Our “Concerns” About The Tribe

Friday night, the Cleveland Indians will play their 40th game of the 2017 season, meaning the season is 25% completed.

Coming off an American League pennant, we are sure many fans were hoping for a start similar to the 1984 Detroit Tigers (35-5), so they could start looking for the inevitable repeat berth in the Fall Classic.

Baseball doesn’t work that way.

The old axiom in the sport is you can’t win a post-season spot in April, but you can certainly lose one.  The Tribe is just a game out of the AL Central Division lead as of today, and they are just a game out of the second wild card spot too.

They are still in a good position to get back to the playoffs, because they are right around the .500 mark, and really haven’t played good baseball to date.

There are some things that concern us about the Tribe, though.  And in no particular order, here they are:

The Starting Pitching.  Injuries aside, and losing one of the best pitchers in the game in Corey Kluber, even for a short time, doesn’t help, the rotation has been shaky outside of Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Look at these numbers:

Danny Salazar–5.2 innings per start, 5.66 ERA
Josh Tomlin–5.1 innings per start, 6.86 ERA
Trevor Bauer–5.6 innings per start, 6.92 ERA

Just as bad as the high ERAs is, the lack of length from this trio is putting a big toll on the bullpen.  If the starters can’t start giving Terry Francona some length, the relief corps will be fried by August.

Salazar and Bauer’s struggles extend into the second half of last season.

The bigger issue might be that the Tribe doesn’t have a lot of options currently in the organization.

Inconsistent Offense.  The 2016 Indians finished second in the American League in runs scored.  Right now, the team ranks 10th, despite the addition of Michael Brantley to his pre-injury form.

Most people will put the blame on free agent signee Edwin Encarnacion, who is hitting just .203 with 6 HR and 14 RBI (691 OPS).  However, Jason Kipnis has struggled since coming back from a shoulder issue, and the outfield platoons haven’t provided much hitting either, outside of Lonnie Chisenhall.

We feel Encarnacion is pressing, trying to live up to his contract, and Kipnis will come around as he gets more at bats.

One other thing.  We are a little concerned that Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have become a little too home run happy.  That’s something to keep an eye on.

Loss Of Aggressiveness On Bases.  This has started to return, starting with last Sunday’s game vs. the Twins.

Lindor and Ramirez have just two stolen bases each.  For as many times as each have been on base, that’s incredibly low.  We understand that Rajai Davis led the league in steals a year ago, but he didn’t take the instructions on how to steal with him.

The Indians strikeout fewer than all but two AL teams (Boston and Minnesota), and they are fifth in drawing walks.  Francona needs to put runners in motion more often.

Cleveland is 11th in the American League in homers, so they shouldn’t be playing Earl Weaver baseball, looking for the three run bomb.

It’s time to use the speed to the team’s advantage.

We don’t think this is a horrible baseball team.  We don’t think the sky is falling.  It is silly to ignore some trouble spots for the Indians.

They still have another gear as the season goes on.

MW

Tribe’s Starters Need To Step Up

Last season, the Cleveland Indians went to the seventh game of the World Series despite missing two of its starting pitchers (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar) for the entirety of the post-season.

It was a handicap because the starting rotation was considered the strength of Terry Francona’s ballclub.

So far in 2017, that simply hasn’t been the case.

Last night’s start by Danny Salazar just highlighted the issue once again.

The right-hander had early inning issues once again, giving up a three run homer to Jose Bautista after the hitters handed him a 2-0 first inning lead.

Then, after the Indians went up 7-3 with a five run third, Salazar couldn’t finish the bottom of the inning, giving up two more tallies before departing.

With Corey Kluber on the disabled list with a bad back and Trevor Bauer’s struggles being well chronicled, Salazar needs to pitch well to take the burden off the bullpen.

The statistics show the starting pitchers haven’t been that bad on the season thus far.  In the first 33 games in 2017, Cleveland pitchers have compiled 16 quality starts, a percentage that ranks in the middle of the pack in the American League (7th).

However, those numbers are skewed by the dominance of Carlos Carrasco, easily the Tribe’s best starter this year with a 1.86 ERA.

