Previewing Cavs-Warriors III

Well, it’s finally here.

Tonight, the NBA Finals start and the rematch everyone expected prior to the playoffs starting has arrived, with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors doing battle for the third straight year.

And better yet, each team has won a title, making this the rubber match.

Make no mistake, the Golden State Warriors are a great team.  They won 67 games in the regular season and have swept through the Western Conference playoffs.  And their statistical resume is outstanding.

They led the NBA in field goal percentage, steals, and blocked shots.  They are also number one in defensive field goal percentage and three point defensive field goal percentage.

They are also third in shooting the long range shot, but one of the teams are rank behind are the Cavaliers, who were second during the regular season.

If they have a weakness, they only rank 7th in the Association in rebounding and they are prone to turn the ball over, 9th in the league in that department.

However, we believe the Cavs have a solid chance to repeat as champions if they control the tempo, and are patient on offense.

We thought this before the San Antonio Spurs executed this in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals before Kawhi Leonard got hurt, and that performance early in that series just confirmed it.

There is no doubt that the Cavs will do what they did in last year’s Finals, that is, running pick-and-rolls with LeBron James and whoever Stephen Curry is guarding to get the matchup of Curry on James.

We understand many people think Curry is a good defender, but the metrics show the opposite, and besides he is five or six inches shorter than James and probably a good 70 to 80 pounds lighter.

Golden State is a solid defensive team, but we feel some of that comes from teams trying to place their style and at their pace.  That leads to poor shot choices and poor passing, which accounts for their outstanding defensive field goal percentage and their steals.

We also think most NBA teams are intimidated by the Warriors.  We said most, because most assuredly the Cavaliers are not.

We also have to bring up the way the games will be officiated.  We have long contended that the Warriors are coached to foul each and every time down the floor, knowing the referees will not call them all.

If Golden State defenders are allowed to hack away at James’ arms when he takes the ball to the basket, that’s a huge advantage for them.  The same with Curry and Klay Thompson on Kyrie Irving.

On the other hand, the Cavs want to be physical too.  They will try to run Curry into picks, bumping him around hoping it will take its toll at the end of games and if the series goes to six or seven games.

One thing we don’t understand is the coaching edge everyone gives the Warriors if Steve Kerr is on the sidelines.  Kerr is a fine coach, but we simply don’t see anything that gives him a decided edge over Tyronn Lue.

Lue has shown an ability to take away an opponents’ strength offensively.  This ability will be tested in this series.

We believe the Cavaliers can win this series, and the Warriors shouldn’t be an overwhelming favorite.  We understand they are favored, but it shouldn’t be a 90% chance.

As for a hero if the Cavs pull it off, besides one of the big three?  We think JR Smith comes up big in a Cleveland repeat.

JK

 

 

Why Has Tribe Stopped Running?

The Oakland A’s arrived in town yesterday for a four game series against the Cleveland Indians.  Why is this significant?

Because it marks the return of World Series hero Rajai Davis, who hit the game tying home run in game seven of the Fall Classic.

Davis brought the added weapon of the stolen base to the Indians, leading the American League with 43, as the Tribe led the junior circuit as a team with 143 steals.

Along with Mike Napoli, Davis was credited with making Cleveland a very aggressive team on the base paths, and the Indians seemed to go from first to third quite a bit.

In fact, the Tribe led the AL in extra bases taken last year with a 45% percentage.  This statistic is based on taking more than one base on a single or taking more than two bases on a double.

Terry Francona’s team also led the league in stolen base percentage, succeeding on 81% of their steal tries.

This year, it’s a completely different story.

Cleveland ranks 11th in the American League in stolen bases, and is 12th in stolen base percentage.

They’ve also dropping to 11th in extra bases taken.

Granted Davis was a huge part of the Tribe’s speed game, but he’s wasn’t the only player running.  Jose Ramirez stole 22 bags, Francisco Lindor had 19 and his keystone combination partner, Jason Kipnis had 15.

Abraham Almonte added 8 more.

This year, Michael Brantley leads the Indians with five, which for a full season, doesn’t even project to 20.

