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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Doesn’t Look Like Tribe Did Enough In Trade Market (At Least For Now)

The Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went yesterday, and the Cleveland Indians did make one trade, sending two minor leaguers to Toronto for reliever Joe Smith, who will be making his second stint with the Tribe.

Smith, who played for the Indians from 2009-13, compiling a 2.76 ERA and three saves in that period, is a quality relief pitcher.  His lifetime ERA is under 3.00 (2.95), and he is having a great season, with 51 strikeouts in 35 innings this year.

However, being a sidearmer, he is extremely effective against right handed hitters, holding them to an OPS of 588 and a .215 batting average.

Against left-handed hitters, the OPS against is 708, and this year that figure is 749, so he is more like a ROOGY, which will benefit the bullpen, but is that the biggest need for the relief corps.

Our biggest concern, which we discussed in the last post, is the overuse of Andrew Miller, and we don’t see how getting Smith remedies that.

When Smith was a member of Terry Francona’s bullpen in 2013, the only year they were together, he drew the later inning work, with Bryan Shaw working earlier.  Basically, Shaw took Smith’s spot when he departed in free agency following the season.

So, will Francona trust Smith is late inning situations again?

If he does, that will ease the burden on Shaw, Miller, and Cody Allen in the late innings of close games that the Indians are winning.

Francona can say anything he wants, but it is clear there is a pecking order in the bullpen, and when the Tribe has the lead late, he goes to that trio, pretty much on an exclusive basis.

There still is a pressing need for another left-hander, and perhaps Tyler Olson can fill that bill, but do you really think Tito would trust him to get Eric Hosmer out in a key game against Kansas City later this month?

Another factor with Smith is the health of his right arm.  He spent some time on the disabled list earlier in the year with inflammation in his shoulder.

The trust factor is another reason we are surprised GM Mike Chernoff didn’t strengthen the bench as well.

Right now, with Jason Kipnis on the shelf, Francona’s options are Erik Gonzalez, who has a terrible strikeout to walk ratio, or Giovanny Urshela, who is struggling to hit at all.

When Kipnis is back, Gonzalez will return to his utility role, but would the skipper and/or the fans feel comfortable having to put him in to pinch hit if the need was there?

We are all for playing young players, but in a pennant race, wouldn’t you rather have an experienced guy who can hit and can handle the strike zone?

We understand that it takes two to tango, and the Cleveland front office could’ve been eager to make a move, but if other teams were steadfast in wanting Francisco Mejia or Triston McKenzie, we would have passed as well.

Still, it seems like the organization is putting a lot of faith in the return of Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall.  Unfortunately, Kipnis has struggled all year and quite frankly, we don’t know what he will do when he returns.

They also seem to be putting a lot of faith in Danny Salazar’s last two starts.

You try to eliminate as many of the possible weak spots on your roster when making a playoff run, and we aren’t sure the Indians did that.

Hopefully, there are some moves to come in August.

MW

 

Tribe Needs Bullpen Help To Ease Miller’s Workload

Terry Francona likes to say when you think you have too much pitching, you go out and get more.

That holds true today, because even though the Indians lead the American League in team ERA, team president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff are probably looking for more arms before tomorrow’s trading deadline.

The return of Danny Salazar to form should ease the need for another starting pitcher, and eventually, either Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, or Mike Clevinger will go to the bullpen, but another top notch bullpen arm would help the Indians going forward.

It is pretty obvious that when the Tribe has the lead, Francona has confidence in just three guys, closer Cody Allen, rubber armed Bryan Shaw, and the ultimate relief weapon, Andrew Miller.

Two games this week demonstrated this.

Thursday, with Miller and Shaw unavailable due to usage over the past few days, the skipper went with Trevor Bauer for eight innings and over 110 pitches rather than bring someone out of the group that includes Zack McAllister, Nick Goody, and Dan Otero.

And Bauer was pitching in a 2-1 game.

Bauer thrives on throwing so the pitch count wasn’t the issue it might be for others, but it is hard to imagine Tito staying with his starting into the 8th had Miller or Shaw been available.

The next night, Cleveland had a 9-2 lead after six when Salazar was removed from the game.  The Tribe won it, 9-3, but McAllister (7th), Goody (8th), and Shawn Armstrong (9th) all had difficulty recording outs, and the latter two ended the inning in bases loaded situations.

Look, the Indians have post-season aspirations, and they currently lead the AL Central by three games, the concern is keeping the primary relievers fresh for September and October, and that’s why they could use an extra arm in the ‘pen that Francona will trust.

Shaw leads the AL in games pitched with 49.  This isn’t a shock, as he routinely is in the top five in the league in appearances.  He is blessed with that kind of arm, and in spite of the social media critics when he fails, which isn’t often, he gets the job done.

