Early Spring Roster Battles For Tribe

Exhibition play is a little over a week old in Goodyear, Arizona and what that means mostly is we are closer to the start of the regular season, which is now just 24 days away.

We have always maintained the perfect record for spring training is around .500, because it doesn’t give the fan bases of a bad team any unrealistic expectations, nor does it worry supporters of good teams, like the Cleveland Indians.

The best news to come out of the desert is it appears Jason Kipnis is healthy and ready to go.

We were never in the trade Kipnis camp, because he is coming off a poor, injury plagued season, so the Tribe front office was never going to get value, it would have been strictly a salary dump.

The negatives have been on the injury front where Danny Salazar likely will not be able to open the season on the big league roster, and OF Brandon Guyer has had some set backs as well, although we aren’t sure his timetable was to open the year on the active list.

Salazar’s injury simply means Terry Francona and new/old pitching coach Carl Willis don’t have to make a decision on whether or not they have to move a starter to the bullpen.

As of right now, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and Josh Tomlin will make up the starting staff.

With Guyer and Michael Brantley likely to be on the disabled list to start the season, it opens up two outfield spots, with holdovers Abraham Almonte, Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen, and Yandy Diaz battling with Rob Refsnyder, Rajai Davis, and Melvin Upton Jr. to make the Opening Day roster.

Quite frankly, we think each spot will go to one in each group.

The first group has two switch-hitters in Almonte and Allen, with Naquin swinging from the left side and Diaz the right.  The latter has been playing most infield, so maybe versatility wins out.

The brass knows what Almonte can do and Allen could probably benefit from some time at AAA.  In the latter group, Refsnyder offers the multi-position option, while Davis and Upton are trying for one last shot at a big league roster.

To date, neither of the veterans have done much in games, but this is the Indians we are talking about, and we know Tito and his staff love veterans.

We would keep Diaz, putting him in LF to start, and Refsnyder would also get a shot because he can play both infield and outfield.

In the bullpen, the loss of Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith leave two openings, but the recent signings of veteran Matt Belisle, Carlos Torres, and the claiming of Ben Taylor from Boston would make them the leading candidates to win the job.

Torres is durable, pitching in 65 or more games in three of the last four years in the bigs, and Belisle ended last season as the Twins closer, pitching great in the second half, after solid years in Washington and St. Louis.

One reliever to watch is Nick Goody, who has struggled so far in Arizona.  He doesn’t have the track record of some of the other arms, so he could find himself the odd man out if he doesn’t start pitching better.

Again, it’s early.  But the players we talked about are the ones in battles to make the trip north to Seattle on March 29th.

Which can’t get here fast enough.

MW

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Tribe Starters Still Make Them Elite

There is no question this year’s off-season for the Cleveland Indians is not as exciting as last winter.

The biggest reason is a year ago, the Tribe brought in a big ticket free agent in Edwin Encarnacion and another bullpen arm in Boone Logan.

This year, most of the free agent news have been people leaving Cleveland.  Relievers Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith went to Colorado and Houston respectively, while Carlos Santana (Philadelphia), Jay Bruce (New York Mets) and Austin Jackson (San Francisco) have also departed.

Even Logan is gone, signing with the Brewers.

Still, as spring training is a mere weeks away from commencing, Terry Francona’s team is the odds on favorite to defend their Central Division title, and they would still be considered one of the best teams in baseball.

The biggest reason for this is the Indians’ starting rotation, which may still be the best in baseball.

The starters ranked 2nd in Major League Baseball in ERA in 2017, ranking behind only the Dodgers, who have the advantage of playing in a league without the DH.

The only AL team within a half run of Cleveland’s 3.52 mark for starters is the Yankees, who had a 3.98 ERA.  The World Champion Astros were at 4.03.

Among innings pitched for starting hurlers, two National League teams (Washington and San Francisco) led the majors, while the Tribe and Red Sox tied for the American League top spot.

Texas was next, a full 43 frames behind the leaders.

