Time For Tribe To Put Up

The Cleveland Indians continue to be a very difficult team to watch.

We know they won the second most games in the American League a year ago and advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1997.

Yes, they lost Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis in the off-season, but they signed the top slugger on the market in Edwin Encarnacion to replace the former.  By the way, both Napoli and Davis are suffering through terrible seasons.

They have the second best ERA in the American League despite a starting rotation that has suffered through an injury to Danny Salazar, and wild inconsistency from Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer.

However, they sit with a 48-44 record through 92 games.  It’s not early anymore, the Indians have played more than half of their schedule.

They looked to be turning the corner in the middle of June when they took seven of eight on a trip to Minnesota and Baltimore, and after a brief hiccup against the Twins at Progressive Field, went 8-5 before taking time off for the All Star Game.

The offense still hasn’t returned from the break.

The Tribe was swept in Oakland without scoring more than three runs in a game, and after a 5-3 win in San Francisco on Monday, they lost to the Giants 2-1 in 10 innings.

We understand Terry Francona’s crew is missing Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall due to injuries, but Kipnis wasn’t hitting before he was hurt.

The schedule for August features games against the Red Sox, Yankees, Rockies, Rays, Twins and Royals.  What do all those teams have in common?  They are very much in the thick of the post-season race.

It is clearly time for the Cleveland Indians to put up or shut up.

Yes, we know the apologists for the team will point out they remain in first place, currently a game and a half ahead of the Twins.

But really, does anyone think this team is playing up to its potential?

Last night’s ninth inning illustrates one of the problems the hitters have had this season.

After a lead off walk to Encarnacion, two of the next three hitters, Jose Ramirez and Yan Gomes, swung at the first pitch they saw.  Ramirez did it immediately after the free pass.

Gomes swings at the first pitch in clutch situations on a consistent basis.  You are helping out the pitcher in that situation by doing this.

With all the struggles, Francona continues to use basically the same batting order.  In the hot streak we talked about earlier, Ramirez was hitting third, but Tito doesn’t want to move him out of the #5 hole.

This could be another case of the skipper being more stubborn than patient.

We have written about this before, but moving Michael Brantley and his .361 on base percentage to the leadoff spot, especially he has just 23 extra base hits for the season.

The only regular with less is Gomes, whose offensive struggles are well documented.

Should Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff be looking for another bat?

Cody Allen should also be under a little scrutiny.  After recording a 0.90 ERA in April in 10 innings, he’s allowed 12 earned runs in 27 innings (4.00 ERA) since the beginning of May.

If Salazar can regain his form, perhaps the front office should be looking for another bullpen arm.

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and we know this front office has been aggressive about improving the Indians.

Right now, the leaks are popping up quickly.  The real issue is there is talent on this roster and it is time for the players to start playing like they can.

MW

 

 

 

The Mejia Question For Tribe.

The All Star break is over, and now the eyes of baseball shifts to the trading deadline at the end of this month.

And that leads to speculation about the Indians’ top prospects, catcher Francisco Mejia and pitcher Triston McKenzie.

Mejia gets even more scrutiny because of the offensive production on the catchers on the big league roster, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez.

Gomes has an OPS of 680, and is hitting just .222 with a .315 on base percentage.  Perez is even worse with a 517 OPS and his batting average is just .178.  Combined, the two backstops have 6 HR and 36 RBI.

Mejia has all the look of a professional hitter.  A switch-hitter, he is hitting .334 with 9 HR and 34 RBI at AA Akron, and has a 928 OPS.  This following a season where he had a 50 game hitting streak, and combined at Class A Lynchburg and Akron, he hit .342 with 11 homers and 80 runs batted in.

He also doesn’t strike out, which is huge in today’s game where swinging and missing is plentiful.  His high in whiffs is 78 in 446 at bats, and that was during his worst year in the minors, when he hit .243 at Lake County in 2015.

One thing we know, or should know, about the Tribe front office is they value defense, pitch framing, and handling a pitching staff the most from their catchers.  If they can hit, that’s great, but they don’t seem to be in a hurry to replace Gomes or Perez behind the plate, because they do those other things very well.

Baseball Prospectus ranked Mejia as the third best prospect in the game, and said they would rank him first if they knew the Dominican native was going to remain behind the plate long term.