Carrasco has six of those quality starts (out of seven appearances), meaning in the other 26 starts, Indian hurlers have put together just 10 starts of six innings, allowing just three runs.

Kluber has three of those 10, and he’s not pitching right now.

Outside of Carrasco, the other four starters have an ERA of over 5.00.  Josh Tomlin and Bauer both have figures over 7.00.

Some of the issues can be from playing in a lot of hitter havens to start the 2017 season.  Cleveland has played a dozen games in Texas, Arizona, Chicago, and Toronto, all pretty good places to hit.

However, as a pitching staff, the team ERA is better on the road than it is at Progressive Field.

Each of the struggling pitchers seem to have different issues.

Salazar is striking people out (53 K’s in 36-1/3 innings), but has had problems with control, a team leading 18 walks, and putting hitters away.  He winds up throwing a ton of pitches because of the latter.

He’s also had issues in the first and second innings.

Tomlin doesn’t have control issues, but he’s allowed 41 hits in 30-1/3 frames.  Surprisingly, he’s allowed the least home runs among the rotation, and we say that considering his history.

To be fair, since two horrible starts to begin the season, he’s been pretty good in his last four starts (24 IP, 11 ER).

And Bauer was discussed earlier this week.  He has tremendous stuff, but has had extreme consistency issues in 2017.  He needs to start being able to keep his team in a game through five innings to give them a chance to win.

We know that if the rotation straightens itself out and goes two times through it, the Indians could have a 10 game winning streak.  That’s how good they can be at their best.

That the ballclub is 18-15 without them being special is a tribute to how good the Tribe and their bullpen is this season.

MW

 

 

 

The Bauer Conundrum

It is not a secret that Trevor Bauer hasn’t gotten off to a great start to the 2017 season.

After last night’s loss to Toronto, Bauer is 2-4 and has allowed 27 runs in 33 innings, including 7 home runs.  Those numbers are somewhat skewed by two horrible starts vs. Detroit (13 runs in 9 innings)

This performance to date, and Mike Clevinger’s very good start on Sunday vs. Kansas City have many in the Indians’ fandom to want to replace Bauer in the rotation with Corey Kluber returns to the starting rotation.

There is no question that Bauer is a polarizing figure among Tribe fans.  Many feel he cost the Indians the World Series last year (we really don’t get that one), and there is the drone incident before the American League Championship Series, and the fact the pitcher makes his political beliefs well known.

None of that should matter to fans if it doesn’t matter to Terry Francona, Mickey Callaway, and the team’s front office.

Of course, they may indeed be bothered, but they do not and cannot put those feelings in their evaluation of the right-hander.

In looking at the numbers over his career, Bauer has never allowed an inordinate amount of long balls, his main problem has been control.

He led the American League in free passes in 2015, and was 7th last season.

This year, his walks are down, allowing more than three in a game just once this year (his walks per nine are about his career average as result of a five walk game vs. Detroit), and perhaps the homers are a result of being in the strike zone more often.

If that is the case, it might be just a matter of time before he learns to limit the home runs to solo shots.

Regardless, Bauer is just 26 years old, and throws 95 MPH with his fastball consistently.  He also have a very good curveball. It would be very difficult to give up on someone with that kind of stuff.

Besides, outside of Clevinger, the Tribe doesn’t have a lot of depth at AAA.  Ryan Merritt is okay, but has marginal stuff, and Adam Plutko and Shawn Morimando are struggling.

Also, Francona and Callaway like how Bauer takes the ball every fifth day, and for the most part will stay out on the mound to save the bullpen.

Last night was a great example of that.  Bauer gave up four runs in the first three innings, but stayed out there, throwing 125 pitches to get the Tribe through the sixth.

There is a value to that that most fans don’t understand.

So, Francona only had to use one reliever (Zack McAllister) last night, saving everyone else for tonight’s game.  Perhaps someone else lets it spin out of control in the 4th, and the skipper has to use a bevy of relievers.

He has given the Indians 366 innings over the last two seasons,  more than anyone not named Kluber.

As Francona always says, when you think you have enough pitching, you go out and get some more.