Indians’ starters also led the big leagues in strikeouts with 1066, 54 more than second place Washington and 65 more than the AL runner up, Boston.

And the Tribe’s rotation also narrowly edged the Yankees and Astros for the lowest batting average against.

That part of the team has been unaffected this winter.  In fact, the Indians have six starters contending for the starting roles to start the season in Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, the man who finished fourth in the voting, Carlos Carrasco, and 17 game winner Trevor Bauer fronting the rotation.

They are backed up by Danny Salazar, who has as electric stuff as perhaps any of the three guys also mentioned, Mike Clevinger, who went 12-6 with a 3.11 ERA in 27 appearances (21 starts), and Josh Tomlin, who would be a middle of the rotation guys for many MLB teams.

Southpaw Ryan Merritt, who is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in five big league appearances, and Cody Anderson, who went 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts in 2015, before hurting his elbow and missing all of last year with Tommy John surgery.

Something has to give, because Merritt is out of options, and of course, since the Tribe will start the year with five starters, someone who started a year ago will have to begin this season in the bullpen.

We would guess since Anderson is coming off an injury, he will start the year at Columbus.

Julian Merryweather could make some starts at the big league level in 2018, and Cleveland still has Shawn Morimando and Adam Plutko at AAA too.

So they have some depth as well, although to be fair, none of those guys are even close to the six pitchers who made most of the starts in Cleveland in 2017.

That’s the big reason the Indians are still among baseball’s elite.  Very few teams can put someone out there each and every night who has the ability to put zeroes on the scoreboard.

Francona always says when you think you have enough pitching, you go out and get more.  It looks like the front office agrees.

MW

Yankees A Huge Challenge For Tribe

Anyone who is an ardent fan of baseball knows that it is a funny game.  It is probably the one sport where the best team not winning the World Series would be the norm.

The Cleveland Indians finished the regular season with the American League’s best record, so they get the winner of the wild card game as their opponent in the Division Series.

Unfortunately, the winner of that game, the New York Yankees, might just be the second best team in the AL.

The Indians led the league in run differential, outscoring their opponents by an incredible 254 runs.  The Yankees were second, with a +198 mark, just slightly ahead of Houston’s +196.

It is not the ideal situation to play the second best team in the league in a best-of-five series.

Many people have focused on Terry Francona’s decision to start Trevor Bauer in game one, but we have always thought the even numbered games are most important in a series until the deciding game, and that may be Tito’s thought process in using ace Corey Kluber in the second game.

If Bauer wins the series opener, how great will it be to have Kluber going with a chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead.

And if the Indians lose game one, you have perhaps the AL’s best pitcher to tie up the series at a game apiece.

Another reason is Francona seems hesitant to use Josh Tomlin as a starter.  If Kluber pitches game one, Tomlin would seem to be the most likely candidate to pitch a potential fourth game.

If Bauer goes in the first game, Kluber still would be the game five starter, and Bauer can go in game four, backed up by the bullpen, which has starters Danny Salazar, Mike Clevinger, and Tomlin as members.

There is no question the Yankees are a different team outside of the bandbox that is new Yankee Stadium, but amazingly, they pitch better at home too.

New York has a 817 OPS as a team at home, but that figure drops to 755 on the road.  As a comparison, the Indians have a 782 OPS at Progressive Field, and a 793 OPS away from home, another reason the Cleveland tied Houston for the best road record in the AL at 53-28.

The Yankees also have a very good bullpen, perhaps second only to the Indians.

Just as Francona can shorten a game by going to Joe Smith, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen after five innings, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi can do the same with David Robertson, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and Aroldis Chapman.

It will be very important for the Tribe to get an early lead in each game.

These games will probably be long.  The two teams involved are one and two in the American League in walks, but the big difference is in strikeouts.

The Indians have a strikeout staff leading the AL in whiffs, and the Yankees rank 6th in the league in fanning.  New York’s pitching staff ranks 4th in strikeouts, but Indians’ hitters are second to last in the junior circuit in whiffing.

