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

 

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Best Tribe Era Ever: 1994–???

The first baseball year we can remember is 1965.  As a lifelong Clevelander, our dad was a fan of the Indians, and we have never changed allegiances.

It wasn’t easy to stay loyal.

In that ’65 season, the Tribe finished 81-81 in fifth place in the ten team American League.  Little did we know that was kind of the norm for the first 29 years we followed the Cleveland Indians.

1968 was the year of the pitcher, and it was also the best finish by Cleveland between the time we started being aware of the team and when they moved into Jacobs Field in 1994.

The Tribe went 86-75 in the last season of the true pennant race, when you won your league and went to the World Series, or you went home.

Even then, Cleveland finished 16-1/2 games behind the Tigers, so they weren’t really in contention.

The closest to being in the race we experienced was 1974, when the Indians were in first place as late as July 12th, and were just two games out on August 6th.

However, they went 20-35 the rest of the way and finished 4th, 14 games out of first.

The Indians had good players, guys like Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Buddy Bell, Ray Fosse, Bert Blyleven, Graig Nettles, and Chris Chambliss, but of the franchise’s top 20 players of all time in WAR, only McDowell played in Cleveland between 1965 and 1990.

Remember, the franchise played in three World Series in its history from 1901 through 1994.

Since the move out of old Municipal Stadium, everything has changed.  First, the Tribe has appeared in three World Series in the last 22 seasons.

We’ve seen great players, such as Jim Thome, who likely will be the first Cleveland player who spent the majority of his career as an Indian to be elected to the Hall of Fame since Lou Boudreau in 1971.

Other great talents wearing a Tribe uniform in that time frame are Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Omar Vizquel, and Kenny Lofton, and it continues today to Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, and Corey Kluber.

We have already said if Lindor plays the majority of his career in Cleveland, he will be regarded as the best player ever to where an Indians uniform, and Kluber may rank behind just Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Bob Lemon as the best starting pitchers in the Tribe history.

There were no players of that caliber when we watched the Indians growing up.

Since 1995, we have seen ten teams (including this year) that will advance to the playoffs.  We understand baseball is different now, they split to two divisions after expansion in 1969, and to three divisions in ’94.

And while just two teams made the post-season before ’69, now ten teams in the majors advance.  However, outside of the major market behemoths in Boston and New York, the Cleveland Indians have made the post-season more often than any other American League team since 1994.

That’s a tribute to the organization and it’s really incredible considering that from 2002 to 2012, a period of 11 years, they made the playoffs just once.

So, to older fans, these are the glory days for the Cleveland Indians.  Great players, very good teams, excellent organization.

There is only one thing missing…eliminating the shadow of 1948, currently the longest World Championship drought in the game.

MW

 

The Tribe’s Remarkable Streak Carries Remarkable Numbers.

By now, we think everyone knows that the Cleveland Indians are on a 19 game winning streak, and tonight they will attempt to tie the American League record of 20 straight wins, set by the Oakland A’s in 2002.

Those are the A’s portrayed in the movie “Moneyball”.

There are a lot of remarkable numbers and statistics that go along with the streak, but in our opinion, the one that stands out is that the Tribe has allowed just 32 runs during the 19 victories, and six of those came in the first win, against Boston.

That means over the next 18 contests, opponents have scored just 26 runs, an average of only 1.4 per game.

No matter what kind of team you have, you will win a lot of games if you only have to get two runs to win.

However, Terry Francona’s crew has scored more than two runs per game, they have scored 132 runs during the streak, averaging 6.9 runs per game.

That also computes to a run differential of 100 runs in these games.  With the Indians leading the AL in that category, the second place team is the Yankees, and they have scored 152 more runs than their opponents…for the entire season.

At the All Star break, it seemed impossible that the Tribe could get the best record in the AL and thus have home field advantage in the league playoffs, but right now, they have that distinction right now, although there is still three weeks on the schedule.

Even with that record, according to their run differential on the season, Cleveland is below where they should be record wise, their real mark being 88-56, while their Pythagorean win/loss is 94-50.

More numbers that boggle your mind.  The Indians’ pitching staff have six shutouts in the 19 games.  They have only one three one-run games, while only two others have been decided by two runs.

This means there have only been five close games in the bunch.

By contrast, Francona’s squad has won four games by 10 or more runs, and in total have emerged victorious by five or more runs in eight contests.

Eleven of the wins came on the road, meaning eight have come at home.  They had an overall scoreless streak of 30 innings, starting in game one vs. Boston, and ended by Corey Kluber, of all people.

They carried a 37 inning scoreless skein at Progressive Field, which just ended last Saturday afternoon against the Orioles.

Mike Clevinger has not allowed a run during the streak, making three starts, and pitching six scoreless innings in each of them.

