Slow Moving Player Market Frustrating Tribe Fans

Spring training opens in about six weeks for the Cleveland Indians, and there are still questions surrounding the roster of the defending American League Central Division champs.

Off-season transactions throughout the sport are moving at a snail’s pace, except for relief pitchers, and the Tribe has lost two of them, Bryan Shaw to Colorado and Joe Smith to Houston.

A third, southpaw Boone Logan is rumored to be heading to Milwaukee, although the Indians probably believe they have filled that spot late last season with Tyler Olson.

So, the front office needs to find some bullpen help for a manager who loves plenty of arms in the ‘pen in Terry Francona.

There are still some options on the free agent market, but none are as accomplished as Shaw and Smith.  So, creativity may be needed by GM Mike Chernoff and president Chris Antonetti.

The bigger hit to date may be offensively with the loss of Carlos Santana to the Phillies, and an impending departure of late season hero, Jay Bruce.

Will the slow market allow the Indians to retain Bruce?  The longer he stays unsigned, you have to believe his demands will come down.  Will they come down to an area where the Tribe is comfortable?

When you are a contending team, you can’t have a lot of unproven players in your everyday lineup.

Right now, third base is a question mark and so is centerfield, despite Bradley Zimmer’s debut a year ago.  Zimmer has no track record, and had some swing and miss issues in 2017, so to say the team doesn’t need a back up plan is a big mistake.

We would like to think Yandy Diaz is the frontrunner at the hot corner, but the skipper frequently makes comments about his glove (despite good defensive metrics in the minor leagues), and he loves the defense of Giovanny Urshela, whose bat is suspect.

Right now, the lineup just isn’t long enough, but there is still a long way to go before the players start arriving in Goodyear.

We understand fans don’t like the inactivity, but really, outside of the bullpen movement and the Yankees trading for Giancarlo Stanton, what teams in the AL have done anything?

That’s right.  Nobody else has made a significant move, at least among the upper echelon of the Junior Circuit, and that’s where the Indians live right now.

Even though the Tribe has Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion, besides the questions we already listed, they still have Jason Kipnis coming off an injury plagued, off year for him.

Michael Brantley didn’t play for much of the second half, and is coming off surgery on his ankle.

Lonnie Chisenhall missed a good portion of the season after the All Star Game, and Brandon Guyer was pretty much a non-factor either.

And don’t forget last year’s big surprise, Austin Jackson, is a free agent, and may not be back with the team.

Remember, this winter, player movement is moving at a glacial pace.  At some point between now and the middle of February, that will pick up.

With the slow movement could come bargains, which is to the advantage of the Cleveland Indians.  Something to keep an eye on in the next six weeks.

MW

 

 

 

 

 

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Tribe Can’t Platoon In Too Many Spots

Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona is one of the best in the league at using the platoon advantage.

It helps that his team has a number of switch-hitters who are regulars:  SS Francisco Lindor, 2B Jose Ramirez, and 1B Carlos Santana were everyday players in 2017.

It enables Francona to platoon in right field where he used Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer until both were injured and the front office acquired Jay Bruce.

He also did the same in center, using rookie Bradley Zimmer and veteran Austin Jackson out there.

In 2016, he did the same, using Tyler Naquin and Rajai Davis in center for the American League champs.

The players have to have decided platoon advantages for the strategy to work.  Guyer is lethal vs. southpaws, and Jackson hit .352 against lefties last season.

We mention this because with Santana and Bruce now free agents, many people look at available free agents and wonder about fits for the Tribe.

One name that came up was 1B Matt Adams, recently non-tendered by Atlanta.

Adams, who swings from the left side, has an 828 career OPS vs. right handed pitching with a .286 batting average.  We like Adams, who has been production even though he’s been an everyday player just one season.

However, there is one problem with the platooning.  Francona also likes to carry 13 pitchers, including eight relievers.  That means there are only 12 position players, which limits how many spots the manager can use a platoon system.

Plus, two of those dozen position players are catchers, so if you aren’t platooning with that position, it means there are only two spots that the manager can use different players against left-handers and right-handers.

And don’t forget the need for a utility infielder, preferably someone who can play shortstop defensively so you aren’t playing a statue when Lindor gets his infrequent days off.

So, if the Indians don’t re-sign Santana, they will either need a full time option there or decide that Zimmer has to play everyday in centerfield.  Either that or have one less pitcher in the bullpen for Francona.

As things are right now, you have to think the current platoons will be Chisenhall and Guyer in right (again) and Zimmer and a right-handed bat to be named later in centerfield.

