The Indians ended April with a Thud. Losing every game on a west coast trip is never a good way to inspire the fan base. Good thing April is over and we are into May. Let’s look at the Tribe one month into the season.
The Indians ended April 11-17 and on a 6 game losing streak. Not what you expect from a team with high expectations of making the playoffs. Is it time to panic? Not really. It is only one month. Last year they were 11-13 in April. They followed up April by going 18-12 in May. Last year the Indians had two 8 game losing streaks, and on June 10th they were 3 games under .500. This was a streaky team last year and I could easily see them rattling off 6 or 7 wins in a row. The team was at .500 before the 6 game west coast trip. So the record after one month is not a huge concern, but they leave themselves little room to continue their disappearing act at the plate, and in the field.
The Starting Rotation:
The starters began the year a little shaky, but have become the strength of this club. Masterson did not earn a win in the month of April, but he pitched well enough that he should have in three of his six April starts. Is Masterson a #1 starter? Maybe not, but he is definitely a #2. Would the Indians just pay this guy! Masterson’s agent reportedly proposed multiple offers to the Indians with a contract of around 17 million per year for 3 to 4 years. Usually the Tribe balks at contracts for pitchers because they are to long. The Tribe does not want to risk a lengthy contract on pitchers who are all susceptible to injury. Masterson is offering a shorter term contract which should make the Indians front office thrilled. I am just not sure what the Indians are expecting to pay for a starting pitcher who can anchor a staff. 12 million a year gets you an Ubaldo Jimenez type pitcher. Ubaldo has been atrocious in 5 of his 6 starts. He has a 5.19 Era in his first 6 starts and has walked 18 in 34 innings. That looks similar to the Ubaldo who pitched in Cleveland before last July. Are you feeling a little nervous about that signing now Baltimore? 3 years at 17 million per year seems fair to me, so the Indians need to stop with the excuses and sign Masterson. Otherwise we will be watching another warm body in the rotation next year. Yea you could gamble on a veteran coming off a poor year and get another Scott Kazmir, or you could get another Brett Myers. If the Indians are expecting to compete for a playoff spot they can’t afford to gamble on their starting pitching, especially when they would be replacing a front of the rotation starter.
Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister have been solid and consistent on the mound to start the year. I have followed Corey Kluber through the minors to the big league club since the trade with San Diego/ St. Louis for Jake Westbrook. Kluber was considered one of the Padre’s top pitching prospects. He had one off year and was traded. He has consistently been tops in the minor leagues in strike outs and walked very few. This year he has 48 K’s and 12 BB in 45 innings which is following his career norms. He projected as a #2 or #3 starter and that is holding true. Kluber has a 3.6 ERA even though he has pitched 5 games against some of the top offenses in all of baseball. Kluber has pitched two games against the #2 offense and one game against the #3, #4, #5 offenses in MLB. Kluber has always been one of my favorites, and he looks to be a solid #2 or #3 starter.
McAllister has been just as good, if not better than Kluber. He has a 3.16 ERA and like Kluber he doesn’t give a lot of hitter’s free passes. McAllister fits in nicely and has done a good job in the 3 hole.
The 4 and 5 spots have been a problem for the Indians. I am not to worried about Danny Salazar as he seems to be righting the ship after a rough start early on in the season. Even though he has not looked as sharp or seemed to have command of all of his pitches, he still looks like a major league pitcher. His demeanor on the mound just says successful pitcher to me, and I think in the long run he will succeed. Carlos Carrasco is another story. As I write this he has been relieved of his starting duties and placed in the bullpen. Carrasco is just another version of Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona. Carrasco is a pitcher with a great arm, who will consistently put runners on base and make me want to start watching MTV with my wife instead of baseball. Thankfully I will no longer be up to date on the “16 And Pregnant” episodes, as Josh Tomlin has taken Carrasco’s spot in the rotation. Tomlin has pitched great in Columbus to start the year. He was called up to Cleveland this week and in his first start he looked very impressive. Tomlin walks very few batters. Isn’t it strange how not walking people usually correlates to winning. I mentioned in my last post that Tomlin would be back and it took less than a month. Unless there is an injury I believe you have seen the last of Carlos Carrasco starting for the Indians. The Indians still have insurance in Trevor Bauer who has been pitching even better than Tomlin. This is in Columbus also which is a big time hitter’s park. So if there is an injury, Salazar regresses, or Tomlin can’t hold down the 5th spot (I am sure he will – you don’t get the nickname “The Little Cowboy” for no reason), Bauer seems to be ready to step in.
