Where Do Cavs Go From Here?

Last night, there were reports of new Cavaliers’ guard Isaiah Thomas not being able to pass a physical right now, and what would that mean for the megadeal going forward.

Our guess is the trade will not be rescinded.  Kyrie Irving has napalmed any bridge between himself and the organization, and despite LeBron James’ public comments wishing Irving well and thanking him for the last three seasons, that relationship has been destroyed too.

So, we would anticipate additional compensation from Boston in the form of an additional draft pick or another player before the deal would be rescinded.

Besides, although Thomas is a very good player, making second team All NBA in 2016-17, GM Koby Altman probably made the deal to secure Brooklyn’s first round pick next year, and rugged wing defender Jae Crowder first and foremost.

Remember that Thomas is a free agent after next season, and is looking for a max contract.

Also, Altman had to move Irving, who asked for a trade shortly after the Cleveland season ended, and even the national media has praised him for getting an impressive haul for a player who wanted out.

If the deal is called off, there is no guarantee that the wine and gold could make this good of a trade with another team.

So, assuming something is worked out, where do the Cavs go from here?

We are fairly certain that this isn’t the last move Altman will make before training camp.

One, Tyronn Lue has a roster full of wings, with more players available than he has playing time to dole out.

Besides James and JR Smith, the projected starters, Lue needs to find some court time for Crowder, Jeff Green, Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, and newcomer Cedi Osman.

And don’t forget the rumors that Dwyane Wade could be heading to Cleveland if his contract is bought out by the Bulls, which some have reported as a certainty.

It would figure that Iman Shumpert is the odd man out, but we could also see Jefferson be moved too, although he is a leader in the locker room.

That’s an impossible task.  We would anticipate one, if not two of those players are sent elsewhere, possibly for an experience big man, that the team needs.

Right now, the bigs would be Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, and two inexperienced players:  Edy Tavares and Ante Zizic, who came over in the Irving deal.

The Cavs needed another post player, particularly a rim protector, last season, and to date still have acquired one.  So, there is still definitely a need.

It is doubtful that Kay Felder returns, particularly if Thomas is here, because two sub six foot point guards is one too many.

And, of course, there is the Brooklyn pick, which is huge.  Altman could use it to deal for another star player before the season starts, use it at the trade deadline, or perhaps have it for next year’s draft, as it should be a top five pick.

The Cavs have a chip that a lot of teams will want, especially teams in a rebuilding mode.  That’s why it may be the most important asset received in the trade.

That alone is the reason the deal will not be rescinded.  It might be tweaked, but Kyrie Irving has played his last game with the Cavaliers.

JK

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Kyrie Gone, Cavs Better?

The hope of a reconciliation between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving went up in smoke yesterday as GM Koby Altman sent the four time All Star to the Boston Celtics for three players and Brooklyn’s first pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

The best player the Cavs received is Isaiah Thomas, a two time All Star that finished third in the league in scoring last year.  In fact, according to the similarity scores on Basketball Reference, the most similar player to Thomas is indeed Irving.

Irving took more shots per game than Thomas, but the newest Cavalier scored more because he went to the free throw line three and a half times more than the man who made the biggest shot in franchise history.

There is no doubt that Irving is the better player, but the edge isn’t that great, so when you figure in getting Jae Crowder, an excellent defender who can also knock down shots, and the pick, which figures to be in the top three of next year’s draft, and you would have to say Altman got a very good return for a player who wanted out.

Think about it, the return is greater than what Indiana received for Paul George, and Chicago received for Jimmy Butler.

And we would rate both of those players as better than Irving.

Assuming Tyronn Lue uses his bench effectively, the Cavs are a deep, deep team, which should allow a player like LeBron James to get more rest during the regular season.

Figuring Thomas starting at the point, he would join JR Smith, James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson at the beginning of the game.

That would mean the reserves would consist of Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Crowder, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Jeff Green, and barring any more moves, Iman Shumpert.

