Tribe Dilemma: Brantley, Santana, Bruce

In a little over a week from now, the baseball hot stove season will be upon us, three days after the World Series ends.

Although we were hopeful at the end of the regular season that the Indians would be involved in the Fall Classic for the second straight year, the reality of the post-season for the national pastime creeped in and Terry Francona’s team was eliminated in the Division Series.

The biggest decision the front office has to deal with immediately is whether or not to pick up the club option on Michael Brantley, and how that decision affects the future of Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce with the Tribe.

Although Brantley has been with the Indians since 2009, he is actually the youngest of the trio as he will not turn 31 until May 15th next year.

Brantley is a professional hitter.  He makes contact and gets on base on a regular basis, a career .349 on base percentage.  He is also consistent, hitting at least .285 for the last five years.

But he has the least pop of the three, a career .423 slugging percentage, and unfortunately has played only 101 games over the last two seasons.  And he had surgery on his ankle since the end of the year, and may not be available for five months.

His defense has declined in leftfield over the past couple of years, and with another leg issue, that seems unlikely to be reversed, so he may have to be a 1B or DH going forward, something we predicted a few years ago.

And the latter spot isn’t really an option with Cleveland, with Edwin Encarnacion on the roster.

If Brantley has to be moved, it would seem to force Santana out, and he is probably the best player of the three.

The switch-hitter has a lifetime .363 on base percentage and a higher slugging percentage than Brantley.  He’s also made himself into an excellent first baseman defensively.

He is the oldest of the three, turning 32 early next season.  He’s also a free agent, and if another team offered more than three years, the Tribe front office might be inclined to pass.

Bruce, who came over in August and made an immediate impact, is probably the least consistent, and is also a free agent this winter.

His 832 OPS in 2017 was his highest since 2012, and the third highest of his career.

We can’t forget he had back-to-back seasons in ’14 and ’15 where he hit .217 and .226 in hitter friendly Great American Ball Park.

Complicating the decision is what does the future hold for Jason Kipnis, who seems to be viewed as an outfielder now by the Tribe brass.

Our guess is the team will pick up Brantley’s option because of his tenure with the organization, although we would pass because of the uncertainty that he can play the outfield going forward.

Santana would be the priority because of his impact on offense and defense, and that he’s a switch-hitter.

He’s happy here and might sign a more club friendly deal to remain an Indian too.

Our second choice would be Bruce because he can still be a serviceable outfielder and he has revitalized his career by making a swing adjustment to hit the ball in the air more.

The Indians have spent more in recent years, but they aren’t a big market team, meaning they still have to be smart about who they spend big money on.  They can’t have a lot of cash tied up in a player who isn’t available.

That’s why we would pass on Brantley.  The organization probably won’t because that’s how they operate.

Still, it’s the biggest decision of the off-season.

MW

 

 

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Tribe’s Loss Stings, But Future Is Still Bright.

While it is certainly a shock to our system that the Cleveland Indians’ season ended abruptly Wednesday night, our biggest takeaway is that it’s baseball.

Look at it this way, the best team in football wins around 85% of the regular season games.  In basketball, that figure is around 75%.

In baseball, a team that wins 100 games in the regular season, is victorious in 62% of the contests.  A five game period like the one the Tribe just went through in the Division Series, occurs in June or July all the time.

The Indians didn’t hit, scoring just five runs combined in the last three games, and that isn’t going to get it done.  You have to get more offense.

Players like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion couldn’t get a hit, let alone one in the clutch, and all three had slumps during the regular season.

We questioned not using Mike Clevinger as a fourth starter in this series and not starting Yandy Diaz at third base, and those are legitimate now as well.  The former wasn’t the bullpen weapon Terry Francona thought he would be, and perhaps Diaz’ bat could have helped the offense.

However, people thinking there will be drastic changes, or need to be drastic changes are just wrong.

As it stands right now, the Indians are the favorite to win the American League Central Division in 2018, and their roster is set up to contend for the next few years.

And as we just learned and should remember from last year’s run to the World Series, once you get in the playoffs, you have a good chance to win it all.

We have said many times that the best thing about the Indians is their two best players are 25 (Ramirez) and 23 (Lindor).  And they have one of best prospects in the game in Francisco Mejia coming soon.

