One Third Of The Way In, Tribe Kind Of Treading Water

On the eve of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland completed the first third of their schedule with a 9-1 win over the White Sox, a game in which Corey Kluber earned his 8th win of the season.

That win made the Tribe 29-25 after 54 games, and in the last 27 games, Terry Francona’s squad went 14-13, slightly less than the 15-12 in the first 27 contests.

The offense is back on track, jumping up to third in the American League in runs scored per game.  They are sixth in on base percentage and third in slugging as a team.

Unfortunately, they are ninth in the league in staff ERA, and that’s despite having three starting pitchers with ERAs under 3.14 (Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger).

The offense has been led, or maybe a more apt phrase is carried, by Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Michael Brantley, who have formed a lethal top of the order.

Ramirez and Lindor both rank in the top five in the AL in extra base hits, the former is tied for second in the league in home runs, and the latter is tied for third in doubles.

And all three are in the top ten in OPS, with Ramirez ranking 4th, Lindor 7th, and Brantley 8th.

Edwin Encarnacion has gotten hot with the weather, now ranking in the top ten in the league in home runs with 14.

With Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, and Tyler Naquin getting ready to come back from injury, Francona and the staff will have difficult decisions to make in terms of the roster.

Rookie Greg Allen is making it very tough for the decision makers.  Not counted on to be a big contributor this season, the switch-hitter has hit .286 thus far, and has cut down on strikeouts over the last 11 games.

When the injured return, you have to think it will be difficult for Rajai Davis to keep a roster spot.

The problem for the pitching staff continues to be the bullpen, as 43% of the runs the Indians have allowed this season have come in the 7th inning or later.  In addition, the relievers have coughed up more than a third of the dingers allowed by the pitching staff (28 of the 82) so far in 2018.

We thought Zach McAllister was prone to the gopher ball last season, allowing eight in 62 innings.  To date this year, he has allowed six in 21-2/3 frames.

Although he hasn’t been primarily a reliever, Josh Tomlin has allowed a whopping 18 round trippers in 36 innings.  He’s pitched in 12 games, and only NOT allowed a homer in four of them.

He leads the league in that category despite pitching 26 innings less than anyone else in the top five.

We understand the front office is aware of the problem, and brought in veteran Oliver Perez yesterday, and it may be the trade deadline before a permanent solution is sought, but until it’s fixed, it will be a very nervous time for Tribe fans in the late innings.

Yes, it’s true the Indians are 2.5 games ahead in the AL Central.  It’s also a fact that the second place team, Detroit, is in rebuilding mode and isn’t even over .500 for the young season.

Cleveland was supposed to be one of the four best teams in the American League heading into the season, so from that standpoint they’ve underachieved.

On the other hand, if the Tribe fixes its bullpen, there is no reason they can’t make a deep run in the post-season with their starting rotation and hitting.

Perhaps in the next 27 games, we will start to see answers for the relief corps.

MW

 

Advertisements

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

 

 

Second Golden Age For Tribe Fans Is Now

With today being Opening Day, many fans of the Cleveland Indians remember wistfully the Tribe teams of the 1990’s, when Progressive Field, then known as Jacobs Field just opened, and the Indians were built around a powerful offense.

We all know the names:  Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Hall of Famer Jim Thome, and Omar Vizquel.  They ruled the American League Central Division and went to two World Series, although they lost in both 1995 and 1997.

Now, Tribe fans are experiencing a second golden age for the franchise, with five consecutive winning seasons under the tutelage of Terry Francona.  They’ve won two division titles, a wild card spot, and won the American League pennant in 2016.

Yet somehow, it feels like this group of Indians doesn’t get the respect around the city that the guys who played in the 90’s get.

We heard a radio talk show expressing surprise that Francisco Lindor was one of the favorites in Las Vegas to win the American League MVP.

It wouldn’t be a shock around the nation.  Lindor is one of baseball’s best players, with two top ten finishes in the MVP voting before he turned 24 years old.  He’s a gold glove winner and a silver slugger winner in less than three full seasons in the big leagues.

We have said it before, but it bears repeating.  If the young shortstop plays ten seasons in a Cleveland uniform, he will be regarded as the greatest position player in Indians’ history.

Tribe fans also get to watch another of the young, exciting players in the sport in Jose Ramirez, who by the way, finished third in the AL MVP race last season.

The switch-hitter has been overlooked because he wasn’t the highly regarded prospect like Lindor, but over the last two seasons, he has batted .315 with 40 home runs, 159 runs batted in, and has 141 extra base hits.

All that while being moved around between second base and third base.

Those two give the franchise a solid base for excellence over the next several seasons.

Unlike those 90’s teams, this group has one of the major league’s best pitching staffs, led by Corey Kluber, who is the only Cleveland pitcher in history to win multiple Cy Young Awards.

A third such award puts Kluber among the all time great hurlers in the game’s history, and without question he is one of the four best starting pitchers right now in the sport.