Ramirez has three, Lindor and Kipnis each have two.  This year’s team just isn’t as aggressive on the bases.

Davis’ replacement is Austin Jackson, who hasn’t stolen 20 bases in a season since 2014, and he has never been the base stealer that Davis is.

Napoli was replaced by Edwin Encarnacion, who has been the better hitter over his career, but doesn’t have the aggressiveness on the basepaths of his predecessor.

So, this aspect of the game has to come from other players.  You would think it would come from Lindor, a team leader in every sense of the word, but he’s turned into an extra base machine, ranking third in the AL behind Mike Trout and Corey Dickerson of Tampa Bay.

He’s not stopping at first base very often, but his on base percentage is down almost 20 points from a year ago.

Ramirez would be the other candidate, but his on base percentage is down 25 points from a year ago.  Perhaps he will steal more when he starts drawing some walks again.

Maybe rookie Bradley Zimmer can be a force in this area.  Zimmer stole over 40 bases in each of his last two minor league seasons, so he has the kind of speed the Indians need.  However, he will have to learn the pitchers’ moves or he will just rely on raw speed to advance.

There are other reasons why the Tribe offense is sputtering, mostly a considerable drop in the team’s on base percentage and a terrible batting average with runners in scoring position.

But don’t overlook the aggressive base running we saw in 2016.  That was a big part of the Indians’ attack a year ago.  They need to get back to that mindset this season to help get the offense going again.

MW

 

Not Panicked, But Concerned About Tribe.

The way the Cleveland Indians are playing isn’t making us worried, but it is time to be slightly concerned as we are in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend.

The Tribe is sitting at just one game above the .500 mark at 24-23, and it is particularly concerning that they are just 8-13 at Progressive Field, the worst home mark in the American League.

The main culprits for the malaise of Terry Francona’s club would be an inconsistent offense, ranking 10th in the AL in runs per game, and the instability of the starting pitching, which can’t seem to get deep into ballgames.

The Indians have scored three runs or less in 24 of their 47 games to date, a total slightly more than 50%.  It is tough to win games in today’s baseball that way, and Francona’s club is just 7-17 in those contests.

When they get to four runs, they have an outstanding 17-6 mark, which of course, is championship level.  The question is how can they be more consistent on a daily basis.

It would help greatly if Edwin Encarnacion (who actually has hit better lately) and Carlos Santana started providing some pop in the middle of the order.  The latter has just five home runs on the season, after hitting 34 a year ago.

Another thing killing the offense is a 668 OPS for hitters leading off an inning, which includes a .305 on base percentage.  Guys leading off an inning simply aren’t getting on base, which makes it hard to get something going.

And when they do get runners on, Cleveland is hitting just .205 (670 OPS) with runners in scoring position, meaning the Tribe isn’t coming up with the clutch hit.

The Indians aren’t a big power team, so they rely on hits to score runs.  Last year, Cleveland hit .262 as a team.  This year?  That mark has dropped to .240.  That’s a huge drop off.

Right now, the Tribe only has four regulars hitting over .250, which isn’t great.  They are Francisco Lindor (.279), Jose Ramirez (.265), Michael Brantley (.291), and Lonnie Chisenhall (.261).  Only one, Brantley (.367) has an on base percentage over .350.

That’ an awful lot of outs being made.  Until that changes, we fear the offense is going to continue to struggle.

As for the starting pitchers, length of starts is becoming a huge factor.  Right now, it is rare to see an Indian starter still around the in the 7th inning, and that puts a huge burden on the bullpen.

Right now, they have been more than up to the task, but will we be able to say the same thing come August.

Since Mike Clevinger completed seven innings against the Astros on May 20th, no Cleveland starter has accomplished this, and only two (Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco) threw a pitch in the seventh.

Most nights, you look at the box score and see 5+ innings out of a starter.  That’s not good enough, and that Tribe starters have the highest ERA in the American League doesn’t bode well either.