And it may not be out of the realm of possibility that Rose and Smith swap spots, and than Dwayne Wade joins the Cavs if and when the Bulls buy him out.

That’s a roster that would figure to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

We would also anticipate other moves to come.  The Cavaliers have a glut of wing players and have some younger players, including the big man who came over in this deal, Ante Zizic and Cedi Osman, that could be moved to get another big man, perhaps a strong defender.

As for the pick, which should be a lottery pick, and very well could be in the top five of next year’s draft, there are a several ways Altman can use it.

It’s a piece that can be used at the deadline to bring a major piece for another title run, a player like DeMarcus Cousins, or someone of that ilk.  Or he can use it now to bring in another all star type player to start the season with.

Regardless, that pick has enormous value in today’s NBA, and that’s what makes this deal a definite win for Cleveland.

Irving will have a special place here because he made the shot that brought the Cavaliers their first title, breaking the 52 year drought for the city.

However, he had deficiencies, so at the end of the day, replacing Irving with a player of Thomas’ capabilities, and getting a very good player in Crowder as well, means the wine and gold is a better team.

The draft pick is just the cherry on the top of the sundae.

JK

 

 

 

It Might Be Kizer, Because He Seems To Want The Job

The Cleveland Browns have a quarterback dilemma.

This is nothing new, the team has been looking for a signal caller since they returned to the NFL for the 1999 season.

Tim Couch is the closest to being a guy fans could identify as the QB for the Browns, as he was the starter for five seasons (’99-’03), but he absorbed so much punishment in those years, that his career ended after the 2003 campaign at age 26.

This year’s problem is a little different though.  The Browns do not want to rush rookie second round pick DeShone Kizer, they would rather let him learn at the beginning of the year and get used to the professional game.

Unfortunately, the two veterans on the roster, Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler, don’t seem to want the gig.  This may force coach Hue Jackson’s hand, and he may have to go with Kizer, who seems to be clearly playing the best.

Osweiler was the starter in each of the first two games, and he has completed 12 of 22 passes for just 67 yards, with an interception and hasn’t been sacked.  A bigger issue is the offense hasn’t scored with him at the helm.

FYI, an average of three yards an attempt is awful for an NFL quarterback.

Kessler played with the second unit in the first pre-season games, and the threes last night against the Giants.  He is 12 for 17 (70.6%) for 97 yards and did lead Cleveland into the end zone in the exhibition opener.  He is averaging 5.7 yards per pass attempt, and has been sacked once.

The rookie has had the most opportunity, playing the entire second half against the Saints, and about two and a half quarters last night.

He has completed 19 of 31 (61.3%) for 258 yards (8.3 yards per attempt), and a touchdown pass and a TD run.  He has also been sacked five times.

After last night’s game, we wonder what Kessler would look like if he played with the first team.  That’s how little we have thought of Osweiler’s performance, and also how little we want the Browns to throw a rookie out there in the season lidlifter against the Steelers.

Remember, Kessler started training camp as the starter, and didn’t play well in practices and the intersquad scrimmage at First Energy Stadium.  That’s why Jackson turned to Osweiler.

If the coaching staff wants to protect Kizer, then they should probably go back to Kessler.

However, if they go with Kizer, they need to approach games the same way the Seahawks did when Russell Wilson was a rookie, meaning try to win games with your defense and running game.

In our opinion, putting the burden of the attack on a rookie before he is ready is detrimental to his future.  We don’t want to see Kizer firing 35-40 passes in the opener or in any games at the beginning of the schedule.

And we would feel better if Jackson eliminated the read option from the Browns’ offense too.

Based on the first two pre-season games, it doesn’t seem like Jackson has any choice but to hand Kizer the keys to the engine.

It isn’t the ideal situation, but it probably gives the Browns the best chance to win games, which after a 1-15 season in 2016, they desperately need to do.

