Could Be A Busy Winter For Tribe

The hot stove league has officially started in Major League Baseball with the GM Meetings this week, and the Winter Meetings taking place in a few weeks.

After the past few years when the 25 man roster was pretty much set in stone, the next few weeks could be filled with several moves for the Cleveland Indians.

It was not surprise that the Tribe offered free agent Carlos Santana the qualifying offer, nor was it a shock when he turned it down.

Many experts expect Santana to return to the Indians after seeing what offers are out there, but president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have plenty of questions to answer before the team reconvenes in Goodyear in February.

Santana is the key to Cleveland’s off-season in our opinion.

The team would probably be interested in a reunion with Jay Bruce if the market comes back down much like it did with Edwin Encarnacion a year ago.  But they probably won’t go more than two or three years for the veteran outfielder.

And what to do with Jason Kipnis?  If Santana returns, there doesn’t seem to be a fit for him, as Michael Brantley would play LF in that scenario.  However, if Santana departs, Brantley would likely go to 1B, with Kipnis playing left field.

The Indians do have some trade assets, although we believe they aren’t interested in trading their top prospect C/3B Francisco Mejia, one of the top 10 prospects in all of the minor leagues, nor would they be anxious to move Triston McKenzie, one of the premier pitching prospects in baseball.

We would think the organization would want to keep Mejia and OF Greg Allen in AAA to start the season and get them more experience.

However, we could see players such as Erik Gonzalez, Yu-Cheng Chang, and Willi Castro, all shortstops by trade who would seem to be blocked here by the presence of Francisco Lindor.

We also don’t know how the organization feels about the future of 1B Bobby Bradley, whose power is unquestioned, but he has a lot of swing and miss in his style.  Does the front office think he can be a viable big league hitter?

With reliever Bryan Shaw also likely to be elsewhere in ’18, who fills his role in the bullpen.  It has been rumored that perhaps Danny Salazar moves to the bullpen with his electric stuff as a bridge between the starter and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.

If not, no doubt the brass will be looking for another bullpen arm.

The rotation shouldn’t see changes, but if Salazar does go to the ‘pen, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Tribe look for a starter on the free agent market, probably toward spring training when the prices come down.

The Indians have a strong core with Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Miller, and Allen.  Unless he fails with the bat, Bradley Zimmer probably has a lock on centerfield.

The rest of the spots are fluid and the front office has some choices that are currently on the roster, young players on the uptick, and perhaps adding more pieces in deals.

There could be plenty of new faces in spring training for the Indians, and many of those spots hinge on Santana’s decision.

MW

 

 

 

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More Tribe Decisions: Kipnis, Gomes, Shaw.

Last week, we wrote about the dilemma the Cleveland Indians have surrounding the club option they hold on Michael Brantley, and the free agency of Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce.

There are also other decisions that need to be made regarding the make up of next year’s roster for the Tribe.

The first involves longtime Indian Jason Kipnis.  Kipnis is scheduled to take a huge jump in pay in 2018, a $4.5 million raise, and he’s coming off an injury plagued poor season, hitting just .232 (705 OPS) with 12 home runs last season.

It appears by their actions at the end of the season that Kipnis no longer is the Indians’ second baseman either.  When the veteran returned from a hamstring issue in September, he moved to centerfield, with Jose Ramirez staying at second.

So, with Bradley Zimmer seemingly the incumbent in center, and a likely platoon (if Bruce doesn’t return) in rightfield of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer, if Brantley does return in ’18, where does that leave Kipnis?

Many have speculated that Kipnis will be dealt, but with the off year in ’17, a deal this winter will not bring the return the club would receive with a bounce-back season next summer.

So, it looks right now like the front office will be forced to choose between Brantley and Kipnis.  Certainly not what they thought when the two signed contract extensions prior to the 2014 season.

The third player inked at that time and identified as a core piece was catcher Yan Gomes.

Gomes had a stellar ’14 season, hitting .278 (785 OPS) with 21 homers and winning the Silver Slugger Award.