The one decided edge the Tribe has is in the starting pitching.  While Luis Severino is one of the sports’ best young starters, Francona has three of perhaps the top ten starters in the AL at his disposal.

It is very likely that this Yankee team is better than the Red Sox or Blue Jays teams the Indians met last year in the post-season.

Make no mistake, this series will be a challenge.

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 Starters Picking Up Slack For Tired Pen

The vaunted starting pitching the Cleveland Indians were purported to have coming into the season has finally made an appearance over the last couple of weeks.

When Andrew Miller went down with patella tendonitis at the beginning of the month, the rotation was in kind of a slump.  Mike Clevinger had been knocked around in three straight appearances, and Carlos Carrasco coughed up a five run lead his teammates staked him against Boston’s Chris Sale.

In reality, the rotation had battled injuries for most of the year.

Ace Corey Kluber missed most of May with a lower back issue, and Danny Salazar missed about six weeks with shoulder issues, after having not pitched well for five or six starts before he went on the disabled list.

Trevor Bauer was as inconsistent as ever, and that put a toll on the bullpen, which manifested itself with Miller’s injury and even Bryan Shaw started showing signs of the heavy workload he has carried for four seasons.

Suddenly, when Miller wasn’t available, the starters picked up the slack.

It started with Kluber throwing a complete game in a 5-1 win over the Yankees, and that was followed by Bauer going eight vs. The Bronx Bombers in a 7-2 triumph.

Outside of an 8-1 loss to the Yanks in a game skewed by Abraham Almonte losing what should have been an inning ended flyball in the sun, Tribe pitchers haven’t allowed more than four runs in any of their last 11 games.

Obviously, Kluber is the constant, again showing why he is among the four or five best starting pitchers in the sport, throwing a second complete game against the Rockies, and winning against the Rays last Sunday.

Salazar looks like the guy who made the All Star team a year ago, allowing just four earned runs in 25-1/3 innings in his four starts since coming off the DL.

Carrasco is capable of being dominating and held the rotation together while Kluber was out.

But, he was just okay over the last few weeks, but had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning of his last start against Tampa, and along with Bauer has been the only constants in the rotation, making every start.

Bauer has been the wild card.  Since becoming basically a fastball/curveball pitcher (which occurred in his May 30th start vs. Oakland), he has been much more consistent.

In his last 14 starts, the right-hander has pitched to a 3.74 ERA and in 77 innings, has struck out 85 batters, while walking 29.

That makes for a very nice middle of the rotation starting pitcher.

Clevinger was skipped for a turn because of off-days and he responded with seven shutout frames against the Rays on Saturday.

The strong starting pitching was needed because of Miller’s absence.  Terry Francona didn’t have the Miller “crutch” to help him in the 6th or 7th innings of tight games.

It also gave Tyler Olson an opportunity, and he looks like he can be a worthy fill in for Boone Logan as the southpaw Tito can go to earlier in games to get a key left-handed hitter out.

We don’t expect everyone to keep this up through the end of the season, but if the Tribe continues to get length from its rotation, the burden on the relief corps will be eased and they should be rested if and when the Indians start post-season play.

And we all remember what a key that was a year ago.

MW

 

 

Tribe Entering A Crucial Stretch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s gone right this season?

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

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

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

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

That’s about it.

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

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

They need to rediscover them tonight.

MW

 

Tribe At Halfway Point…First Place To Stay?

The Major League Baseball All-Star is considered the midway point of the season, and that will occur a week from today in Miami, with five members of the Cleveland Indians participating.

However, the real halfway point of the campaign happened on Sunday, when the Tribe won the series against the Detroit Tigers with an 11-8 win, thus ended the first half at 44-37, a pace that would get them 88 wins in 2017.

The Indians seem to be getting it together though, as the last 27 games have produced a 16-11 mark, compared to the first 1/6th of the year in which the Indians were 15-12 and the second sixth of the season produced a 13-14 record.

The Tribe figured to half solid pitching this season, and that has come to fruition with Cleveland ranking second in the American League in ERA, trailing only Boston.