JD

 

 

Tribe In Command In AL Central Now

With this recent hot streak, the Cleveland Indians have done what has been expected since the first game of the 2017 season, they have taken command of the American League Central Division.

They lead the Minnesota Twins by six games with 41 to go.  If the Tribe goes 21-20 during the rest of the schedule, then the Twins will have to have a 28-13 record to top Cleveland.

Since Paul Molitor’s team is just three games over .500 for the season, and really have only two reliable starters in Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, that’s not a likely scenario.

This hot streak has come about due to tremendous pitching.  Since the 12-10 loss to Boston at Fenway Park on August 1st, Terry Francona’s pitching staff has held opponents to three runs or less in 13 of the last 16 games.

In two of the other three games, both losses, the opposing team scored four runs.  Only an 8-1 loss to New York on August 6th provides a bad day for the pitching staff, and that game was partially due to a misplay in rightfield by Abraham Almonte.

Most of the recent surge has been done on the road.  An 11 game trek through four cities seemed a tad daunting at the start, but the Indians responded with an 8-2 record with one game remaining today in Kansas City.

This trip has been so long that Jay Bruce has been with the team over a week and still hasn’t played his first game at Progressive Field with the Tribe.

Actually, today’s game is the end of a stretch of 16 out of 22 contests on the road.  And has they have all year, Cleveland has been very good away from home with a 13-8 mark to date in that stretch.

After a six game homestand, the Tribe will embark on another 11 game roadie from late August through the Labor Day holiday.

The starting pitching has been the catalyst for the hot streak, but the front office can feel free to take a bow as well.

Getting Joe Smith at the July 31st trade deadline didn’t seem like a big move, but the sidearming righty has made six scoreless appearances with Cleveland, allowing just two hits.

His addition gives Francona another option he can trust in close games along with Bryan Shaw, who has been much better with a reduced workload, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

Bruce has been another godsend to date.  The offense was struggling when the move to get the veteran was made, as Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Michael Brantley were all out of the lineup.

The veteran came over from the Mets and immediately started raking.  In his 10 games with Cleveland, he has hit .389 with 3 homers and 12 RBIs.

And as we said previously, he has yet to play his first game at Progressive Field.  Our guess is he will be greeted with “Bruuuuuuce” chants upon his arrival tomorrow night.

In our view, Bruce looks like a different hitter than the one we remember in Cincinnati.  He seems to have a much shorter stroke.

As for what happens when Brantley and Chisenhall return, our guess is the latter will play centerfield with Bradley Zimmer coming in late for defense.

Francona will have a much longer lineup when they comeback, with players like Chisenhall and perhaps Carlos Santana hitting as low as 7th or 8th.

The schedule is still tough with the next 11 games against Boston, New York, and Kansas City.  However, if the starting pitching continues in this manner, the Cleveland Indians and their fans will start counting down the magic number very soon.

MW

 

Cavs Need To Get Younger, With Or Without LeBron

The latest tidbit reported about the Cleveland Cavaliers is that they are planning for the 2018-19 season as if LeBron James is not going to stay in Cleveland.

Another narrative from the national basketball media, who believes it is a foregone conclusion that James will be playing for the Los Angeles Lakers after next season.

Why not?  After all, James wished Magic Johnson a Happy Birthday the other day, and his production company is planning a new television show.

Our guess is it is not the first time James has given Johnson a birthday shout out and his production company has several shows on the air, and yet James isn’t playing for the Lakers, or the Clippers for that matter.

We have said it before, we have no idea what James will do following the upcoming season, and neither does anyone reporting on it.

As for the Cavs, whether or not they believe James will be coming back in 2018-19, they should take steps toward getting younger.

They should learn from the past.

After losing in the 2013-14 Finals, four games to one to San Antonio, James left for a return to the Cavaliers reportedly because the Heat roster had peaked and had considerable age on it.