The bullpen so far seems stable. Vinnie Pestano was sent down early in the month after giving up hits to almost every batter he faced. He had a WHIP of 3.38. That means for every inning he pitched he put 3.38 batters on base. I think Hendrix’s WHIP in his first year of youth baseball where the players will pitch will be lower. A WHIP of 1.75 or higher is usually pretty atrocious. Pestano’s velocity has been down last year and the start of this year, and just a couple MPH has made him very hittable. The rest of the bullpen has been very good. The bullpen has stranded 50 of the 60 inherited base runners through May 7th. This puts them at the top of the league in keeping inherited runners from scoring. John Axford has not let one inherited runner score. Then again he has put them on himself and let them cross home plate a few times. Axford is the one part of the bullpen that I am not to sure about. He does have 9 saves out of 11 chances is which is not to bad in one month. Unfortunately he likes to walk batters and he is not unhittable. (I think there is something to this walking batters and a pitchers success rate) He has issued 11 walk and 11 hits in 14 innings. Axford has a 1.57 WHIP which is getting up there near that atrocious level. The Tribe could probably survive an Axford collapse by moving Cody Allen into the closer role and rearranging the bullpen. But ultimately this probably wouldn’t be ideal considering the teams other problems.
In my last post I stated how my main concern about this team was its offense. Well they haven’t changed my opinion much. The Tribe is next to last in the American League in runs scored, and 26th in MLB with a .231 team average. There are only 4 teams all in the National League (where the pitcher bats!) with worse averages. (Side note – The San Diego Padres have a .215 team average….Uh maybe I should stop complaining about the Tribe offense) Other than Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, David Murphey, Nyjer Morgan, Mike Aveiles, and Lonnie Chisenhall (3 of whom are part time players), the rest need to vastly improve at the plate. Jason Kipnis who is currently on the DL has a .234 average, while Michael Bourn is batting around his career average of .266. Unfortunately Bourn has done little else as he has played in only 15 games. He has 2 stolen bases but he has been caught 3 times, and he only has scored 6 runs all year. I didn’t think so at the end of spring training, but Nyjer Morgan needs to be on this team. Morgan is batting .294 with 3 stolen bases in 3 attempts, and 5 runs scored in half the at bats Bourn has had. Not to mention he is playing better defense.
The rest of the lineup would bring the San Diego Padres team average down:
Asdrubal Cabrera .215
Nick Swisher .202
Ryan Rayburn .167
Carlos Santana .139
And Mr. Blutarsky (Jason Giambi) .000
It will be almost Memorial Day before Giambi plays again. He has not reached first base since spring training, other than a hit by pitch. That includes games with the Indians and the Akron Rubber Ducks. He actually didn’t even get a hit in spring training. He reached base twice by walk. His last hit in a game was last year! The Tribe’s offense needs a jump and the Indians need to bite the bullet soon with Giambi. Jesus Aguilar is in AAA Columbus. Last year he set the Akron record with 105 RBIs in 130 games. He is off to a fast start in Columbus this year batting .319 with 7 HRs and 17 RBIs in 31 games. The Tribe is not good enough to waste a roster spot on a player who is not helping. Sooner or later Giambi is going to need to produce or the Tribe needs to make a change.
It is good to see Chisenhall producing and Brantley is Mr. Consistent. I believe the rest of the lineup will improve, but I do think this team needs one more bat. Preferably a right handed bat.
Where the hell do I start? This is the one area that has derailed the Tribe more than any other. The starting pitching has had a few bad games, the closer has let a few slip away, and the offense has been absent for most of the year. But it is the defense that has ultimately cost the Indians the most. This does not just a couple of players, but the entire team.
Yan Gomes- The poster boy for the Tribe’s bad defense. He has 9 errors already and leads the league with 4 PB (past balls). Last year for the entire year he had 3 errors and 4 PB. Yan you’re not going to get the last 2 years of that contract you just signed if you continue to play like that.
Michael Bourn – Who in the hell voted this guy a gold glove centerfielder in the national league? I have yet to see a gold glove defender, including last year. This year I wouldn’t put him in the top half of American League centerfielders. He only has one error but the number of bad routes I have seen, along with missed diving/sliding catches, and running into the other outfielders tells me he is not a premier defender.
Asdrubal Cabrera – has 5 errors and has not looked that great in the field. He had better start hitting because the Tribe has Fransico Lindor in Akron who is considered a gold glove defender, and I am sure he can hit .215 if not better.
Nick Swisher – 4 Errors and he could have been charged with more. I have watched a few games where Swisher has not given much effort on coming off the bag at first. I really expect more from Swisher.
The Tribe has plenty of time to turn the season around and get on the plus side of the win/loss column. They need the bats to come around but they really need the defense to step up.
Ok this is a Tribe blog but the NFL draft is tonight so a couple of things. One -Johnny Manziel reminds me of Doug Flutie. Flutie’s chance in the NFL came late in his career because everyone thought he was to short. Flutie was a great QB and I loved watching him. Manziel may be fun to watch also, but it is his off the field activities that tell me not to draft him. There was risk with Flutie and his size, but there was no risk with how Flutie carried himself off the field. The Browns are could be kicking themselves if they don’t draft Manziel and he turns out to be great. I just wouldn’t take the chance and would stick with the safer choice. Watkins, Mack, Robinson, and especially Clowney if they could get him.
Second – I really hope my Buccaneers or the Browns draft my man from Kent State, Dri Archer. The guy may not make it in the NFL if he isn’t durable enough, but man is he fun to watch. Who knows it could be Manziel to Archer soon.