Where Mejia will play is up for debate at this time.

And don’t forget about Bradley Zimmer, who tailed off after a hot start, but should improve in his second big league season.

They still have the best starting rotation in the game, and if Trevor Bauer has found some consistency, they could have a top three that is the envy of any GM in the game, and Clevinger went 12-6 in his first extended big league experience.

They also have Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin, and Ryan Merritt to fill out the rotation.

Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith are free agents, so there may be a couple of holes in the bullpen, but we wouldn’t be surprised if one or both are back in 2018.

The front office does have some decisions to make.  Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce are free agents, and Michael Brantley has a club option for ’18.

Our bet on the free agents is that it will come down to years, because the Indians can’t afford to pay a player big money (over $10 million per year) for someone who isn’t producing.

And where will Jason Kipnis play in 2018?  It’s pretty clear the Tribe wants to use Ramirez at 2B going forward, so is Kipnis’ move to the outfield permanent.  A lot could depend on what happens with Santana and Bruce.

We think many fans got caught thinking the playoffs would be a cakewalk because of last year.  The Yankees were a better club than either the Red Sox or the Blue Jays, and most of the key players stopped hitting.

It’s a reminder of how special last year’s run to the Fall Classic with basically three starters was.

It’s painful now, but the future is very bright for the Cleveland Indians.  Just win the division next year and take another shot at winning the whole thing.

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

 

 

Time For Tribe To Put Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

The offense still hasn’t returned from the break.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MW

 

 

 

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

 

Consistency Continues To Elude Tribe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MW

 

 

 

 

Our “Concerns” About The Tribe

Friday night, the Cleveland Indians will play their 40th game of the 2017 season, meaning the season is 25% completed.

Coming off an American League pennant, we are sure many fans were hoping for a start similar to the 1984 Detroit Tigers (35-5), so they could start looking for the inevitable repeat berth in the Fall Classic.

Baseball doesn’t work that way.

The old axiom in the sport is you can’t win a post-season spot in April, but you can certainly lose one.  The Tribe is just a game out of the AL Central Division lead as of today, and they are just a game out of the second wild card spot too.

They are still in a good position to get back to the playoffs, because they are right around the .500 mark, and really haven’t played good baseball to date.

There are some things that concern us about the Tribe, though.  And in no particular order, here they are:

The Starting Pitching.  Injuries aside, and losing one of the best pitchers in the game in Corey Kluber, even for a short time, doesn’t help, the rotation has been shaky outside of Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Look at these numbers:

Danny Salazar–5.2 innings per start, 5.66 ERA
Josh Tomlin–5.1 innings per start, 6.86 ERA
Trevor Bauer–5.6 innings per start, 6.92 ERA

Just as bad as the high ERAs is, the lack of length from this trio is putting a big toll on the bullpen.  If the starters can’t start giving Terry Francona some length, the relief corps will be fried by August.

Salazar and Bauer’s struggles extend into the second half of last season.

The bigger issue might be that the Tribe doesn’t have a lot of options currently in the organization.

Inconsistent Offense.  The 2016 Indians finished second in the American League in runs scored.  Right now, the team ranks 10th, despite the addition of Michael Brantley to his pre-injury form.

Most people will put the blame on free agent signee Edwin Encarnacion, who is hitting just .203 with 6 HR and 14 RBI (691 OPS).  However, Jason Kipnis has struggled since coming back from a shoulder issue, and the outfield platoons haven’t provided much hitting either, outside of Lonnie Chisenhall.

We feel Encarnacion is pressing, trying to live up to his contract, and Kipnis will come around as he gets more at bats.

One other thing.  We are a little concerned that Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have become a little too home run happy.  That’s something to keep an eye on.

Loss Of Aggressiveness On Bases.  This has started to return, starting with last Sunday’s game vs. the Twins.

Lindor and Ramirez have just two stolen bases each.  For as many times as each have been on base, that’s incredibly low.  We understand that Rajai Davis led the league in steals a year ago, but he didn’t take the instructions on how to steal with him.

The Indians strikeout fewer than all but two AL teams (Boston and Minnesota), and they are fifth in drawing walks.  Francona needs to put runners in motion more often.

