Tribe Has More Wrong Than Just The Bullpen Right Now

As the Cleveland Indians hover around the .500 mark this season, there are other reasons besides the bullpen for the inconsistent start.

Four of the five starters have been outstanding, with only Josh Tomlin struggling, but Terry Francona has, because of injuries and manipulating off days, limited Tomlin to just six starts, showing that the organization has lost a little faith in The Little Cowboy.

The offense ranks 6th in the American League in runs scored, but that is a tad misleading.  Cleveland has scored three runs or less in 16 of their 44 contests to date, which is 36.4%.  The Tribe is 5-11 in those games, which again is a tribute to the starting pitchers.

What it means is the hitting has been inconsistent, and it has been carried by three remarkable performances.

The trio of Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, and Francisco Lindor might just be the best one-third of a lineup in baseball right now.  And if only one of the three is hitting in a specified game, the Indians have problems scoring.

The switch-hitting Ramirez, still just 25 years old, can now be considered one of baseball’s elite players.  We remember the talk in 2016, saying he was having a career year, which almost no one has at 23.

Ramirez is 5th in the league in OPS (1.007) and also ranks in the top five in home runs and doubles.  He is also third in the AL in WAR, behind Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.

Lindor, another switch-hitter and just 24 years old, is 8th in OPS (953), is tied with Ramirez for 5th in doubles and is in the top ten in HRs.  And he leads the junior circuit in defensive WAR too.

Brantley, 31, is the wily veteran of this threesome, but he appears to be recovered from the physical problems of the past two seasons, hitting .333 (4th in the league) and his OPS of 942 ranks 9th.

And in this age of the swing and miss, Brantley has struck out just 11 times, and has the second lowest whiff rate (behind Andrelton Simmons and just ahead of Ramirez) in the AL.

The problem with the offense is everyone else, save for Yan Gomes, who has to date had a real good year (.264, 6 HR, 12 RBI, 807 OPS).

While many have pointed to Jason Kipnis’ disappointing season (.174 batting average, 522 OPS), we would put Yonder Alonso in that category as well.

The veteran has a 708 OPS, and worse just a .280 on base percentage.  The offense misses the walks provided by Carlos Santana (.363 OBP) greatly.  He has also hit just .163 vs. lefties, which means the team should, and has, started playing Erik Gonzalez at first against southpaws.

Francona is not getting much out of his bench/platoon guys either, save for Gonzalez (978 OPS in 36 at bats).

Brandon Guyer is hitting only .150 total, just .229 vs. lefties, who he has hit .278 lifetime, and is just 1 for 32 vs. right-handers.

Rajai Davis is batting just .213 with a 514 OPS, and it appears his only offensive value is as a pinch-runner.

Roberto Perez is batting just .132 (484 OPS), so when he is in there, and he is still a very good pitch framer and defensive catcher, he’s a liability at the plate.

And Greg Allen, who has been pressed into service with the injuries to Lonnie Chisenhall, and then Tyler Naquin, has a .200 batting average, and hasn’t walked to date, with 12 strikeouts in 30 plate appearances.

Perhaps veteran Melky Cabrera can help when he is brought up, but he’s a defensive liability. He did have a 746 OPS last year with the White Sox and Royals.  And maybe Yandy Diaz can help too.

Otherwise, there isn’t much Francona can do.  These guys do have track records, but it is tough for the offense to generate runs with just three big bats.  A team needs production up and down the order.

If that doesn’t happen, Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff may have to get a bat as well as some bullpen arms before the July 31st trading deadline.

MW

Advertisements

Tribe Offense Needs A Boost Too.

With a recent surge last week, the Cleveland Indians moved up greatly in the offensive statistics for the American League.

After scoring more than 10 runs in three consecutive contests last week, they moved from near the bottom of the AL in scoring per game to 7th, where they are right now.

Still, it seems like the offense has sputtered more often than not.  The Tribe has scored three runs or less in 13 of their 34 games, which is slightly over 38% of the time.

When the Indians do score, they tally more frequently in the 8th inning (12 games) and next would be the 1st and the 4th innings (11 times), when the top of the order would most frequently hit.

One of the problems with the Tribe offense is right now it is filled with players who aren’t near the league average in OPS.

We consider above offensive players in baseball to be able to have an on base percentage of over .350 and a slugging percentage of over .450, which would be an OPS of 800 or more.

Outside of seldom used Erik Gonzalez (983 OPS in just 29 at bats), Terry Francona can only write three names in his lineup that meet that criteria:  Jose Ramirez (376/562/937), Michael Brantley (350/521/871), and Francisco Lindor (350/517/867).

The only other Cleveland player with significant at bats and an on base average over .350 is Tyler Naquin at .356, and that is more the result of a .316 batting average.  He has only walked three times in 73 plate appearances.

As for slugging over .450?  The only Tribesman doing that other than the previously mentioned trio is Yan Gomes at .451.

Those five players are the only Indians having OPS better than the league average of 732.

This means most rallies usually end because guys having below average offensive seasons thus far come up and make outs.