Perhaps we will see some change when staff ace Corey Kluber returns to the rotation this week.  The speculation is that Clevinger will stay and Danny Salazar will go to the bullpen for the Carrasco like refresher course in pitching.

We are still in May so it is too early in the season to panic, but on the other hand, almost 1/3rd of the season has been completed.  Progress has to be seen if the Indians are going to make the playoffs in 2017.

MW

 

Getting To Finals Doesn’t Get Old

Let it soak in Cleveland.

It was anticipated since the start of the regular season that the Cavaliers would get back to The NBA Finals and have a chance to defend the title they won last June 19th.

And here we are after the Cavs dominated the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, four games to one.

The only game Boston won, the wine and gold had a 21 point lead midway through the third quarter.

It was that much of a mismatch.

So, the Cavaliers, a downtrodden franchise since the Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, and Larry Nance era, is heading to their third consecutive trip to The Finals, and the fourth overall in franchise history.

All four of those squad contain a certain LeBron James, who became the most prolific scorer in league playoff history tonight.

As for James, he is making his seventh consecutive trip to The Finals and his eighth overall.

Just for comparison, Michael Jordan played for the NBA title six times.

The only players in NBA history who have played in more championship series are as follows:

Bill Russell                      12
Sam Jones                       11
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  10
Jerry West                        9
Magic Johnson                9
Tommy Heinsohn          9

That’s it.  Three of those players played with those Celtic teams that dominated the late 50’s and 60’s.  It’s incredible to ponder James’ greatness and to think he has now been to the ultimate series four times with two different franchises.

Of course, we know just getting to The Finals isn’t enough for James or the rest of the Cavaliers for that matter.

This is the rubber match against the Golden State Warriors, and unlike the great Celtic-Lakers’ rivalry in the 1980’s, we don’t think there is a lot of respect for each other.

Cleveland would love to win this match up, not only to repeat as champions, but also to give them bragging rights in this trilogy.

You have to feel good for two veterans making their first Finals appearance in Deron Williams and Kyle Korver, both of whom joined the Cavs during the season.

Williams has been in the league for 12 seasons, made the All Star team five times, and played on the US Olympic team.  The closest he got previously was in his second NBA season when the Jazz lost to San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals.

Korver was swept out of the playoffs the last two seasons by the Cavaliers, giving new meaning to the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” saying.

He got to the conference finals twice, losing as a member of the Chicago Bulls in 2010-11 and with the Hawks in 2014-15.  Both times, he lost to a team featuring LeBron James.

Be ready for a national media blitz extoling the virtues of the Golden State Warriors and how they cannot be beaten.  They aren’t unbeatable.

That doesn’t mean we are expecting a Cavalier victory, but we are saying if the wine and gold execute their game plan, they can beat the Warriors again.

Remember, the Western Conference Finals were played with San Antonio missing one of the top five players in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard.  The Spurs would have trouble beating Toronto or Boston in a seven game series without Leonard.

These are the halcyon days for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  As James himself said after last night’s win, don’t take this for granted.  After all, before James came back to the team, it had only happened once.

JK

Kyrie Can Be Frustrating At Times, But He Stepped Up At Right Time.

It didn’t look good halfway through the second quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals last night.

The Boston Celtics were making virtually every open shot, and LeBron James picked up his fourth foul in the first half.  Could the Cavs weather the last six minutes of the half without getting blown out?

Kyrie Irving made sure Cleveland stayed within shouting distance until James could return to the game after the half, scoring in a variety of ways to keep the wine and gold at a 10 point deficit at intermission.

In the third quarter, Irving went berserk, scoring 50% of his playoff career high 42 points in the period as the Cavaliers outscored Boston by 17 (40-23) to flip the game in Tyronn Lue’s team’s favor.

We have been critical of Irving from time to time for not passing enough, falling in love with his dribble, and not playing hard on defense.

In Game 3 Sunday night, we thought Irving forced the action a bit too much in the fourth quarter, playing hero ball because he was looking to take over, and the defense wouldn’t let them.

Last night, he knew his team needed a lift with James on the bench with four fouls, and hit some outside shots to get going, and after those went down, it opened up driving lanes for him.