Yes, Bauer is frustrating.  Yes, he’s a different cat.  Yes, he is very inconsistent.  But he’s talented enough to play this out.  You have to go the last mile with him to find out if he can be a top of the rotation starter.

MW

 

 

Reviewing The Tribe So Far

It’s hard to believe, but the Indians 3-2 win over Detroit on Wednesday means the ballclub has completed 1/6th of the season.

Their record is 15-12 which doesn’t sound very impressive, but over a complete 162 game season, winning at that pace computes to a 90 win season.

Terry Francona’s club has been a little inconsistent, but it does say a lot about this baseball team that they have a winning record despite only one phase of the team, the bullpen, performing up to expectations.

The offense ranks just 7th in the American League in runs scored (they were 2nd last year), and they have scored three runs or less in 14 games to date, more than half of the schedule.  They are 4-10 in those games.

This means when they get to four runs, they are virtually unbeatable at 11-2.

Why has the offense struggled?

Edwin Encarnacion is off to a slow start at .198 with 4 HR and 10 RBI (667 OPS).  This is his history, so we aren’t concerned about that.  His lowest numbers in his career by month are in April.

What is concerning is his strikeouts.  Encarnacion has struck out 39 times in 118 plate appearances, well above the normal rate for his career.

We believe he is just trying to justify his new, hefty contract, and once the weather gets warmer and he relaxes, he will be fine.

Carlos Santana is also off to a slow start, with a 663 OPS and only 2 home runs.  He does continue to take his walks with 17 compared to 13 strikeouts.  The walks rank second to Encarnacion.

Jason Kipnis didn’t get many at bats in spring training, and it has shown, as he is hitting just .132.  Perhaps he would have benefited from an extra week in the minors for rehab.

On the other hand, the two youngsters in the batting order, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are raking.

Lindor is taking his place as one of the game’s new stars, adding power with 7 homers, 17 RBIs and a 976 OPS.

Ramirez is showing his 2016 season was not a fluke (we didn’t think it was), batting .323 with a 986 OPS and a team leading 23 RBIs, tied for 4th in the American League.

The starting pitching has also been up and down.  Corey Kluber is now on the disabled list with lower back tightness, and has an ERA of 5.06.  He’s pitched some very good games, but has also had clinkers.

Carlos Carrasco has been the best starter, with a 2.18 ERA and allowing only 26 hits in 41 innings.  If Danny Salazar can get past the first inning he has been solid as well.

However, Josh Tomlin hasn’t pitched like he did in the post-season last year (currently an 8.87 ERA) and Trevor Bauer has had only one start where he allowed less than four runs.

Still, if you remove his two starts vs. Detroit, his ERA is 5.00.

The bullpen has been the strength of the team to this point.

The combination of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller has been spectacular.  In 24-2/3 combined innings, they have struck out 42 batters, and allowing just one run.

Bryan Shaw continues to be a workhorse and has been effective, but newcomer Nick Goody has impressed as well.

Acquired from the Yankees over the winter, he has thrown nine scoreless frames, allowing just two hits.  He seems to have moved ahead of Zack McAllister in the bullpen pecking order.

The offense will get more consistent and so will the starting pitching, so you have to be very satisfied with the Tribe’s start to the 2017 season.

There is nothing to change our mind that this edition of the Indians will win the American League Central Division.

MW

 

Are Tribe’s Post-Season Chances Done?

After Carlos Carrasco left Saturday’s game with the Detroit Tigers with a broken bone in his hand, The Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes wrote that the Cleveland Indians’ playoff chances ended before the post-season even began.

We aren’t going to get into whether or not the column was appropriate, nor are we going to discuss the reactions to the piece in the Tribe clubhouse.

We did want to analyze whether or not the Indians’ really do not have a chance once the post-season begins the first week in October.

Perhaps as little as five years ago, losing two starting pitchers from a team that leads the American League in ERA could have been a death blow to that squad’s World Series hopes.

But baseball has changed over the past few seasons, and in the playoffs, the bullpen is becoming more and more important as managers bring in one flamethrower after another to work one inning in October.

