Tag Archives: AL Central

A Eulogy For the 2015 Indians

What can you say about the 2015 Cleveland Indians? They had their moments, sure, but to compare the end result to where we figured they would be in late September before the whole party began in April, leaves an almost unexplainable discrepancy.

When the front office pulled off the coup of landing Terry Francona, straight out of the ESPN broadcast booth in 2013, it was supposed to be different. When they pulled out all of the stops for Nick Swisher, and then signed Michael Bourn, under the RADAR, it promised to be a new day in Cleveland.

All three had grossly underperformed in Cleveland, and two of them didn’t last three full seasons. The third, Francona, was brought aboard by someone who opted not to stick around to watch it all crumble. It crumbled in Boston, but they had a couple of shiny trophies on the mantle to remind them of the good times. Progressive Field has only a painted grey flag with the numbers “2013” to show for all of they hype that came with the 2012-2013 off-season.

The 2015 season didn’t mean the arrival of too many new faces; the headliner of the group was Brandon Moss, but the former Oakland Athletic was damaged goods, and the Indians’ brass was all about the reclamation projects (see: Kazmir, Scott). Gavin Floyd and Jeff Manship decided to come along for the ride, joining the pitching staff. They didn’t figure to need a lot of new faces, as the familiar faces were supposed to carry this squad to a title, said the experts at Sports Illustrated.

After all, they had the reigning Cy Young winner, in Corey Kluber1no longer Hans set to take the ball on Opening Day, and pick up where he left off in 2014. Carlos Carrasco showed the accountants enough in the second half of the prior season, that the club decided to extend him 5 years. Trevor Bauer was expected to turn the corner this season, Danny Salazar was expected to bounce back from a sophomore slump of sorts, and Gavin Floyd was the big veteran the team needed to eat up innings at the back of the rotation every fifth day.

It turned out to be the rookie Cody Anderson, and not Floyd, due to completely foreseeable injury, that owned the 5th spot, after Bruce Chen and Shawn Marcum reminded everyone why they were available to anyone willing to give them a shot. Bauer had his glimpses, but finds himself in a battle with Josh Tomlin for a 2016 rotation spot, after Tomlin showed flashes of brilliance, but no consistency in 2015.

Those who did start on the bump, on a semi-regular basis, all flirted with no-hitters. Trevor Bauer was first, but it was early in the season, so he combined with the bullpen for about 8 innings in Tampa, before Nick Hagadone blew the no-no and the shutout. Kluber went 5 or 6 on multiple occasions. Cody Anderson went 5, to kick off a remarkable streak of games in Tampa for the rotation. It was during that stretch that Carlos Carrasco came closest to finishing the job, surrendering a hit with 2 outs in the 9th. Carrasco was on a nice run last Friday against the Royals’ taxi-squad, the night after they clinched their first division title since 1985. Unless it happens in the next four games, Len Barker’s 1981 perfecto against Toronto will remain the last no-hitter of any sort from Tribe pitching.

In a time when the city has moved on to the Browns and getting Johnny Manziel on the field, you could put the celebrity quarterback in the same bucket with the group that plays 81 games a year in the building a few blocks south of First Energy Stadium. You might love the snapshots, but have to understand there’s nothing sustainable, just yet.

Carlos Santana is a first basemen; his days of catching or playing third base have gone the way of the dodo. That might be more of a Yan Gomes thing than a Santana thing, but the effect was felt when Gomes’ season was put on hold in early April, and we entered the black hole of the Roberto Perez/Brett Hayes platoon offensively. The thing offensive about that duo is that fans took offense to the lineup card, but Yan couldn’t go between suffering an injury on April 11th and returning to the lineup in late May.

Arguably, Yan never got things going with the bat all, after a 1-for-4 outing on Opening Day. It was June 6th before he broke the Mendoza line, and his water mark in the batting average category was .237, after a 3-for-4 day in a home loss to the Yankees in August.