Our criticism of Irving comes because he is so talented.  He may have the best ball handling skills in the league, he’s a gifted shooter both from outside and around the basket, even though he gives up a lot of height near the hoop.

He doesn’t understand at times when he needs to take over, and when he needs to sit back and get his teammates going.  Then again, he is just 25 years old.  He has plenty of time to learn when and where and how to do it.

Irving shot an astounding 15 of 22 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from behind the three point line, in a game the Cavs absolutely had to have.

Can you imagine if the series went back to Boston even with two the remaining games in Beantown?

The wine and gold definitely needed to win this one, and with the best player in the game on the bench for the last six minutes of the half, Irving took control and didn’t let the Cavaliers get blown out.

With Irving going crazy, LeBron James got back in the groove, and by the end of the contest, his jump shot, which seemed to go AWOL in game three, returned.  That should bode well for the fifth game tomorrow night.

And don’t discount Kevin Love’s contributions either.  With Boston using two or three players to box out Tristan Thompson, Love picked up the slack with 17 rebounds to go along with 17 points.

In the playoffs, you win with defense, and the Cavs picked up their intensity in the second half too.  James always talks about playing with desperation, and being down at the half seemed to get that edge back for Cleveland too.

But the night belonged to Kyrie Irving and his incredible array of shot making.  When he combines that with the ability to make his teammates involved, Irving can join the list of elite NBA players.

JK

 

 

The Transformation Of JR Smith

It has been said many times that no player on the Cleveland Cavaliers have had to sacrifice more than Kevin Love.

Love was a star in Minnesota, the guy the entire offense ran through.  He was a high scorer too, averaging over 26 points per game twice in his Timberwolf days.

With the Cavs, Love became a “third wheel” behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.  His scoring dropping to around 16 points in Cleveland, before climbing to 19 this season.

Many people say Love became a glorified stretch four, a spot up three point shooter.

That’s crazy, of course, but we guess people figured he was going to continue to average 26 points a game with the Cavs, which would be almost impossible.

However, another member of the wine and gold has sacrificed greatly, and it largely goes unnoticed.

When GM David Griffin made the three way deal early in 2016 with Oklahoma City and New York, it was thought Griffin had his eye on Iman Shumpert, a wing defender, who was also athletic enough to run the floor.

Smith was regarded as a throw in on the deal, a player put in to balance the salary cap ramifications, basically (it was said at the time) if you want Shumpert, you have to take Smith.

JR’s reputation was that of a troublemaker.  He has tremendous talent.  He was sixth man of the year in 2012-13 when he averaged 18.1 points for the Knicks, a season in which New York won their division and lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

As the Knicks fortunes went south, so did Smith’s concentration.  He liked the NYC nightlife, his scoring average and shooting percentage dropped, and the Knicks management wanted to unload him.

His reputation on the court was that he never met a shot he didn’t like, and fired the ball up at times to make his coaches grimace.

We remember NBA writers saying at the time of the trade, that when JR is on a good team, he is fully engaged, which will help him with the Cavs, they were a team ready to make a title run.

In game one of the Eastern Conference finals vs. Atlanta, Smith stole home court from the Hawks with an incredible shooting display, scoring 28 points by hitting 8 of 12 from beyond the three point line.

Smith can still knock down shots, but he is the guy Tyronn Lue turns to in stopping the opponents best wing scorer.  He did a great job on Paul George in the first round, and gave DeMar DeRozan fits in the conference semifinals.

He had a thumb injury which required surgery this season so his scoring average dropped to under 10 per night (8.6) and his three point shooting fell from 40% to 35.1%.

But he is still a key member of the Cavs because of his defensive prowess, and it doesn’t hurt that fans around northeast Ohio love him.  People here don’t care about your past, they judge you on how you treat them.

His emotional reaction to winning the NBA title on Father’s Day a year ago is something we will never forget.  He thanked his dad for always standing by him.

So, while Love has certainly subdued his game in order to win, don’t forget how JR Smith has went from a player considered undisciplined to one his coach trusts to do a great job on defense against the top scorers in the NBA.