There were nine players with 10 or more years of experience in the NBA and there were nine players (not the same guys) over 30 years old.  James himself would not turn 30 until later that calendar year.

The Cavalier roster that ended this season with a four games to one loss to Golden State also had nine players with over ten years experience.  There eight players over 30 years old.

James Jones has retired, Deron Williams will not return, and we don’t know about Dahntay Jones, so probably three of those players will not be back, but new GM Koby Altman inked Jeff Green to a deal, and he will be 31 years old this season, and Jose Calderon is well over 30 too.

So, if the Cavs move Kyrie Irving, and we believe they will, why wouldn’t they want to get young players in return.  They should get a quality veteran to match up the salaries, but also a very good player still on his rookie contract.

As for those who say the Cavaliers have to “go for it” because this might be James’ last season in a Cavs uniform, any team with LeBron James on it is the favorite in the Eastern Conference, and a younger, more athletic team might be the best kind of team to defeat Golden State if that matchup occurs for a fourth straight year.

Either way, it makes sense to get younger.

If James leaves, you are set up well for the future along with whatever point guard you receive in a deal for Irving, Love, Tristan Thompson, and the other piece in the deal.

If he stays, it will be because he sees a team with the capability to make several more runs at a title.  He didn’t see that after the 2013 season with the Heat.

Getting another young stud to grow with the Cavs is simply the correct thing to do from a basketball standpoint, no matter what decision James makes.

LeBron James is a pragmatist.  He is going to do what is best for himself and his legacy.  He feels the need to win more titles to be the best player ever.

We don’t think he’s made any decision at this point.  What the Cavs’ front office and the team does between now and next June will help form whatever option he chooses.

JK

 

 

Tribe Starters Picking Up Slack For Tired Pen

The vaunted starting pitching the Cleveland Indians were purported to have coming into the season has finally made an appearance over the last couple of weeks.

When Andrew Miller went down with patella tendonitis at the beginning of the month, the rotation was in kind of a slump.  Mike Clevinger had been knocked around in three straight appearances, and Carlos Carrasco coughed up a five run lead his teammates staked him against Boston’s Chris Sale.

In reality, the rotation had battled injuries for most of the year.

Ace Corey Kluber missed most of May with a lower back issue, and Danny Salazar missed about six weeks with shoulder issues, after having not pitched well for five or six starts before he went on the disabled list.

Trevor Bauer was as inconsistent as ever, and that put a toll on the bullpen, which manifested itself with Miller’s injury and even Bryan Shaw started showing signs of the heavy workload he has carried for four seasons.

Suddenly, when Miller wasn’t available, the starters picked up the slack.

It started with Kluber throwing a complete game in a 5-1 win over the Yankees, and that was followed by Bauer going eight vs. The Bronx Bombers in a 7-2 triumph.

Outside of an 8-1 loss to the Yanks in a game skewed by Abraham Almonte losing what should have been an inning ended flyball in the sun, Tribe pitchers haven’t allowed more than four runs in any of their last 11 games.

Obviously, Kluber is the constant, again showing why he is among the four or five best starting pitchers in the sport, throwing a second complete game against the Rockies, and winning against the Rays last Sunday.

Salazar looks like the guy who made the All Star team a year ago, allowing just four earned runs in 25-1/3 innings in his four starts since coming off the DL.

Carrasco is capable of being dominating and held the rotation together while Kluber was out.

But, he was just okay over the last few weeks, but had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning of his last start against Tampa, and along with Bauer has been the only constants in the rotation, making every start.

Bauer has been the wild card.  Since becoming basically a fastball/curveball pitcher (which occurred in his May 30th start vs. Oakland), he has been much more consistent.

In his last 14 starts, the right-hander has pitched to a 3.74 ERA and in 77 innings, has struck out 85 batters, while walking 29.

That makes for a very nice middle of the rotation starting pitcher.

Clevinger was skipped for a turn because of off-days and he responded with seven shutout frames against the Rays on Saturday.