At that point, who even cared? They were 7 games under .500, 14.5 games behind the Royals, and in the middle of spending a full month in the American League Central Division cellar. These are symptoms of a team whose clean-up hitter was batting .229, and I’m not talking about Ryan Raburn here.

Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley had some lofty expectations set on them, and despite some really badly-timed slumps, they’ve given everyone everything they can honestly expect at the plate, when you’re looking at the big picture. The problem is, that can’t do it alone, and the players who manned the left side of the infield on Opening Day in Houston weren’t cutting in the field or at the plate. Eventually, the club understood the formula for insanity, doing the same shit and expecting different results, wasn’t going to work, with Jose Ramirez at shortstop and Lonnie Chisenhall at third base, though Chisenhall was reborn as an outfielder, a la Alex Gordon, in the minor leagues.  There’s a definite “to be continued” happening there, so stay tuned.

Alas, we get the relatively unknown Giovanny Urshela up from the minor leagues to play third base, and not too far behind, but way too late for many die-hard Tribe fans, Francisco Lindor to play short. People who couldn’t pick the latter out of a lineup admired and pined for the services of Lindor in Cleveland. Going against the grain of everything not named LeBron James in Cleveland, Lindor has lived up to the hype, and should be named American League Rookie of the Year. In resetting a season that largely makes me frown, it’s all smiles when it comes to the 8th overall pick from the 2011 draft.

Lindor passes the eyeball test, even when he swings and misses. At shortstop, he turns into outs and fielder’s choices into double plays. While I liked Julio Franco, Omar Vizquel, and various stages of the Asdrubal Cabrera Experience, it’s fair to say this young man is one of a kind. He has fun, he takes instruction, and oh by the way, the numbers on the stat sheet are sexy as hell too. They’re not good for a rookie, they’re good for a baseball player. It’s all there in black and white.

The bullpen did some things, like suffer through CC Lee, Scott Atchison, and Anthony Swarzak outings. Zach McAllister and Bryan Shaw didn’t look too bad on paper, but you always cringed when Tito called to the bullpen for their services. Cody Allen was able to stay the course for what he’s been over the course of his still young career, and he will continue to be the starter until he veers obscenely off course (see: Perez, Chris). Manship and Austin Adams seemed to be better with each appearance. We also saw some nice things from Floyd and Shawn Armstrong, but in very small sample sizes.

They sent Marc Rzepcynski packing at the deadline, when Brandon Moss and David Murphy were already gone. Due to their ability to clear waivers, Swisher and Bourn were moved after the traditional July 31 deadline. The moves brought back AAA slugger Abraham Almonte and the albatross contract of Chris Johnson in return; it’s very likely that neither are long-term options, but nice placeholders until the farm system develops recent draft picks a little more.

It was clear after a 7-14 April that this team was not World Series-worthy and the ceiling was reset from 94 wins to 83, and they will be very lucky to even reach that plateau. We’ll miss them anyway.

Rest in Peace, 2015 Cleveland Indians2…or play golf, fish, and have fun with your family.  I’m just offering some parting words on the ball club.  These players should enjoy their lives..

References
1 no longer Hans
2 …or play golf, fish, and have fun with your family.  I’m just offering some parting words on the ball club.  These players should enjoy their lives.

The Kansas City Royals, Your 2015 AL Central Champions

In 1985 Marty McFly was going Back to the Future, WrestleMania made its debut and I was a hyper three year old running around Marshall, MO.  In 1985 the Kansas City Royals were busy winning the American League Western Division on their way to their only World Series Championship. While WrestleMania has continued every year, and Marty made more trips in the DeLorean, the Royals haven’t won a division title since that magical year of 1985. That changed last night as the Royals clinched their first ever AL Central Division championship.

The division hasn’t been in doubt since the All Star break as the Royals built their division lead to thirteen games.  Since the end of July the division lead never got below eight games. After needing every game in 2014 to make it into the playoffs as a Wild Card team, the Royals and their fans have had to learn how to handle being a lock for two months. Last season the Royals were putting their A lineup on the field every night as they couldn’t risk losing to give players days off. It was all hands on deck and try to win every night. This season the Royals have had the luxury of being able to risk losing more games to give players the rest they need to be 100% healthy when the playoffs start. This has caused some stressful nights as patience is not a strong suit of most sports fans, especially those who aren’t use to being the favorites.