We also get to witness a great bullpen, led by Cody Allen, and perhaps baseball’s best relief pitcher in Andrew Miller.  Miller and Kluber had the Tribe on the precipice of a world title in ’16.

Since being acquired from New York at the trade deadline that season, he has pitched 91-2/3 innings, striking out 141 and allowing just 45 hits.

We haven’t even mentioned Michael Brantley, who was in the top three of the MVP voting in 2014, Jason Kipnis, a two time all star, and Carlos Carrasco, who was 4th in the Cy Young voting last season.

Oh, and don’t forget Francona, who is probably headed to Cooperstown as a manager with two world titles in Boston, and a third appearance with the Tribe.

As someone who watched this team with great interest from 1965-1994, a horrible stretch of mostly losing baseball, it was great to see a fairly quick turnaround after the original Jacobs Field group disbanded.

The Indians are back as one of baseball’s best teams.  Now, about that World Series title drought…

MW

 

 

 

The Tribe Will Continue To Dominate Central in 2018

If you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, it seems funny to hear this, but since the three division format was adopted by Major League Baseball in 1994, the Cleveland Indians, yes, the team that plays right here in downtown, has dominated the division.

The Tribe won its 9th division title a year ago, and we believe they will add a 10th in 2018.

Here is a list of AL Central Division crowns since ’94:

Cleveland      9
Minnesota    6
Chicago         4
Detroit          4
Kansas City  1

However, the only Central Division teams that have won the World Series are the White Sox in 2005 and the Royals in 2015.

Here is another tidbit about the Indians’ success since Progressive Field (nee Jacobs Field) opened in ’94.  Only the behemoth AL franchises, the Yankees and Red Sox, have made more post-season appearances than Cleveland’s 10 (they were the wild card in 2013).

And the Tribe’s 10 appearances isn’t too far behind the Red Sox’ 12.

Terry Francona’s squad won 102 games a year ago, and you can make a very good argument that they underachieved.   Their Pythagorean won-loss record had them at 108 wins.

Surely, winning 100 games is a tremendous feat and we would not predict that happening again, but the Indians did win the division by 17 games, and have pretty much the same cast of characters returning.

You would think some kind of regression could be coming for the team’s stars, but then you remember the two best position players on the roster are Francisco Lindor, who won’t be 25 until after the ’18 season concludes, and Jose Ramirez, who will play most of the campaign at 25 years old.

If the peak of a baseball player’s career is between ages 27-29, it is scary to think those two should still be getting better.

Add in perhaps the sports best starting rotation, led by two time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, and none of the top four starters are older than 32 years old, and you can see why optimism reigns for baseball fans in northeast Ohio.

Kluber won the award, but the Tribe’s #2 starter, Carlos Carrasco, finished fourth in the voting.  Pretty good, eh?

Francona also has two of the best relievers in the sport at his disposal in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.  Miller’s numbers are incredible, he allowed just 31 hits in 62-2/3 innings last year while striking out 95 batters, as Tito used him in the highest leverage situations.

Allen fanned 92 in 67 innings as the closer.  So, when Cleveland has a lead late in a game, they usually keep it.

We also believe Jason Kipnis will bounce back from a injury plagued 2017 season where he played only 90 games.  He will look more like the player who belted 23 homers and had an 811 OPS in ’17.

Yes, the team did lose Carlos Santana and replaced him with Yonder Alonso, who has had just one season of power hitting under his belt in the bigs, and that worries us.

But the Tribe could be in a position to add two bats without making a trade this season in Yandy Diaz, who hit .350 in AAA last year and had a .352 on base percentage with the Tribe in 156 at bats, and Francisco Mejia, who will be getting some time in the OF at Columbus this summer.

Mejia could very well wind up being part of the Tribe’s “Big Three” with Lindor and Ramirez.

Many have said the “window” for the Tribe is closing because Miller and Allen are free agents following this season.  We don’t believe that because of the presence of Lindor, Ramirez, Kluber, etc.

The Indians teams from 1994-2001 are well remembered here, but this current run for the Tribe, the Tito Era is you will, has now spanned for five seasons, and could rival the former group in longevity.

So, sit back and enjoy.  This group could bring “The Land” its first World Series title in 70 years.

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

Reflecting On Kluber’s Magnificence

The Cleveland Indians lost the American League Division Series about a month ago, and it still is a disappointment, not in the team, but considering how well the Tribe was playing going into the post-season, we all fantasized about winning the World Series.

That feeling should not make everyone overlook the fact the Indians won 102 games, the second highest total in franchise history and had the best record in the American League.

They have four finalists for the Gold Glove.  SS Francisco Lindor is trying to win his second in a row, and he is joined by Jose Ramirez at third base, Carlos Santana at first, and Yan Gomes behind the plate in finishing in the top three in the voting.

Yesterday, more accolades came the Indians’ way.