That’s why we still believe if Santana goes elsewhere, Michael Brantley will move to first base with Jason Kipnis playing left field.  If Santana returns, we could see a deal involving Kipnis.

If you want to look at a player from another team that was non-tendered, how about reliever Hector Rondon.

The right-hander was in the Tribe organization until 2012, and had seasons of 29 and 30 saves for the Cubs in 2014 and 2015.

Last season, he was 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA for Chicago, with 69 strikeouts in 57-1/3 innings, so he still has swing and miss stuff.

We know the Indians like to reunite with former players, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the reliever came back to Cleveland, especially since the front office has to be looking for arms to replace Bryan Shaw, who is a free agent.

With the Winter Meetings starting on Sunday, the Indians’ roster changes should start to take place.  Just remember the number of platoon options are limited unless full time players are acquired as well.

MW

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sign Lindor This Winter? Don’t Hold Your Breath

We said this many times throughout this past baseball season, perhaps the best thing about the Cleveland Indians is that their two best players are 25 and under in Jose Ramirez (25) and Francisco Lindor, who just turned 24 a couple of weeks ago.

Lindor, who has two straight top ten finishes in the American League MVP voting at his young age, is under the Tribe’s control through the 2021 season, giving him four more full seasons with the Indians.

The Cleveland front office would undoubtedly like to sign their shortstop to a long term deal to keep him with his home ballpark being Progressive Field for the foreseeable future, but Lindor seems to understand his value gets higher every season, particularly if he keeps performing like he has.

At his age, he is getting nothing but better, and even with a slump last year in May and June, the switch-hitting Lindor still had a career high 842 OPS, mostly due to a career high .505 slugging percentage.

He had 81 extra base hits, made his second All Star team, and won his first Silver Slugger Award, in addition to being a finalist for the Gold Glove at short.

We are sure Lindor won’t sign this off-season either as he will likely wait until Bryce Harper’s free agency is resolved next off-season.

It has been said Harper could become the sports’ first $400 million player.  If he gets that amount, you’d have to think Lindor will get close to that amount, if not exceed it.

Granted when Harper finished his third big league season, he was just 21 years old, two years younger than Lindor was when last season ended.

In those first three seasons, the highest finish in the MVP voting for Harper was 30th in his rookie season.  He won the award the following season, his fourth year, but hasn’t been in the top ten since.

Harper and Mike Trout might be the faces of baseball, but Lindor’s definitely on a level right below those two.  His personality and the obvious joy he plays with are things MLB should market, and will as he continues to get better as a player.

We made the point last off-season that if Lindor plays 10 years in an Indians’ uniform, he will be the greatest position player in franchise history.  So, the stakes to keep him with the Tribe long term are very high.

In our lifetime, we haven’t had that player like George Brett, Derek Jeter, Tony Gwynn for this franchise.  A truly great player who plays their entire career in Cleveland.

Remember that when Jim Thome goes into the Hall of Fame, perhaps next summer, he will be the first player to spend the majority of his career with the Indians to go into the Hall since Lou Boudreau.  He was inducted in 1971!

Despite all the great players who were here in the 90’s:  Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Thome, none of them can claim to have never worn another uniform.

We understand that’s not the way the sport is now, but wouldn’t it be nice if Frankie Lindor was that guy for our team.

We are sure the Dolan family, Chris Antonetti, and GM Mike Chernoff would like it to happen too.  Lindor is that kind of player.

MW

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Why Has Tribe Stopped Running?

The Oakland A’s arrived in town yesterday for a four game series against the Cleveland Indians.  Why is this significant?

Because it marks the return of World Series hero Rajai Davis, who hit the game tying home run in game seven of the Fall Classic.

Davis brought the added weapon of the stolen base to the Indians, leading the American League with 43, as the Tribe led the junior circuit as a team with 143 steals.

Along with Mike Napoli, Davis was credited with making Cleveland a very aggressive team on the base paths, and the Indians seemed to go from first to third quite a bit.

In fact, the Tribe led the AL in extra bases taken last year with a 45% percentage.  This statistic is based on taking more than one base on a single or taking more than two bases on a double.

Terry Francona’s team also led the league in stolen base percentage, succeeding on 81% of their steal tries.

This year, it’s a completely different story.

Cleveland ranks 11th in the American League in stolen bases, and is 12th in stolen base percentage.

They’ve also dropping to 11th in extra bases taken.

Granted Davis was a huge part of the Tribe’s speed game, but he’s wasn’t the only player running.  Jose Ramirez stole 22 bags, Francisco Lindor had 19 and his keystone combination partner, Jason Kipnis had 15.

