Indians

Michael Brantley walks it off in the Indians Home Opener

Tony Dejak, AP Photo

Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has been on an odyssey of sorts working through internal challenges, personal expectations, and external commentary which was driven more by speculation than substance. For one moment in Brantley’s struggle back to being the player he once was, with 35,002 fans watching, Dr. Smooth did something he could celebrate. In the most electric game in Cleveland outside of the playoffs, Brantley carried the day and the celebration could center on him if only for this fleeting moment in a season full of challenges.1.

There are of course other moments in this game of importance and other players whose performance was integral. Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, an MVP candidate in the making, hitting an early home run, third baseman Yandy Diaz making exquisite defensive efforts, and starting hurler Carlos Carrasco flashing the ace inside himself. Yet, when we look back on this game in 2017 or as we attend future home openers, this will be Brantley’s opener. In order to analyze this moment, the plate appearance must be broken down.

With Lindor on first base and two outs in the tenth inning, Brantley locked horns with one Tommy Kahnle, a robust fellow whose fastball is monitored by the global climate counsel for its heat emissions. Indeed, this is the sort of fastball that had made Almonte and Santana look foolish, an uncommon occurrence. To start the plate appearance, Kahnle threw what MLB pitch tracker qualifies as a 97 MPH “slider” to the outside third. The White Sox approach was to pound heavy stuff away and force Brantley to make an adjustment.

Courtesy of MLB.com

Brantley has had success on the outer third of the plate but obviously not off the plate away.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Once Brantley forced Chicago White Sox reliever Tommy Kahnle onto the outer third, the lefty punished the fastball to the opposite field resulting in a walk-off win in front of thousands of fans who so desperately wanted this moment just for him.

The teammates who had watched him work so tirelessly to get back onto this stage were happy to celebrate with him too.

This was the Brantley redemption show through and through.

Alas, a few quick notes from Tuesday’s affair.

  1. Lindor, one of a handful of the most valuable defenders at any position, has had a massive power surge in this young season. He hit his fourth home run in seven games following hitting just 15 home runs in 2016. If the Indians claim a Central Division Title once again (which is quite likely), the young shortstop looks poised to put up an MVP season.
  2. Jose Ramirez is beautiful at second base. He has made a handful of plays in the first week and a half of the season that Jason Kipnis simply would not make. When Kipnis eventually returns from the disabled list, transitioning away from Lindor-Ramirez in the middle will be tough for Indians fans.
  3. Abraham Almonte cannot be sent down for Lonnie Chisenhall. Almonte is a competent defender and handles the bat adequately. With contact black holes in  Tyler Naquin, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, Almonte’s quality plate appearances and contact skills have been a boon at the bottom of the order.
  1. Yes, in the standings this is worth exactly the same as any other home game but to the city of Cleveland and Brantley, it was much more than that []

  • scripty

    yan gomes needs to become a defensive sub until proven otherwise.

  • Matthew Grant Anson

    Any reason we shouldn’t just move Kipnis to third and stick Yandy in the outfield?

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  • Hopwin

    Yandy can’t hit so… I see no reason not to send him down to fix that.

  • mgbode

    Given how Yandy has been playing D at 3B, if anyone is moving to the OF, it would be Kipnis. Tito isn’t going to have that happen and Diaz’s bat hasn’t been good enough to make that a discussion either though.

  • Hopwin

    But Roberto is better at defense…?

  • jpftribe

    I think Kipnis is a lot further away than most folks think. 1-6 and 4 SO’s in AA so far. He had virtually no spring training. I can see this dragging through April.

  • jpftribe

    Can we at least pinch hit for him with the game on line and 2 outs in the 9th? Wasn’t Jackson available to PH?

  • Natedawg86

    YES

  • Natedawg86

    Kip actually came into the organization as an OF and they converted him to 2B because of other prospects (I think he has weak arm too)

  • Natedawg86

    I wouldn’t try to rush Chiz and Kip at same time either. If Chiz is ready and they are sending someone down to bring him in, they need to wait a week or so to determine who else to send down

  • Hopwin

    Ooo can he be a pinch runner in case Mike Martinez ever bunts his way on base?

  • Natedawg86

    Martinez sucks at bunting. he needs to go away

  • Hopwin

    He needs to go away because of his BUNTING? Hmmm…

  • Natedawg86

    He can’t hit AND he can’t bunt. I can see if he can at least bunt well and possible get on base that way, but he can’t even do that. When he comes to bat, the best thing to happen would be a SO or walk

  • mgbode

    If Kipnis is ready May 1, then I’ll be thrilled.

  • jpftribe

    CBus is at home this weekend. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Chis come up and Naquin go down.

  • jpftribe

    Maybe Guyer can coach him up on HBP’s.

  • CBiscuit

    Couple hard hit liners yesterday! He also showed a nice inside out stroke.

  • mgbode

    Biggest thing to me was his front shoulder dipped on both of those line drives. So far this year, he had kept that front shoulder steady, which is part of the reason he had a flat swing (and the ball went downwards).

    Best scenario is Diaz hitting more LD and less GB and forcing his way onto the team as another plus-player. Long, long, long way to go to even consider that possibility though.

  • Natedawg86

    Martinez doesn’t look like he wants to take the HBP

  • Chris

    I bet over a third of the fans had left the stands by the 7th inning… maybe half by the end of the 9th. It wasn’t even 8pm yet. I really don’t get it.

  • tsm

    The other guys on our team need to learn from Brantley’s approach – especially with 2 strikes. He is content to simply slap the pitch on the outside corner the opposite way. Many of our other guys still try and pull that pitch and either miss it or weakly ground out.

  • Hopwin

    My wife was down there. It dropped from 75 to 50 degrees in about half an hour, caught a lot of folks unprepared.

  • JNeids

    Jim wrote a great article about how Carlos Santana has been willing to do whatever he has to to help the team, be it play different positions or hit anywhere from 1 through 6 in the lineup. I’m by no means suggesting that Kipnis is the one blocking this move, but I just cannot understand why they refuse to even entertain the idea of moving him back to the OF if it would potentially benefit the team. I admit I don’t know how good of an OF he is, but Yandy at 3B, JRam at 2B and Kipper in RF sounds a little better than JRam at 3B, Kipper at 2B, and Chiz in RF.

  • CBiscuit

    I think he read your article yesterday. And then he made the proper adjustments. Man, I remember when your love for Yandy was strong. And now, you want to cast him aside like a plastic water bottle you toss into the sea as you curse his name. Sigh. It’s ok Yandy…I got your back in this forum.

  • Garry_Owen

    “whatever he has to to help the team”*

    *Short of batting in the bottom third

  • JNeids

    Even Hopwin can’t honestly say he’s one of the 3 worst hitters on the team, not with Naquin and Gomes/Perez and…ok maybe he can bat 7th at worst.

  • mgbode

    You are thinking of literally every other Indian’s writer here. I’ve been trying to pump the brakes on him.

    I believe he has a high potential but just need him to elevate the ball to get there. And, dang skippy he reads WFNY. Who doesn’t?

  • Steve

    Fewer times taking the bat out of both Lindor and Brantley’s hands please.

  • Steve

    That would require a tough talk, and apparently the team hasn’t hired anyone to deal with stuff like tough talks in the locker room.

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