The Royals went into a slump from the middle of August until last week causing a lot of panic in Kansas City. Most of the panic has been caused by the Royals pitching as the starters and bullpen suffered through their worst stretch since 2013. It all started with Johnny Cueto who had the worst five game stretch of his career causing some fans to question him as the Royals game one starter. Danny Duffy pitched so bad that he was demoted to the bullpen for the rest of the season. Although that is a disappointment for Duffy and the franchise, it may be the best thing possible for the team.

The bullpen has had a rough time in September which only got worse with the news closer Greg Holland is on his way to Tommy John surgery. With Holland out Davis moves into the closer role which leaves an opening in the bullpen. With the stuff Duffy has and the ability to go as hard as he can for one or two innings, Duffy will be able to fill that hole. With Ryan Madson, Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochever the bullpen will still be a dominant force in October.

The offense is the one thing that never went into a slump, if anything it got better. Alex Gordon came off the disabled list and has performed like he never left. The surprise of September has been the play of right fielder Alex Rios. Most Royals fans were calling for Rios to be taken off the post season roster when September started. Since then Rios has been one of the Royals most consistent hitters batting over .350 in September. With the rest of the roster staying consistent, the Royals have scored more runs in September than anyone else in baseball, including the Toronto Blue Jays.

While the mixture of outstanding offense and so-so pitching isn’t the Royals usual recipe for success, it’s done the job this September. Winning the division Thursday night for the first time since 1985 was a great victory. But even in the middle of the champagne celebration many Royals players were quick to point out that this was just step one of their five step plan for the season. Step two is to secure the one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Currently the Royals are in a tie with the Blue Jays in that race. With just nine games left to play that race will go down to the last game of the season.

The final three steps are self-explanatory as they will need to win three rounds in the playoffs to bring the World Series trophy back to Kansas City. Unlike last year, the Royals will get to skip the Wild Card round this season as they will begin their playoff run in the American League Divisional Series. If they can win that best three out of five series than they will advance to the AL Championship Series. If they survive that best four of seven series than they will move on to the World Series where they’d need to win four more games to win it all. The Royals will need to win eleven of nineteen games to win a championship. The last time the Royals won the World Series was in 1985, the same year they won their last division title. Royals fans hope that the team will repeat that same recipe for success as they head into the playoffs in two weeks as division champions.

 

Tribe Time Now Not-So-After-Dark #2: iLube

In this episode of the Tribe Time Now After Dark Podcast…

Tribe Time Now After Dark #2 with Stephanie Liscio: iLube

Stephanie Liscio of It’s Pronounced “Lajaway” joins MTAF: Cleveland Indians Columnist and Tribe Time Now Host Ryan Thompson for another edition of the Tribe Time Now Podcast.

Topics:

  •  Francisco Lindor’s lack of a call up at the beginning of the week
  • Giovanny Urshela’s promotion and Lonnie/JRam’s demotions
  • The Indians appearance at the Apple Developer’s Conference
  • The Indians 2015 MLB Draft (Picks 1-7)
  • Stephanie’s appearance and talk at the Maltz  Museum THIS WEEK.
  • And much much more

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, July 11th at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up. Information can be found here.

Tribe Time Now Weekend Update Ep. 6: Winning Out the Season

In this week’s episode of Tribe Time Now: Weekend Update…

Host Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) of Burning River Baseball welcomes in Jim Berdysz (@JBirdman27) of Indians Baseball Insider discuss the most recent week in Indians baseball focusing on the Rangers series and the increased offense. In addition, they make a plea to stop being so mean to Lonnie Chisenhall, Jose Ramirez and David Murphy. After the past comes the future and it looks to be a good one with Yan Gomes, Mike Aviles and Shaun Marcum all scheduled to come back this week. They discuss the ramifications of that as well in addition to who is the most likely to be cut.

