Slow Moving Player Market Frustrating Tribe Fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MW

 

 

 

 

 

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Tribe 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

Tribe Bullpen Will Need Revamping

One of the strengths of the Cleveland Indians the past several years has been their bullpen, but right now it could have a revamped look in 2018.

Sure, the back end of the relief corps is still anchored by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, which means the 8th and 9th innings are taken care of.

The problem right now is the bridge between the starting pitchers and that dynamic duo for the last two innings.

Terry Francona has lost one of his main guys in rubberarmed Bryan Shaw, and another reliever who came aboard at the trade deadline a year ago, Joe Smith, will also not be back.

On a lesser note, Shawn Armstrong, who was kind of the swing guy between the big leagues and AAA a year ago, was traded to Seattle.

Francona said at the end of last season that it may take two pitchers to take the place of Shaw, who appeared in an American League leading 79 games in ’17, and has led the AL in games pitched in three of the last four seasons.

It is hard to see the replacements for Shaw and Smith on the current roster.

Nick Goody, picked up in a minor deal with the Yankees about a year ago, is probably the next hurler on Tito’s pecking order.  Goody was 1-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 54-2/3 innings in 2017.  He did strikeout 72 hitters last year, so he has swing and miss stuff.

Dan Otero is a guy Francona leans on early in games, so perhaps he could used in the 6th and 7th innings.  The righty was 3-0 with a 2.85 ERA in ’17, but he is more of a sinkerballer with only 38 whiffs in 60 innings.

Zack McAllister is another option, but Francona seems to be hesitant to use him in high leverage situations because he’s basically a one pitch pitcher.

Perhaps Danny Salazar, with his electric stuff and durability issues, can be moved to the bullpen, but no one knows how his arm will react to this change in roles, and can he be effective over the long haul.

There doesn’t seem to be any in the minor leagues ready to step in and contribute either, but then again, no one saw Goody as a legitimate option heading into spring training.

We are sure the front office is looking at either a deal or free agent options for the ‘pen too.

Since the current management team has been in place, the Tribe has found guys like Scott Atchison, Otero, and Goody in free agency or in minor deals, and they have provided great help in relief.

We mentioned former Indians’ farmhand Hector Rondon previously as an option. He had closer experience with the Cubs.

However, until the replacements have success when the games count for real in April, you have to wonder about them.

And you have to wonder if and when they gain Tito’s trust.  The skipper has a clear pecking order in his bullpen with certain guys pitching when the Tribe has a late lead, and the rest being relegated to pitching when the Indians are behind.

Based on the performance of the front office over the past five seasons, we have trust they will find arms to replace Shaw and Smith.

But there will certainly be a different dynamic in the Cleveland bullpen next season.  New relief toys for Terry Francona.

MW

 

 

Tribe Readies Roster For Winter

The Cleveland Indians put the final touches on their 40 man roster today by making a series of roster moves, mostly made to protect prospects for the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings.

In order to make room for four minor leaguers, the Tribe designated righthanded pitcher Dylan Baker and southpaw Kyle Crockett for assignment.

Crockett will catch on someplace else we believe, because he will be useful as a situational lefty out of the bullpen.  He was called up less than a year after he was drafted and had a 1.80 ERA in 43 games as a rookie.

But he never really had Terry Francona’s confidence going forward and this past season, made just four appearances with the big club.

We understand many people think the Tribe made a mistake here, but if the pitcher doesn’t have the confidence of the manager and pitching coach, it’s best that he moves on.

Baker has battled arm problems for years and has pitched just 74 innings since the end of the 2013 season.  Our guess is the Indians will sign him to a minor league contract this winter.

The Indians added right handed starter Julian Merryweather (7-9, 5.32 ERA at Akron and Columbus in ’17) and a trio of shortstop prospects:  Eric Stamets, Yu-Cheng Chang, and Willi Castro.

Stamets came over from the Angels in 2015 for David Murphy as a good glove, no hit middle infielder, but he has developed power in recent years, hitting 16 homers in the minors last season, after not hitting over seven in any season prior to 2017.