Sacrifice and unselfishness.  Lue and LeBron James always talk about it and Smith is a grand example of what they mean.

JK

Our “Concerns” About The Tribe

Friday night, the Cleveland Indians will play their 40th game of the 2017 season, meaning the season is 25% completed.

Coming off an American League pennant, we are sure many fans were hoping for a start similar to the 1984 Detroit Tigers (35-5), so they could start looking for the inevitable repeat berth in the Fall Classic.

Baseball doesn’t work that way.

The old axiom in the sport is you can’t win a post-season spot in April, but you can certainly lose one.  The Tribe is just a game out of the AL Central Division lead as of today, and they are just a game out of the second wild card spot too.

They are still in a good position to get back to the playoffs, because they are right around the .500 mark, and really haven’t played good baseball to date.

There are some things that concern us about the Tribe, though.  And in no particular order, here they are:

The Starting Pitching.  Injuries aside, and losing one of the best pitchers in the game in Corey Kluber, even for a short time, doesn’t help, the rotation has been shaky outside of Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Look at these numbers:

Danny Salazar–5.2 innings per start, 5.66 ERA
Josh Tomlin–5.1 innings per start, 6.86 ERA
Trevor Bauer–5.6 innings per start, 6.92 ERA

Just as bad as the high ERAs is, the lack of length from this trio is putting a big toll on the bullpen.  If the starters can’t start giving Terry Francona some length, the relief corps will be fried by August.

Salazar and Bauer’s struggles extend into the second half of last season.

The bigger issue might be that the Tribe doesn’t have a lot of options currently in the organization.

Inconsistent Offense.  The 2016 Indians finished second in the American League in runs scored.  Right now, the team ranks 10th, despite the addition of Michael Brantley to his pre-injury form.

Most people will put the blame on free agent signee Edwin Encarnacion, who is hitting just .203 with 6 HR and 14 RBI (691 OPS).  However, Jason Kipnis has struggled since coming back from a shoulder issue, and the outfield platoons haven’t provided much hitting either, outside of Lonnie Chisenhall.

We feel Encarnacion is pressing, trying to live up to his contract, and Kipnis will come around as he gets more at bats.

One other thing.  We are a little concerned that Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have become a little too home run happy.  That’s something to keep an eye on.

Loss Of Aggressiveness On Bases.  This has started to return, starting with last Sunday’s game vs. the Twins.

Lindor and Ramirez have just two stolen bases each.  For as many times as each have been on base, that’s incredibly low.  We understand that Rajai Davis led the league in steals a year ago, but he didn’t take the instructions on how to steal with him.

The Indians strikeout fewer than all but two AL teams (Boston and Minnesota), and they are fifth in drawing walks.  Francona needs to put runners in motion more often.

Cleveland is 11th in the American League in homers, so they shouldn’t be playing Earl Weaver baseball, looking for the three run bomb.

It’s time to use the speed to the team’s advantage.

We don’t think this is a horrible baseball team.  We don’t think the sky is falling.  It is silly to ignore some trouble spots for the Indians.

They still have another gear as the season goes on.

MW

Cavs And Celts For A Trip To The Finals

It seems like a lifetime ago that the Cleveland Cavaliers last played a basketball game.  When they take the floor in Boston on Wednesday, it will have been 10 days since they played a real contest.

And with the first two games in Boston Garden, when the wine and gold comes home for game three, it will have been 18 days since they last took the court in Quicken Loans Arena.

Boston earned the home court advantage by winning 53 regular season games, compared to Cleveland’s 51 victories, but in terms of point differential, the Cavs show to be better, outscoring their opponents by 3.1 points (110.3 to 107.2) compared to the Celtics 2.6 (108.0 to 105.4).

The Celts have a reputation of being a very good defensive team, holding opponents to a 45% field goal percentage.

However, the team the Cavaliers just eliminated, the Toronto Raptors, were even better at 44.9%.

One decided advantage Cleveland has is on the boards.  Boston ranks low in that category, meaning Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love should control the glass.