Cleveland is 11th in the American League in homers, so they shouldn’t be playing Earl Weaver baseball, looking for the three run bomb.

It’s time to use the speed to the team’s advantage.

We don’t think this is a horrible baseball team.  We don’t think the sky is falling.  It is silly to ignore some trouble spots for the Indians.

They still have another gear as the season goes on.

MW

Reviewing The Tribe So Far

It’s hard to believe, but the Indians 3-2 win over Detroit on Wednesday means the ballclub has completed 1/6th of the season.

Their record is 15-12 which doesn’t sound very impressive, but over a complete 162 game season, winning at that pace computes to a 90 win season.

Terry Francona’s club has been a little inconsistent, but it does say a lot about this baseball team that they have a winning record despite only one phase of the team, the bullpen, performing up to expectations.

The offense ranks just 7th in the American League in runs scored (they were 2nd last year), and they have scored three runs or less in 14 games to date, more than half of the schedule.  They are 4-10 in those games.

This means when they get to four runs, they are virtually unbeatable at 11-2.

Why has the offense struggled?

Edwin Encarnacion is off to a slow start at .198 with 4 HR and 10 RBI (667 OPS).  This is his history, so we aren’t concerned about that.  His lowest numbers in his career by month are in April.

What is concerning is his strikeouts.  Encarnacion has struck out 39 times in 118 plate appearances, well above the normal rate for his career.

We believe he is just trying to justify his new, hefty contract, and once the weather gets warmer and he relaxes, he will be fine.

Carlos Santana is also off to a slow start, with a 663 OPS and only 2 home runs.  He does continue to take his walks with 17 compared to 13 strikeouts.  The walks rank second to Encarnacion.

Jason Kipnis didn’t get many at bats in spring training, and it has shown, as he is hitting just .132.  Perhaps he would have benefited from an extra week in the minors for rehab.

On the other hand, the two youngsters in the batting order, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are raking.

Lindor is taking his place as one of the game’s new stars, adding power with 7 homers, 17 RBIs and a 976 OPS.

Ramirez is showing his 2016 season was not a fluke (we didn’t think it was), batting .323 with a 986 OPS and a team leading 23 RBIs, tied for 4th in the American League.

The starting pitching has also been up and down.  Corey Kluber is now on the disabled list with lower back tightness, and has an ERA of 5.06.  He’s pitched some very good games, but has also had clinkers.

Carlos Carrasco has been the best starter, with a 2.18 ERA and allowing only 26 hits in 41 innings.  If Danny Salazar can get past the first inning he has been solid as well.

However, Josh Tomlin hasn’t pitched like he did in the post-season last year (currently an 8.87 ERA) and Trevor Bauer has had only one start where he allowed less than four runs.

Still, if you remove his two starts vs. Detroit, his ERA is 5.00.

The bullpen has been the strength of the team to this point.

The combination of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller has been spectacular.  In 24-2/3 combined innings, they have struck out 42 batters, and allowing just one run.

Bryan Shaw continues to be a workhorse and has been effective, but newcomer Nick Goody has impressed as well.

Acquired from the Yankees over the winter, he has thrown nine scoreless frames, allowing just two hits.  He seems to have moved ahead of Zack McAllister in the bullpen pecking order.

The offense will get more consistent and so will the starting pitching, so you have to be very satisfied with the Tribe’s start to the 2017 season.

There is nothing to change our mind that this edition of the Indians will win the American League Central Division.

MW

 

Opening Day Means Welcoming Old And New Friends.

Today is the day baseball fans in northeast Ohio have been looking forward to since the World Series ended in early November.

The Cleveland Indians are back home at Progressive Field today to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of 81 dates at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

It is also the beginning of six division games as the Tigers come in for three games over the Easter weekend, and it is important for the Tribe to again play well within the AL Central as almost half the schedule is divisional contests.

And that schedule is top heavy in terms of road games early for the Indians, as 23 of the first 35 games are away from downtown Cleveland.  While that’s a difficult early slate, it does mean a decided advantage after that stretch is done.