Chang, just 22, hit 24 home runs last season with a .220 batting average (774 OPS).  He struck out 134 times a year ago, so he needs to make more contact and get on base more going forward.

Castro will turn 21 next season and played at Class A Lynchburg in ’17, hitting .290 with a 761 OPS and a career high 11 dingers.  He has been one of the younger players in the league in which he has played throughout his career.

Cleveland also claimed infielder Rob Refsnyder on waivers from Toronto.  Refsnyder was highly regarded by the Yankees as he advanced through the system, and actually started the Wild Card game for the Yanks in 2015.

However, he has never gotten more than 152 at bats in a season at the big league level, hitting .250 with a 637 OPS.

His AAA numbers are pretty good though, with a .294 batting average and a 799 OPS.  He’s a patient hitter, a second baseman by trade with experience in LF and RF.  We all know how Francona values versatility and he now has another player he can use in a variety of ways.

He also attended the University of Arizona like Tito.

It’s an under the radar move that could pay big dividends in the 2018 season.

Now, with three weeks until the Winter Meetings, the focus for the organization will shift to signing one of their key free agents, either Carlos Santana or Jay Bruce, and making some trades to get the roster ready for ’18.

With a core of the talented Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez and one of the best pitching staffs in the game, the Tribe is certainly the favorite to win the AL Central next season.

But keep an eye on guys like Merryweather, Castro, and Refsnyder.

MW

Reflecting On Kluber’s Magnificence

The Cleveland Indians lost the American League Division Series about a month ago, and it still is a disappointment, not in the team, but considering how well the Tribe was playing going into the post-season, we all fantasized about winning the World Series.

That feeling should not make everyone overlook the fact the Indians won 102 games, the second highest total in franchise history and had the best record in the American League.

They have four finalists for the Gold Glove.  SS Francisco Lindor is trying to win his second in a row, and he is joined by Jose Ramirez at third base, Carlos Santana at first, and Yan Gomes behind the plate in finishing in the top three in the voting.

Yesterday, more accolades came the Indians’ way.

Terry Francona is a finalist for AL Manager of the Year, an award he has won twice before, in 2013 and 2016.

Jose Ramirez is second Tribesman in the last four years (Michael Brantley in 2014) to finish in the top three of the MVP voting.  Ramirez had a remarkable season, setting career highs in every major statistical category save for stolen bases.

However, the highest honor will probably go to Corey Kluber.  Kluber should become the first Indian pitcher to win two Cy Young Awards during his tenure with the Indians, capping a season in which he went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and 265 strikeouts in 203 innings.

He would be the 19th pitcher in the history of the award (started in 1956) to win it multiple times.

It will also mean that Kluber will have finished in the top three for this award three times, finishing third a year ago.

There are four dominant starting pitchers in the sport right now:  Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, and Kluber.

In the past four years, the right-hander has led in the AL in wins twice (’14 and ’17), in complete games twice (’15 and ’17), in shutouts the past two seasons, and in ERA this past campaign.

He has finished in the top four in strikeouts each of the past four seasons, and has ranked first or second in pitchers’ WAR in three of the past four years.

Kluber’s career WAR total (according to BaseballReference.com) is now at 26.9.  Consider the franchise’s all time leaders among pitchers in this category:

Bob Feller              63
Stan Coveleski      51
Bob Lemon           48
Mel Harder           43
Addie Joss             43
Sam McDowell    41
Early Wynn         39
George Uhle         37
Wes Farrell          36
Willis Hudlin       33

With a season with a WAR of six next season (that was Kluber’s 2016 season), he would tie Hudlin for the 10th highest total in club history.  And he would have done it in a five year span.

It would not be a reach for Kluber to wind up as high as 4th in Tribe history among hurlers, behind the Indians’ Hall of Fame triumvirate of Feller, Coveleski, and Lemon.

If he wins in 2017, keep in mind there are only nine pitchers (could be a 10th if Scherzer wins this year) to win three or more Cy Youngs.

