After 16 Pop-Tarts, I finally ran into some repeats! While I won’t be revisiting teams that I have previously featured on Overtime, it could be harder to find some new Pop-Tart pastries for the remaining 13 teams. I’ll try to find as many as I can! But more importantly, let’s examine the Cleveland Indians, a historic team going through a disappointing season.
How’s It Going?
The Indians are currently sitting at a rough 53-59. After reaching the playoffs as a shocker team in 2013, Cleveland has collectively stumbled through the 2014 and 2015 seasons. There is some major talent on this squad, especially in terms of starting pitching, but the lack of a consistent offense and deep bullpen costs the Indians time and time again.
The Indians’ offense is their greatest weakness. The club doesn’t have a particularly strong flow through the lineup due to some key cogs missing time due to injuries or just plain underperforming. Two stars that stand out though are second baseman Jason Kipnis and left fielder Michael Brantley. Kipnis bounced back after a rough year by flourishing in the leadoff spot, batting .326 with an astounding .401 OBP and 11 steals to go nicely with 6 homers. Brantley is a great 3rd batter on any team. After finishing as a runner-up in last year’s AL MVP race, Brantley has accumulated a triple slash of .316/.392/.466 and has 8 homers and 12 steals. The rest of the Indians’ lineup is weak, to say the least. Catcher Yan Gomes was expected to shoulder a large load offensively, but got injured and has found no success since his return. Gomes has fallen from a triple slash of .278/.313/.472 to one of .227/.260/.373. Another key player who has struggled is first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana. Santana can still get on base (75 BB), but is batting just .226 with 12 homers. Outfielders Michael Bourn, Brandon Moss, and Nick Swisher were all unproductive and ultimately traded. In their stead, Abraham Almonte, Tyler Holt, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Chris Johnson have been various shades of unproductive themselves. All of these players have lots of potential though, much more so than the outgoing threesome, but have not hit well in their brief big-league trials. Johnson and Chisenhall are learning new positions in first base and right field respectively. The left side of the infield for the Indians is very fine defensively but still learning with the bat. Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela are outstanding glove men, but only Lindor has shown any signs of hitting prowess (.277 AVG), as Urshela recently went 0-7 in a 16 inning affair versus the Yankees. Jose Ramirez is the current second baseman with Kipnis shelved, and has shown signs with the glove and the bat. The Indians have no consistency with their lineup from one day to the next, characteristic of a rebuilding team. Brantley and Kipnis are studs, but rebounds will be needed from Santana and Gomes next season.
Things improve big-time for the Indians on this side of the ball. Corey Kluber is a bit overrated now thanks to his shocking Cy Young Award win back in 2014, but specializes in getting strikeouts and limiting walks. His steely regime is evidenced by his nickname, the “Klubot”. Behind him, Carlos Carrasco has finally channeled his vast potential into an All-Star caliber season. Carrasco has 11-8 with a solid .234 BAA. He too is an expert at notching K’s and limiting walks. This is one of baseball’s best 1-2 punches. They are supported by young righty Danny Salazar and righty Trevor Bauer. Both have 95 mph fastballs and devastating offspeed pitches, but are victimized by the home run ball (17 and 21 homers allowed, respectively). 5th starter Cody Anderson is injured, leaving the Indians short a starter. Due to off-days, however, the Indians are rolling with just a 4-man rotation right now. Their bullpen is average, but improving steadily. Closer Cody Allen is one of baseball’s finest young closers, and setup men Bryan Shaw and ex-Yankee farmhand Zach McAllister are fine at what they do. Ryan Webb is a quality sinker-slider guy, and Kyle Crockett is the resident LOOGY. Austin Adams and Shawn Armstrong have late-inning stuff and Jeff Manship is the long man. If the Indians get a lead, they will be able to preserve it with this young crew. The rotation is one of baseball’s top 10, and the bullpen could become top 10 by next year if the kids continue to progress.
The Indians are a tricky club to analyze. Their pitching is ready to contend now, leading one to think that perhaps they are closer to another surprise Wild-Card run than we suspect. Their offense is only a short time away from being good enough if the kids progress and the veterans bounce back. A smart offseason could have Cleveland back into the postseason hunt in no time.