Edwin Encarnacion has a strikeout to walk ratio of 4:1 (40 Ks/10 BB).  Yonder Alonso has a career walk rate of 9.5%, this season, he is at 7.7%, meaning he is making outs more frequently.

The former should improve those numbers as the weather gets warmer, and the latter should correct itself as the season goes as well.

A growing problem is continuing to use Jason Kipnis in the #2 hole, breaking up the team’s three hottest hitters at leadoff (Lindor), #3 (Ramirez), and in the cleanup spot (Brantley).

Kipnis has hit is some tough luck, but he has an on base percentage of .252 and has just a .272 slugging percentage.

The other problem spot is CF.  Bradley Zimmer has played very good defense, but his OPS is just 645, and since he’s only getting on base at a 29.4% rate, he can’t use his great speed.

Neither can the other option, Rajai Davis, who has an OBP (.262), greater than his slugging percentage of .250.

It is going to difficult to continue to justify Davis’ roster spot with that kind of production. And remember, Melky Cabrera could be up here soon.

And we said earlier this year that we would not be surprised if Zimmer was sent back to AAA to get more seasoning at some point.

If the offense is going to get going, they are going to need more than three to five players contributing to the attack.

However, until then, a change in the batting order is needed.  Why not try Ramirez at the top, followed by Brantley and Lindor, then Encarnacion and Alonso?

Drop Kipnis down until he gets it going.

Really though, players just have to start hitting.  It may be just that simple.

MW

Tribe Winning, But Holes Are Springing Up.

The Cleveland Indians completed 1/6th of their season last night with a 15-12 record, putting them on a pace for 90 wins.  However, since they reside in the American League Central Division, they still have a three game lead over the Detroit Tigers.

Terry Francona’s team hasn’t had very smooth sailing thus far.  The offense, which ranked second in the AL in runs scored a year ago, is third from the bottom this season, ahead of just Baltimore and Kansas City.

What is crazy is the Tribe is 5th in the league in home runs, but because they are dead last in on base percentage, they have had issues putting together big innings, and have pretty much been a feast or famine, home run or nothing, attack.

Right now, only two batters, Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez, are having very good offensive seasons.  We aren’t worried about players like Francisco Lindor and to a lesser extent, Edwin Encarnacion, whose only worry is his age.

We know Jason Kipnis has had some hard hit outs, but his 473 OPS is worrisome because of his off year in 2017.  Yonder Alonso looks like his new approach at the plate (launch angle) continues to work (8 HR, 21 RBI already), but Bradley Zimmer, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer and Roberto Perez have really struggled with a bat in their hands.

The biggest concern here is Davis, because he is 37 years old, and with just two seasons since 2009 with an OPS over 700, isn’t a real good offensive player anyway.  The Indians have to get better production against southpaws.

The other growing problem is the bullpen, even when Andrew Miller is healthy.

Here is how we breakdown the relief corps–

Totally reliable:  Cody Allen, Miller
Comfortable with them in the game:  Dan Otero, Tyler Olson
Nervous as hell:  Nick Goody, Zack McAllister, Matt Belisle

We know Francona has a pecking order for his ‘pen, using Allen and Miller usually only with the lead, and it appears Olson has worked his way into that situation too.

Otero has kind of been the long man, if the team has one, but he’s got the best track record of the non-totally reliable guys, so we wouldn’t be surprised if he starts gettinsome 7th inning work with the lead.

Clearly, the front office needs to fortify this area of the team, and soon, because it is affecting Tito’s managing.

He’s staying with starters longer, letting pitch counts climb and it’s just May 1st. He also brought Allen into a game he was trailing last night.

Josh Tomlin is another concern.  As phenomenal as the top four starters have been, Tomlin has been that bad, giving up a whopping 10 homers in just 18-2/3 innings.

In three of his four starts, he hasn’t really given the Indians a chance to win, giving up a big inning early in games.

Right now, there aren’t any real alternatives, but if Adam Plutko pitches well in Thursday’s doubleheader against Toronto, Tomlin could have a problem staying in the rotation.

Francona and the front office may have to patch things together with the fifth starter and the bullpen until the trade deadline at the end of July.  But they can’t overuse the rotation, as good as they have been.

It’s still relatively early, but not early enough that you can’t observe some trends.  Having two pitchers who are relatively unusable isn’t good.

On the other hand, it gives the front office something to work on.

MW

 

 

Roster Spot Battles Heat Up For Tribe.

Major league baseball will begin its season in less than two weeks, so we are down to the nitty gritty in terms of battles for Opening Day roster spots.

For the sake of this piece, we will assume that Michael Brantley, Brandon Guyer, and Danny Salazar will all open the season on the disabled list, something that is definite for the latter two, but Brantley has started to hit in minor league games.

We will also figure that Terry Francona will keep 13 pitchers, meaning eight relievers will make the team.  This is the way to keep Ryan Merritt, who is out of options.

The first battle is who will be the Tribe’s utility infielder in Seattle on March 29th.

It was figured going into camp that Erik Gonzalez was the frontrunner, but Giovanny Urshela has made a very strong bid to beat him out.  Urshela has been playing all four infield spots and his bat has been great, as he is 18 for 33 with 3 HR in Arizona.