The reason for that is Mejia’s size, he’s 5’10” and weighs 180 pounds.  By contrast, Gomes is 6’2″, 215, and Perez is 5’11”, but weighs 220 pounds.

Ivan Rodriguez, who will be inducted into Cooperstown later this month, was only 5’9″, but weighed 205 pounds, so Mejia can get a little bigger and be a catcher for a long time in the big leagues.

On the other hand, Mejia looks like the kind of hitter that is special, and do the Indians want that bat to be subject to the daily grind and pounding a catcher takes, and perhaps shorten his career.

Look at Joe Mauer, who is much bigger than Mejia, but was an elite hitter as a catcher, with an OPS over 800 nine times in his first ten full seasons, and a winner of three batting titles.

He was basically done as a premier hitter at age 30 in 2013.

Do the Indians want to subject Mejia to that pounding or perhaps move him to another position and keep a possibly elite bat in their lineup for a long time.

Obviously, the Tribe front office would rather not deal Mejia, but they may have to if they are making a deal like the one that brought them Andrew Miller last year.  In fact, remember he was involved in the ill-fated deal with Milwaukee that Jonathan Lucroy vetoed.

By the end of the month, we will see if the Indians dodged a bullet with that move, or they don’t think Mejia can become the type of catcher they would be comfortable with defensively.

He is purported to have a great arm and gets out of his crouch quickly, so we would be talking about pitch framing and handling the hurlers.

When you understand what Cleveland wants from the position, you can understand why Mejia is not in the Indians’ plans for this season.

Is he is their plans long term?  We will find out in a couple of weeks.

MW

 

Tribe Won’t Do This, But We Would

The Cleveland Indians should be considered a conservative organization, although at times they do make some aggressive moves.

They may have cost themselves a playoff spot in 2015 with their stubbornness in leaving Francisco Lindor in the minor leagues until his service time would not be an issue.

They give some veterans every opportunity to succeed before replacing them with a possibly more productive young player.  Think about the long rope vets like Michael Bourn and Juan Uribe received from the current regime.

That said, here are some things we would like to see the Indians do, even though we know it will never happen:

A change in position for Jason Kipnis.  Kipnis was an outfielder in college and moved to second base when he was drafted.  However, it is pretty clear to us that Kipnis is the third best defensive option at the position for the Tribe, behind Jose Ramirez and Erik Gonzalez.

The Indians leave outs on the field more than they should because of plays not made up the middle or double plays not turned.

We understand Kipnis is a key member of the team both on the field and in the clubhouse.  The simplest thing would be to just flip flop Ramirez and Kipnis and move the latter to 3B.

In these days, where offense continues to put up numbers, outs are at a premium, you can’t give them away.

The Brantley Dilemma.  Michael Brantley’s return to the everyday lineup is a boon for Terry Francona, with an OPS of over 800 on the season.

However, it is evident that his defense in left field has slipped greatly.  Sunday night, a groundball single went for a double for Jose Iglesias because he couldn’t cut the ball off.

There have been other deep flyballs which haven’t been caught either throughout the season.

Where can Brantley go?  Perhaps first base if Carlos Santana goes elsewhere via free agency after the season, but if Santana resigns, Francona may want to consider a defensive replacement in the late innings.

Swap Gomes and Perez.  The Indians are blessed with two very good defensive catchers who can handle (frame) pitchers.  And we understand Roberto Perez is hitting just .178 with a 517 OPS, compared to Gomes’ 680 OPS.

However, Gomes hasn’t really been an effective hitter since winning a Silver Slugger Award in 2014.  And with men on base, Gomes becomes very impatient at the plate.

We would like to see what Perez would do offensively if he were given the bulk of the playing time.  Our gut feeling is he would hit better.

We would just like to find out, because in a year or two it will be a moot point (hopefully) because of Francisco Mejia.

Keep Mejia/McKenzie.  In order to make a big move at the trade deadline, the Indians will have to trade one of the studs in their farm system.   We would love to not give up either because as a small to mid market team, it is important to keep players like them.

Besides, the Indians have other players that would be desirable to other teams.  Gonzalez is good enough defensively to start for several major league teams, and we would consider moving Bobby Bradley because we fear he could be like Texas’ Joey Gallo.