Trevor Bauer has four wins, Kluber and Clevinger have won three, while Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Ryan Merritt have two victories.

Cleveland’s magic number was 33 before they stopped losing, and it is now six.  There is a real possibility the Indians could have a champagne celebration before they leave town on Sunday night.

Perhaps the craziest thing is that Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Andrew Miller haven’t made an appearance on the field during this span.  That speaks to the depth the front office has accumulated this season.

Because of the streak, Jay Bruce has been on the roster for 33 games, and the Indians are 28-5.

It’s a remarkable run for this baseball team, and it keeps on going.  After a season with mixed results for four months, the Tribe is the talk of baseball right now.

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 Gets Through August Challenge With Flying Colors.

The Cleveland Indians entered the month of August facing a stern test.

The schedule was full of post-season contenders, with home and home series with the Red Sox and Yankees, an 11 game trip to Tampa, Minneapolis, and Kansas City, and a couple of game vs. Colorado.

They started the month 10 games over .500, and they ended it 20 over the break even mark thanks to a 19-9 month.

What is more remarkable is Terry Francona’s squad had several important players missing time with injuries.

Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Andrew Miller all missed most of this important stretch of games with injuries.  And yet, the Tribe rolled on.

They did it first and foremost with incredible pitching, mostly from the starting rotation.

After allowing 12 runs to the Red Sox on August 1st, in what should be the Major League Baseball game of the year, gave up more than four runs in a game just five times the rest of the month.

Three of those games came consecutively in home series vs. Boston, and Cleveland won the last of those games, a 13-6 win over Sox ace Chris Sale, a day after the Tribe went through a two game stretch where the offense couldn’t buy a hit.

The staff had a streak of 30 straight scoreless innings, which ironically ended with ace Corey Kluber on the mound.

Despite all the injuries, the offense pitched in too, scoring five or more runs in half of the 28 games.

The hitting was revitalized with the addition of Jay Bruce, acquired from the Mets.  Upon arrival, Bruce hit in his first 11 starts, contributing four home runs and 13 runs batted in.

The injuries to Brantley and Chisenhall necessitated the deal, and give the front office and ownership a gold star for seeing the club needed a boost.

Depth in the farm system paid dividends with Giovanny Urshela, Erik Gonzalez, and Yandy Diaz contributing to the Indians’ success.

Among the position players, these are the standouts–

Carlos Santana:  997 OPS, 7 HR, 15 RBI
Edwin Encarnacion:  Batted just .220 for the month, but belted 10 homers
Francisco Lindor:  9 HR, 17 RBI
Diaz:  8 for 20, 5 RBI

Pitching wise, there are more exceptional statistics–

Kluber:  5-1, 1.96 ERA, .146 batting average against
Trevor Bauer:  5-0, 2.31 ERA, 44 strikeouts in 39 innings
Ryan Merritt:  2-0, 1.15 ERA
Joe Smith:  9 appearances, 8 of them scoreless
Tyler Olson:  8-2/3 scoreless innings

What does this period of great play mean for Francona’s club?

When Brantley, Chisenhall, and Kipnis come back, it could be a lethal batting order, one that has Chisenhall and maybe Santana hitting as low as seven and eight in the lineup.

It also buys more time for Miller to rest his knee.  It wouldn’t bother me if the lefty wasn’t held out until September 15th, giving him two weeks to get ready for what seems like an inevitable post-season berth.

Same with Brantley.  He hasn’t started baseball activities yet, but as long as he can get two weeks of play under his belt, he should be ready for the playoffs.

Will this mean another World Series berth for the Indians?  We can’t say that, baseball is not that kind of sport.  However, as usual, a Terry Francona led team is playing better ball in the second half of the season.

They passed their toughest test of the season with ease, and the magic number (right now 24) countdown can start right now.

MW

 

 

 

Tribe In Command In AL Central Now

With this recent hot streak, the Cleveland Indians have done what has been expected since the first game of the 2017 season, they have taken command of the American League Central Division.

They lead the Minnesota Twins by six games with 41 to go.  If the Tribe goes 21-20 during the rest of the schedule, then the Twins will have to have a 28-13 record to top Cleveland.

Since Paul Molitor’s team is just three games over .500 for the season, and really have only two reliable starters in Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, that’s not a likely scenario.

This hot streak has come about due to tremendous pitching.  Since the 12-10 loss to Boston at Fenway Park on August 1st, Terry Francona’s pitching staff has held opponents to three runs or less in 13 of the last 16 games.

In two of the other three games, both losses, the opposing team scored four runs.  Only an 8-1 loss to New York on August 6th provides a bad day for the pitching staff, and that game was partially due to a misplay in rightfield by Abraham Almonte.