He has walked just once, but has struck out only three times.

Gonzalez is 6 for 26 without a homer and has walked three times and fanned in seven at bats.  Strike zone judgment has always been an issue for him as his career strikeout to walk ratio is 45:4.

Neither have options remaining, and we would think Gonzalez has more trade value because he’s a natural shortstop and his glove can play as a regular in the majors.

In the outfield, we would pencil in Bradley Zimmer and Lonnie Chisenhall on the team, but who is the primary leftfielder and who is the other right-handed bat considering both Zimmer and Chiz hit left-handed.

What we don’t understand is why Yandy Diaz isn’t getting reps in the outfield, because you could put him in left on an everyday basis, meaning the battle would be between veterans Rajai Davis and Melvin Upton Jr, and Rob Refsnyder.

Tyler Naquin could be in the mix too, but he’s another left handed bat.

Nobody has really taken charge in this battle.  Davis is 7 for 27 with one extra base hit and no walks.  Upton is 6 for 33 with a home run, three walks, and has fanned 11 times, while Refsnyder is 7 for 31 with two homers and six walks.

Again, why not consider Diaz, who is 10 for 28 with a dinger and four walks?

Our guess is Francona will pick Davis and Upton and give them a week or two on the big league roster as an audition.

As for the bullpen, if Merritt is kept, six of the spots have been filled with Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Dan Otero, Zack McAllister, and Tyler Olson claiming them.

We think Nick Goody has pitched his way out of a solid spot by giving up 14 hits and 10 runs in seven innings of work.

Matt Belisle, signed at the beginning of camp, probably claims one spot allowing two runs in eight innings, although the 13 hits allowed are troubling.

That leaves Alexi Ogando (one run in eight innings, 12 strikeouts), and Carlos Torres (seven runs, 13 hits in 7-1/3 frames, but really one bad outing) battling with Goody.

We feel you will see Francona using these guys in high leverage situations for the next week and a half to figure out.  We note that Ogando was the second pitcher used yesterday and threw two innings.

In fact, we think you will see all of these players getting a lot of time until the decision is made.  The regulars will get their at bats in minor league contests.

Decision time is coming.  A strong finish by each one of these players could put them in Seattle for game one.

MW

 

Tribe Has Santana Hole To Fill

The Cleveland Indians we have known over the past two years, an American League Championship team in 2016, and a 102 win team a year ago is no more.

When we say that, we don’t mean the Tribe is no longer a favorite to make the post-season, and we certainly don’t mean the Indians are not one of the best teams in the AL.

With their starting pitching and the keystone combination of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, they have the potential to get back to the Fall Classic and win it.

However, some key pieces will be missing when the squad reconvenes in Goodyear, Arizona in February.

We’ve already talked about relievers Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith departing via free agency, but now a key part of the offense is gone too with Carlos Santana signing a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Santana, who has been with the Tribe since 2010, isn’t a superstar, but he is dependable and productive, the former being something overlooked by many.

In five of his eight years here, he had an OPS over 800, combining an excellent on base percentage (walking over 90 times every year from 2011-2016), with some pop (over 18 home runs in each full season with the Indians).

He also played in at least 143 games in each of the last seven seasons as well.

Because he’s a switch-hitter, Terry Francona knew he could put Santana’s name in the lineup everyday, and he worked hard to make himself a very good defensive first baseman.

That said, we felt the Phillies overpaid for Santana and we do not blame the Tribe front office for not paying him $20 million per year for three years.  Remember, Santana will turn 32 right after the 2017 season starts.

So, what does the Tribe do at first base for 2018?

We believe the logical move is putting Michael Brantley there, since Dr. Smooth’s defense has declined some in recent years, and Brantley has experience at the position in the minor leagues.

That move would open up leftfield for Jason Kipnis.

We know Kipnis is supposedly on the trade block because Ramirez is now entrenched at second, but he’s coming off an off-season due to injuries, hitting just .232 (705 OPS) with 12 home runs.

So dealing him means you will likely get 50 cents on the dollar.  We would put him in left and hope he bounces back to a good year, and then, if you want to move his contract (he would make close to $15 million in ’19), you might get a better return.

Another option could be Yandy Diaz, who has to play everyday someplace with his bat, as he has no more to prove in the minors after hitting .350 at Columbus (with the highest on base percentage in the minors) last season.

Diaz hits the ball hard and can work counts too.  If the staff can get him to hit the ball in the air more often, he could have a huge year for Cleveland.

Other options outside the organization a lot of people mention would be Logan Morrison (coming off a career year in Tampa), Matt Adams (really a platoon player), and Eric Hosmer (would likely cost more than Santana).

It will be interesting to see the market for Jay Bruce now.  The longer he stays unsigned, the more the Tribe could get back in the mix, with Lonnie Chisenhall either moving to first or leftfield with Kipnis being moved.

Many fans didn’t like Santana, but his departure leaves the offense with a big hole.  We are sure Chris Antonetti and his group are on the case.

MW

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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