Certainly, the Tribe will need its ace, Corey Kluber, to give them a lot of innings in the games he starts, much like Madison Bumgarner does for the Giants.  Terry Francona will need Kluber to go deep in games, because he will lean on his bullpen heavily in the games he doesn’t start.

From there on out, Francona will be happy with at least five innings from his starting pitchers and then he will turn the game over to his bullpen where he can pull a page out of Joe Torre’s book and ask his three best relief pitchers, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller, to give him four outs each instead of the three he usually asks for in the regular season.

Trevor Bauer would probably be the game two starter, and if he is throwing strikes, could be another guy who can soak up some innings.  For all of Bauer’s inconsistency, especially after the all star break, when he is on, he can be dominant.

Our guess is if the other two starters, Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger, can give Tito four solid innings, the skipper will be satisfied.

That’s because the post-season roster will have either eight or nine bullpen options, depending on what Francona feels comfortable with.

It’s also why Tito has been conducting some tryouts over the last month to see who will be part of his playoff relief corps.

Obviously, Dan Otero will be one of those members, as will Zack McAllister, who has been much more effective over the last six weeks.

We also believe Kyle Crockett will give the Indians an extra left-hander in the ‘pen in the post-season.

The last two spots are up for grabs, and the frontrunners are probably veteran Jeff Manship and rookie Perci Garner, who the manager has gone to in some very high leverage situations lately.

His strikeout of Victor Martinez on Saturday, with a man on third in a scoreless game, may have clinched the spot for him.

Without a doubt, it would be easier for the Indians with four starters who can give the team at least six innings throughout the post-season, but that ship has sailed.

However, we can definitely see a scenario where the pitching burden is put more on the bullpen in October, and that gives the Cleveland Indians just as good of a chance for success as they would have if the starting rotation was intact.

MW

 

Tribe’s Strength Is Failing Them

At the All Star break, the Cleveland Indians were sitting in first place with a 52-36 record and considered a favorite for the American League pennant because of their dominant starting pitching.

Two of the rotation members, Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar made the AL roster for the Midsummer Classic, and a case could be made for Josh Tomlin (9-2, 3.51 ERA) as well.

Carlos Carrasco wasn’t considered because he missed a good chunk of the first half with a hamstring injury and Trevor Bauer (7-3, 3.30 ERA) was pitching as well as he ever had in the big league tenure.

Collectively, Tribe starters had a 3.70 ERA at that point.  Surely, it would be difficult to beat them in a short series.

My, how things have changed.

The Indians still lead the Central Division by 4-1/2 games over the Tigers and 5 over the surging defending champion Royals, but the starting rotation, considered the strength of the team by nearly everyone, experts and fans alike, is leaking oil.  Badly.

Since the break, the Cleveland rotation has an ERA of 4.92, and this isn’t a ten or fifteen game stretch we are talking about.  This span has now lasted 40 games, or a quarter of the major league schedule.

And if you remove Kluber’s sterling second half (5-0, 1.84 ERA) out of the mix, the remainder of the starting pitchers have a 5.87 ERA in the second half.  If this continues, Terry Francona’s team will have a problem getting into the post-season, let alone making it all the way to the Fall Classic.

Here is how the rest of the rotation has fared since Kluber was the winning pitcher in San Diego to give the AL home field advantage in the World Series:

Bauer         2-3     5.20 ERA      45 innings
Tomlin      2-6     7.29 ERA      45-2/3 innings
Carrasco   4-4     4.25 ERA      55 inningsSalazar      1-2   10.70 ERA      17-2/3 innings

Salazar was disabled for two weeks with some discomfort in his elbow, and in his two starts since has lasted a total of five innings.  Today’s start versus Texas is a huge start for him, the manager, and the pitching coach.

Francona didn’t use Mike Clevinger last night because he knew he needed him today in case the right-hander could only give him two or three innings.

Carrasco has been the next best pitcher after Kluber, but he has had starts where he dominates early, and then starts getting hit hard.

Bauer has been a mystery for most of his big league time, but looked to have figured it out in the first half.  In the last month or so, he has started walking hitters again, and has been prone to the gopher ball.  He did out duel Max Scherzer in Washington though.