As we know, Tyronn Lue likes to make someone other than the opponents’ best player to beat him in a playoff series, so no doubt the wine and gold will focus on Isaiah Thomas, who led Boston in scoring at 28.9 points per game, 12.6 more than the next best scorer, Avery Bradley.

We would expect Lue will blitz Thomas, forcing the ball out of his hands.

When the Cavs beat the Celts in the last regular season matchup in Boston, our thought was Boston had no answer for the game’s best player, LeBron James.

Boston’s starting small forward is Jae Crowder, who is just 6’6″.  A wise man said the problem with James is if you are big enough, you aren’t quick enough, and if you are quick enough, you aren’t big enough.

That capsulizes the Celtics’ problem perfectly.

Crowder can’t check LeBron, and we are pretty sure Brad Stevens knows it.  And of course, if you double him, he will find the bevy of shooters Cleveland has on its roster.

We also expect Lue to put Kyrie Irving (6’3″) in the post when he is being guarded by Thomas, who at best is 5’9″.

We would expect Stevens to do what he did in the first round matchup between the two teams in 2015, be very physical with the Cavs to get a reaction.

However, that was the first playoff experience for many of the Cavaliers.  This time, they are old heads, with a championship under their belt.

Still, this isn’t to dismiss Boston.  They are extremely well coached, as Stevens is one of the finest basketball minds in America.  But Lue can match him in X’s and O’s too.

What we are interested to see is what kind of gimmicks defensively the Celtics’ coach will come up with to stop the Cavs.  Perhaps he will make James a scorer first and try to cut off everyone else.

To combat this, Lue will try to make Kevin Love a scorer.  Love will draw Al Horford or Amir Johnson as a defender.  If it’s Horford, Love should go inside, if it’s Johnson, he will go outside.

We usually can find ways for the Cavaliers to lose if they don’t do certain things, so it scares us that we really can’t find anything in this series.

Cleveland should win and should win fairly easily and advance to The NBA Finals for the third straight year.

It would be great to go into Beantown tomorrow, and punch the Celtics in the face to show them early in the series there isn’t hope.

We will find out starting tomorrow night.

JK

 

 

 

On Tribe’s Hitting And Base Stealing

The Cleveland Indians’ hitters are in a slump.  They have scored just 27 runs in the 11 games since the calendar turned to May.

That’s an average of less than three runs per contest, and it is very difficult to win baseball games scoring at a rate of 2.4 tallies a night.

It gets a little worse when you realize 13 of those runs were scored in two games last week in Toronto.

In the other nine games in May, Cleveland has put just 14 runs on the board, which translates to less than two runs per contest.

Now, this is not to say we think the Tribe should be buried, or they are in trouble, which some on social media suggested yesterday, but there is no reason to not be concerned about the ability to score runs consistently for the 2017 edition of the Cleveland Indians.

Terry Francona’s crew has scored three runs or less in 20 of the 35 games the team has played to date.  That’s 57%.  Last year, the Indians scored three or less in 62 of the 161 games played, which comes to just 39%.

We know some are quick to blame Edwin Encarnacion, who is off to a slow start, but the front office made the correct move replacing Mike Napoli, who by the way is hitting under .200 with Texas.

And some Indians are actually having strong starts to 2017.  Michael Brantley (843 OPS), Francisco Lindor (868) and Jose Ramirez (841) are all very productive.

Unfortunately, Cleveland is getting very little out of 2B, where Jason Kipnis has struggled mightily coming back from a shoulder problem in spring training, and in RF, where the platoon (it really isn’t we know) of Abraham Almonte and Brandon Guyer has not given the Tribe any offense.

We certainly aren’t giving up on Kipnis, a two time all star, and one of the Indians’ best hitters a year ago, but it does seem a little odd that Francona is hitting him in the middle of the lineup, moving him from 6th to 5th (or even 3rd) in the last few days.

Several people have mentioned the absence of Rajai Davis, and again, we understand and support Chris Antonetti’s and Mike Chernoff’s thought process in not bringing him back, the base stealing he provided has disappeared.