 

Topics:

  • Recap & Winning Every Game for the Rest of the year
  • Zach Walters’ woes & the Return of Mike Aviles & Yan Gomes
  • Stop Being mean to Lonnie Chisenhall
  • Stop Being Mean to Jose Ramirez & Why Lindor Should be Up Now
  • Who To Cut & Why David Murphy Isn’t A Good Option
  • The Return of Shaun Marcum & What to Expect

 

Links

 

Tribe Time Now online, all the time:

Tribe Time Now #11: R-E-L-A-X. RELAX.

In this week’s episode of Tribe Time Now, Hayden (Indians Baseball Insider) and Ryan (MTAF: Cleveland) explore the reactionary culture of #IndiansTwitter, the concept of defensive sabermetrics, what an error really is, and much, much more!

 

Tribe Time Now #11: R-E-L-A-X. RELAX.

Topics:

a. Today’s game

b. Lineup, Raburn, reactions

c. Lindor, Holt, Wolters, potential call ups: when, where and why

d. Schedule, off days and errors

e. Starting pitchers

f.  Bullpen issues/concerns

g. What’s going on at IBI, next week’s guest, the big dog is coming

 

 

You can subscribe to the Tribe Time Now podcast (and all other Tribe Time Now features) by following this link!

Tribe Time Now Roundtable: The Indians Regressed the Least in AL Central

DownloadRSS (audio) | iTunes

After a lengthy discussion, the first Tribe Time Now podcast roundtable agreed: The Indians regressed the least among the AL Central this off season

Last night (2/18), I was joined by:

And we discussed a plethora of topics regarding the Indians including:

  1. Bruce Chen
  2. Dayan Viciedo
  3. Indian’s pre-season rankings
  4. The back end of the rotation
  5. Gavin Floyd
  6. The starting line up

Be sure to follow the incredible guests we featured on the first roundtable on twitter and check out their Indians-related content on their respective websites.

As always, follow me on twitter (@rthompak13) and the Tribe Time Now podcast (@_TribeTimeNow) for show related musings, podcast links, etc.

If you have any feedback, questions for the next show, or comments in general: email us at feedback@tribetimenow.com!

Go Tribe!

The Flailing Cleveland Indians

As it currently stands, the Cleveland Indians are in third place in the American League Central division with a 59-59 record. Last year at this time the Indians were 64-56 and in second place in the division, obviously a much better situation record-wise, but if you can believe it mathematically right now they are closer to first place than they were last year at this point. As it stands, the Indians are currently five games back of the division leading (don’t pinch yourself, it’s not a dream) Kansas City Royals. On this date last year, while in second place, they were six games back of the Detroit Tigers. The Indians are also still alive in the AL Wild Card race, currently 4.5 games out. Last season, every time this team was thought to be done they put together a long winning streak. It happened three times that I can remember. Mathematically the Indians are in the postseason hunt, as they were last year. However the difference between last year and this year is that this season I have absolutely no confidence at this point for the Cleveland Indians.