Since then, it’s been all downhill.  Injuries haunted the catcher in 2015 and 2016, with his offense all but disappearing in the latter year (.167 batting average, 527 OPS).

He rebounded a bit last season (.232, 14 HR, 56 RBI), but seemed to lose playing time down the stretch to Roberto Perez, a better pitch framer.

Gomes is still a very good defensive catcher with a plus arm, and could be a significant trade chip to a team looking for stability at the catching position.

If the organization wants to give Perez the bulk of the playing time going forward, Gomes could be a player who can bring something very valuable in return.  We believe that will be the direction the front office is going in.

Bryan Shaw is also a free agent this off-season.  For all the back and forth between his fans and critics, Shaw is durable and dependable, leading the AL in appearances three of the last four years.

With the bullpen craze the sport has seen in recent years, Shaw is going to get paid.

We would be interested in keeping him at a reasonable deal, but we feel another team is going to make him an unbelievable offer.

And with the wear and tear on the right-hander’s arm, it’s a risk to sign him long term.

Our fear is Shaw could follow the same career path as Scott Linebrink, who appeared in 70+ games from 2004-08 with San Diego and Milwaukee.  The veteran went to the White Sox in 2009 and never had the same effectiveness, and was out of baseball at age 35.

Again, as a non-large market team, the Indians can’t afford to be paying a lot of money to someone who cannot contribute to the major league team.

With the World Series ending this week, these decisions will have to be made as early as this weekend.

Coming off an 102 win season and a division title, the Tribe front office has some tough calls to make.

MW

 

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

 

 

Lots Of Injuries For Tribe in July

With last night’s loss to the New York Yankees, the Cleveland Indians are now 2/3rd of the way through the 2017 season.

Here is a breakdown in 27 game (1/6th of the year) increments–

Games 1-27:      15-12
Games 28-54:    13-14
Games 55-81:    16-11
Games 82-108:  15-12

If anything, it is surprising that the Tribe’s splits are so similar in this regard.

The reason for Cleveland being 10 games over the .500 mark, is they have lost more than three in a row just once, and that was a four game losing streak, and they’ve had winning streaks of five, six, and nine games this year.

Think about this last 27 game stretch.  The Indians started winning four of six, then lost five of six, followed by a nine game winning streak.  In that losing skid, they looked horrible.  They didn’t hit and couldn’t field.

Such is the 2017 Cleveland Indians.  Just when you think you have them figured out, they surprise you yet again.

We also saw injuries creep in.  Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall missed significant time over the last month.  Giovanny Urshela and Erik Gonzalez filled in for Kipnis and our thinking there is if Urshela could hit just a little bit, he can have a role on a big league roster.

His defense is that good.

Gonzalez can’t control the strike zone yet.  His offense has dropped with increased playing time, mostly due to a strikeout to walk ratio of 28:1.  That’s insane.

In the outfield, Chisenhall’s absence was quieted by Austin Jackson’s sensational season.  Jackson is hitting .321 in part time duty, almost 50 points higher than his career mark.

Oh, and he made the catch of the year last Tuesday night in Boston.

The biggest injury was to Andrew Miller who was put on the disabled list with tendonitis in his knee.  We have complained about Terry Francona’s overuse of the lefty all year, and it appears it may have caught up to him.

Cleveland needs him back for the stretch, so hopefully the ten days will take care of the problem.

Boone Logan was another of the injured Tribesmen, suffering a tear in his lat.  Tyler Olson will replace him, and so far, he’s been fine, but no doubt the organization will look for a veteran.

Danny Salazar returned from the disabled list, and has been dominant in three starts, pitching 20 innings and allowing three runs.  If he is right, it just makes the starting rotation stronger and hopefully, limits the bullpen innings.

The front office made a move to bolster that ‘pen at the trade deadline, picking up Joe Smith from the Blue Jays for two minor leaguers.  Smith should be able to help Bryan Shaw in the 7th inning, as he is another who may have been overused this year.

