The Cleveland Indians completed 1/6th of their season last night with a 15-12 record, putting them on a pace for 90 wins. However, since they reside in the American League Central Division, they still have a three game lead over the Detroit Tigers.
Terry Francona’s team hasn’t had very smooth sailing thus far. The offense, which ranked second in the AL in runs scored a year ago, is third from the bottom this season, ahead of just Baltimore and Kansas City.
What is crazy is the Tribe is 5th in the league in home runs, but because they are dead last in on base percentage, they have had issues putting together big innings, and have pretty much been a feast or famine, home run or nothing, attack.
Right now, only two batters, Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez, are having very good offensive seasons. We aren’t worried about players like Francisco Lindor and to a lesser extent, Edwin Encarnacion, whose only worry is his age.
We know Jason Kipnis has had some hard hit outs, but his 473 OPS is worrisome because of his off year in 2017. Yonder Alonso looks like his new approach at the plate (launch angle) continues to work (8 HR, 21 RBI already), but Bradley Zimmer, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer and Roberto Perez have really struggled with a bat in their hands.
The biggest concern here is Davis, because he is 37 years old, and with just two seasons since 2009 with an OPS over 700, isn’t a real good offensive player anyway. The Indians have to get better production against southpaws.
The other growing problem is the bullpen, even when Andrew Miller is healthy.
Here is how we breakdown the relief corps–
Totally reliable: Cody Allen, Miller
Comfortable with them in the game: Dan Otero, Tyler Olson
Nervous as hell: Nick Goody, Zack McAllister, Matt Belisle
We know Francona has a pecking order for his ‘pen, using Allen and Miller usually only with the lead, and it appears Olson has worked his way into that situation too.
Otero has kind of been the long man, if the team has one, but he’s got the best track record of the non-totally reliable guys, so we wouldn’t be surprised if he starts gettinsome 7th inning work with the lead.
Clearly, the front office needs to fortify this area of the team, and soon, because it is affecting Tito’s managing.
He’s staying with starters longer, letting pitch counts climb and it’s just May 1st. He also brought Allen into a game he was trailing last night.
Josh Tomlin is another concern. As phenomenal as the top four starters have been, Tomlin has been that bad, giving up a whopping 10 homers in just 18-2/3 innings.
In three of his four starts, he hasn’t really given the Indians a chance to win, giving up a big inning early in games.
Right now, there aren’t any real alternatives, but if Adam Plutko pitches well in Thursday’s doubleheader against Toronto, Tomlin could have a problem staying in the rotation.
Francona and the front office may have to patch things together with the fifth starter and the bullpen until the trade deadline at the end of July. But they can’t overuse the rotation, as good as they have been.
It’s still relatively early, but not early enough that you can’t observe some trends. Having two pitchers who are relatively unusable isn’t good.
On the other hand, it gives the front office something to work on.