The starting pitching stabilized with the return of AL pitcher of the month Corey Kluber, who made his 2nd All-Star Game, and Carlos Carrasco could’ve been selected as well, with his 9-3 record and 3.50 ERA.

Trevor Bauer has started to be solid each time out and youngster Mike Clevinger has delivered more often than not.

The fifth spot is a concern right now, with Josh Tomlin struggling at 4-9 and the worst ERA in baseball, and Danny Salazar currently in the minor leagues rehabbing a shoulder problem.

It would not be surprised to see president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff look for another solid starter prior to the trade deadline at the end of this month.

The inability of the starters to provide innings has caused the bullpen to spring a couple of weeks over the last 27 games.  Andrew Miller was being overused and Francona recognized that and started using him just an inning at a time.

Cody Allen is also going through a period where he hasn’t been unhittable and leads the relief corps in allowing home runs.

Overall, when Tito goes to his ‘pen, the results have been outstanding.  As long as the usage is kept under control, that should be the team’s strength.

The offense had a bit of a surge because of the hot hitting for a trio of Tribe batters: Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, and Lonnie Chisenhall.

Ramirez continues to show his 2016 season is no fluke, making his first All Star Game.  The switch hitter is at .325 with 15 homers and a 963 OPS. He has been scolding since the first of June.

Encarnacion showed why he is one of the best power hitters in the AL over the last five years, and is now on pace for 34 HR and 90 RBI.

Chisenhall has had hot streaks like this before, but he is tied for the team lead in RBIs (with Carlos Santana) at 46 despite being in a platoon role, and has a 963 OPS.

However, the offense still needs Santana, Jason Kipnis, and Francisco Lindor to get going.

Santana only has 10 home runs and a 732 OPS, Kipnis still hasn’t hit his stride after dealing with a shoulder issue in spring training, hitting only .229 with a .284 on base percentage, which makes you wonder why Francona leads him off.

Lindor is showing signs he is human, batting just .229 since May 1st.  He’s become pull happy, which he acknowledges, and we actually saw Detroit putting the shortstop basically behind second base when he was batting left-handed.

If those three get going, the Indians will have as formidable attack as any team in baseball.

Terry Francona feels his club reached a turning point on this recent stretch where Cleveland played 20 games in 20 days.  If this is true, the Indians are heading for a second straight division title.

MW

 

Big Week For Tribe Leading To Break

The All Star break is a little over a week away for the Cleveland Indians, and it will be a very important stretch for the hometown nine.

First, of the 11 games Cleveland has leading into the break, eight of them are at Progressive Field, where Terry Francona’s team has been mediocre at best, with a record of 17-21 to date.

Second, seven of the contests are against Central Division rivals, the Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers are sitting at 34-43 on the season, six and a half games behind the Indians for the division, and six games out of a wild card spot.

Success against the Motor City Kitties over the next two weekends would pretty much eliminate the Tigers from overtaking the Tribe, and it would probably cause them to be sellers at the July 31st trade deadline.

The Indians also have a three game series at home against the lowly San Diego Padres, who are sitting at 32-46 coming into today.

It appears the Tribe is sitting in a good spot to perhaps take command of the AL Central if they can play well going into the break.

However, outside of last year when Francona’s squad went 14-4 against the Tigers, Detroit has dominated the Tribe and has won four of the six games to date this year.

Cleveland scored half of their runs against the Tigers in one game, a 13-6 win for the Indians in April.  The Tribe has scored three runs or less in four of the six contests between the two teams this season.

Conversely, Mike Matheny’s team has scored five or more runs in four out of six games.

The middle of the Detroit batting order, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Justin Upton have killed the Tribe, and now J.D. Martinez, who has missed all of the games between the two squads is back.

And long time Indians killer, Alex Avila is back and hitting well for Detroit.  He always seems to come up with big hits against the Tribe.

Compounding this weekend’s series is a doubleheader on Saturday, which means someone from the minors, probably Ryan Merritt will start one of those games, and Corey Kluber is pitching today, so he is not available this weekend.