Allen has made just 42 appearances and usually pitches one inning. He has the traditional closer role, and does it quite well.  He has only 19 saves, because the Indians win a lot of games in blowout fashion.

The concern is Miller, and Francona is always talking about reducing his work load, but then he can’t help himself.  The guy is that good.

He has been in 45 games, pitching 53-1/3 innings, ranking 5th in the AL in innings for relievers.

Last night, he threw almost 30 pitches, and our guess is he will tell Tito he can go today, but with a tough schedule coming up this week (at Boston for three, New York at home for four), he should get the day off.

That’s why the Indians needs another arm out there, to lessen Miller’s load.

With Boone Logan likely out for the year, the Indians need another southpaw.  They also need a reliever that can get right-handed and left-handed hitters out.

That would also allow Francona to shorten games even more, particularly in the post-season.

We believe getting another reliever is the primary goal of the front office before tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM.

It could make all the difference going forward for the Cleveland Indians.

MW

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

 

Opening Day Means Welcoming Old And New Friends.

Today is the day baseball fans in northeast Ohio have been looking forward to since the World Series ended in early November.

The Cleveland Indians are back home at Progressive Field today to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of 81 dates at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

It is also the beginning of six division games as the Tigers come in for three games over the Easter weekend, and it is important for the Tribe to again play well within the AL Central as almost half the schedule is divisional contests.

And that schedule is top heavy in terms of road games early for the Indians, as 23 of the first 35 games are away from downtown Cleveland.  While that’s a difficult early slate, it does mean a decided advantage after that stretch is done.

No doubt it will be a party atmosphere at the ballpark tomorrow, it always is for the home opener in this area, but the encouraging thing is it doesn’t appear the park will be a ghost town after tomorrow’s game.

Last year’s post-season run to the World Series sold a lot of tickets, and a good start will get even more people to visit Progressive Field.  The Tribe could have its highest attendance figures in many, many years.

It will be the fans first look at Edwin Encarnacion, their high profile free agent 1B/DH, and one of the game’s premier sluggers.

On the other side, age wise, it will also be the first time they get to see Yandy Diaz, who although he is just 5 for 23 to start the year, has shown an ability to hit the ball extremely hard.

Diaz isn’t likely to be here for long, he will probably go back to Columbus once Jason Kipnis returns from his sore shoulder, but he is a guy who is very much part of the Indians’ not to distant future.

It is time to resume our love for the mainstays of last year’s American League Champions, to celebrate how lucky we are to get to watch Francisco Lindor, now firmly established as one of baseball’s best young players, on an everyday basis.

It’s also a great feeling to have a lead late in the game knowing the Indians have likely the best one-two bullpen combination in the sport in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.  That duo can be interchangeable if Terry Francona so desires.

We will say hello to last year’s breakout star in Jose Ramirez, who filled in at several spots in 2016, and is doing the same now at second base, until Kipnis returns, and he moves back to the hot corner.

And we say welcome back to Michael Brantley, remembering it was just three short years ago that he finished 3rd in the MVP voting. It’s easy to forget Brantley has been here since 2009, and he and Kipnis were the first building blocks for a World Series squad.

It’s a day of celebration, remembering what the 2016 edition of the Indians did, and looking forward to what could be another great season at Progressive Field.

The boys of summer have returned to Cleveland.

MW

 

Tribe Wins Opener, And More Thoughts On AL Champs

For some reason, many people, including baseball fans put a lot of importance on the results of the Opening Day of baseball.

In reality, it is just one game of 162, but because the non-baseball sports media actually watch the season lidlifter, there is more analysis on game one, compared to a contest in May between the Tribe and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Indians did get off to a winning start, overcoming a 5-1 deficit after three innings to outlast the Texas Rangers 8-5 to go to 1-0 on the season.

Corey Kluber gutted out six innings on a day where he didn’t have his best stuff, Edwin Encarnacion debuted with a home run, and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen struck out five of the last seven Texas hitters to wrap this one up.

Remember though that baseball is a series sport, you want to win series, and the Indians have a leg up on that by winning last night.

So, while we celebrate a win in the first game, there are still some issues for this baseball team, although none of them are based on a lack of talent, which is very refreshing.

Over the weekend, the front office signed another player to a multi-year contract, Roberto Perez.  Perez inked a four year deal with two club options that could take him through 2022.

Perez was a star in last year’s post-season, and it says here that he will be the regular catcher by the All-Star break.  It is a well kept secret that Perez is better defensively than Yan Gomes (who is very good behind the plate), and better with a bat in his hand too.