And don’t forget Yu-Cheng Chang is another shortstop blocked by Frankie Lindor.

The Tribe has a lot of depth in the system, we know it might be a fantasy, but we would like to keep these two after moving Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield last season.

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

 

Big Week For Tribe Leading To Break

The All Star break is a little over a week away for the Cleveland Indians, and it will be a very important stretch for the hometown nine.

First, of the 11 games Cleveland has leading into the break, eight of them are at Progressive Field, where Terry Francona’s team has been mediocre at best, with a record of 17-21 to date.

Second, seven of the contests are against Central Division rivals, the Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers are sitting at 34-43 on the season, six and a half games behind the Indians for the division, and six games out of a wild card spot.

Success against the Motor City Kitties over the next two weekends would pretty much eliminate the Tigers from overtaking the Tribe, and it would probably cause them to be sellers at the July 31st trade deadline.

The Indians also have a three game series at home against the lowly San Diego Padres, who are sitting at 32-46 coming into today.

It appears the Tribe is sitting in a good spot to perhaps take command of the AL Central if they can play well going into the break.

However, outside of last year when Francona’s squad went 14-4 against the Tigers, Detroit has dominated the Tribe and has won four of the six games to date this year.

Cleveland scored half of their runs against the Tigers in one game, a 13-6 win for the Indians in April.  The Tribe has scored three runs or less in four of the six contests between the two teams this season.

Conversely, Mike Matheny’s team has scored five or more runs in four out of six games.

The middle of the Detroit batting order, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Justin Upton have killed the Tribe, and now J.D. Martinez, who has missed all of the games between the two squads is back.

And long time Indians killer, Alex Avila is back and hitting well for Detroit.  He always seems to come up with big hits against the Tribe.

Compounding this weekend’s series is a doubleheader on Saturday, which means someone from the minors, probably Ryan Merritt will start one of those games, and Corey Kluber is pitching today, so he is not available this weekend.

On the other hand, Trevor Bauer, who has been hit hard by Detroit in both starts against them in 2017 will not pitch this weekend either.

Both Kluber and Bauer will probably pitch against the Tigers at Progressive Field right before the all star break.

The other key is to start playing better at home.  Cleveland’s record at Progressive Field has been mediocre to date and it is time to start playing better there.

The starting pitching, save for Josh Tomlin, seems to have righted itself, but the offense needs to pick it up, especially against the Tigers.

On this current homestand, here is the number of runs scored by the Indians:  0, 2, 0, 15, 1, 5.  It’s tough to win scoring two or fewer runs in four of the six games.

Playing well these next 11 games will put the Cleveland Indians in a very good spot entering the second half of the season, which starts with six games in the Bay Area.

Beating the Tigers is a must if you want to accomplish that.

MW

 

Consistency Continues To Elude Tribe

A couple of weeks ago, it appeared the Cleveland Indians started to figure it all out.  They went to Minnesota, swept the first place Twins to go from two games out at the beginning of the series to two games ahead at the end.

Then they went to Baltimore and took three out of four from the Orioles, completing an eight game trip at 7-1.

The Indians were 11th in the American League in runs scored going into the trip, and came home 7th as the bats started to click, led by red hot hitting by Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, and Lonnie Chisenhall.

They came home for a seven game homestand with a 2-1/2 game lead over Minnesota, only to score just two runs in a three game series in which they were swept by the visitors.

Outside of Ramirez, who has put together a remarkable month of June, the bats went silent.  They put plenty of men on base, but couldn’t get a big hit.  It seemed the old rule of the rally finding a struggling hitter was in effect because Yan Gomes left a small village on the basepaths.

The starting pitching wasn’t great, and overall the Cleveland pitching staff now ranks second in the AL in ERA.  Even in the Twins’ series, Trevor Bauer persevered after a tough second inning to get into the 7th, and Corey Kluber struck out 13 in seven frames on Saturday.

Josh Tomlin struggled in the third game, but still only allowed four runs when it was all said and done.

Terry Francona is clearly frustrated with his ballclub, stating again yesterday that this is a different season, and the players can’t keep harkening back to 2016.

Tito should follow his own advise and make some changes in the batting order, something we wrote about a few weeks ago.

