It was certainly great to see the Indians club the Tigers last night !! It is a game we all have been waiting for. We know the Indians are not a juggernaut offensive team. That is OK. They only have to be a solid and above average offensive team to win games and have at least a fighting chance to draw fans. The potential is there in this team to become better than average with some pop in their lineup. However, I have not seen it yet and never saw it last year. Combine that with a distinctly awful defensive team and you get a boring team that over relies on it’s starting pitching and can’t win consistently without a solid bullpen.
I know this sounds distinctly negative to those who, like myself, want the Tribe to come alive and be a contender this year and beyond. But I think the reality is clear. As of now, none of that seems possible without a true transformation of this team’s emotional and talent make up.
The question that burns underneath all of this is whether or not the Indians have the ability from within to make this happen. I have not given up on that possibility and am hopeful. But we need to understand that a grim reality might present going forward that forces a break-up and revamping of this team’s talent structure. Since we have invested so much money signing our young talent to longer term contracts, this would be a stark reality indeed and I hope it doesn’t come to that.
That brings us back to the game last night. If that game is a reflection of last year’s team and there is no follow through, we are looking at a pattern of huge numbers of games scoring three runs or less. That is the key to the 2015 Indians!!!! They must reduce dramatically the number or games they score three runs or less. So far, it is half our games over more than one year (or close to that). The Cleveland Indians must break that pattern.
Another pattern they must break is being the sorriest defensive team in the league. It is not just their number of errors. It is the number of balls Chisenhall, Ramirez, Kipnis, Santana, Murphy, Aviles and Moss don’t get to because of inferior quickness/range/speed. The best of that bunch range wise is probably Santana, what does that tell you?
Fangraphs recently had a nice article from Mike Pitriello, who outlined this “Different Kind of Problem” with the Indians defense. It is worth a read. Where we actually disagree quite a bit is on Ramirez’s SS defense. He might be our best defender, but there are many balls this year that he should have knocked down and/or made plays and he couldn’t.
That is why we need to consider a quicker call up for Francisco Lindor! Not because he will hit so much better than Ramirez. Current averages seem to indicate neither player is hitting. But he has superior range and hands. Plus, when he does hit it, he has superior pop in his bat. That will help with the less than stellar range around him. Ramirez is a superior second baseman to Kipnis as well but that is another discussion for another day. I am still rooting for Kipnis. I know all about the service time argument and I say that is irrelevant if we let this year’s team slip away from inaction. Another thing to consider, one great defensive player (and Lindor may or may not be that guy) makes the other players around him better. Just ask anyone who played with Omar.
The reason all of this seemingly negative talk is so critically important is that our starting pitching is developing into a potentially generational group. By that I mean these guys can become 4 ACES in a staff!! How often does that happen?? Almost never in the history of baseball. And, when it happens, it is generationally great. Plus, two are locked up longer term and the others will still be around for many years. Maybe they will lock them up as well going forward.
That is the vision Antonetti and Shapiro had going into all this. That is why they signed Gavin Floyd even though they knew it was a risk. That is why they signed Kluber and Carrasco. They optimistically looked at Floyd as a top notch fifth starter and a glue for these young guys. That gamble failed. But the game is not over. Veteran starters can be acquired at times without mortgaging the farm system. We will see. Clearly though, at least for now, House has been a disappointment.
Our bullpen is shaky right now but I think it can improve as the season progresses. I have finally seen progression for Nick Hagadone. I think Shaw will come around. I am almost certain Allen will be OK. Atchison has been amazing. Others have been inconsistent thus far but I think the group will come together going forward.
So, with the base of starting pitching the Indians have and the potential for another solid bullpen, they MUST find a way to get consistent offense and defense on the field night in and night out. Painful losses from costly errors and repeated failed hitting opportunities drains the starters and the bullpen. These guys are, on balance, very young. To drain them with such shoddy performances around them will eventually allow the crack in the dam to break open and it all falls apart.
Even though I don’t necessarily know how to achieve it, I know what the Indians must do. Dramatically reduce the games where they score three runs or less and pick the darn ball and throw people out!! If this can happen and there is follow through on last night’s game both offensively and defensively, the Indians can go on a monster roll and get right back into this race in a hurry. If they revert to last year, the final result will be worse than 2014. Remember, don’t be fooled by total runs scored!! Look for a reduction of games with 3 runs or less.
GO TRIBE !!!!!