The Cleveland Indians will be home tomorrow afternoon for their home opener, weather permitting. It will be cold, but it will still be warmer than the Tribe bats were on the first trip on the season, as Terry Francona’s crew lost four of six to Seattle and Los Angeles.
To those who are prone to panic at this about the Indians, it is just six games, and we don’t start evaluating the team until 27 games, or 1/6th of the season is played.
However, that doesn’t mean some of the things we were concerned about as the off-season unfolded, and during spring training haven’t raised their ugly heads.
The old saying that you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone certainly applies to Bryan Shaw. Yes, the right-hander had some hiccups, and seemed to give up more than his share of key gopher balls, but for the most part, he was very reliable.
The bullpen misses him.
In two of the four Cleveland losses, the relief corps gave up tie breaking home runs, one by Dan Otero, and the other by the pitcher who has a history of allowing long balls in high leverage situations, Zack McAllister.
In addition, last Sunday after Otero allowed the tie breaker, Tyler Olson allowed another two run shot, meaning the ‘pen has already allowed four homers in six games (McAllister served up another in the blowout on Tuesday).
We are not concerned about the production from the top of the batting order because Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, and Jose Ramirez have established track records, and they will hit.
And it appears that Michael Brantley will be activated for the home opener, and if he can stay healthy, it will give the lineup another solid bat.
We can be a little worried about Bradley Zimmer though. It’s not the centerfielder’s .143 batting average (3 for 21) that is a concern. Heck, a 3 for 3 day on Friday would bring him to .250.
It’s the lack of contact which is worrying. The second year major leaguer has struck out in 11 of those 21 at bats, an alarming rate, and completelybo unacceptable for someone who can run like Zimmer.
Zimmer should be trying to bunt for hits two or three times per week, taking advantage of his speed, and helping him to make contact. We would also add that he hasn’t drawn a walk through six games either.
In addition to Zimmer’s strikeout woes, Yan Gomes is having them as well, fanning in eight of 14 at bats. The catcher has struggling with strike zone judgment before after winning a Silver Slugger Award in 2014.
In ’15, his strikeout to walk ratio was was 104:13, the following year, it was 69:9. Last season, it improved a bit to 99:31, and so did the rest of his offensive numbers.
A patient Gomes is a more productive Gomes. He has to understand this and have some degree of plate discipline.
This duo must be better for the Tribe to have a lineup with some length.
If we didn’t already have questions about these players coming into the season, we wouldn’t have them now. The season has a long, long way to go, and numbers are particularly volatile now.
But these were question marks coming in. It doesn’t make a question the long term future for the Indians, but they are things to keep an eye on.
A baseball man once said you should ignore what you see in April and September. For Zack McAllister, Bradley Zimmer, and Yan Gomes, we hope he was right.