Last season we used words like clutch and magic to describe this team, especially late in the year. It seemed like every time the Indians needed to win in a big game, Jason Giambi would pinch hit for somebody and hit a walk off home run. The offense always came through. Our bats bailed us out. And this year our offense stinks. Except, that’s not really the case. For the 2013 season the Cleveland Indians hit .264 with runners in scoring position. So far this year the Indians are batting .263 with runners in scoring position. How about late game clutch situations? Baseball-Reference categorizes these situations as Late & Clutch, and defines them as “plate appearances in the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck”. Last year the Indians were batting .254 in these situations. This year, the Indians are hitting .244. Yes, a slight dip, but enough to cripple this team? Probably not, especially when you consider that last year the Indians offense collectively had 104 RBI and scored 110 runs in these situations while this year so far they have 95 RBI and 98 runs scored. Considering there is a month and a half left in the season it seems reasonable to project that the Indians will match or even surpass those numbers. Last season the Cleveland Indians were tied for 5th in the league in runs scored with 745 and were 13th in batting average, collectively hitting .255. This season, the Indians are 6th in runs scored so far with 522 and are 11th in team batting average, hitting .256. Last season defensively, the Indians as a team had a fielding percentage of .983 (21st) and were 11th in errors. This season the defense is the worst team in the league in terms of fielding percentage at .979 and first in errors, committing 91 so far. While those numbers are a step back and clearly not good (for either year), is a 4% drop in fielding percentage the reason why this team is flailing? It certainly doesn’t help, but I’d say it’s not the primary reason. Yes, the bats have been inconsistent at times this year. Guess what, they were last year too. The Indians averaged nearly 4.6 runs per game last year. This year through 118 games they are averaging 4.4 runs per game. Yes, they made no major additions, but they had no major losses from an offense that was in or near the top 10 in many statistical categories last year. That remains the case this year.

Alright, so what’s the point?

TomlinThe primary reason the Cleveland Indians are struggling, and will continue to do so for the rest of the season, is because of one thing. The starting rotation. Before giving a statistical analysis, consider this. The Cleveland Indians opening day starting rotation consisted of Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. The Indians have traded Masterson, McAllister and Salazar combined have made 19 starts in the minors (compared to 26 starts with the Indians), Carrasco lost his starting job (however has regained it, recently winning his first game as a starter since 2011) to Josh Tomlin (who has been as inconsistent as everyone else anyway), Trevor Bauer hasn’t successfully made the leap to consistent starter many were hoping for and lastly, people know who T.J. House is. Now, for the numbers. Last year’s starting rotation was far from lights out, but they were reliable. For the 2013 season Tribe starters collectively had a 3.92 ERA (14th in baseball) while the opposition hit .254 against them (13th). So far this year, Tribe starters collectively have an ERA of 4.37 while opposing offenses are batting .270 against them. As a whole, last year’s pitching staff (starters and relievers) had an ERA of 3.82 (15th) and the starters and an ERA of 3.92 while the offense averaged almost 4.6 runs per game. This year, the pitching staff has an ERA of 3.84 (nearly identical to last year, but 18th overall) while the starters have an ERA of 4.37 and the offense is averaging 4.4 runs per game. Keep in mind, the rotation’s awful ERA includes the 2.46 ERA of Corey Kluber. That’s how bad everyone else is.

Last season, the Cleveland Indians offense provided some support. That is also the case again this season. The difference between last season and this season, and the reason why the Indians have a small chance of making the postseason this year, is the starting rotation. Outside of Corey Kluber the Indians have nobody else to confidently hand the ball to. That’s a problem, and that’s why the Cleveland Indians are flailing.

The Rays Ditch David Price

Mitchell Gatzke did a great job of breaking down MLB’s deadline day deals in his column yesterday, but there is one deal in particular that he mentioned that I’d like to review a little further, specifically the David Price to the Detroit Tigers deal.  Yes, there were other components to the trade, but that was the most significant part of the deal.  The other major part of the deal was the absolute dearth of talent that made its way back to the Rays.

Continue reading The Rays Ditch David Price

The Tribe is Creepin' On Ah Come Up

Some call it comeuppance and some call it getting a pound of flesh. In baseball, more so than most other things in the world, things have a way of evening themselves out; of course, the timing isn’t always the way we’d like to think it should be. Now think about the Cleveland Indians since Terry Francona has assumed the helm, and remember that they needed every one of those 92 wins in 2013. Technically, two more wins would have given them a Central Division title, though we know Detroit collected their $200 and stopped on “Go” last September. In that same breath, two fewer victories, whether you subtract a game or two from that four-game sweep over Oakland last May or any of those games with Chicago in September they had no business winning, would have put the Tribe in a mad dash for tee times as the Major League Baseball post-season commenced last October.