On the other hand, Trevor Bauer, who has been hit hard by Detroit in both starts against them in 2017 will not pitch this weekend either.

Both Kluber and Bauer will probably pitch against the Tigers at Progressive Field right before the all star break.

The other key is to start playing better at home.  Cleveland’s record at Progressive Field has been mediocre to date and it is time to start playing better there.

The starting pitching, save for Josh Tomlin, seems to have righted itself, but the offense needs to pick it up, especially against the Tigers.

On this current homestand, here is the number of runs scored by the Indians:  0, 2, 0, 15, 1, 5.  It’s tough to win scoring two or fewer runs in four of the six games.

Playing well these next 11 games will put the Cleveland Indians in a very good spot entering the second half of the season, which starts with six games in the Bay Area.

Beating the Tigers is a must if you want to accomplish that.

MW

 

Tribe Bats Going Now, Starting Pitching???

After losing the second game of the midweek series against the Los Angeles Dodgers a few days ago, the Cleveland Indians looked nothing like a good baseball team.

They were struggling to score runs and mental mistakes were occurring on a regular basis.  That night, rookie Erik Gonzalez cost the Tribe three runs because he didn’t have his foot on the base in the middle of a sure double play.

It was just another in a recent patch of poor play, and we aren’t talking about physical errors.

Since then, the bats seem to have come alive, mostly because of three hitters who are scolding hot right now, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez, and Lonnie Chisenhall.

However, there is still one area of the team that has to break through and soon, and that is the starting pitching.

Terry Francona needs to get some length out of the starters.  The result of this not improving?  Either the bullpen, which has performed well for the most part, will be fried by the time August hits, or the Indians will not be able to outscore their opponents consistently.

Overall, Cleveland ranks fourth in the American League in team ERA, but most of that work has been done by the bullpen, one of the best, if not the team in the sport.

Outside of Corey Kluber, who is giving Francona over six innings per start, most Tribe pitchers are having problems getting through six frames when they take the hill.

Carlos Carrasco averages over six innings as well, but recently has been having some issues with a pulled muscle in his chest, and when he loses his stuff recently, he loses it very quickly.

Danny Salazar was supposed to be the #3 starter, but he isn’t on the roster currently, due to soreness in his shoulder, and a total lack of confidence.

Trevor Bauer prides himself on his endurance, but he is averaging just over five innings per start, as his pitch count gets to the 100 mark about then.  He must be more economical with his pitches.

Josh Tomlin has allowed 21 more hits than innings tossed thus far in the season, and more often than not, he has struggled to get hitters out.  You wonder how much patience Francona will have this summer.

In yesterday’s doubleheader sweep over Minnesota, the Indians got just four innings from their starter in each game, although Mike Clevinger’s short start was due to the rain.

The Tribe has played 66 games to date, and workhouse Bryan Shaw (no surprise) has been in half of them.  The concerning thing is Andrew Miller has made 30 appearances, throwing 34-2/3 innings, which is far too many.

Here are the innings pitched by starting pitchers over the last 10 games–4, 4, 6-1/3, 5, 7, 5-2/3, 5-1/3, 2-2/3, 6, 3-1/3.  That’s an average of under five innings per start.

Kluber and Carrasco contributed 24-2/3 frames in their four starts, more than half of the total for the 10 game stretch.

That’s why Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff will probably need to find a starting pitcher for at the trade deadline.  They need another starter who can give the skipper innings.

We saw the bullpen leak some oil in the Dodger series, probably because of the heavy workload they’ve had over the last two weeks.  Even Miller, who is usually unhittable, showed he was human in back-to-back appearances vs. Los Angeles.

The biggest thing about the rotation is that was supposed to be the Indians’ strength coming into the season.  To date, they haven’t performed like expected, which is probably why the Indians don’t have the same record as the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox in the AL.

Improvement is needed from within or via a trade, because the burden on the relievers has to be lessened.

MW