The top two hitters, Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis aren’t getting on base in front of Ramirez and Encarnacion.  Lindor’s on base percentage is .313 and Kipnis’ is .286.

Perhaps when Michael Brantley (.360 OBP) is back, he should go into the leadoff spot with Lindor in the #2 hole, and Kipnis dropping into the #5 or #6 hole.

He has already mentioned a leadership void talking about how his club misses guys like Jason Giambi and Mike Napoli.

When Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff traded Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn during the 2015 season, they turned over the team to players like Kipnis, Brantley, and Yan Gomes.

Brantley missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, Kipnis has struggled after missing most of spring training with a sore shoulder, and Gomes hasn’t hit since the 2014 Silver Slugger season.

It’s hard to lead when you are hurt or struggling.

Perhaps the team turned a corner last night when after trailing 8-1 and 9-2, the Indians rallied for a 15-9 victory, their first big comeback win of the season.

We still feel the Cleveland Indians are the best team in the American League Central Division because they have the best pitching mostly because of the bullpen and best hitting in the division.

However, there are warning signs that they may need something to shake them up.  The skipper is clearly concerned.  He can make the first moves by changing the lineup and perhaps going to Roberto Perez as the regular catcher.

Francona’s concern should make for an interesting few weeks prior to the trading deadline.  Just another thing to keep an eye on.

MW

 

 

 

 

Tribe Bats Going Now, Starting Pitching???

After losing the second game of the midweek series against the Los Angeles Dodgers a few days ago, the Cleveland Indians looked nothing like a good baseball team.

They were struggling to score runs and mental mistakes were occurring on a regular basis.  That night, rookie Erik Gonzalez cost the Tribe three runs because he didn’t have his foot on the base in the middle of a sure double play.

It was just another in a recent patch of poor play, and we aren’t talking about physical errors.

Since then, the bats seem to have come alive, mostly because of three hitters who are scolding hot right now, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez, and Lonnie Chisenhall.

However, there is still one area of the team that has to break through and soon, and that is the starting pitching.

Terry Francona needs to get some length out of the starters.  The result of this not improving?  Either the bullpen, which has performed well for the most part, will be fried by the time August hits, or the Indians will not be able to outscore their opponents consistently.

Overall, Cleveland ranks fourth in the American League in team ERA, but most of that work has been done by the bullpen, one of the best, if not the team in the sport.

Outside of Corey Kluber, who is giving Francona over six innings per start, most Tribe pitchers are having problems getting through six frames when they take the hill.

Carlos Carrasco averages over six innings as well, but recently has been having some issues with a pulled muscle in his chest, and when he loses his stuff recently, he loses it very quickly.

Danny Salazar was supposed to be the #3 starter, but he isn’t on the roster currently, due to soreness in his shoulder, and a total lack of confidence.

Trevor Bauer prides himself on his endurance, but he is averaging just over five innings per start, as his pitch count gets to the 100 mark about then.  He must be more economical with his pitches.

Josh Tomlin has allowed 21 more hits than innings tossed thus far in the season, and more often than not, he has struggled to get hitters out.  You wonder how much patience Francona will have this summer.

In yesterday’s doubleheader sweep over Minnesota, the Indians got just four innings from their starter in each game, although Mike Clevinger’s short start was due to the rain.

The Tribe has played 66 games to date, and workhouse Bryan Shaw (no surprise) has been in half of them.  The concerning thing is Andrew Miller has made 30 appearances, throwing 34-2/3 innings, which is far too many.

Here are the innings pitched by starting pitchers over the last 10 games–4, 4, 6-1/3, 5, 7, 5-2/3, 5-1/3, 2-2/3, 6, 3-1/3.  That’s an average of under five innings per start.

Kluber and Carrasco contributed 24-2/3 frames in their four starts, more than half of the total for the 10 game stretch.

That’s why Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff will probably need to find a starting pitcher for at the trade deadline.  They need another starter who can give the skipper innings.

We saw the bullpen leak some oil in the Dodger series, probably because of the heavy workload they’ve had over the last two weeks.  Even Miller, who is usually unhittable, showed he was human in back-to-back appearances vs. Los Angeles.

