entire games off defensively and there is no excuse for that.  As the great John Wooden said, the same skills that make players great on the offensive end can be used to play great defense.

Irving’s quickness can get him to the basket on any possession within a game, so it can be used to stay in front of his man on defense too.

The other criticism of Irving is when James is off the floor, the ball sticks in his hands as he waits for an opening to drive.  On a team who plays its best when the ball moves, this is frustrating to watch.

Check out these numbers from last season:

When Kyrie has 10+ assists in a game:  Cavs record is 8-0
9+ assists:  11-2
8+ assists:  12-5
7+ assists:  20-7
3 or less assists:  6-10

When Irving takes 25 or more shots in a game, the wine and gold is just 4-5.  There is no mistaking that when Kyrie Irving is moving the ball, the Cavaliers are a much better team.

And by the way, in those 10+ assist games?  Irving scored more than 25 points in five of them.  The ability to score and pass is there.

Because he is so gifted and just 25 years old, we have confidence that Irving will continue to improve and learn the game.

On the other hand, if you view his game realistically, he isn’t one of the top five point guards in the NBA.  We would rank Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden better than the Cavs’ point guard.

Would our choice be to trade Irving?  No, but we wouldn’t deal Kevin Love either.  We are just saying that anyone can be tradeable if it makes the team better, and that Irving shouldn’t be untouchable because he made “The Shot”.

He’s not in the same class as LeBron James, yet.

JK

 

Big Week For Tribe Leading To Break

The All Star break is a little over a week away for the Cleveland Indians, and it will be a very important stretch for the hometown nine.

First, of the 11 games Cleveland has leading into the break, eight of them are at Progressive Field, where Terry Francona’s team has been mediocre at best, with a record of 17-21 to date.

Second, seven of the contests are against Central Division rivals, the Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers are sitting at 34-43 on the season, six and a half games behind the Indians for the division, and six games out of a wild card spot.

Success against the Motor City Kitties over the next two weekends would pretty much eliminate the Tigers from overtaking the Tribe, and it would probably cause them to be sellers at the July 31st trade deadline.

The Indians also have a three game series at home against the lowly San Diego Padres, who are sitting at 32-46 coming into today.

It appears the Tribe is sitting in a good spot to perhaps take command of the AL Central if they can play well going into the break.

However, outside of last year when Francona’s squad went 14-4 against the Tigers, Detroit has dominated the Tribe and has won four of the six games to date this year.

Cleveland scored half of their runs against the Tigers in one game, a 13-6 win for the Indians in April.  The Tribe has scored three runs or less in four of the six contests between the two teams this season.

Conversely, Mike Matheny’s team has scored five or more runs in four out of six games.

The middle of the Detroit batting order, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Justin Upton have killed the Tribe, and now J.D. Martinez, who has missed all of the games between the two squads is back.

And long time Indians killer, Alex Avila is back and hitting well for Detroit.  He always seems to come up with big hits against the Tribe.

Compounding this weekend’s series is a doubleheader on Saturday, which means someone from the minors, probably Ryan Merritt will start one of those games, and Corey Kluber is pitching today, so he is not available this weekend.

On the other hand, Trevor Bauer, who has been hit hard by Detroit in both starts against them in 2017 will not pitch this weekend either.

Both Kluber and Bauer will probably pitch against the Tigers at Progressive Field right before the all star break.

The other key is to start playing better at home.  Cleveland’s record at Progressive Field has been mediocre to date and it is time to start playing better there.

The starting pitching, save for Josh Tomlin, seems to have righted itself, but the offense needs to pick it up, especially against the Tigers.

On this current homestand, here is the number of runs scored by the Indians:  0, 2, 0, 15, 1, 5.  It’s tough to win scoring two or fewer runs in four of the six games.

Playing well these next 11 games will put the Cleveland Indians in a very good spot entering the second half of the season, which starts with six games in the Bay Area.

Beating the Tigers is a must if you want to accomplish that.

MW

 

Consistency Continues To Elude Tribe

A couple of weeks ago, it appeared the Cleveland Indians started to figure it all out.  They went to Minnesota, swept the first place Twins to go from two games out at the beginning of the series to two games ahead at the end.

Then they went to Baltimore and took three out of four from the Orioles, completing an eight game trip at 7-1.

The Indians were 11th in the American League in runs scored going into the trip, and came home 7th as the bats started to click, led by red hot hitting by Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, and Lonnie Chisenhall.

They came home for a seven game homestand with a 2-1/2 game lead over Minnesota, only to score just two runs in a three game series in which they were swept by the visitors.

Outside of Ramirez, who has put together a remarkable month of June, the bats went silent.  They put plenty of men on base, but couldn’t get a big hit.  It seemed the old rule of the rally finding a struggling hitter was in effect because Yan Gomes left a small village on the basepaths.

The starting pitching wasn’t great, and overall the Cleveland pitching staff now ranks second in the AL in ERA.  Even in the Twins’ series, Trevor Bauer persevered after a tough second inning to get into the 7th, and Corey Kluber struck out 13 in seven frames on Saturday.

Josh Tomlin struggled in the third game, but still only allowed four runs when it was all said and done.

Terry Francona is clearly frustrated with his ballclub, stating again yesterday that this is a different season, and the players can’t keep harkening back to 2016.

Tito should follow his own advise and make some changes in the batting order, something we wrote about a few weeks ago.

The top two hitters, Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis aren’t getting on base in front of Ramirez and Encarnacion.  Lindor’s on base percentage is .313 and Kipnis’ is .286.

Perhaps when Michael Brantley (.360 OBP) is back, he should go into the leadoff spot with Lindor in the #2 hole, and Kipnis dropping into the #5 or #6 hole.

He has already mentioned a leadership void talking about how his club misses guys like Jason Giambi and Mike Napoli.

When Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff traded Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn during the 2015 season, they turned over the team to players like Kipnis, Brantley, and Yan Gomes.

Brantley missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, Kipnis has struggled after missing most of spring training with a sore shoulder, and Gomes hasn’t hit since the 2014 Silver Slugger season.

It’s hard to lead when you are hurt or struggling.

Perhaps the team turned a corner last night when after trailing 8-1 and 9-2, the Indians rallied for a 15-9 victory, their first big comeback win of the season.

We still feel the Cleveland Indians are the best team in the American League Central Division because they have the best pitching mostly because of the bullpen and best hitting in the division.

However, there are warning signs that they may need something to shake them up.  The skipper is clearly concerned.  He can make the first moves by changing the lineup and perhaps going to Roberto Perez as the regular catcher.

Francona’s concern should make for an interesting few weeks prior to the trading deadline.  Just another thing to keep an eye on.

MW