Five runs and a cloud of dust against the Kansas City Royals

The Cleveland Indians 1-0, one-hit victory over the Kansas City Royals gave the Indians another series victory, and left the Tribe 1 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Minnesota Twins in the A.L. Central. At 17-13, the Indians have still left a lot on the table, but while they aren’t anywhere near their peak performance, you can see the type of trouble they are going to cause teams all year long.

Take this weekend series. The Indians were throwing their 3-4-6 starters at the Royals in Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin, and Mike Clevinger, and were still able to take two out of three while only scoring five weekend runs against the struggling Royals.

While the Indians have the capabilities of bludgeoning teams with offensive firepower, some interesting slumps have kept the team from firing on all cylinders, especially against left-handed starters like Kansas City starter Danny Duffy. But with the best bullpen in major league baseball…

…and with a rotation that seems to always finds a way to get it done, once the offense gets going, the Indians are going to be a hard team to beat.

The biggest curiosity heading into Sunday’s game was Mike Clevinger’s return to the MLB bump after a solid start in Triple A Columbus. Clevinger was 3-1 for the Clippers, with a 1.50 ERA, a 3.46 FIP, a 3.42 xFIP, and 9.6 strike outs per nine innings. He didn’t disappoint against the Royals.

He went 5 2/3, striking out five, and only giving up one-hit. While optimism runs high, there were some interesting factors that make his next start really important. Has he really taken the next step?

While Clevinger was confusing Kansas City hitters, the Royals are a notorious swing-first team, and against Clevinger, they were swinging. This start was the epitome of the discussion that WFNY’s Michael Bode and Mike Hattery had prior to this season. He can keep the Indians in games, and under the right circumstances, can look good. Against the Royals, the circumstances were perfect.

But there are still concerns.

In the smallest sample size in the history of man, Clevinger’s 33% ground ball rate, combined with his 33% hard contact percentage is a recipe for disaster against a team that has a little patience. But is that really a concern for the Indians regarding a fifth or sixth starter?

Probably not.

The real question is whether or not you expect Clevinger to be anything more than that. In a world where I’ve seen comparisons of Clevinger to Corey Kluber, I think we just have to temper those expectations going forward.

What this was, was a great first start for Clevinger, but notate there are some concerns. Thank goodness one game sample sizes aren’t the end-all and be-all. Clevinger will continue to be an interesting watch going forward in 2017.

Oh, and welcome back Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes.

  • mgbode

    Clevinger’s stuff is just so filthy. The contact the Royals did make on it was pretty weak, which is why that 1 H stood up. Quite excited to see if he can stick given this opportunity.

  • jpftribe

    He’s putting up his best numbers ever in AAA this year. I think you have to factor that in when talking SSS. He’s put on 15 lbs of muscle and was with the program in the offseason. He’s better than last year.

    Expectations should be just what he is, a No 6. If he keeps throwing 1 hitters, the rest will take of itself.

    Interested in what you guys think about the high pitch counts. Our 3-6 are all prone to it. Is that just the way it is in the MLB, or maybe the club’s philosophy is driving it? We certainly have the bullpen to deal with 5-6 inning QS.

  • mgbode

    Salazar went through a stretch 2nd half of 2015 where he focused on lengthening his outings. It worked OK for him, but his elite game tends to be 6-7 IP to reach his pitch count.

    Tomlin can have low pitch counts, just depends on how much he is getting hit that day.

    Clevinger & Bauer both have control issues (or they try to play with their pitches and it leads to extra walks). Neither seems concerned w/ getting a batter down in three pitches. Up 0-2 in the count, they will try for a couple pitches to get them to chase.

    Now, whether it is philosophy or just who these guys are? Probably a bit of both. Pitching coaches seem adept at catering to each pitcher to make the most of who they are.

  • jpftribe

    One thing about a this Francona team, they don’t whine like the Royals. Can’t help but think that team in on the brink of imploding.

  • jpftribe

    1-2 count is make or break. Hate it when these guys take a 0-2 to 2-2.

  • mgbode

    I understand, but take a look at that first strikeout above. It’s a ball, but it sure looks like a strike until the last moment. Those are the pitches Clevinger is refining. If he can get them to roll like that more often, then we’ll see his performance spike in the good way.

  • mgbode

    Yes, also the Twins fall in that category.

  • NankirPhelge

    Wickman Jr. made it interesting again. Man, that guy ages me.

  • jpftribe

    Allen? Premier closer in MLB right now.

  • mgbode

    Last two appearances have been interesting, but he’s also been the best closer the Indians have ever had especially this year.

  • mgbode

    I mean, he’s not Aroldis Chapman…

    (scans play-by-play for Cubs 9th inning last night)


  • NankirPhelge

    No argument there. I just want him to never put anybody on base ever.

  • jpftribe

    It gives faith to see a Browns fan still hold our best to impossible standards.

  • jpftribe

    Don’t see the Sunday games, so I missed him pitching. But that gif is really nasty.

  • jpftribe

    Yeah, if they get rid of Molitor, we could be in trouble.

  • mgbode

    I’d be surprised if he is with the team next year. They are completely revamping their farm system (esp around pitching development), so it might take some years to see the full weight of their changes, but they should be a challenging opponent moving forward.

  • scripty

    Just realized they’ll get that kid on the cover of SI.

  • Steve

    I think this overvalues his AAA work. He’s better than last year, but only by a pretty small amount. His strikeouts are up a hair, and his walks down the same. It’s his strand rate that is amazing, but he’s not going to continue to strand 97% of guys. And his BABIP, even if he is too good for that level, is going to come back up some.

  • jpftribe

    I didn’t put a value on on it, just said he was better. After yesterday you gotta agree he’s a better pitcher right now than he was last year.

  • Steve

    Still too many walks, and against an awful lineup. I’m not counting on strand rate and BABIP, which have been his two biggest changes from last year, to keep up. I think he’s the same four and a half or so ERA guy that I thought he was last year. A perfectly fine back of the rotation guy.

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