Tough Decisions Coming For Tribe.

The Cleveland Indians have played 50 games this season, and it seems like they have been in a scrambling mode since the opener in Seattle.

Yes, there have been constants.  The lineup has been buoyed all season long by their version of “The Big Three”:  Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley, and Jose Ramirez.  That trio are the only three players currently on the roster with OPS over 800, outside of Erik Gonzalez, who rarely plays.

The starting rotation is also been a constant as well, as Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger have provided Terry Francona with a chance to win every night.

The rest of the team is in flux, with the bullpen issues being front and center.  For the first six innings, the Indians look like one of the best teams in baseball.  Unfortunately, they’ve allowed 43.7% of their opponents runs after the sixth inning.

That’s almost two runs per game!

No one has escaped the horribleness.  Andrew Miller has been on the disabled list twice since the end of April, and when he has pitched, he’s walked 10 hitters in 14-1/3 innings.

Cody Allen struck out 92 batters in 67-1/3 frames in 2017, and for his career has fanned 11.5 hitters per nine innings.  This year, that figure has dropped to 9.1, his lowest since his rookie year (2012).

The rest of the bullpen can’t put two consecutive good outings together for the most part. Just when you start feeling good about someone, they get hammered.

Zach McAllister has pitched well in May, and we thought maybe it was time to give him another look see.  So did Francona, who brought him into a 7-5 game last night, only to see him give up a run in the 7th to close the gap.

Meanwhile, the front office is retreading the retreads.  Oliver Drake is brought in, he is gone.  Evan Marshall came up, gave up 3 hits and 3 walks in 2-2/3, was sent down, now he is back.

Neil Ramirez has allowed 7 hits, including two dingers in 2-2/3.  Our guess is his next bad appearance will be his last.

And Josh Tomlin?  My goodness, how can a pitcher who is allowing a home run every other inning he pitches still in the big leagues?

As for the everyday players, some decisions will have to be made soon, because the injured players will start to return.

What happens when Lonnie Chisenhall comes back?  Does he platoon with Melky Cabrera in right?

And who goes when Bradley Zimmer returns?  Perhaps it is Zimmer, who has fanned 39 times in 106 plate appearances.

Tyler Naquin deserves a spot on the roster the way he hit before being injured (.333 batting average, 820 OPS).

Can Rajai Davis keep his spot on the roster?  A 527 OPS doesn’t really help the ballclub.  And what about Brandon Guyer, who hasn’t been as effective against lefties as he was in 2016.

We could see a lot more Edwin Encarnacion at first base, especially vs. lefties, with Brantley moving to DH, so Cabrera can play LF.

Our guess is Zimmer will be the first one back, and Greg Allen will go back to AAA.  That will mean Zimmer and Davis will platoon in center.

But when Chisenhall is ready, that will force a tough decision.  It will be interesting to see what direction the front office goes in.

Within the next two to three weeks, the Indians roster could look totally different.  And hopefully that means better.

MW

 

 

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Tribe Sequel: Bullpen From Hell, Part Deux

Many baseball people believe you really can’t evaluate a baseball team until 40 games have been played, a quarter of the baseball season.

If that is true of the Indians’ front office, they would see a team that has a lot of potholes that need to be filled and the quicker, the better.

Chief among the holes is the bullpen, which according to ERA, is the worst in baseball.  It says something about the volatility of relief pitching that just two years ago, in 2016, the Tribe bully carried the team to the World Series.

To date, of the 185 runs given up by Cleveland pitching this season, 76 have scored in the 7th inning or later.  In Tuesday night’s debacle against the Tigers, five more were added to the total, all scoring in a disastrous seventh inning.

Really, no one is pitching well in relief, other than Cody Allen, and even he melted down in New York less than two weeks ago.

Andrew Miller just returned from the disabled list and still isn’t sharp, giving up the lead in two of this last three appearances.

Miller’s injury caused a major upheaval in the ‘pen, and it appears because of it, Terry Francona started handling his relievers like it was the post-season.

He started extending the starters, with several throwing more pitches than the normally threw in a game.

For example, last season, Carlos Carrasco threw more than 110 pitches in a game just three times.  In 2018, he has already done it four times.  It’s only May.