When he has been good, he’s been very good.  On the other hand…

Tomlin has been awful, with a 7.29 ERA over 45 frames.  In many of the games he has started, he’s given the Tribe no chance to win.  He has been especially bad against the better teams in the AL, and gives up dingers at an incredible rate.

Early in the year, most were solo shots, which is fine, but lately, they have been three run blasts and grand slams.  Those are killers.

Can these guys get it back?

Carrasco and Bauer’s issue seems to be consistency.  They are good some days, but horrible others.  That seems fixable.

Is Salazar healthy?  If so, he’s a dynamic third starter in the playoffs (assuming the Indians make it), capable of dominating opponents.  If not, that’s a huge chasm to fill.

Tomlin has always been a back of the rotation guy anyway, albeit a solid one.  He’s probably not going to start in the post-season anyway.  But the Tribe needs another capable starter from here on out in the regular season.

Another failure Tuesday night vs. Minnesota could force Francona and Callaway to make a change.

Right now, this should be the biggest concern for any fan of the Indians.  The team’s perceived strength as little as six weeks ago, has turned into a humongous question mark.

KM

Last Night Reminds You Tribe Needs Help.

The Cleveland Indians have a comfortable 6-1/2 game lead in the American League Central Division, yet last night’s contest was one of the most frustrating in recent weeks.

The Tribe had a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the 7th inning against the Twins when some curious decisions were made, albeit some of them by the constraints of the roster.

Trevor Bauer wasn’t sharp in the six innings he worked and gave up a run on back-to-back two out hits in the last frame he worked.  He was also over 100 pitches for the night.

But Terry Francona sent him back out for the seventh, even though the Tribe is coming off the All Star break and the bullpen is rested.

Based on what happened in the inning, it looks like Tito and Mickey Callaway wanted Bauer to pitch to Joe Mauer, because as we all know, Cleveland doesn’t have a lefty in the bullpen right now.

Bauer gave up a deflected single to the leadoff hitter, Edwardo Nunez, and then walked Mauer to put the tying run on base with no one out.

Our question would be why not have Jeff Manship or Dan Otero come in and start the inning clean.  As it was, Manship was victimized by a error by Carlos Santana, and gave up a single to Brian Dozier to tie up the game.

Otero came in and got out of the two on, nobody out situation without any more runs scoring.

Our point is since Bauer wasn’t sharp, he should’ve called it a night after six innings of work.  And this isn’t a second guess, we are stunned he came out for the seventh.

Not that T.J. House was setting the world on fire (he allowed six hits in 2-1/3 innings), but you need a southpaw in the bullpen.  Francona got burned in the Yankee series bringing in Otero to face Brett Gardner with a 5-3 lead, only to see the slap hitter bang a three run triple to give New York a lead.

And that the Twins tied the game made Francona use Bryan Shaw for two innings on the second night of back-to- back appearances, meaning he likely cannot be used today.

The next odd decision came in the bottom of the 7th, with a man on first and two outs, when Francona sent Erik Gonzalez to the plate in his first major league at bat in a tie game and a runner on first, over Tyler Naquin, who had two hits on the night, and if 5 for 20 in his limited at bats vs. lefties.

Yes, Fernando Abad, the Twins’ reliever is tough on left handed hitters, but why take the bat out of Naquin’s hands in favor of a rookie in his first career at bat in the bigs?

If Tito would have had Juan Uribe on the bench and used him in that situation, there is no question. We would have had less of a quizzical expression had he used Abraham Almonte there. But Gonzalez?

Again, this is why the Indians need bullpen help.

They don’t have a reliable lefty to get tough left-handed hitters out. They also need more people that Francona trusts, because he clearly doesn’t want to use anyone but Allen, Shaw, Otero, and Manship in high leverage situations.

It is incumbent for Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff to do something quick. The Indians don’t want to give the Tigers or Royals any hope of getting back into the race for the division title.

KM

Carrasco’s Loss A Tough Blow, Not A Death Blow

It was a bittersweet weekend for the Tribe in Detroit.  They swept the Tigers in Michigan for the first time since 2008, but they lost perhaps their best starter, Carlos Carrasco, to a hamstring injury.

