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

 

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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

 

 

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

 

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 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 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