Cleveland led the AL in stolen bases a year ago, but currently rank 12th in the American League.  Besides Davis, Lindor, Ramirez, and Kipnis all stole in double digits a year ago, and Almonte was 8 for 8.

This year, the team leader through 35 games is Michael Brantley with three, while Ramirez and Carlos Santana have two.

The Indians have become a station to station baseball team.  They need to get some of that aggressive on the base paths back.

It might be time to shake up the batting order a bit in an effort to get guys going.  We understand that Francona doesn’t make rash decisions, but it could be a temporary thing too.

Perhaps put Ramirez and his .356 on base percentage at the top of the order, with Brantley (.362 OBP) in the #2 hole.

Maybe something like this–

Ramirez
Brantley
Lindor
Encarnacion
Santana
Chisenhall
Gomes
Kipnis  (at least temporarily)
Almonte

Or maybe it’s time to bring up Bradley Zimmer?  If Yandy Diaz isn’t going to play everyday, send him back to AAA.

The Indians have too many solid hitters to be struggling this bad.  They shouldn’t be having to scratch out 1 or 2 runs a night on a regular basis.

It is still early, but we are coming up on the quarter pole of the season.  It’s not going to be early much longer.

MW

 

Tribe’s Starters Need To Step Up

Last season, the Cleveland Indians went to the seventh game of the World Series despite missing two of its starting pitchers (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar) for the entirety of the post-season.

It was a handicap because the starting rotation was considered the strength of Terry Francona’s ballclub.

So far in 2017, that simply hasn’t been the case.

Last night’s start by Danny Salazar just highlighted the issue once again.

The right-hander had early inning issues once again, giving up a three run homer to Jose Bautista after the hitters handed him a 2-0 first inning lead.

Then, after the Indians went up 7-3 with a five run third, Salazar couldn’t finish the bottom of the inning, giving up two more tallies before departing.

With Corey Kluber on the disabled list with a bad back and Trevor Bauer’s struggles being well chronicled, Salazar needs to pitch well to take the burden off the bullpen.

The statistics show the starting pitchers haven’t been that bad on the season thus far.  In the first 33 games in 2017, Cleveland pitchers have compiled 16 quality starts, a percentage that ranks in the middle of the pack in the American League (7th).

However, those numbers are skewed by the dominance of Carlos Carrasco, easily the Tribe’s best starter this year with a 1.86 ERA.

Carrasco has six of those quality starts (out of seven appearances), meaning in the other 26 starts, Indian hurlers have put together just 10 starts of six innings, allowing just three runs.

Kluber has three of those 10, and he’s not pitching right now.

Outside of Carrasco, the other four starters have an ERA of over 5.00.  Josh Tomlin and Bauer both have figures over 7.00.

Some of the issues can be from playing in a lot of hitter havens to start the 2017 season.  Cleveland has played a dozen games in Texas, Arizona, Chicago, and Toronto, all pretty good places to hit.

However, as a pitching staff, the team ERA is better on the road than it is at Progressive Field.

Each of the struggling pitchers seem to have different issues.

Salazar is striking people out (53 K’s in 36-1/3 innings), but has had problems with control, a team leading 18 walks, and putting hitters away.  He winds up throwing a ton of pitches because of the latter.

He’s also had issues in the first and second innings.

Tomlin doesn’t have control issues, but he’s allowed 41 hits in 30-1/3 frames.  Surprisingly, he’s allowed the least home runs among the rotation, and we say that considering his history.

To be fair, since two horrible starts to begin the season, he’s been pretty good in his last four starts (24 IP, 11 ER).

And Bauer was discussed earlier this week.  He has tremendous stuff, but has had extreme consistency issues in 2017.  He needs to start being able to keep his team in a game through five innings to give them a chance to win.

We know that if the rotation straightens itself out and goes two times through it, the Indians could have a 10 game winning streak.  That’s how good they can be at their best.

That the ballclub is 18-15 without them being special is a tribute to how good the Tribe and their bullpen is this season.

MW