Overall, the offense has perked up, jumping from around eighth or ninth in runs scored to fourth in the American League.  And with an ERA than ranks second in the AL, the Tribe’s run differential is behind only Houston in the junior circuit.

They’ve also started to play better at home.

August is a brutal month schedule wise, with the Indians having to play the Rockies, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, and big games against the Royals coming up to.

A winning record would put them well on their way to a second consecutive division title, something that hasn’t happened since 1998-99.

The key is still the starting rotation.  If Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Salazar, and even Trevor Bauer, the way he has pitched recently, can continue to do their job, the Tribe will be set up well for the rest of the season.

MW

 

 

 

Doesn’t Look Like Tribe Did Enough In Trade Market (At Least For Now)

The Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went yesterday, and the Cleveland Indians did make one trade, sending two minor leaguers to Toronto for reliever Joe Smith, who will be making his second stint with the Tribe.

Smith, who played for the Indians from 2009-13, compiling a 2.76 ERA and three saves in that period, is a quality relief pitcher.  His lifetime ERA is under 3.00 (2.95), and he is having a great season, with 51 strikeouts in 35 innings this year.

However, being a sidearmer, he is extremely effective against right handed hitters, holding them to an OPS of 588 and a .215 batting average.

Against left-handed hitters, the OPS against is 708, and this year that figure is 749, so he is more like a ROOGY, which will benefit the bullpen, but is that the biggest need for the relief corps.

Our biggest concern, which we discussed in the last post, is the overuse of Andrew Miller, and we don’t see how getting Smith remedies that.

When Smith was a member of Terry Francona’s bullpen in 2013, the only year they were together, he drew the later inning work, with Bryan Shaw working earlier.  Basically, Shaw took Smith’s spot when he departed in free agency following the season.

So, will Francona trust Smith is late inning situations again?

If he does, that will ease the burden on Shaw, Miller, and Cody Allen in the late innings of close games that the Indians are winning.

Francona can say anything he wants, but it is clear there is a pecking order in the bullpen, and when the Tribe has the lead late, he goes to that trio, pretty much on an exclusive basis.

There still is a pressing need for another left-hander, and perhaps Tyler Olson can fill that bill, but do you really think Tito would trust him to get Eric Hosmer out in a key game against Kansas City later this month?

Another factor with Smith is the health of his right arm.  He spent some time on the disabled list earlier in the year with inflammation in his shoulder.

The trust factor is another reason we are surprised GM Mike Chernoff didn’t strengthen the bench as well.

Right now, with Jason Kipnis on the shelf, Francona’s options are Erik Gonzalez, who has a terrible strikeout to walk ratio, or Giovanny Urshela, who is struggling to hit at all.

When Kipnis is back, Gonzalez will return to his utility role, but would the skipper and/or the fans feel comfortable having to put him in to pinch hit if the need was there?

We are all for playing young players, but in a pennant race, wouldn’t you rather have an experienced guy who can hit and can handle the strike zone?

We understand that it takes two to tango, and the Cleveland front office could’ve been eager to make a move, but if other teams were steadfast in wanting Francisco Mejia or Triston McKenzie, we would have passed as well.

Still, it seems like the organization is putting a lot of faith in the return of Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall.  Unfortunately, Kipnis has struggled all year and quite frankly, we don’t know what he will do when he returns.

They also seem to be putting a lot of faith in Danny Salazar’s last two starts.

You try to eliminate as many of the possible weak spots on your roster when making a playoff run, and we aren’t sure the Indians did that.

Hopefully, there are some moves to come in August.

MW

 

Tribe Entering A Crucial Stretch

The Cleveland Indians are starting a crucial stretch tomorrow night with a three game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field.

The Tribe is coming off a terrible start to the second half of the season, dropping five of six to a pair of last place teams from the Bay Area, the A’s and Giants.

This losing streak, which is actually six losses in the last seven games has allowed the Minnesota Twins to creep within a half game of Cleveland, and it has kept the Royals and even the Tigers within shouting distance.

Hitting continues to be an issue for Terry Francona’s bunch, scoring just 16 runs in the six games, with a team batting average of under .200.