The strong starting pitching was needed because of Miller’s absence.  Terry Francona didn’t have the Miller “crutch” to help him in the 6th or 7th innings of tight games.

It also gave Tyler Olson an opportunity, and he looks like he can be a worthy fill in for Boone Logan as the southpaw Tito can go to earlier in games to get a key left-handed hitter out.

We don’t expect everyone to keep this up through the end of the season, but if the Tribe continues to get length from its rotation, the burden on the relief corps will be eased and they should be rested if and when the Indians start post-season play.

And we all remember what a key that was a year ago.

MW

 

 

From Our View, Cavs Have To Move Irving

The news that Kyrie Irving asked Cavaliers management to trade him after the 2016-17 season ended, with a trip to the NBA Finals, by the way, is a bit old now, and the emotion can be removed somewhat.

We hear a lot of local people, media and fans alike, suggest that Irving and LeBron James sit down together and hash out their differences and then play together for this season, take the Cavs to another conference championship, and a possible NBA title.

If it were only that simple.

This is basketball we are talking about, a sports that relies on talent certainly, but also trust and teamwork.

It is difficult to achieve success if four players are pulling in one direction, while the fifth man on the court is looking for something different.

NBA history is full of examples of this.

The Detroit Pistons, led by Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace probably didn’t have the best talent in the league, but they played as one, and won a title.

Heck, the Cavs in 2014-15 had James, Irving, and Kevin Love, but it wasn’t until they dealt for JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov, and moved Dion Waiters, that they started to win.

What happens the first time Irving misses a key shot, or fails to pass to an open teammate, or allows his man to get an easy look?

Of course, his commitment to the team will be questioned, and not only by outsiders, but within the locker room.

It’s that kind of stuff that tears a team apart from the inside, and would make Tyronn Lue’s job extremely difficult.

This is especially true since results have come out saying the players on the roster are taking sides, and the vast majority don’t understand why a player would want to leave a team that has been to three straight Finals.

As for what GM Koby Altman can get in return, he will not get a player as talented as Irving is on offense, so what he has to do is construct a team that will win in a different way.

He can get a point guard who is a better defender and better playmaker than Irving.  Remember how James and Matthew Dellavedova would play off of each other?  Maybe you can get someone who can do that in the deal.

You also can create a deeper roster, one that will play better with James off of the floor, which would in turn allow #23 to play less minutes.

Less minutes during the regular season would mean a fresher LeBron in the playoffs, and we all know he can control a game by himself.

A better defender means you don’t have to score as many points to win games, and some of the scoring slack can be picked up by Love, Smith (who had a tough season with injuries a year ago), and newcomer Derrick Rose.

A deeper bench means you won’t have the drought that Cleveland had in the Finals, where when James came out of the game, leads vanished quicker than our money at the Jack Casino.

Moving Irving is Altman’s best chance to reshape the Cavs’ roster, giving the team a better chance to compete at a championship level for the next three to four years, assuming James stays on the roster.

Right now, there is a lot of age on the team, and a deal would allow the wine and gold to get younger and more athletic.

However, it would take more than a meeting of the minds for Kyrie Irving to stay in Cleveland.  The trust is gone, and that would be difficult to repair.

JK

 

 

 

Tribe Adds A Big Bat In Bruce

The Cleveland Indians are certainly a different organization than they were five years ago.

After watching their offense sputter over the last four games, scoring just one run (Austin Jackson’s bloop single that tied the game on Tuesday) that didn’t come on a home run over the last four games, they decided to add some pop to the batting order, acquiring slugging outfielder Jay Bruce from the Mets for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan.

And reportedly, the Indians got him because they were willing to pay the remainder of the outfielder’s salary, something the Yankees weren’t willing to do.

With Lonnie Chisenhall still on the disabled list and Michael Brantley going on today with a sprained ankle, the organization couldn’t go with an outfield of Austin Jackson or Brandon Guyer in right, a slumping Bradley Zimmer in center, and Abraham Almonte in left for even a short time.