The biggest thing about the rotation is that was supposed to be the Indians’ strength coming into the season.  To date, they haven’t performed like expected, which is probably why the Indians don’t have the same record as the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox in the AL.

Improvement is needed from within or via a trade, because the burden on the relievers has to be lessened.

MW

 

Tribe Needs A Shake Up…Maybe Change The Batting Order?

We don’t think it is unfair to say the Cleveland Indians are in a funk.  Whether or not it’s a hangover from last season’s World Series run, it is clear the Tribe needs something to shake them out of this.

Maybe they need a walk off win, or a series of solid outings by their starting pitcher, but they definitely need something to get them going in a winning direction.

We know Terry Francona is a patient manager and part of the reason players love to play for him is they know their role and what they will be doing when they come to the ballpark each day.

On the other hand, the Indians have played 59 games and the same team that ranked 2nd in the American League in runs scored now ranks second from the bottom.

In looking at some of the numbers for the Cleveland hitters, we thought a lineup change might be what the doctor ordered.

For example, Michael Brantley has been the #3 hitter for Francona since 2013 for the most part.  Brantley has been very good after basically missing the 2016 season with a shoulder injury, hitting .294 with a 783 OPS.

However, what hasn’t returned for Brantley is his pop, and that could return as he gets more reps and his timing at the plate returns.

Right now, Brantley has only 16 extra base hits for the season, matching the total of Lonnie Chisenhall, who has almost 100 fewer at bats, and just one more than Jason Kipnis, who missed the first month of the season.

He is getting on base, with a .356 on base percentage, so perhaps he should be hitting in the lead off or #2 hole.

In fact, the two highest on base percentages on the team belong to Brantley and Jose Ramirez (.350), so let’s start with the premise that they should hit at the top of the order.

The highest slugging percentages on the squad belong to Chisenhall (.590) who platoons and Francisco Lindor (.496).  Edwin Encarnacion has been hot lately, with his slugging mark up to .446.

Carlos Santana, who has spent most of the year hitting in the anchor spots of the batting order (1st and 4th) is off to a slow start (319/404/724).  Let’s take some pressure off of him to see if he can get going.

So the top of our order would look like this–

Ramirez                3B
Brantley                LF
Lindor                   SS
Encarnacion        DH

For the 5th spot, we consider Jason Kipnis, who has a 740 OPS since the beginning of May, which would push Santana down to the 6th slot, ahead of Chisenhall, because he is only in the lineup vs. right-handers.

The catcher would bat eighth, except vs. southpaws because that would have Chisenhall out of the lineup, and so as to have the “second leadoff man”, either Bradley Zimmer or Austin Jackson hitting ninth.

So we have this–

Ramirez              3B
Brantley              LF
Lindor                 SS
Encarnacion      DH
Kipnis                 2B
Santana              1B
Chisenhall          RF
Gomes                   C
Zimmer               CF

Too often lately, the Indians start games off with two quick outs and Brantley coming up.  Putting the top two on base percentage guys at the top of the order makes perfect sense, and it also makes the opposing pitcher work harder at the beginning of the game.

With the offense struggling, it’s worth a try.  If it doesn’t work, then try a different combination.  The pieces and parts for a good offense are there, it’s a matter of putting them in the right spots.

MW

 

 

 

 

Time For New Tribe Leaders To Emerge

It was not a good trip for the Cleveland Indians.  They went 1-4 and had only one game where they scored more than three runs, and of course, that was their only win.

Terry Francona is questioning the “fight” in his ballclub, who seem a little full of themselves based on last year’s World Series appearance.

From appearances, it seems like there are a few players who want to make highlight plays, to get on MLB Network’s “Quick Pitch”, than making the right baseball play.

They seem to have guys trying to hit home runs and make spectacular defensive plays (like trying to flip a ball out of a glove), rather than do what is needed to win, which they did a year ago.

Reading between the lines, Francona bemoaned not having guys like Jason Giambi and Mike Napoli in the clubhouse, so what he was really saying is that he needs his veterans to step up and lead this current group of Indians.

Players like Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, and Yan Gomes have been here since Francona arrived prior to the 2013 season, and they were exposed to Giambi and Napoli and how they helped police the locker room.

It’s time for those four or perhaps someone else to take what they learned from those veterans, and start taking charge of this group.