Terry Francona is a finalist for AL Manager of the Year, an award he has won twice before, in 2013 and 2016.

Jose Ramirez is second Tribesman in the last four years (Michael Brantley in 2014) to finish in the top three of the MVP voting.  Ramirez had a remarkable season, setting career highs in every major statistical category save for stolen bases.

However, the highest honor will probably go to Corey Kluber.  Kluber should become the first Indian pitcher to win two Cy Young Awards during his tenure with the Indians, capping a season in which he went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and 265 strikeouts in 203 innings.

He would be the 19th pitcher in the history of the award (started in 1956) to win it multiple times.

It will also mean that Kluber will have finished in the top three for this award three times, finishing third a year ago.

There are four dominant starting pitchers in the sport right now:  Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, and Kluber.

In the past four years, the right-hander has led in the AL in wins twice (’14 and ’17), in complete games twice (’15 and ’17), in shutouts the past two seasons, and in ERA this past campaign.

He has finished in the top four in strikeouts each of the past four seasons, and has ranked first or second in pitchers’ WAR in three of the past four years.

Kluber’s career WAR total (according to BaseballReference.com) is now at 26.9.  Consider the franchise’s all time leaders among pitchers in this category:

Bob Feller              63
Stan Coveleski      51
Bob Lemon           48
Mel Harder           43
Addie Joss             43
Sam McDowell    41
Early Wynn         39
George Uhle         37
Wes Farrell          36
Willis Hudlin       33

With a season with a WAR of six next season (that was Kluber’s 2016 season), he would tie Hudlin for the 10th highest total in club history.  And he would have done it in a five year span.

It would not be a reach for Kluber to wind up as high as 4th in Tribe history among hurlers, behind the Indians’ Hall of Fame triumvirate of Feller, Coveleski, and Lemon.

If he wins in 2017, keep in mind there are only nine pitchers (could be a 10th if Scherzer wins this year) to win three or more Cy Youngs.

And those pitchers are a who’s who of the greatest pitchers in the last 60 years:  Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, and Kershaw.

He won’t turn 32 until early next season (April 10th).

That’s a historical perspective on Kluber, who will find out next week if he will be recognized once again as the best pitcher in the AL.

It’s been a remarkable four years indeed.

MW

 

Yankees A Huge Challenge For Tribe

Anyone who is an ardent fan of baseball knows that it is a funny game.  It is probably the one sport where the best team not winning the World Series would be the norm.

The Cleveland Indians finished the regular season with the American League’s best record, so they get the winner of the wild card game as their opponent in the Division Series.

Unfortunately, the winner of that game, the New York Yankees, might just be the second best team in the AL.

The Indians led the league in run differential, outscoring their opponents by an incredible 254 runs.  The Yankees were second, with a +198 mark, just slightly ahead of Houston’s +196.

It is not the ideal situation to play the second best team in the league in a best-of-five series.

Many people have focused on Terry Francona’s decision to start Trevor Bauer in game one, but we have always thought the even numbered games are most important in a series until the deciding game, and that may be Tito’s thought process in using ace Corey Kluber in the second game.

If Bauer wins the series opener, how great will it be to have Kluber going with a chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead.

And if the Indians lose game one, you have perhaps the AL’s best pitcher to tie up the series at a game apiece.

Another reason is Francona seems hesitant to use Josh Tomlin as a starter.  If Kluber pitches game one, Tomlin would seem to be the most likely candidate to pitch a potential fourth game.

If Bauer goes in the first game, Kluber still would be the game five starter, and Bauer can go in game four, backed up by the bullpen, which has starters Danny Salazar, Mike Clevinger, and Tomlin as members.

There is no question the Yankees are a different team outside of the bandbox that is new Yankee Stadium, but amazingly, they pitch better at home too.

New York has a 817 OPS as a team at home, but that figure drops to 755 on the road.  As a comparison, the Indians have a 782 OPS at Progressive Field, and a 793 OPS away from home, another reason the Cleveland tied Houston for the best road record in the AL at 53-28.

The Yankees also have a very good bullpen, perhaps second only to the Indians.

Just as Francona can shorten a game by going to Joe Smith, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen after five innings, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi can do the same with David Robertson, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and Aroldis Chapman.

It will be very important for the Tribe to get an early lead in each game.

These games will probably be long.  The two teams involved are one and two in the American League in walks, but the big difference is in strikeouts.

The Indians have a strikeout staff leading the AL in whiffs, and the Yankees rank 6th in the league in fanning.  New York’s pitching staff ranks 4th in strikeouts, but Indians’ hitters are second to last in the junior circuit in whiffing.

The one decided edge the Tribe has is in the starting pitching.  While Luis Severino is one of the sports’ best young starters, Francona has three of perhaps the top ten starters in the AL at his disposal.

It is very likely that this Yankee team is better than the Red Sox or Blue Jays teams the Indians met last year in the post-season.

Make no mistake, this series will be a challenge.

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