The first two games of the series have the Indians starting two pitchers who we are sure Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway have no idea what to expect in Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar.

Bauer didn’t get out of the first inning in his last start and has an ERA of 5.59 for the season.  He has completed six innings in just eight of his 18 starts this season.

Salazar has been on the disabled list for awhile and has an ERA of 5.40, and has pitched six innings or more in just three of 10 starts.

Not exactly a great way to start a series in which you really need to play well and start putting games in the win column.

Injuries are also affecting the Tribe, as they are missing 2B Jason Kipnis and OF Lonnie Chisenhall right now, and lost reliever Boone Logan on Wednesday to a lat strain.

The bullpen is also leaking oil a bit, with closer Cody Allen having an ERA of 4.00 since May 1st, and Bryan Shaw has pitched 4-1/3 innings since July 1st, allowing eight hits and six runs, four of them earned.

In short, there’s a lot going wrong for the Cleveland Indians right now.  Add to that, the team isn’t sure if Corey Kluber, already moved back from tomorrow to Sunday because of a sore neck, can make that start.

If the Indians want to get it going, solid starts from Bauer and Salazar would go a long way, but the problem is based on history from this season, the bullpen will need to be involved greatly in the first two games.

And we know right now, Francona only has confidence in using his “big three” of Allen, Shaw, and Andrew Miller when he’s ahead and the game is close.

What’s gone right this season?

Jose Ramirez has shown his 2016 season was no fluke, emerging as one of the American League’s best players this season.  The best thing about the Indians might be that their best players are 24 (Ramirez) and 23 years of age (Francisco Lindor).

Mike Clevinger is starting to establish himself as a major league starter, and has an ERA of 2.73 over 12 starts.

Bradley Zimmer looks like he can be a good major league player.  He’s played very good defense in centerfield, which was needed, but has cooled off a little after a very good start hitting.

And Chisenhall has had a career season to date, although he has missed time due to injuries.

That’s about it.

Still, the Indians have the lead in the division.  As Francona says often, this team needs to play a clean game.  That means catching the ball, throwing to the right base, and moving runners on offense.

In the six games since the break, they’ve done very little of those things.

They need to rediscover them tonight.

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 Won’t Do This, But We Would

The Cleveland Indians should be considered a conservative organization, although at times they do make some aggressive moves.

They may have cost themselves a playoff spot in 2015 with their stubbornness in leaving Francisco Lindor in the minor leagues until his service time would not be an issue.

They give some veterans every opportunity to succeed before replacing them with a possibly more productive young player.  Think about the long rope vets like Michael Bourn and Juan Uribe received from the current regime.

That said, here are some things we would like to see the Indians do, even though we know it will never happen:

A change in position for Jason Kipnis.  Kipnis was an outfielder in college and moved to second base when he was drafted.  However, it is pretty clear to us that Kipnis is the third best defensive option at the position for the Tribe, behind Jose Ramirez and Erik Gonzalez.

The Indians leave outs on the field more than they should because of plays not made up the middle or double plays not turned.

We understand Kipnis is a key member of the team both on the field and in the clubhouse.  The simplest thing would be to just flip flop Ramirez and Kipnis and move the latter to 3B.

In these days, where offense continues to put up numbers, outs are at a premium, you can’t give them away.

The Brantley Dilemma.  Michael Brantley’s return to the everyday lineup is a boon for Terry Francona, with an OPS of over 800 on the season.

However, it is evident that his defense in left field has slipped greatly.  Sunday night, a groundball single went for a double for Jose Iglesias because he couldn’t cut the ball off.

There have been other deep flyballs which haven’t been caught either throughout the season.

Where can Brantley go?  Perhaps first base if Carlos Santana goes elsewhere via free agency after the season, but if Santana resigns, Francona may want to consider a defensive replacement in the late innings.

Swap Gomes and Perez.  The Indians are blessed with two very good defensive catchers who can handle (frame) pitchers.  And we understand Roberto Perez is hitting just .178 with a 517 OPS, compared to Gomes’ 680 OPS.