Abraham Almonte added 8 more.

This year, Michael Brantley leads the Indians with five, which for a full season, doesn’t even project to 20.

Ramirez has three, Lindor and Kipnis each have two.  This year’s team just isn’t as aggressive on the bases.

Davis’ replacement is Austin Jackson, who hasn’t stolen 20 bases in a season since 2014, and he has never been the base stealer that Davis is.

Napoli was replaced by Edwin Encarnacion, who has been the better hitter over his career, but doesn’t have the aggressiveness on the basepaths of his predecessor.

So, this aspect of the game has to come from other players.  You would think it would come from Lindor, a team leader in every sense of the word, but he’s turned into an extra base machine, ranking third in the AL behind Mike Trout and Corey Dickerson of Tampa Bay.

He’s not stopping at first base very often, but his on base percentage is down almost 20 points from a year ago.

Ramirez would be the other candidate, but his on base percentage is down 25 points from a year ago.  Perhaps he will steal more when he starts drawing some walks again.

Maybe rookie Bradley Zimmer can be a force in this area.  Zimmer stole over 40 bases in each of his last two minor league seasons, so he has the kind of speed the Indians need.  However, he will have to learn the pitchers’ moves or he will just rely on raw speed to advance.

There are other reasons why the Tribe offense is sputtering, mostly a considerable drop in the team’s on base percentage and a terrible batting average with runners in scoring position.

But don’t overlook the aggressive base running we saw in 2016.  That was a big part of the Indians’ attack a year ago.  They need to get back to that mindset this season to help get the offense going again.

MW

 

Not Panicked, But Concerned About Tribe.

The way the Cleveland Indians are playing isn’t making us worried, but it is time to be slightly concerned as we are in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend.

The Tribe is sitting at just one game above the .500 mark at 24-23, and it is particularly concerning that they are just 8-13 at Progressive Field, the worst home mark in the American League.

The main culprits for the malaise of Terry Francona’s club would be an inconsistent offense, ranking 10th in the AL in runs per game, and the instability of the starting pitching, which can’t seem to get deep into ballgames.

The Indians have scored three runs or less in 24 of their 47 games to date, a total slightly more than 50%.  It is tough to win games in today’s baseball that way, and Francona’s club is just 7-17 in those contests.

When they get to four runs, they have an outstanding 17-6 mark, which of course, is championship level.  The question is how can they be more consistent on a daily basis.

It would help greatly if Edwin Encarnacion (who actually has hit better lately) and Carlos Santana started providing some pop in the middle of the order.  The latter has just five home runs on the season, after hitting 34 a year ago.

Another thing killing the offense is a 668 OPS for hitters leading off an inning, which includes a .305 on base percentage.  Guys leading off an inning simply aren’t getting on base, which makes it hard to get something going.

And when they do get runners on, Cleveland is hitting just .205 (670 OPS) with runners in scoring position, meaning the Tribe isn’t coming up with the clutch hit.

The Indians aren’t a big power team, so they rely on hits to score runs.  Last year, Cleveland hit .262 as a team.  This year?  That mark has dropped to .240.  That’s a huge drop off.

Right now, the Tribe only has four regulars hitting over .250, which isn’t great.  They are Francisco Lindor (.279), Jose Ramirez (.265), Michael Brantley (.291), and Lonnie Chisenhall (.261).  Only one, Brantley (.367) has an on base percentage over .350.

That’ an awful lot of outs being made.  Until that changes, we fear the offense is going to continue to struggle.

As for the starting pitchers, length of starts is becoming a huge factor.  Right now, it is rare to see an Indian starter still around the in the 7th inning, and that puts a huge burden on the bullpen.

Right now, they have been more than up to the task, but will we be able to say the same thing come August.

Since Mike Clevinger completed seven innings against the Astros on May 20th, no Cleveland starter has accomplished this, and only two (Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco) threw a pitch in the seventh.

Most nights, you look at the box score and see 5+ innings out of a starter.  That’s not good enough, and that Tribe starters have the highest ERA in the American League doesn’t bode well either.

Perhaps we will see some change when staff ace Corey Kluber returns to the rotation this week.  The speculation is that Clevinger will stay and Danny Salazar will go to the bullpen for the Carrasco like refresher course in pitching.

We are still in May so it is too early in the season to panic, but on the other hand, almost 1/3rd of the season has been completed.  Progress has to be seen if the Indians are going to make the playoffs in 2017.

MW