Mike Clevinger never reached the 110 pitch threshold in 2017, but to date this season, he’s done it three times.

How will this affect the starting pitchers as the season goes on?  It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

The front office didn’t fill the holes created by the departures of Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith in the off-season, and that has caused a tremendous void.

The skipper tried Zach McAllister in Shaw’s seventh inning role to start the season, but the veteran has put up a 7.47 ERA and has allowed five home runs in just 15-2/3 innings.  Somehow, he remains on the roster despite never being trusted to pitch in high leverage situations.

Dan Otero, a reliable reliever over the last two seasons (ERAs of 1.53 and 2.85), has the same ERA as McAllister in the same number of innings.

Another holdover from a year ago, Nick Goody, is on the disabled list, but before he went out, he allowed four dingers in 11-2/3 innings, and had a 6.94 ERA.

Right now, the most recent good outings by relievers not named Allen, were by Oliver Drake, who just came over from Milwaukee in a trade, and Neil Ramirez, a veteran signed in the off-season on a minor league free agent, and just brought up from Columbus.

It is such a dire situation, that we would call on either of them if the Indians have a lead this weekend in Houston.  Guys like Otero, McAllister, and southpaw Tyler Olson would have regain trust by having a series of good outings.

The good news is bullpen arms should be plentiful at the trade deadline.  Unfortunately, the Tribe will have to give up assets that could have been used elsewhere to acquire them.

Right now, it’s a wet blanket on the entire squad.

MW

 

Bullpen Dragging Down The Tribe

It has been said that nothing can make a good baseball team look bad than a bad bullpen, and the Cleveland Indians are experiencing that right now.

Since April 24th, a span of a dozen games, Tribe pitchers have allowed 10 runs or more in 1/3rd of those contests.  Conversely, they have held opposing teams to four runs or less just three times, and in two of those three, the other team scored four.

Yes, Carlos Carrasco has had two hiccups his last two times out and Josh Tomlin is giving up home runs at an incredible rate, but Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger have been solid, but the relief pitching has been dragging down the team.

Since Andrew Miller went down with his leg injury, the Indians have already made four moves in the ‘pen, and one of those, lefty Jeff Beliveau, was called up, got a save against Texas, and has already been designated for assignment.

Look at these performances, but you might want to shield your eyes–

April 28th vs. Seattle:  Yes, Carrasco didn’t have a good day, allowing five runs in three innings, but it was 5-1 in the 4th before Zack McAllister allowed a five spot in the 4th.  Game over.

April 30th vs. Texas:  Trevor Bauer allowed a game tying homer in the 7th (he threw 122 pitches).  That tied the game at 2-2!  Tyler Olson and Cody Allen allowed three over the next two innings, but luckily the Cleveland bats were working in a 7-5 victory.

May 1st vs. Texas:  Clevinger entered the 7th trailing 2-0 in what turned out to be an 8-6 loss in 11 innings.  Beliveau gave up a two run shot in the 7th, and then Nick Goody allowed two more bombs in the 11th.

May 3rd vs. Toronto (game 1):  Carrasco didn’t pitch well, allowing six runs in 5-1/3 innings, but the relief corps gave up seven more in the 11 inning loss.  Olson allowed the game winning grand slam after having two outs and nobody on to start the inning.

Certainly, losing Bryan Shaw was a huge loss, as he was frequently the bridge between the starters and the duo of Miller and Allen at the end of games.

Goody is now on the disabled list with an elbow issue, and he has struggled since spring training, perhaps because of the injury.

McAllister has proven once again he can’t be trusted in high leverage situations.  And it’s not just long balls anymore, he has allowed 18 hits (four of them HRs) in 12 innings.

Using Olson in a more expanded role isn’t working either.  Left handed hitters are 2 for 23 against him, but righties are hitting .381 (8 for 21).  Hence, the valuableness of Miller.

And today, the Tribe added Oliver Drake in a cash transaction with the Brewers.  Drake is a swing and miss guy (115 strikeouts in 102-1/3 innings), and his numbers are skewed this year by a game against the Reds in which he allowed six runs in an inning.

Early in the year, when it was cold and the starters were going seven innings, it was easy for Terry Francona, just use Miller and Allen and the game is over.

