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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tribe Adds A Big Bat In Bruce

The Cleveland Indians are certainly a different organization than they were five years ago.

After watching their offense sputter over the last four games, scoring just one run (Austin Jackson’s bloop single that tied the game on Tuesday) that didn’t come on a home run over the last four games, they decided to add some pop to the batting order, acquiring slugging outfielder Jay Bruce from the Mets for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan.

And reportedly, the Indians got him because they were willing to pay the remainder of the outfielder’s salary, something the Yankees weren’t willing to do.

With Lonnie Chisenhall still on the disabled list and Michael Brantley going on today with a sprained ankle, the organization couldn’t go with an outfield of Austin Jackson or Brandon Guyer in right, a slumping Bradley Zimmer in center, and Abraham Almonte in left for even a short time.

The 30-year-old Bruce is hitting .256 with 29 home runs and 75 RBI (847 OPS) in 102 games this season.

When Bruce played with the Reds before being moved to the Mets at the trade deadline a year ago, we felt he was a product of playing his home games in Great American Ballpark, a known hitter’s paradise.

With Citi Field being a pitcher’s park, Bruce has been very good on the road this season, with 18 dingers and a 919 OPS.

He is also been dominant at Progressive Field, hitting .384 with a 1.031 OPS in 86 at bats.

And the defensive metrics say he’s been a solid defender in right field this season, a drastic change for the better from when he was in Cincinnati.

He is a high strikeout, low walk guy, having been punched out 102 times this year, with only 39 walks.

Hopefully, Bruce can help the inconsistent Tribe offense, which has scored three runs or less in 47 of their 111 games (42%) this season.  That’s not acceptable for a team with post-season aspirations.

The addition of Bruce could allow Terry Francona to move Carlos Santana back up to the leadoff spot in the batting order, replacing the slumping Jason Kipnis, whose batting average has dropped to .225 on the year, with an on base percentage of .285.

With the injuries, management had to realize they had to lengthen the lineup, which yesterday had Zimmer, Almonte, and Roberto Perez in the bottom three spots.

The league seems to have made adjustments to Zimmer, who is 0 for 17 in August, and the extending playing time has affected Jackson, who is 5 for his last 24.

Bruce will probably play right, with Guyer and Almonte alternating in left and Zimmer and Jackson splitting time in center.

There is speculation that perhaps Brantley and Chisenhall are more seriously injured than originally thought, but we believe the front office couldn’t think of going with an unproductive outfield for even another week, especially with the upcoming schedule of 11 road games, all against playoff contenders.

It also sends a message in the clubhouse that the front office isn’t satisfied with the way the team is playing since the All Star break, and they also want to do more than just win the American League Central.

Considering the cost, it’s a no brainer move for the Indians.  Hopefully, Bruce keeps slugging and the seemingly dormant Tribe offense gets a jolt of energy.

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

 

 

 

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 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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

An Early Tribe Check

With all of the rainouts and off days this early in the baseball season, it is hard to evaluate any team, including the Cleveland Indians.

That said, we do have some early thought about the Wahoos, a team we picked to win the AL Central.

We have seen fans complaining about the lack of runs scored by the Tribe in this young season.  After all, they rank 10th in the American League in tallies at this point of the season.

However, these people need to look closer.  The Indians rank 10th in the league because they’ve played the least number of games.

In actuality, Cleveland ranks 6th in runs per game at 4.2 a game, one notch ahead of the Blue Jays.  While we aren’t saying this will hold up all year, and we mean scoring more than Toronto, it does show the offense has improved a bit.

The pitching which was supposed to be the strength of the ’16 Indians, has not rounded into form as of yet, ranking 14th in the junior circuit, ahead of just Boston, who seems to give up eight runs per game, and Houston.

The staff ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of strikeouts per nine innings, whereas last year, the Indians led the AL in this statistic.

We said coming into the year that the bullpen was one spot that concerned us, and the first ten games haven’t eased those fears.  Bryan Shaw has been a disaster in two of his four appearances, one costing the Indians a game, and in the other turning a laugher into a game where Cody Allen had to get four outs.

If the Tribe has a lead in a close game tonight, who does Terry Francona go to in the eighth inning?