And those pitchers are a who’s who of the greatest pitchers in the last 60 years:  Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, and Kershaw.

He won’t turn 32 until early next season (April 10th).

That’s a historical perspective on Kluber, who will find out next week if he will be recognized once again as the best pitcher in the AL.

It’s been a remarkable four years indeed.

MW

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MW

 

 

Decisions, Decisions Loom For Tribe Before Playoffs

The Cleveland Indians clinched their ninth American League Central Division title on Sunday, so they will have 12 games to get players some rest and to get their starting rotation in order.

The AL Division Series will start on October 5th in Cleveland, as the Tribe has a seven game advantage over Boston for the best record in the league.

No doubt, Corey Kluber will start that game, so Terry Francona has to decide whether he wants extra rest for his ace, or to go on his regular four days off, which means he would pitch the last Saturday of the regular season.

This season, Kluber has a 1.99 ERA with four days off between starts, and a 3.86 ERA with an extra day of rest.  It seems like a no brainer for Tito.

It would seem logical that Carlos Carrasco (16-6, 3.48 ERA) would be the Game 2 starter, but Carrasco has a 2.71 ERA on the road, compared to 4.38 at Progressive Field.

So, Francona could decide to go with Trevor Bauer (4.08 ERA at home vs. 4.88 on the road) in the second game and use Carrasco in Game 3 on the road.

Then there is the matter of the bullpen.

It has been reported that the Indians will have an 11 man staff for the first round, meaning they will carry seven bullpen arms.

Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Joe Smith are locks, and you have to think Tyler Olsen will give Francona a second lefty out of the ‘pen.

That leaves Danny Salazar, Dan Otero, Josh Tomlin, Zack McAllister, and Nick Goody vying for two spots, assuming Mike Clevinger is the fourth starter.

We would choose Salazar and Otero.  The former because he could give the team multiple quality frames, and the latter because he throws strikes, can pitch more than an inning and has pitched very well down the stretch.

Keeping 11 hurlers means 14 position players will make the roster.  The following are locks:  Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson, and both catchers, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez.

That leaves six spots.

You have to believe Jason Kipnis will make the roster, and much depends on the health of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer, neither of whom are with the Tribe on this trip.

Chisenhall is a for sure if healthy, and we would think that Yandy Diaz, who is garnering most of the playing time at third base will be there in October too.

We also think Gio Urshela and his outstanding glove, and Greg Allen, with his speed and defense will make the roster, leaving the last spot for Guyer (if he’s healthy), Abraham Almonte, or perhaps even Tyler Naquin.

Our opinion is Almonte offers the most in the way of versatility.  He’s a switch-hitter, can play all three outfield spots, and can be used as a pinch-runner as well.

We don’t believe the Tribe will chase the best record in the American League and in the Major Leagues in total either.

We will see the regulars get some rest, the rotation set up for the playoffs, and auditions for the players we mentioned to see who will fill out the roster when the post-season starts.

On the other hand, the Tribe didn’t chase a 22 game winning streak either.  When the pitching performs as it has over the last two months, it just kind of naturally happens.

MW

 

The Tribe’s Remarkable Streak Carries Remarkable Numbers.

By now, we think everyone knows that the Cleveland Indians are on a 19 game winning streak, and tonight they will attempt to tie the American League record of 20 straight wins, set by the Oakland A’s in 2002.

Those are the A’s portrayed in the movie “Moneyball”.

There are a lot of remarkable numbers and statistics that go along with the streak, but in our opinion, the one that stands out is that the Tribe has allowed just 32 runs during the 19 victories, and six of those came in the first win, against Boston.

That means over the next 18 contests, opponents have scored just 26 runs, an average of only 1.4 per game.

No matter what kind of team you have, you will win a lot of games if you only have to get two runs to win.

However, Terry Francona’s crew has scored more than two runs per game, they have scored 132 runs during the streak, averaging 6.9 runs per game.