Now it is time for others to step up, and it is up to the front office to find people who can get outs consistently.  Because not only is the bullpen hurting the team, it is also putting too great of a burden on the starters, which could be a problem as the season goes on.

Yes, the AL Central Division is weak, but this situation needs to be fixed, and the sooner, the better.

MW

Early Spring Roster Battles For Tribe

Exhibition play is a little over a week old in Goodyear, Arizona and what that means mostly is we are closer to the start of the regular season, which is now just 24 days away.

We have always maintained the perfect record for spring training is around .500, because it doesn’t give the fan bases of a bad team any unrealistic expectations, nor does it worry supporters of good teams, like the Cleveland Indians.

The best news to come out of the desert is it appears Jason Kipnis is healthy and ready to go.

We were never in the trade Kipnis camp, because he is coming off a poor, injury plagued season, so the Tribe front office was never going to get value, it would have been strictly a salary dump.

The negatives have been on the injury front where Danny Salazar likely will not be able to open the season on the big league roster, and OF Brandon Guyer has had some set backs as well, although we aren’t sure his timetable was to open the year on the active list.

Salazar’s injury simply means Terry Francona and new/old pitching coach Carl Willis don’t have to make a decision on whether or not they have to move a starter to the bullpen.

As of right now, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and Josh Tomlin will make up the starting staff.

With Guyer and Michael Brantley likely to be on the disabled list to start the season, it opens up two outfield spots, with holdovers Abraham Almonte, Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen, and Yandy Diaz battling with Rob Refsnyder, Rajai Davis, and Melvin Upton Jr. to make the Opening Day roster.

Quite frankly, we think each spot will go to one in each group.

The first group has two switch-hitters in Almonte and Allen, with Naquin swinging from the left side and Diaz the right.  The latter has been playing most infield, so maybe versatility wins out.

The brass knows what Almonte can do and Allen could probably benefit from some time at AAA.  In the latter group, Refsnyder offers the multi-position option, while Davis and Upton are trying for one last shot at a big league roster.

To date, neither of the veterans have done much in games, but this is the Indians we are talking about, and we know Tito and his staff love veterans.

We would keep Diaz, putting him in LF to start, and Refsnyder would also get a shot because he can play both infield and outfield.

In the bullpen, the loss of Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith leave two openings, but the recent signings of veteran Matt Belisle, Carlos Torres, and the claiming of Ben Taylor from Boston would make them the leading candidates to win the job.

Torres is durable, pitching in 65 or more games in three of the last four years in the bigs, and Belisle ended last season as the Twins closer, pitching great in the second half, after solid years in Washington and St. Louis.

One reliever to watch is Nick Goody, who has struggled so far in Arizona.  He doesn’t have the track record of some of the other arms, so he could find himself the odd man out if he doesn’t start pitching better.

Again, it’s early.  But the players we talked about are the ones in battles to make the trip north to Seattle on March 29th.

Which can’t get here fast enough.

MW

Tribe’s Window: How Wide Is It?

The Cleveland Indians have done very well recently.  In the last two seasons, they made it to the World Series before losing in game seven, and won the second most games in franchise history.

In the latter season, they had a 22 game winning streak.

Since Terry Francona came aboard as manager, the Tribe has reeled off five consecutive winning seasons, and qualified for the post-season three times.

Yet, all people talk about is the team’s “window”.  How long will this run of good play last?  That’s what we do in northeast Ohio, if we have good fortune, we wonder when it will disappear.

Some people feel the window is closing after this season, since the dynamic bullpen duo of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller will likely not be back with the Tribe in 2019 due to free agency.

Others point to the 2020 season as the last season of contention because Carlos Carrasco can leave via free agency, and the following year, the Indians could lose Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar.

We think the window is open through the 2021 campaign, meaning there are four more seasons of contention.  Why 2021?  That is when Francisco Lindor would be eligible to cash in via free agency.

We still hope the front office will pony up and keep Lindor in Cleveland, because, as we have said many times before, if the shortstop could play ten years in a Tribe uniform, he would be considered the greatest position player in franchise history.

The Indians have been very good as piecing together a good bullpen, so although Allen and Miller are among the game’s premier relievers, we have faith in the front office to fortify the bullpen before the beginning of next season.