The 30-year-old Bruce is hitting .256 with 29 home runs and 75 RBI (847 OPS) in 102 games this season.

When Bruce played with the Reds before being moved to the Mets at the trade deadline a year ago, we felt he was a product of playing his home games in Great American Ballpark, a known hitter’s paradise.

With Citi Field being a pitcher’s park, Bruce has been very good on the road this season, with 18 dingers and a 919 OPS.

He is also been dominant at Progressive Field, hitting .384 with a 1.031 OPS in 86 at bats.

And the defensive metrics say he’s been a solid defender in right field this season, a drastic change for the better from when he was in Cincinnati.

He is a high strikeout, low walk guy, having been punched out 102 times this year, with only 39 walks.

Hopefully, Bruce can help the inconsistent Tribe offense, which has scored three runs or less in 47 of their 111 games (42%) this season.  That’s not acceptable for a team with post-season aspirations.

The addition of Bruce could allow Terry Francona to move Carlos Santana back up to the leadoff spot in the batting order, replacing the slumping Jason Kipnis, whose batting average has dropped to .225 on the year, with an on base percentage of .285.

With the injuries, management had to realize they had to lengthen the lineup, which yesterday had Zimmer, Almonte, and Roberto Perez in the bottom three spots.

The league seems to have made adjustments to Zimmer, who is 0 for 17 in August, and the extending playing time has affected Jackson, who is 5 for his last 24.

Bruce will probably play right, with Guyer and Almonte alternating in left and Zimmer and Jackson splitting time in center.

There is speculation that perhaps Brantley and Chisenhall are more seriously injured than originally thought, but we believe the front office couldn’t think of going with an unproductive outfield for even another week, especially with the upcoming schedule of 11 road games, all against playoff contenders.

It also sends a message in the clubhouse that the front office isn’t satisfied with the way the team is playing since the All Star break, and they also want to do more than just win the American League Central.

Considering the cost, it’s a no brainer move for the Indians.  Hopefully, Bruce keeps slugging and the seemingly dormant Tribe offense gets a jolt of energy.

MW

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Osweiler The Least Risky Move

The big news of the week in Cleveland seems to be that Hue Jackson named Brock Osweiler to be the starting quarterback in the Browns’ first pre-season game Thursday night against the Saints.

First, it’s a pre-season game, and certainly Jackson can change his mind between now and September 10th when the Browns and Steelers get together.

Second, it seems that the coaching staff and front office are showing everyone they are pumping the brakes on DeShone Kizer.

We have been critical of Osweiler in the past, and have pointed out on a few occasions that Cody Kessler had more games with a passer rating of over 100 in his rookie season than Osweiler has had in his career.

However, it appears that Kessler hasn’t progressed as the coaching staff hoped, still dinking and dunking and reticent to throw the ball downfield.

And we have been consistent in saying the Browns need to resist the temptation to throw Kizer to the wolves before he is ready.

Cleveland has done that before with other young quarterbacks and it hasn’t worked.  Didn’t someone say those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it?

Complicating things for some fans as well as those in the media is that the Browns went 1-15 a year ago.  They have to start winning some football games, not for the fans, but to start building a winning atmosphere in the locker room.

It may be right now, that Osweiler gives the team the best chance to put up some “W’s”

After all, his supporters will point out the former Bronco and Texan has a 13-8 record as a starter.

We would counter that argument that the former Arizona State standout tooks snaps for two teams that have incredible defenses.

It is a fact that he is the only QB on the roster who has started and won an NFL game.

So, Osweiler will get a chance to resurrect his career starting Thursday night.  And why not, the coaching staff has to know what they have in Kessler and they don’t want to rush Kizer, so why not see if Osweiler can get the job done.

Remember, he was a throw in last spring in a trade for a second round draft pick. When the Browns announced the trade, the pick was mentioned first.