Glancing at the calendar, I see it’s June and we can hardly call this season new at this point, but what goes around, comes around for the Cleveland Indians. After enjoying a 17-2 season series against the White Sox, a comedy of righteous moments that literally took words out of White Sox play-by-play personality Ken “Hawk” Harrelson’s mouth on several occasions. Now, taking 17 of 19 from anyone other than Houston involves a good share of favorable bounces, like the divine intervention that gave them the double-header sweep at “New Comiskey” on June 28th last year. In Game 1, we were all disappointed to see Trevor Bauer fail to get three outs in the first inning of a start, putting the Tribe in a 5-0 hole before batting in the top of the second inning; response runs were there for the taking, however, and after evening things up in the next frame, the Tribe would cruise to 19-8 victory. The night-cap was all White Sox and this twinbill was destined for a split until the away team put up 4 runs on 4 hits in the top of the ninth off Chicago closer Addison Reed for a 9-8 win. Downing the south-siders was just how it went in 2013; Jason Giambi had two walk-off bombs against Chicago in a year that he did little else on the stat sheet.

Thus far, it’s been a different story when it comes to Robin Ventura’s squad and the Braves of the Cuyahoga. While I personally don’t care for those that dismiss teams that are strong in the 1-run games as teams that should regress back to the mean, you have to admit four walk-off wins in nine home games opens the door for the credit to go to Lady Luck, but you can counter that by pointing out the back end bullpen is a big part of the game. The Indians know it all too well, having dropped two in walk-off fashion on the South Side already this season, and a third at home, where John Axford yielded three runs in the ninth, instead of locking down a 3-1 victory. Through 10 games, the upstart White Sox have taken 7 of 10 from the Indians, and sit in second place in the division, one half game above the Tribe, who trail division-leading Detroit by just 3 games. Better the standings look like this in early June, rather than early October.

Speaking of October, the Oakland Athletics have found themselves on the dance-floor in each of the last two seasons, and appear to be on their way back this season. I know it’s simple, but success comes in winning more games than you lose, and the A’s did that, turning out Win-Loss records of .500 or better against all but three of their opponents a year ago; they dropped 11 of 19 against Seattle, despite outscoring them by 5 runs on the season, and went 2-5 against the Orioles and the Indians. They were swept in Cleveland last May, on the strength of some solid starting pitching (the Cleveland starter got the win in each game), but also with the benefit of the doubt; an Adam Rosales ninth inning double that obviously cleared the threshold for home run somehow could not be upgraded with the aid of replay and Rosales was eventually stranded on third base when Chris Perez saved a 4-3 win for the Tribe. Oakland did bounce back in August, taking 2 of 3 from the slumping Indians at the Coliseum on the East Bay, but could only salvage 2 wins in 7 tries.

You might say Bob Melvin’s squad went out and got their pound of flesh, when it came avenging their dismal showing against the Tribe in 2013, being in the clubhouse with a 4-2 season-series win over the Tribe. It looked like it might be more of the same after the Indians took 2 of 3 in the season-opening series, with former Indians southpaw Scott Kazmir salvaging the only victory the A’s could manage to get on the west coast, but they responded to last season’s 4-game sweep at Progressive Field by taking all three games at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. In the six games, Oakland outscored the Indians 40 to 15. Through 60 games in 2014, the A’s have outscored their opponents by 120 runs and sit 14 games over .500. The Indians, on the other hand, are in the red on run differential to-date, despite breaking even in the win column.

On the bright side, there is a flip side to this coin. Some might say this exposed the Indians for what they really were a season ago, a team that could beat up on the bums and didn’t belong in the same ballpark with the real contenders, but they stunk against the other playoff qualifiers in 2013. In seven games with the eventual World Champs, Francona’s former team took six. They were 2-4 against Tampa Bay and 4-15 against Detroit, who ended up just one game better than the Indians in the Central Division standings, a fact that needs to be qualified (again), since Jim Leyland shut the team down for a meaningless series in Miami to end the regular season. Being taken behind the woodshed by the contenders, thus exposing the Tribe as “pretenders”, provided some balance in the grand scheme, essentially canceling out their mastery of the American League bottom-feeders.