Losing Carrasco would hurt, but in ’21, Cleveland will still have Kluber, Bauer, and Salazar, as well as Mike Clevinger, which would be a solid rotation for any team, assuming they all stay healthy.

Losing Lindor would be a crippling blow considering all he means to the franchise.  Although he’s played just two plus seasons, he is the team’s leader, and the along with Francona and Kluber, the faces of the franchise.

It was curious to see how much the roster has changed since the wild card team of 2013.  The only regulars still in prominent roles with the Tribe are Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Yan Gomes.

Corey Kluber, who was 11-5 in less than 150 innings, and Cody Allen were the only pitchers currently on the team who had an important role, although Salazar was called up late and started the post-season contest.

The point is the window can be extended if the farm system can continue to produce everyday players.

Since ’13, Lindor and Jose Ramirez have arrived and both are among the best players in the sport, and Yandy Diaz could make an impact as soon as this year.

Bradley Zimmer could join Lindor and Ramirez as big time players, and Francisco Mejia has the potential to be an elite hitter in the major leagues.

Mejia just joined the organization in 2013, hitting .305 in the Arizona Rookie League.  Zimmer wasn’t even drafted until the following year.

The point is this team is very talented, and continues to produce solid players who will be under club control for several more years.

Enjoy this season, but it is not the end of the road for the organization.  There still a few years left of contention to reach the playoffs.

MW

 

 

Tribe Starters Still Make Them Elite

There is no question this year’s off-season for the Cleveland Indians is not as exciting as last winter.

The biggest reason is a year ago, the Tribe brought in a big ticket free agent in Edwin Encarnacion and another bullpen arm in Boone Logan.

This year, most of the free agent news have been people leaving Cleveland.  Relievers Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith went to Colorado and Houston respectively, while Carlos Santana (Philadelphia), Jay Bruce (New York Mets) and Austin Jackson (San Francisco) have also departed.

Even Logan is gone, signing with the Brewers.

Still, as spring training is a mere weeks away from commencing, Terry Francona’s team is the odds on favorite to defend their Central Division title, and they would still be considered one of the best teams in baseball.

The biggest reason for this is the Indians’ starting rotation, which may still be the best in baseball.

The starters ranked 2nd in Major League Baseball in ERA in 2017, ranking behind only the Dodgers, who have the advantage of playing in a league without the DH.

The only AL team within a half run of Cleveland’s 3.52 mark for starters is the Yankees, who had a 3.98 ERA.  The World Champion Astros were at 4.03.

Among innings pitched for starting hurlers, two National League teams (Washington and San Francisco) led the majors, while the Tribe and Red Sox tied for the American League top spot.

Texas was next, a full 43 frames behind the leaders.

Indians’ starters also led the big leagues in strikeouts with 1066, 54 more than second place Washington and 65 more than the AL runner up, Boston.

And the Tribe’s rotation also narrowly edged the Yankees and Astros for the lowest batting average against.

That part of the team has been unaffected this winter.  In fact, the Indians have six starters contending for the starting roles to start the season in Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, the man who finished fourth in the voting, Carlos Carrasco, and 17 game winner Trevor Bauer fronting the rotation.

They are backed up by Danny Salazar, who has as electric stuff as perhaps any of the three guys also mentioned, Mike Clevinger, who went 12-6 with a 3.11 ERA in 27 appearances (21 starts), and Josh Tomlin, who would be a middle of the rotation guys for many MLB teams.

Southpaw Ryan Merritt, who is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in five big league appearances, and Cody Anderson, who went 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts in 2015, before hurting his elbow and missing all of last year with Tommy John surgery.

Something has to give, because Merritt is out of options, and of course, since the Tribe will start the year with five starters, someone who started a year ago will have to begin this season in the bullpen.

We would guess since Anderson is coming off an injury, he will start the year at Columbus.

Julian Merryweather could make some starts at the big league level in 2018, and Cleveland still has Shawn Morimando and Adam Plutko at AAA too.

So they have some depth as well, although to be fair, none of those guys are even close to the six pitchers who made most of the starts in Cleveland in 2017.

That’s the big reason the Indians are still among baseball’s elite.  Very few teams can put someone out there each and every night who has the ability to put zeroes on the scoreboard.

Francona always says when you think you have enough pitching, you go out and get more.  It looks like the front office agrees.