Carrasco will miss approximately 4-6 weeks, and already doomsayers are sending a death knoll for the 2016 Tribe.

If there is one area the Indians have shown they have a little depth in their organization, it’s starting pitching.

Heck, the Tribe didn’t even have to go to Columbus to find a replacement for Carrasco, they simply went to the bullpen to find someone who has starting experience, and won 11 games at the major league level a year ago.

We are talking, of course, about Trevor Bauer, who at the tender age of 25, has made 64 big league starts.

Yes, we know about the right-hander’s consistency issues, he seems just a capable of pitching seven strong innings as being knocked out in the fourth.  However, he pitched just eight innings less than the man he replaces in the rotation.

Bauer’s problem has been throwing strikes on a regular basis, but in a lot of ways, he is much like Carrasco was before he blew out his elbow in 2011.

“Cookie” was 8-9 with a 4.62 ERA when he was injured at 24-years-old.  Bauer’s numbers last season when he was 24?  Try 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA.

This is Bauer’s second chance to be a starter.  If he takes advantage of it, the rotation will be even stronger when Carrasco returns to the mound.

We believe Bauer will continue to improve and will be better than he was last season.  He won’t be on Carrasco’s level, though.

If Bauer struggles, don’t forget two pitchers now toiling at Columbus, who could help out.  Mike Clevinger is the organization’s best pitching prospect, and has mostly been very good at the AAA level.

And you can’t ignore lefty T.J. House, who missed most of last season, but came up big down the stretch in 2014.  He is capable of providing solid outings in his arm is sound.

You also cannot forget that starting pitchers only go every fifth day.  Let’s say Carrasco missed the full six weeks, and the Indians would play every day (they don’t) in that stretch, a total of 42 games.

In that scenario, the righty misses eight starts.  Heck, the Tribe has already missed Michael Brantley, their best position player for 16 games and they survived.

Also, this injury would be more devastating to Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway if this were the post-season.

Our opinion is that you get to the playoffs by scoring runs.  It is difficult to qualify for the post-season if you can’t put runs up on the board.  However, pitching is preeminent once October baseball begins.

So, if the Tribe’s offense continues to get better and improves upon last year, they will be able to overcome the loss of a starting pitcher, even a very good one like Carlos Carrasco for a month and a half.

And if the Indians can make the post-season tournament, Carrasco’s arm will have less miles on it than other starting pitchers, and that could be an advantage.

We aren’t minimizing the loss.  Carrasco is one of the best starting pitchers in the American League.

But this is something that good teams overcome.  We still think the Tribe will be just fine.

MW

 

Tribe Needs A Fast Start to Second Half

With the second half of the baseball season picking up on Friday night in Cincinnati, here are the standings that any Cleveland Indians’ fans should be worried about.

Houston         49-42        —-
Tampa Bay    46-45         3
Baltimore       44-44         3.5
Detroit           44-44          3.5
Toronto         45-46          4
Texas            42-46         5.5
CLEVELAND 42-46        5.5
Chicago         41-45        5.5
Boston           42-47         6

Those are the standings for the second wild card spot.  And really, since the Twins are a game ahead of Houston, the Tribe is 6-1/2 games behind for a chance to host a wild card game.

That’s a more optimistic viewpoint than looking at the 11 game deficit facing Terry Francona’s team to win the American League Central Division, currently led by the Kansas City Royals.

The entire league is kind of in the same predicament, with the standing very bunched and no one truly out of the chase for the post-season.

And with the second half schedule starting out with three teams currently below the break even mark, starting with three in Cincinnati, two in Milwaukee, and then four at home against the White Sox, this is the time, if the Indians can make a move, to indeed gather some wins.

The question is, do these have the horses to put together a winning streak?

Certainly, they have the starting pitching.  Although it is doubtful that Cody Anderson can continue to pitch like he has thus far, mostly because opposing hitters are hitting .189 against him, and he’s not striking out many, right now, every night Cleveland takes the field, their pitcher has the ability to throw a shutout.

And based on what happened last season from August 1st through the end of the season, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are capable of being even better than they have pitched so far this season, and Trevor Bauer is definitely better than he was a year ago.