However, Gomes hasn’t really been an effective hitter since winning a Silver Slugger Award in 2014.  And with men on base, Gomes becomes very impatient at the plate.

We would like to see what Perez would do offensively if he were given the bulk of the playing time.  Our gut feeling is he would hit better.

We would just like to find out, because in a year or two it will be a moot point (hopefully) because of Francisco Mejia.

Keep Mejia/McKenzie.  In order to make a big move at the trade deadline, the Indians will have to trade one of the studs in their farm system.   We would love to not give up either because as a small to mid market team, it is important to keep players like them.

Besides, the Indians have other players that would be desirable to other teams.  Gonzalez is good enough defensively to start for several major league teams, and we would consider moving Bobby Bradley because we fear he could be like Texas’ Joey Gallo.

And don’t forget Yu-Cheng Chang is another shortstop blocked by Frankie Lindor.

The Tribe has a lot of depth in the system, we know it might be a fantasy, but we would like to keep these two after moving Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield last season.

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

 

 

 

 

Tribe Needs A Shake Up…Maybe Change The Batting Order?

We don’t think it is unfair to say the Cleveland Indians are in a funk.  Whether or not it’s a hangover from last season’s World Series run, it is clear the Tribe needs something to shake them out of this.

Maybe they need a walk off win, or a series of solid outings by their starting pitcher, but they definitely need something to get them going in a winning direction.

We know Terry Francona is a patient manager and part of the reason players love to play for him is they know their role and what they will be doing when they come to the ballpark each day.

On the other hand, the Indians have played 59 games and the same team that ranked 2nd in the American League in runs scored now ranks second from the bottom.

In looking at some of the numbers for the Cleveland hitters, we thought a lineup change might be what the doctor ordered.

For example, Michael Brantley has been the #3 hitter for Francona since 2013 for the most part.  Brantley has been very good after basically missing the 2016 season with a shoulder injury, hitting .294 with a 783 OPS.

However, what hasn’t returned for Brantley is his pop, and that could return as he gets more reps and his timing at the plate returns.

Right now, Brantley has only 16 extra base hits for the season, matching the total of Lonnie Chisenhall, who has almost 100 fewer at bats, and just one more than Jason Kipnis, who missed the first month of the season.

He is getting on base, with a .356 on base percentage, so perhaps he should be hitting in the lead off or #2 hole.

In fact, the two highest on base percentages on the team belong to Brantley and Jose Ramirez (.350), so let’s start with the premise that they should hit at the top of the order.

The highest slugging percentages on the squad belong to Chisenhall (.590) who platoons and Francisco Lindor (.496).  Edwin Encarnacion has been hot lately, with his slugging mark up to .446.

Carlos Santana, who has spent most of the year hitting in the anchor spots of the batting order (1st and 4th) is off to a slow start (319/404/724).  Let’s take some pressure off of him to see if he can get going.

So the top of our order would look like this–

Ramirez                3B
Brantley                LF
Lindor                   SS
Encarnacion        DH

For the 5th spot, we consider Jason Kipnis, who has a 740 OPS since the beginning of May, which would push Santana down to the 6th slot, ahead of Chisenhall, because he is only in the lineup vs. right-handers.

The catcher would bat eighth, except vs. southpaws because that would have Chisenhall out of the lineup, and so as to have the “second leadoff man”, either Bradley Zimmer or Austin Jackson hitting ninth.

So we have this–

Ramirez              3B
Brantley              LF
Lindor                 SS
Encarnacion      DH
Kipnis                 2B
Santana              1B
Chisenhall          RF
Gomes                   C
Zimmer               CF

Too often lately, the Indians start games off with two quick outs and Brantley coming up.  Putting the top two on base percentage guys at the top of the order makes perfect sense, and it also makes the opposing pitcher work harder at the beginning of the game.

With the offense struggling, it’s worth a try.  If it doesn’t work, then try a different combination.  The pieces and parts for a good offense are there, it’s a matter of putting them in the right spots.

MW