Gomes doesn’t control the strike zone which in our opinion is why he has struggled at the plate since 2014.  Pitchers know they don’t have to throw him a strike to get him out.

Perez is also one of the best pitch framers in the business, and draws a ton of walks too.

By the way, we know Terry Francona is protecting rookie Yandy Diaz, but hitting Gomes sixth seems like it will come back to bite the Tribe.

The other situation worth looking at is in the outfield, particularly when Lonnie Chisenhall is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Austin Jackson was told a week before spring training ended, leading to speculation that Abraham Almonte would be sent to the minors.  But Chisenhall’s shoulder issue allowed the switch-hitter to make the team.

We still feel that Almonte is a better choice than Jackson for the roster because of his ability to hit from both sides of the plate, and because Jackson has had issues making contact at times.

We know it is one game, but Almonte had a day, didn’t he?  Two walks and the go ahead single in the ninth.  You have to wonder what happens when Chisenhall is back.

Does Almonte still go to Columbus, or does Jackson agree to go down.  Or will the team send out Tyler Naquin.  Just another problem teams have when they are good.

As for people disappointed that the Indians didn’t open at home?  Relax, worry about something else.  Hopefully, the Tribe wins both series on the road and they come home to a party after a successful trip.

MW

 

Why Tribe Will Repeat As AL Central Champs

A year ago at this time, we predicted an American League Central Division title for the Cleveland Indians.

After consecutive third place finishes in 2014 and 2015, that pick was a little more out on the edge as this year, but we will go ahead and say it anyway, the Indians will win the division title for the second straight year.

It’s not hard to see that Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff, and Terry Francona have put together a helluva good baseball team, and they complement that with a farm system that seems to be churning out major league ready players.

The first thing people want to bring up when talking about the Indians is their pitching led by staff ace Corey Kluber, one of the game’s best starters, and the bullpen trio of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw, which was dominant for most of the post-season.

Indeed, Cleveland finished second in the American League in staff ERA in 2016, one of only two AL teams (Toronto) with an ERA of under 4.00.

Besides Kluber, Danny Salazar made the All-Star team a year ago, and Carlos Carrasco is capable of dominating any big league lineup.  Consistency and injuries have been an issue with both hurlers in the past.

Trevor Bauer is the wild card.  There doesn’t seem to be any reason he shouldn’t be able to win 15 games, but he has gone through long stretches of seasons where he pitches poorly.  If he can avoid those, and he’s only 26, he could be an elite starter too.

Josh Tomlin is a solid fifth starter, and in most rotations would be a three or four.  If any of the starters falter, Mike Clevinger and Ryan Merritt can step in.

With the trinity of late inning relievers the Tribe has, most nights, it’s a six inning game for the opposition.

Because of the pitching reputation, people forget the offense, which scored the second most runs in the AL behind Boston.  They did it without Michael Brantley, one of the league’s best hitters.

And this off-season, the front office added perennial 30+ home run, 100+ RBI man, Edwin Encarnacion to the lineup.  After searching for a right-handed power bat for many years, Cleveland now has one of the best in the game.

They also have one of the best and most exciting young players in the sport in SS Francisco Lindor.  If the Indians win the division in 2017, Lindor will be an MVP candidate.

Even if Brantley has a set back, an offensive led by Encarnacion and Lindor, with support from Carlos Santana (34 HR last year), 2B Jason Kipnis, and 3B Jose Ramirez should score a lot of runs.

Kipnis will start the year on the disabled list with shoulder soreness, however.

Francona is a master at using platoon advantages, so even though there aren’t big names in centerfield and rightfield, the Tribe will get production out of those spots.

And behind them in the minor leagues, poised to help in the majors are OFs Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen, 3B/OF Yandy Diaz (if he doesn’t open in Cleveland), and C Francisco Mejia, who will start the year in Akron.

They also have Francona, one of the game’s best leaders, and a master at handling the roster and the clubhouse.

In a long term view, the Cleveland Indians are on the precipice of a good run at the top of the AL Central.  In the short term, they will win the division again, and hope to end what is now the longest World Series winning drought in the sport…69 years.

MW

Tribe Front Office Keeps Improving Team.

The Cleveland Indians aren’t kidding around this winter.

Fresh off an American League championship and a trip to the World Series, the ownership and front office of the team have thrown any caution they have had in the past to the wind, and are hell bent on improving the ballclub

All fans were giddy with the addition of one of the game’s most prolific and consistent sluggers in Edwin Encarnacion.  He fits perfectly into the middle of Terry Francona’s lineup.

Yesterday, Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff bolstered the already strong bullpen by adding lefty specialist Boone Logan on a one year contract.

