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…
Indians bullpen stats (MLB ranks):
ERA: 1.83 (1st)
FIP: 2.14 (1st)
WAR: 2.5 (T-2nd)
K-BB%: 20.6 (1st)
BAA: .201 (4th)
HR/FB: 2.7% (1st)
— T.J. Zuppe (@TJZuppe) May 7, 2017
…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?
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.