Most of the recent surge has been done on the road.  An 11 game trek through four cities seemed a tad daunting at the start, but the Indians responded with an 8-2 record with one game remaining today in Kansas City.

This trip has been so long that Jay Bruce has been with the team over a week and still hasn’t played his first game at Progressive Field with the Tribe.

Actually, today’s game is the end of a stretch of 16 out of 22 contests on the road.  And has they have all year, Cleveland has been very good away from home with a 13-8 mark to date in that stretch.

After a six game homestand, the Tribe will embark on another 11 game roadie from late August through the Labor Day holiday.

The starting pitching has been the catalyst for the hot streak, but the front office can feel free to take a bow as well.

Getting Joe Smith at the July 31st trade deadline didn’t seem like a big move, but the sidearming righty has made six scoreless appearances with Cleveland, allowing just two hits.

His addition gives Francona another option he can trust in close games along with Bryan Shaw, who has been much better with a reduced workload, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

Bruce has been another godsend to date.  The offense was struggling when the move to get the veteran was made, as Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Michael Brantley were all out of the lineup.

The veteran came over from the Mets and immediately started raking.  In his 10 games with Cleveland, he has hit .389 with 3 homers and 12 RBIs.

And as we said previously, he has yet to play his first game at Progressive Field.  Our guess is he will be greeted with “Bruuuuuuce” chants upon his arrival tomorrow night.

In our view, Bruce looks like a different hitter than the one we remember in Cincinnati.  He seems to have a much shorter stroke.

As for what happens when Brantley and Chisenhall return, our guess is the latter will play centerfield with Bradley Zimmer coming in late for defense.

Francona will have a much longer lineup when they comeback, with players like Chisenhall and perhaps Carlos Santana hitting as low as 7th or 8th.

The schedule is still tough with the next 11 games against Boston, New York, and Kansas City.  However, if the starting pitching continues in this manner, the Cleveland Indians and their fans will start counting down the magic number very soon.

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

 

 

Tribe Adds A Big Bat In Bruce

The Cleveland Indians are certainly a different organization than they were five years ago.

After watching their offense sputter over the last four games, scoring just one run (Austin Jackson’s bloop single that tied the game on Tuesday) that didn’t come on a home run over the last four games, they decided to add some pop to the batting order, acquiring slugging outfielder Jay Bruce from the Mets for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan.

And reportedly, the Indians got him because they were willing to pay the remainder of the outfielder’s salary, something the Yankees weren’t willing to do.

With Lonnie Chisenhall still on the disabled list and Michael Brantley going on today with a sprained ankle, the organization couldn’t go with an outfield of Austin Jackson or Brandon Guyer in right, a slumping Bradley Zimmer in center, and Abraham Almonte in left for even a short time.

The 30-year-old Bruce is hitting .256 with 29 home runs and 75 RBI (847 OPS) in 102 games this season.

When Bruce played with the Reds before being moved to the Mets at the trade deadline a year ago, we felt he was a product of playing his home games in Great American Ballpark, a known hitter’s paradise.

With Citi Field being a pitcher’s park, Bruce has been very good on the road this season, with 18 dingers and a 919 OPS.

He is also been dominant at Progressive Field, hitting .384 with a 1.031 OPS in 86 at bats.

And the defensive metrics say he’s been a solid defender in right field this season, a drastic change for the better from when he was in Cincinnati.

He is a high strikeout, low walk guy, having been punched out 102 times this year, with only 39 walks.

Hopefully, Bruce can help the inconsistent Tribe offense, which has scored three runs or less in 47 of their 111 games (42%) this season.  That’s not acceptable for a team with post-season aspirations.

The addition of Bruce could allow Terry Francona to move Carlos Santana back up to the leadoff spot in the batting order, replacing the slumping Jason Kipnis, whose batting average has dropped to .225 on the year, with an on base percentage of .285.

With the injuries, management had to realize they had to lengthen the lineup, which yesterday had Zimmer, Almonte, and Roberto Perez in the bottom three spots.

The league seems to have made adjustments to Zimmer, who is 0 for 17 in August, and the extending playing time has affected Jackson, who is 5 for his last 24.

Bruce will probably play right, with Guyer and Almonte alternating in left and Zimmer and Jackson splitting time in center.

There is speculation that perhaps Brantley and Chisenhall are more seriously injured than originally thought, but we believe the front office couldn’t think of going with an unproductive outfield for even another week, especially with the upcoming schedule of 11 road games, all against playoff contenders.

It also sends a message in the clubhouse that the front office isn’t satisfied with the way the team is playing since the All Star break, and they also want to do more than just win the American League Central.

Considering the cost, it’s a no brainer move for the Indians.  Hopefully, Bruce keeps slugging and the seemingly dormant Tribe offense gets a jolt of energy.

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