Perhaps it isn’t in their DNA to be vocal, but they may just have to get out of their comfort zone, because the 2017 Cleveland Indians seem to be in some kind of malaise that they can’t escape.

In the 57 games the Tribe has played this season, they have scored three runs or less in 28 of them, virtually half of the games.  There is too much talent on the roster for that to happen every other night.

For example, in Wednesday’s game vs. Colorado, the plate umpire, Jim Wolf seemed to have a tight strike zone.  Trevor Bauer walked five batters in less than four innings.  However, Cleveland hitters didn’t draw one walk through the first six innings.

The patience the Indians had at the plate a year ago is now sporadic.  Some days, they work the count very effectively, on others, they go to the plate like they have an early dinner reservation.

And that’s where the veterans have to stress having the same approach on an everyday basis.  Mickey Callaway often talks about how the starting pitchers copy the work that ace Corey Kluber does on a daily basis.

It has to be every game, not just two out of three.

The front office made a statement in 2015 when they traded Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to Atlanta, and it effect handed the team over to the young veteran core mentioned before.

But if Francona is still referencing Giambi and Napoli, then perhaps they aren’t preaching the grit and fight needed to win consistently.

If they can’t do it, then it may have to fall on the team’s best player, Francisco Lindor, to do it.

The point is, somebody in the locker room needs to step up and set a tone similar to what Napoli did last year.  The Tribe may not get going until somebody does.

MW

 

Tribe Seems Stuck In Mud Thus Far.

The Cleveland Indians reached the 1/3rd point of the season yesterday, and they continue to be spinning their wheels to this point.

The Tribe went 15-12 during the first 27 games (1/6th of the campaign), and slipped to 13-14 over the last 27.

That isn’t what anyone was thinking when the Indians broke spring training with a road sweep of the Texas Rangers.

You could blame the below .500 record on the absence of Corey Kluber who basically missed the entire month of May with a bad back.  Not having one of the game’s best pitchers doesn’t help any team.

However, Terry Francona’s team just hasn’t been able to put everything together.  The only consistent part of the ballclub is the back of the bullpen, which has been spectacular.

Other than the trio of Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw, there isn’t one thing for Tito to hang his hat on a regular basis.

The offense has been up and down more than an elevator in a high rise.  After winding up 2nd in the AL in runs scored last year, Cleveland ranks third from the bottom in 2017.

In 26 of the 54 games played to date, the Indians have scored three runs or less, and they are 7-19 in those games.  When you are scoring three or less in basically half the time you take the field, it is difficult to put together a sustained period of winning.

On the other hand, the Tribe has scored 8+ runs a dozen times.  So, as you can plainly see, it really is feast or famine for the Cleveland bats.

This team also doesn’t have a come from behind victory that fuels a winning streak from time to time.  The only walk-off win this year came in the home opener, way back in early April.

Last year, once the Indians got the first walk off, they followed it with a bunch of them, so there is hope in that regard.

The loss of Kluber hurt because of his reliability and high level of consistency.  Carlos Carrasco has been good, but he had issue with a chest muscle over the last month.

Danny Salazar has been moved to the bullpen for the time being, mostly because he’s has a problem giving Francona at least five innings.

Without Kluber, the most consistent starters have been the two youngest in the rotation–Mike Clevinger and the much maligned Trevor Bauer.

That can’t give Tito and the front office a warm and fuzzy feeling.

On the other hand, perhaps Kluber’s return will steady the rotation, and things will improve greatly over the next 27 contests.

The defense and baserunning also seem to have gone backwards to date.  We talked about improving on the bases last week, but the defense, particularly in the outfield has been a concern.

It has improved since Bradley Zimmer was called up, but one thing to keep an eye on is Michael Brantley’s defense, which seems to have declined greatly over the past three seasons.

Francona spoke about a lack of veteran leadership with this group, that they missed a Jason Giambi or Mike Napoli in the clubhouse.

If true, then it’s time for Jason Kipnis and Brantley to be assertive with this group.  There is too much talent to be just two games over .500 at this time of the year.

It isn’t panic, but it is fine to be a little concerned with the 2017 Cleveland Indians.  It’s time to start establishing that they are the team to beat in the AL Central Division.

MW