Logan is a prototypical LOOGY (left handed one out guy), holding left-handed hitters to a .142 batting average in 2016.  In his career, lefties are hitting .233 against him (670 OPS) and he has struck out 34% of them.

His addition should eliminate any need for Francona to use Andrew Miller early in a game, like the 5th or 6th inning, to get a key left-handed hitter.  That means Miller and Cody Allen can be used in the last three frames to get the toughest hitters opponents can bring up to the plate.

The Tribe bullpen is deep and they are good.  Besides late inning guys Allen, Miller, and Bryan Shaw, Francona has Dan Otero, Logan, and Zack McAllister to work earlier if needed.

And in reserve, he has young arms like Shawn Armstrong, Kyle Crockett, Perci Garner, Nick Goody, Joe Colon, and rule five draftee Hoby Milner that could contribute during the season.

They say statistically a big league team needs ten starting pitchers to complete a season, and the Tribe has depth there as well.

Besides the five current starters (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin), the team has Mike Clevinger, Cody Anderson, and Ryan Merritt who will start the season in Columbus.

Since the end of the season, the front office has also added lefty Tim Cooney from St. Louis, who had made six starts for the Cardinals in 2015 before missing last year with calcium deposits in his shoulder.  He will provide depth.

And last week, the Indians traded for Carlos Frias from the Dodgers who has made 15 major league starts in his career.

There is no question pitching can be volatile, and as Francona is wont to say, when you think you have enough pitching, you go out and get more.

The front office heeded his advice.

With an offense led by Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana, the Tribe should score enough runs too.  Don’t forget they also have Jose Ramirez, and solid role players in Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer as well.

And if Michael Brantley can stay healthy and return to being one of the league’s best hitters?  The Tribe might just be the team to beat in the AL.

It’s been a long time, probably since 2001, that Cleveland baseball fans could say that.

But in baseball, there are no for sures.  There are always injuries, and that’s why you need depth in the organization, which the front office recognized.

This isn’t 2008 or 2014, the last two times the Cleveland Indians made the playoffs.  This winter, the organization didn’t rest on its laurels.  They added on to the American League Champions.

MW

Looking Ahead To Tribe Off-Season

It still stings.

Losing in extra innings in the seventh game of the World Series for the second time in the last 20 years will do that to hardcore fans.

Despite some people in the media telling fans they should feel good about losing to the Cubs in the Fall Classic, we still think about what might have been.

The Indians were this close to a World Championship, and fell just a bit short.

So, the best thing to do is to look forward.  What can and will the Indians do this winter to prepare themselves to defend the American League Central Division and the American League championship?

Despite the injuries late in the season that curtailed the Tribe’s rotation, there is no doubt the strength of the Indians is the starting rotation, and the back end of the bullpen.

Remember, Cleveland finished second in the American League in ERA in 2016.

Led by staff ace Corey Kluber, the rotation which also consists of Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin, and the tandem of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen at the back of the bullpen is the backbone of the team.

And don’t forget Mike Clevinger and post-season hero Ryan Merritt to provide depth as well.

As we all saw, pitching rules the day in October, and the Cleveland pitching staff was outstanding in the playoffs.

But the odd thing about baseball is you have to score runs in the regular season to get into the post-season, and quite frankly a lot went right for the Tribe to rank second in the AL in runs scored this past season.

Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana has career years in terms of power, and one of that duo may not be with the team when Opening Day 2017 comes around.

Many will peg Jose Ramirez for regression next season, but we are not one of those people.  Ramirez’ minor league numbers suggest he is a good hitter and at age 24, should still be getting better.

The same can be said for SS Francisco Lindor who will play ’17 at age 23.  Lindor should only get better, and should provide a little more power, which could put him with around 20 home runs next season.

Jason Kipnis should be fine, and of course, the team is hopeful of getting its best hitter coming into 2016, Michael Brantley back and provide the professional at bats he is well known for.

What the front office does to make up for the loss or possible lost production from Napoli and perhaps Santana will go a long way toward making the post-season a year from now.

The outfield is still a huge question mark.  Rajai Davis is also a free agent and will be 36 years old.  Tyler Naquin slumped badly in the second half and has no track record.  Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer are solid players, but aren’t cornerstones.  Don’t forget about Abraham Almonte too.

And will Brantley be healthy enough to contribute.  Hopefully, rookie Yandy Diaz figures in somewhere too.

The front office can’t and shouldn’t go into the winter thinking older players like Napoli and Davis will repeat the numbers they put up in 2016.  It’s just not logical.

So, president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have to be creative in what they do in the hot stove league.

One thing is for sure.  The Tribe should not stand pat.  They need to continue to improve the roster even though they got to the seventh game of the World Series.

You can’t assume everything will be the same as this year.

KM