He can’t use Shaw again, so our guess is it would be Zack McAllister, but then who will be used if needed in the seventh?

Jeff Manship?  Trevor Bauer?  Those are the things that managers have to decide on the fly.  Handling the bullpen is one of best skills a major league skipper can have.

By the way, saying Shaw’s velocity is fine isn’t proof that his arm is sound.  Sometimes, a loss of command is a tell tale sign of arm problems.  Just saying.

In the meantime, losing games late is demoralizing to a team that needs to get off to a good start.  That’s the biggest reason Francona needs to use Shaw is some low pressure situations until he is right.

Back to the offense, it has been a bit inconsistent, but remember, the Indians are still missing their best bat in Michael Brantley.  Hopefully, the brass doesn’t rush him back, so that when he does return, he will stay in the lineup all year, and he hits like he normally does.

Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall will be back soon, which means some rosters moves are coming.

Here’s hoping Tyler Naquin isn’t a victim.  The rookie has had limited playing time because of all the lefties the Indians have seen, but he has looked good.  He definitely deserves a roster spot over Collin Cowgill, but if Francona isn’t going to play him everyday, he may be better off in Columbus.

We would let Cowgill go, and send down a bullpen arm and keep Naquin because Brantley will probably need sporadic days off for his shoulder.

You could have a Marlon Byrd/Chisenhall platoon in right field, and a Naquin/ Rajai Davis platoon in center, with Davis getting extra time in relief of Brantley.

We bet the Tribe will go another way.

Remember though, it’s still early.  The first real opinions here will be made after 27 games, the 1/6th pole of the long season.

KM

 

Tribe Can’t Be Conservative in Helping Offense

It is almost a universal belief that the Cleveland Indians need to upgrade their offense this winter.

The Tribe ranked 11th in the American League in runs scored, and scored three runs or less in almost half (79) of the games they played in 2015.

They have only three everyday players with an OPS over 800:  Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and rookie of the year runner up Francisco Lindor.

As a contrast, the World Champion Royals had five such players, and a sixth, Ben Zobrist, joined them during the season.

We have written shortly after the season ended that the Indians should be looking to upgrade offensively at five different positions:  1B, 3B, CF, RF, and DH.

We are sure the supporters who are fans of Carlos Santana will say that we are crazy, but the switch-hitter will be 30 years old in 2016 and his numbers have declined each of the last two seasons.

The reality is Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff, and Terry Francona would be happy is at least two or three of these spots will be upgraded offensively.

While many fans like the job Lonnie Chisenhall did in RF after returning from the minor leagues (756 OPS, .288 batting average), over the entire season, his OPS was under 700.

That said, he is the player out of the five positions that we would consider as an everyday guy in 2016.

The real question though is how can the Indians accomplish this improvement?

We can all agree that the front office is not going to commit to a huge free agent deal to get a solid bat.

Therefore, we can rule out anyone on the high end of the free agent market.

Actually, we can rule out the entire free agent market because we wouldn’t pay between $7-$10 million on flawed players like Austin Jackson, David Freese, and the like.

So, it would appear to us that the only way to get the kind of bat the Tribe desperately needs is to trade one of their starting pitchers.

If the next Ted Williams fell into Cleveland’s lap for a minor league prospect, of course that would be the first option.  However, that’s not likely to occur.

In order to get a quality hitter, a professional hitter, the organization is going to have to pony up.

It would be nice to continue to have four or five quality starting pitchers who are proven commodities, but you may still have that with the depth the Indians have accumulated over the past few years.

And if the front office is going to ink players like Jackson or Freese and tell you they’ve improved the hitting, they are lying to themselves.

One guy who may be affordable and could help, at least against right-handed pitchers is free agent John Jaso.

Jaso, 32, is a platoon bat however.  He’s a lifetime .274 batter against right-handed pitching, with a 797 OPS.

He had a 839 OPS last season with Tampa Bay.

It would be fine to get some pieces like Jaso to help, but only if you can get someone who can hit in the middle of the order, especially with Brantley out of the lineup probably until the middle of May.

But you are going to have to give something significant in return.

The question is will the Indians’ front office have the stomach to make such a move

MW