MW

Unreal Tribe Putting Up Unreal Numbers

When a major league baseball team wins 29 out of 31 games it is clearly something incredible.

The hottest stretch for a team we can remember was the 35-5 stretch the 1984 Detroit Tigers started that season.  That carried the Motor City Kitties to a World Series title.

Each time the Tribe lost in that span, they rebounded with resounding wins, an 8-4 win over Kansas City after the Royals ended the American League record 22 game winning skein, and an 11-4 thumping of Seattle after the Mariners beat the Tribe in walk off fashion last Friday night.

Still, there are more remarkable numbers surrounding the 2017 Cleveland Indians.

First, the franchise is on the verge of winning 100 games in a season for just the third time in history.  Keep in mind, the Indians have been playing baseball in Cleveland since 1901.  Only the 1954 team (111 wins) and the ’95 squad (100 wins) have accomplished this.

Consider the tremendous season Carlos Carrasco is having.  The right-hander is 17-6 for the year, and has allowed 167 hits in 192 innings, striking out 212 hitters, while walking just 45.  His ERA is 3.43, well below the league average.

Then look at the unworldly numbers put up by his teammate, Corey Kluber.

Kluber has pitched seven more innings than Carrasco and has allowed 32 less hits.  Kluber has fanned 50 more hitters while walking nine less hitters.

That’s one reason Kluber could and should become the first two time Cy Young Award winner in the history of the franchise.

You have the incredible season from Jose Ramirez.  We think everyone will now realize that last season was not a fluke for the switch-hitter, who turned just 25 years old a week ago.

Ramirez has 86 extra base hits, the 7th highest total in club history and if he can get three more in the final six games, only Albert Belle (103 in ’95), Hal Trosky (96 in ’36) and Grady Sizemore (92 in 2006) would have more.

If two of those would be doubles, Ramirez would have 53 on the season, and the last time an Indian had more would be 1923 when Hall of Famer Tris Speaker had 59.

That’s a historic season and remember, he’s only 25.

Speaking of tremendous young players, 23-year-old switch-hitting shortstop Francisco Lindor is another Tribe player making history.

Lindor has already set club records for home runs in a season by a shortstop and middle infielder, and he is approaching 80 extra base hits for a season and 100 runs scored for a season.

Remember when fans were concerned about Edwin Encarnacion early in the season?

The slugger should get at least one more RBI in the final six games, which would give him 100 for the fifth time in the last six years.  He has also set a career high in walks without his strikeouts increasing over last year.

There is also a possibility of him reaching 40 home runs for the third time in his career.

We know the Indians will be home on October 5th for the first game of the Division Series.  They still could get home field throughout the American League playoffs too.

If the pitching continues like it has over the last month, it could be a very fun month of October for Terry Francona’s team.

MW

 

 

Decisions, Decisions Loom For Tribe Before Playoffs

The Cleveland Indians clinched their ninth American League Central Division title on Sunday, so they will have 12 games to get players some rest and to get their starting rotation in order.

The AL Division Series will start on October 5th in Cleveland, as the Tribe has a seven game advantage over Boston for the best record in the league.

No doubt, Corey Kluber will start that game, so Terry Francona has to decide whether he wants extra rest for his ace, or to go on his regular four days off, which means he would pitch the last Saturday of the regular season.

This season, Kluber has a 1.99 ERA with four days off between starts, and a 3.86 ERA with an extra day of rest.  It seems like a no brainer for Tito.

It would seem logical that Carlos Carrasco (16-6, 3.48 ERA) would be the Game 2 starter, but Carrasco has a 2.71 ERA on the road, compared to 4.38 at Progressive Field.

So, Francona could decide to go with Trevor Bauer (4.08 ERA at home vs. 4.88 on the road) in the second game and use Carrasco in Game 3 on the road.

Then there is the matter of the bullpen.

It has been reported that the Indians will have an 11 man staff for the first round, meaning they will carry seven bullpen arms.

Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Joe Smith are locks, and you have to think Tyler Olsen will give Francona a second lefty out of the ‘pen.

That leaves Danny Salazar, Dan Otero, Josh Tomlin, Zack McAllister, and Nick Goody vying for two spots, assuming Mike Clevinger is the fourth starter.