That also computes to a run differential of 100 runs in these games.  With the Indians leading the AL in that category, the second place team is the Yankees, and they have scored 152 more runs than their opponents…for the entire season.

At the All Star break, it seemed impossible that the Tribe could get the best record in the AL and thus have home field advantage in the league playoffs, but right now, they have that distinction right now, although there is still three weeks on the schedule.

Even with that record, according to their run differential on the season, Cleveland is below where they should be record wise, their real mark being 88-56, while their Pythagorean win/loss is 94-50.

More numbers that boggle your mind.  The Indians’ pitching staff have six shutouts in the 19 games.  They have only one three one-run games, while only two others have been decided by two runs.

This means there have only been five close games in the bunch.

By contrast, Francona’s squad has won four games by 10 or more runs, and in total have emerged victorious by five or more runs in eight contests.

Eleven of the wins came on the road, meaning eight have come at home.  They had an overall scoreless streak of 30 innings, starting in game one vs. Boston, and ended by Corey Kluber, of all people.

They carried a 37 inning scoreless skein at Progressive Field, which just ended last Saturday afternoon against the Orioles.

Mike Clevinger has not allowed a run during the streak, making three starts, and pitching six scoreless innings in each of them.

Trevor Bauer has four wins, Kluber and Clevinger have won three, while Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Ryan Merritt have two victories.

Cleveland’s magic number was 33 before they stopped losing, and it is now six.  There is a real possibility the Indians could have a champagne celebration before they leave town on Sunday night.

Perhaps the craziest thing is that Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Andrew Miller haven’t made an appearance on the field during this span.  That speaks to the depth the front office has accumulated this season.

Because of the streak, Jay Bruce has been on the roster for 33 games, and the Indians are 28-5.

It’s a remarkable run for this baseball team, and it keeps on going.  After a season with mixed results for four months, the Tribe is the talk of baseball right now.

MW

 

 

 

Tribe Improving As Season Goes On

The Cleveland Indians have entered the home stretch of the Major League Baseball schedule, and are getting better as the season continues.

If you read the blog on a regular basis, we like to break down the schedule in 27 games increments, representing 1/6th of the season.

To date, the Tribe’s records in these sections are as follows:

First 27 games:  15-12
Games 28-54:     13-14
Games 55-81:     16-11
Games 82-108:   15-12
Games 109-135: 20-7

As is the norm, Terry Francona’s teams seem to get better as the season rolls on.  Remember in 2013, Tito’s first season in Cleveland when the team went 21-6 in September to earn a berth in the wild card game?

In 2014, the Indians were below .500 after 81 games, but went 46-35 in the second half and were in the playoff race until the final weekend of the season.

A year later, Cleveland was again below .500 in the first half (38-43), but again went 43-37 in the second half after restructuring the roster by trading Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, and bringing up top prospect Francisco Lindor.

Last year, was an anomaly, as the Tribe went 49-32 in the first 81 games, and “slipped” to 45-35 in the last 81, but the season culminated in a classic World Series, losing in extra innings in Game 7 to the Chicago Cubs.

This season, the Indians have done well in each 27 game split, the worst record in that span being a game under the break even mark.

However, in the last third of the 2017 campaign, Francona’s crew has gone into hyper drive, going 20-7, and currently riding a 12 game winning streak.

Last season’s club record 14 game span without a loss is in jeopardy.  The previous record of 13 consecutive wins was set in 1951, lasting 55 seasons.  The new record might be erased in one year.

The last team to have winning streaks of 12 or more games in back-to-back seasons were the 1970-71 Baltimore Orioles, teams which both reached the World Series, part of three straight berths in the Fall Classic (1969-71).

Offensively, the Tribe has been led by their pair of under 25 year old stars, INF Jose Ramirez and Lindor.

If you want reasons to feel good about the future of this organization, you can point to the two best position players being 24 (Ramirez) and 23 (Lindor).

The former leads the American League in extra base hits, while the latter just set a club record for home runs by a shortstop with 26 dingers.