We probably didn’t think about it too much, as it was happening with the Red Sox, given the Red Sox were so emotionally charged when they came to Cleveland in April, on literally the day of the Boston Marathon tragedy. The one they call Tito would only get one win in seven tries against the organization he once to led to their first title in 86 years, when his lineup torched Ryan Dempster, Clayton Mortensen, and Alex Wilson for 12 runs in a 12-3 win at Fenway. As far as bouncing back is concerned, the sample size is a little small and we really have no idea what to make of the 2014 Red Sox, but they just completed a 3-game series sweep of Big Papi and company, which has to be a huge weight off the shoulders of Francona, whether he admits it or not.  Let’s also consider how many good things happened, as it pertained to confidence going forward in the series that ended with Asdrubal Cabrera’s walk-off home run to secure the sweep on Wednesday night (Thursday morning, to be technical).

asdrubalwalkoff

Then, you have Detroit, the team that knocks the Indians off their pedestal anytime they’ve gotten a little momentum in recent years. I’m sure most of us have not forgotten how quickly the 2011 came out of the gates, starting 30-15, an amazing run that included 3-game sweep of the Tigers, two of those wins coming in the form of walk-offs. Well, the next time the two teams met in June, the Tigers took two of three, knocking the Indians down to 36-31 and into second place in the division. In August of that year, the Tribe took a series at home, putting them within 3 games of Detroit’s divsion lead, but the Tigers won the last 10 matchups that year, and thoughts of the post-season were laughable by season’s end.

A year later, in 2012, it was a lot more of the same. Hell, the stat sheet shows the Tribe took the season series 10-8, but it comes down to the team from the Motor City killing their spirits. They were still outscored by 15 runs over the course of 18 games. They won 7 of the first 9, including a 5-3 win on July 26th that had some fools believing there was still life in this club. Of course, you can’t solely blame the Tigers for the 11 game losing streak that followed that inspiring win, though they were responsible for losses 7, 8, and 9. They’d pull out a couple more, and even scored one last walk-off win against Jose Valverde (aka Papa Grande) in September, you know, for old time’s sake. But much like [SPOILER ALERT] Tessio in Part I, the Indians and Manny Acta were already dead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d30Y0n1nDH4

Well, that wasn’t a depressing walk down memory lane or anything! Let’s bring it back to the present-day, and though we have learned to taper our emotions after early-season success, the clubhouse had to have been buzzing at the comeuppance that came with sweeping the Tigers at home last month, and the balk-off could really be seen as the exclamation point. Again, we look at our calendar and we know that it’s early, that this 4-to-1 advantage the Tribe currently holds over the Tigers could easily be 5-14 by season’s end, a la last year, but things feel different this year for some reason. Perhaps we’ve already seen the woes this team inevitably experiences every year since Dick Jacobs family name was taken off the ballpark’s marquee.

They didn’t get to 30-30 by starting 30-15, but from 24-30 (their low-water mark). They’ve shown they can beat Detroit and they can beat Boston, and it’s too early to think about whether or not they can beat San Francisco; they’re 0-3 this season and 0-6 in their last six tries, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Of course, if they don’t cross that bridge, they are only 2-4 against the team that shares the bay, so there are multiple pounds of flesh to be had in Northern California, come October, I suppose.

That’s a concern for another time, of course, but the Indians were left for dead just a few weeks back and now, to quote everyone second favorite Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony album, they are creepin’ on a come up. So, to all you busters out there, beware!

Catching Up with the Cleveland Indians

The last time I spoke about the Cleveland Indians (click here) they were 18-21 and in last place in the AL Central. I discussed how they were on the verge of getting their season back on track, and then promptly they lost their next four games and were outscored 34-8. Despite this minor setback, the Indians have made some progress in their division. As the month of June gets underway, let’s catch up with the Indians and take a look at the road ahead.