No doubt it will be a party atmosphere at the ballpark tomorrow, it always is for the home opener in this area, but the encouraging thing is it doesn’t appear the park will be a ghost town after tomorrow’s game.

Last year’s post-season run to the World Series sold a lot of tickets, and a good start will get even more people to visit Progressive Field.  The Tribe could have its highest attendance figures in many, many years.

It will be the fans first look at Edwin Encarnacion, their high profile free agent 1B/DH, and one of the game’s premier sluggers.

On the other side, age wise, it will also be the first time they get to see Yandy Diaz, who although he is just 5 for 23 to start the year, has shown an ability to hit the ball extremely hard.

Diaz isn’t likely to be here for long, he will probably go back to Columbus once Jason Kipnis returns from his sore shoulder, but he is a guy who is very much part of the Indians’ not to distant future.

It is time to resume our love for the mainstays of last year’s American League Champions, to celebrate how lucky we are to get to watch Francisco Lindor, now firmly established as one of baseball’s best young players, on an everyday basis.

It’s also a great feeling to have a lead late in the game knowing the Indians have likely the best one-two bullpen combination in the sport in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.  That duo can be interchangeable if Terry Francona so desires.

We will say hello to last year’s breakout star in Jose Ramirez, who filled in at several spots in 2016, and is doing the same now at second base, until Kipnis returns, and he moves back to the hot corner.

And we say welcome back to Michael Brantley, remembering it was just three short years ago that he finished 3rd in the MVP voting. It’s easy to forget Brantley has been here since 2009, and he and Kipnis were the first building blocks for a World Series squad.

It’s a day of celebration, remembering what the 2016 edition of the Indians did, and looking forward to what could be another great season at Progressive Field.

The boys of summer have returned to Cleveland.

MW

 

Tribe Wins Opener, And More Thoughts On AL Champs

For some reason, many people, including baseball fans put a lot of importance on the results of the Opening Day of baseball.

In reality, it is just one game of 162, but because the non-baseball sports media actually watch the season lidlifter, there is more analysis on game one, compared to a contest in May between the Tribe and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Indians did get off to a winning start, overcoming a 5-1 deficit after three innings to outlast the Texas Rangers 8-5 to go to 1-0 on the season.

Corey Kluber gutted out six innings on a day where he didn’t have his best stuff, Edwin Encarnacion debuted with a home run, and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen struck out five of the last seven Texas hitters to wrap this one up.

Remember though that baseball is a series sport, you want to win series, and the Indians have a leg up on that by winning last night.

So, while we celebrate a win in the first game, there are still some issues for this baseball team, although none of them are based on a lack of talent, which is very refreshing.

Over the weekend, the front office signed another player to a multi-year contract, Roberto Perez.  Perez inked a four year deal with two club options that could take him through 2022.

Perez was a star in last year’s post-season, and it says here that he will be the regular catcher by the All-Star break.  It is a well kept secret that Perez is better defensively than Yan Gomes (who is very good behind the plate), and better with a bat in his hand too.

Gomes doesn’t control the strike zone which in our opinion is why he has struggled at the plate since 2014.  Pitchers know they don’t have to throw him a strike to get him out.

Perez is also one of the best pitch framers in the business, and draws a ton of walks too.

By the way, we know Terry Francona is protecting rookie Yandy Diaz, but hitting Gomes sixth seems like it will come back to bite the Tribe.

The other situation worth looking at is in the outfield, particularly when Lonnie Chisenhall is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Austin Jackson was told a week before spring training ended, leading to speculation that Abraham Almonte would be sent to the minors.  But Chisenhall’s shoulder issue allowed the switch-hitter to make the team.

We still feel that Almonte is a better choice than Jackson for the roster because of his ability to hit from both sides of the plate, and because Jackson has had issues making contact at times.

We know it is one game, but Almonte had a day, didn’t he?  Two walks and the go ahead single in the ninth.  You have to wonder what happens when Chisenhall is back.

Does Almonte still go to Columbus, or does Jackson agree to go down.  Or will the team send out Tyler Naquin.  Just another problem teams have when they are good.

As for people disappointed that the Indians didn’t open at home?  Relax, worry about something else.  Hopefully, the Tribe wins both series on the road and they come home to a party after a successful trip.

MW