And with injuries to stalwarts Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall, Francona received contributions from young players like Yandy Diaz and Gio Urshela.

Veteran Austin Jackson, who we didn’t want to make the club out of spring training, has also been huge, hitting .318 with an 875 OPS.

As much as the offense has produced, the hot streak has been keyed by the starting pitching.  Corey Kluber is having a season that could earn him his second Cy Young Award, despite missing several weeks with a sore back.

Danny Salazar has been in and out of the rotation, but Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger have picked up the slack.  Bauer is tied for the league lead in wins, and Clevinger is 8-5 with a 3.50 ERA.

And we haven’t mentioned the steady Carlos Carrasco, who is 13-6 with a 3.67 ERA and should reach the 200 strikeout mark on the year.

The Tribe is finishing the season strong.  And when they get Andrew Miller back, assuming he will be healthy, they may get even stronger.

MW

 

 

Tribe Gets Through August Challenge With Flying Colors.

The Cleveland Indians entered the month of August facing a stern test.

The schedule was full of post-season contenders, with home and home series with the Red Sox and Yankees, an 11 game trip to Tampa, Minneapolis, and Kansas City, and a couple of game vs. Colorado.

They started the month 10 games over .500, and they ended it 20 over the break even mark thanks to a 19-9 month.

What is more remarkable is Terry Francona’s squad had several important players missing time with injuries.

Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Andrew Miller all missed most of this important stretch of games with injuries.  And yet, the Tribe rolled on.

They did it first and foremost with incredible pitching, mostly from the starting rotation.

After allowing 12 runs to the Red Sox on August 1st, in what should be the Major League Baseball game of the year, gave up more than four runs in a game just five times the rest of the month.

Three of those games came consecutively in home series vs. Boston, and Cleveland won the last of those games, a 13-6 win over Sox ace Chris Sale, a day after the Tribe went through a two game stretch where the offense couldn’t buy a hit.

The staff had a streak of 30 straight scoreless innings, which ironically ended with ace Corey Kluber on the mound.

Despite all the injuries, the offense pitched in too, scoring five or more runs in half of the 28 games.

The hitting was revitalized with the addition of Jay Bruce, acquired from the Mets.  Upon arrival, Bruce hit in his first 11 starts, contributing four home runs and 13 runs batted in.

The injuries to Brantley and Chisenhall necessitated the deal, and give the front office and ownership a gold star for seeing the club needed a boost.

Depth in the farm system paid dividends with Giovanny Urshela, Erik Gonzalez, and Yandy Diaz contributing to the Indians’ success.

Among the position players, these are the standouts–

Carlos Santana:  997 OPS, 7 HR, 15 RBI
Edwin Encarnacion:  Batted just .220 for the month, but belted 10 homers
Francisco Lindor:  9 HR, 17 RBI
Diaz:  8 for 20, 5 RBI

Pitching wise, there are more exceptional statistics–

Kluber:  5-1, 1.96 ERA, .146 batting average against
Trevor Bauer:  5-0, 2.31 ERA, 44 strikeouts in 39 innings
Ryan Merritt:  2-0, 1.15 ERA
Joe Smith:  9 appearances, 8 of them scoreless
Tyler Olson:  8-2/3 scoreless innings

What does this period of great play mean for Francona’s club?

When Brantley, Chisenhall, and Kipnis come back, it could be a lethal batting order, one that has Chisenhall and maybe Santana hitting as low as seven and eight in the lineup.

It also buys more time for Miller to rest his knee.  It wouldn’t bother me if the lefty wasn’t held out until September 15th, giving him two weeks to get ready for what seems like an inevitable post-season berth.

Same with Brantley.  He hasn’t started baseball activities yet, but as long as he can get two weeks of play under his belt, he should be ready for the playoffs.

Will this mean another World Series berth for the Indians?  We can’t say that, baseball is not that kind of sport.  However, as usual, a Terry Francona led team is playing better ball in the second half of the season.

They passed their toughest test of the season with ease, and the magic number (right now 24) countdown can start right now.

MW