Despite the aforementioned offensive struggles, the Indians are currently tied for 7th in the league with 256 runs scored this season and as a club are batting .255, which is 9th overall. For the month of May the Indians collectively had a .273 batting average and scored 136 runs, both good enough for fourth overall. Included in these numbers are the batting averages of Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana, who hit .211 and .169 respectively in the month of May. More on them later. It seems that despite the early season struggles and season long slumps by players this team was relying on, the offense has started to figure things out. Some tweaking by Terry Francona (somewhat forced due to injuries) appears to be working.

chisenhall brantleyA discussion on the Indians offense so far this season would be incomplete without bringing up two names – Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall. Brantley continues to be the best outfielder in baseball nobody really knows about outside of Cleveland. All he’s done so far this season is hit .301 with 9 home runs (his career high is 10), 41 RBI and 38 runs scored. He’s also 8/8 stealing bases. If anyone can make a compelling argument why he shouldn’t be named to the AL All-Star team and doesn’t deserve more recognition I’d be all ears. Speaking of recognition, how about Lonnie Chisenhall? Here’s a kid who was written off by many to start the season and lost his starting third base job to Carlos Santana. All he’s done since then is hit. He’s hit well as a starter, as a backup, with runners on base, with runners in scoring position, with two outs and in basically every other scenario you can think of. In 46 games and 140 at bats, Chisenhall is hitting .364 with 3 home runs, 19 RBI and 15 doubles.

Despite all of this positive output, two major cogs in the Indians lineup are failing miserably – Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana. Both are currently on the disabled list, but it will be hard for Terry Francona to justify reinserting either of them into the lineup upon their return. Santana has struggled mightily all season long, hitting only .159. His only redeeming quality is a respectable .327 on-base percentage, but that’s hardly a justifiable reason to have him in the lineup, especially with better options available at third base, first base, catcher and DH. Swisher has been equally as bad as Santana in the lineup, and he doesn’t boast the good strikeout to walk ratio. He’s only hitting .211 on the season and hasn’t really shown any sign of coming around. The Indians offense seems to be shaping up, but if this team wants to seriously compete at the end of the year both players will need to return to form – or at least be average contributors.

A running theme (or issue) with the Indians continuities to be the starting pitching. The rotation is currently 27th in the league with a 4.47 ERA while the opposition is posting a .267 batting average against them. Justin Masterson has been anything but a staff ace and has lived up to his “one good season one bad season” career so far. There have been flashes this season, but overall he’s been bad posting a 4.72 ERA in 13 starts and 74.1 innings of work. He also leads the American League in walks, allowing 37 free passes. The lone, consistent bright spot in the Indians starting rotation has been Corey Kluber. Kluber, who will get the start tonight for the Tribe as they go for the series sweep against Boston, is currently tied for most strike outs in the American League with 95. He is 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 12 starts and 80 innings of work.

As it stands right now, the Indians have moved out of the basement and are currently in third place in the AL Central with a 29-30 record. They’ve won six of their last ten games and have gone 10-5 since being embarrassed by Oakland in mid May. They’re getting some help from the Detroit Tigers, who’ve been in a free fall since getting swept by the Indians. While the Tribe has gone 10-5 in their last 15 games, the Tigers have gone 4-11. This has allowed the Indians to somewhat close the gap in the AL Central. Looking ahead, the Indians are about to get a ten game road trip underway following tonight’s series finale against the Red Sox. Only two of those ten games are within the division (against Kansas City) but all ten games are against teams that currently have a record of .500 or lower. While the Indians have been very good at home (20-11, best in the AL) they’ve been awful away from Progressive field (9-19, worst in the AL). If they can start to right that ship by at least going 5-5 on this upcoming ten game road trip it would do wonders in helping this team really get their season back on track.

With Detroit struggling it’s even more important for the Indians to continue to win games. Road trips have been death sentences for the Indians so far, but with Cleveland playing good baseball and some winnable games on the horizon it’s still entirely possible to turn that around, along with their entire 2014 season.