We would choose Salazar and Otero.  The former because he could give the team multiple quality frames, and the latter because he throws strikes, can pitch more than an inning and has pitched very well down the stretch.

Keeping 11 hurlers means 14 position players will make the roster.  The following are locks:  Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson, and both catchers, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez.

That leaves six spots.

You have to believe Jason Kipnis will make the roster, and much depends on the health of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer, neither of whom are with the Tribe on this trip.

Chisenhall is a for sure if healthy, and we would think that Yandy Diaz, who is garnering most of the playing time at third base will be there in October too.

We also think Gio Urshela and his outstanding glove, and Greg Allen, with his speed and defense will make the roster, leaving the last spot for Guyer (if he’s healthy), Abraham Almonte, or perhaps even Tyler Naquin.

Our opinion is Almonte offers the most in the way of versatility.  He’s a switch-hitter, can play all three outfield spots, and can be used as a pinch-runner as well.

We don’t believe the Tribe will chase the best record in the American League and in the Major Leagues in total either.

We will see the regulars get some rest, the rotation set up for the playoffs, and auditions for the players we mentioned to see who will fill out the roster when the post-season starts.

On the other hand, the Tribe didn’t chase a 22 game winning streak either.  When the pitching performs as it has over the last two months, it just kind of naturally happens.

MW

 

Tribe Improving As Season Goes On

The Cleveland Indians have entered the home stretch of the Major League Baseball schedule, and are getting better as the season continues.

If you read the blog on a regular basis, we like to break down the schedule in 27 games increments, representing 1/6th of the season.

To date, the Tribe’s records in these sections are as follows:

First 27 games:  15-12
Games 28-54:     13-14
Games 55-81:     16-11
Games 82-108:   15-12
Games 109-135: 20-7

As is the norm, Terry Francona’s teams seem to get better as the season rolls on.  Remember in 2013, Tito’s first season in Cleveland when the team went 21-6 in September to earn a berth in the wild card game?

In 2014, the Indians were below .500 after 81 games, but went 46-35 in the second half and were in the playoff race until the final weekend of the season.

A year later, Cleveland was again below .500 in the first half (38-43), but again went 43-37 in the second half after restructuring the roster by trading Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, and bringing up top prospect Francisco Lindor.

Last year, was an anomaly, as the Tribe went 49-32 in the first 81 games, and “slipped” to 45-35 in the last 81, but the season culminated in a classic World Series, losing in extra innings in Game 7 to the Chicago Cubs.

This season, the Indians have done well in each 27 game split, the worst record in that span being a game under the break even mark.

However, in the last third of the 2017 campaign, Francona’s crew has gone into hyper drive, going 20-7, and currently riding a 12 game winning streak.

Last season’s club record 14 game span without a loss is in jeopardy.  The previous record of 13 consecutive wins was set in 1951, lasting 55 seasons.  The new record might be erased in one year.

The last team to have winning streaks of 12 or more games in back-to-back seasons were the 1970-71 Baltimore Orioles, teams which both reached the World Series, part of three straight berths in the Fall Classic (1969-71).

Offensively, the Tribe has been led by their pair of under 25 year old stars, INF Jose Ramirez and Lindor.

If you want reasons to feel good about the future of this organization, you can point to the two best position players being 24 (Ramirez) and 23 (Lindor).

The former leads the American League in extra base hits, while the latter just set a club record for home runs by a shortstop with 26 dingers.

And with injuries to stalwarts Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall, Francona received contributions from young players like Yandy Diaz and Gio Urshela.

Veteran Austin Jackson, who we didn’t want to make the club out of spring training, has also been huge, hitting .318 with an 875 OPS.

As much as the offense has produced, the hot streak has been keyed by the starting pitching.  Corey Kluber is having a season that could earn him his second Cy Young Award, despite missing several weeks with a sore back.

Danny Salazar has been in and out of the rotation, but Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger have picked up the slack.  Bauer is tied for the league lead in wins, and Clevinger is 8-5 with a 3.50 ERA.

And we haven’t mentioned the steady Carlos Carrasco, who is 13-6 with a 3.67 ERA and should reach the 200 strikeout mark on the year.

The Tribe is finishing the season strong.  And when they get Andrew Miller back, assuming he will be healthy, they may get even stronger.

MW

 

 

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