So, there is some history on Cleveland’s side.

But, the front office needs to improve the offense, and we aren’t talking about banking on a big second half from Carlos Santana and/or Brandon Moss, nor a healthy Nick Swisher bolstering the hitting.  The need to bring in a bat, either from the minors or via a trade.

The Tribe also needs to bolster the bench by simply adding an extra player, because the way the starters are going right now, there is no need for Cleveland to carry eight relief pitchers.

Jeff Manship appeared in one game last week.  Ryan Webb appeared in one game last week.  And Kyle Crockett, just called up to replace Nick Hagadone, who went on the disabled list, pitched once last week.  This proves there is no need to carry an extra guy in the bullpen.

Adding another position player, preferably someone else who can play centerfield, would provide a possible platoon partner for Michael Bourn (not going to beat that dead horse) who is not Michael Brantley.  Brantley’s defense in CF has declined, perhaps because of his back injury, and that added stress seems to have affected his hitting, which the Indians cannot afford.

And if the starters get beat up in consecutive games, you can always go back to Columbus and call up a fresh arm.  That’s what most big league teams do.

However, if the Indians are going to contend this season, they have to hit the ground running starting on Friday night.  They cannot have another two or three weeks where they tread water and hope to have a shot.

Here’s hoping everyone in the organization has a sense of urgency.

MW

Tribe Shouldn’t Trade Starting Pitching for a Bat.

A lot of discussion has gone on over the past few days about the direction the Cleveland Indians need to go in this winter.  While no one questions whether or not the Tribe needs to get more hitting, the question remains, how to do it.

The Indians finished in the top half of the American League in both runs scored (7th) and in ERA (6th), but no one who watched the team play this season has any doubt the ballclub needs another proven hitter and better defense.

One of the ways suggested to get the hitting Terry Francona’s team needs is to trade one of their pitchers, based on the outstanding work of the starting rotation over the last two months.

However, we would suggest this is not the proper move.

First, it would be a repeat of the pattern the Tribe front office used throughout the 70’s and 80’s, when they would  collect hitters and have no pitching.  Then, they would trade those hitters to get pitchers, thus creating a team with solid pitching but could not hit.

And then they would repeat the cycle all over again.

Quite frankly, beyond the five pitchers Cleveland used in the rotation at the end of the year (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and T.J. House), there isn’t a lot of depth in the system.

And of those five starters, beyond Kluber, only Bauer demonstrated effectiveness over more than the last two months in 2014.  This isn’t to say the others are flashes in the pan, it is only to show the lack of an established track record.

We have said this before and will repeat, the two areas where the Indians have some depth is in the bullpen and in the middle infield.

With youngsters on the horizon like C.C. Lee, Austin Adams, and guys coming up like Shawn Armstrong, Louis Head, and Tyler Sturdivant, and the emergence of Zack McAllister as another power arm to use in relief, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a Bryan Shaw included in a deal.

Shaw has been used hard by Francona and Mickey Callaway over the past two years, and it may be prudent to sell high on the right-hander before his performance drops from the excess use.

In the middle infield, the Indians have 2B Jason Kipnis, coming off a bad year, SS Jose Ramirez, just 22-years-old, and the team’s best prospect, SS Francisco Lindor.  They also have Ronny Rodriguez and Erik Gonzales, who both finished the year at AA Akron.

Kipnis is established and if the front office wants to make room for Lindor, then Ramirez is a solid trade chip, a middle infielder who has great speed, and hit .262 playing regularly over August and September.  There are many teams around the majors who are always looking for help in the middle of the diamond.

Another possible chip could be reserve catcher Roberto Perez, who hit .271 in 85 at bats backing up Yan Gomes after Carlos Santana was shifted to first base.  Perez is just 26-years-old and probably too young to be in a back up role, so teams looking for catchers could be interested.

Besides, with Gomes getting the bulk of the time behind the plate, the Indians don’t need to look too hard to find someone to play 30-40 games in a season.

There is no question the Indians need to get a bat or two, but dealing a starting pitcher isn’t the way to do it.

KM