The point is, what does Jackson have to lose?  Osweiler played the best in Friday night’s scrimmage, and he has starting experience.

If he looks good throughout the preseason, he will claim the job against Pittsburgh in the season opener.

That doesn’t mean we would rule out Kizer, we just wouldn’t force him into the job.  If he is clearly the best QB in practice and the games, then he should start.

But he shouldn’t start because he might be the franchise quarterback in a few years, or because he’s big, has a strong arm, and is mobile.  Let him observe, get used to the speed of the game, and show something when he gets his opportunity.

Remember, he was a second round pick, so if the Browns would get the first pick in next year’s draft, they can still take Sam Darnold of USC or however the top college QB is after this upcoming season.

So, Jackson is taking the least risk is seeing what Osweiler can do.  It doesn’t mean he will open the year as the starter, but right now, it’s his job to lose.

JD

Lots Of Injuries For Tribe in July

With last night’s loss to the New York Yankees, the Cleveland Indians are now 2/3rd of the way through the 2017 season.

Here is a breakdown in 27 game (1/6th of the year) increments–

Games 1-27:      15-12
Games 28-54:    13-14
Games 55-81:    16-11
Games 82-108:  15-12

If anything, it is surprising that the Tribe’s splits are so similar in this regard.

The reason for Cleveland being 10 games over the .500 mark, is they have lost more than three in a row just once, and that was a four game losing streak, and they’ve had winning streaks of five, six, and nine games this year.

Think about this last 27 game stretch.  The Indians started winning four of six, then lost five of six, followed by a nine game winning streak.  In that losing skid, they looked horrible.  They didn’t hit and couldn’t field.

Such is the 2017 Cleveland Indians.  Just when you think you have them figured out, they surprise you yet again.

We also saw injuries creep in.  Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall missed significant time over the last month.  Giovanny Urshela and Erik Gonzalez filled in for Kipnis and our thinking there is if Urshela could hit just a little bit, he can have a role on a big league roster.

His defense is that good.

Gonzalez can’t control the strike zone yet.  His offense has dropped with increased playing time, mostly due to a strikeout to walk ratio of 28:1.  That’s insane.

In the outfield, Chisenhall’s absence was quieted by Austin Jackson’s sensational season.  Jackson is hitting .321 in part time duty, almost 50 points higher than his career mark.

Oh, and he made the catch of the year last Tuesday night in Boston.

The biggest injury was to Andrew Miller who was put on the disabled list with tendonitis in his knee.  We have complained about Terry Francona’s overuse of the lefty all year, and it appears it may have caught up to him.

Cleveland needs him back for the stretch, so hopefully the ten days will take care of the problem.

Boone Logan was another of the injured Tribesmen, suffering a tear in his lat.  Tyler Olson will replace him, and so far, he’s been fine, but no doubt the organization will look for a veteran.

Danny Salazar returned from the disabled list, and has been dominant in three starts, pitching 20 innings and allowing three runs.  If he is right, it just makes the starting rotation stronger and hopefully, limits the bullpen innings.

The front office made a move to bolster that ‘pen at the trade deadline, picking up Joe Smith from the Blue Jays for two minor leaguers.  Smith should be able to help Bryan Shaw in the 7th inning, as he is another who may have been overused this year.

Overall, the offense has perked up, jumping from around eighth or ninth in runs scored to fourth in the American League.  And with an ERA than ranks second in the AL, the Tribe’s run differential is behind only Houston in the junior circuit.

They’ve also started to play better at home.

August is a brutal month schedule wise, with the Indians having to play the Rockies, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, and big games against the Royals coming up to.

A winning record would put them well on their way to a second consecutive division title, something that hasn’t happened since 1998-99.

The key is still the starting rotation.  If Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Salazar, and even Trevor Bauer, the way he has pitched recently, can continue to do their job, the Tribe will be set up well for the rest of the season.

MW