Indians

The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Jose Ramirez

The Detroit Tigers ended up making a game of it.

The Indians steam-rolled into the ninth inning with a commanding 11-2 lead thanks to a monster game by third baseman Jose Ramirez, who went 3-for-4, with two homers, four runs, and four RBIs. But, the Tigers laid five runs on Boone Logan, and another run on Shawn Armstrong in the bottom of the ninth before Terry Francona was forced to bring in Cody Allen to close the game out, giving the Indians an 11-8 victory.

Jose Ramirez, who later Sunday Night became the first Indians’ player voted into the All-Star via fan vote since 2001, seemed to take a victory lap. Ramirez showcased not only why he should be the starting third baseman, but also why it’s time to start think about J-Ram as a legitimate MVP candidate.

The First

The line-up construction continues to frustrate the hell out of me. I get the semantics of any line-up. I get there are egos. I get there are guys you have “earned it” over time, and that deserve to keep the spot, before you just then toss them aside. That said, how long does it take for someone else to actually earn it? Is it a month? Is it a half season? Is it a season? How about a season-and-a-half?

Last year, Jose Ramirez was a 4.8 fWAR player, with a .312/.363/.462 slash. He hit 11 homers, and completely filled the shoes of the missing Michael Brantley. Okay, so you’re saying he doesn’t have the body of work that say, Jason Kipnis has. Fine, but when you open up this season with three months of 3 fWAR baseball, with a .319/.373/.561 slash, and a .243 ISO, and already have 13 homers, I don’t know, give him a shot?

Just to put it into perspective, before Sunday’s game, Francisco Lindor’s overall fWAR since the beginning of 2016 is 8.2. Jose Ramirez’s is 7.8. Kipnis is 5.0. Those number do indicate three extremely productive baseball players, but the fact that Kipnis has a 0.2 fWAR after starting the season off with a right shoulder injury, and has struggled for most of 2017 is a good indicator that he shouldn’t be hitting at the top of the order yet.

So, as I watched Kipnis fly out in the first inning, he’s hitting .173 over his past eleven games, and hasn’t been all that good in 2017.

Maybe give JRam a shot?

The Indians didn’t do anything in the first, but Lindor had a fun at bat:

As to Mike Clevinger, you’ve got to give the kid credit, he’s really battled this year. His release looks a bit more clean, and he’s really locating the ball better. When he doesn’t, things really don’t go well for him. It’s one of those things that’s likely going to take him months and years to refine, but he’s started the season off really well.

He doesn’t start games off all that well, but as bad as he’s been, he’s only given up one earned run in his ten starts in the first inning. The problem though, as it is today, is his pitch count is sitting at 30, and he can’t go deep into games. He also gets shelled the second time through the order.

He was all over the place that first inning, but got out of it:

The Second

Jose Ramirez hit a one-out single.

I know, it’s only a single. I know, Lonnie Chisenhall ended up hitting a two-run homer… but I don’t know, maybe you optimize your line-up (yeah, this will be a theme for today’s discussion).

And while I want to rip on the Santana-in-the-seven-hole garbage, his walk allowed the Bradley Zimmer single, which allowed Yan Gomes to single, to load the bases. Of course, Kipnis and Lindor, in the one and two spots in the line-up, both flied out. So, it is what it is, right? Maybe it’s just one of those give-and-take things, and maybe the percentages aren’t all that big a deal. The problem is, when you get Verlander on the ropes, put him away.

In the end, Verlander trumps Clevinger’s 30-pitch inning, with a 38-pitch inning of his own. The fact that Clevinger had a 10-pitch second inning makes it all the better.

The Third

JRam drilled a two-out home run in the third inning, and Carlos Santana hit a run-scoring double to give the Indians a 4-0 lead.

This brings me to Bradley Zimmer’s bunt single. In a pure baseball sense, it was a beautiful bunt, taking advantage of the infield playing too deep. Zimmer placed the bunt in the perfect spot, and he made it to first without a throw, moving Santana over to third. Under the right circumstances, it would have been brilliant.

But, it brought up Yan Gomes.

Sigh.

Clevinger followed with a 23-pitch inning, but once again, didn’t give up a run. There is always a lot of discussion about hard-throwing “throwers” learning how to battle and become pitchers. Is Clevinger doing this, or is he just asking for trouble against better teams? I like what I’m seeing, and perhaps the defense is perfect around him for this style of pitching. Let’s see how it develops over the season.

The Fourth

Verlander made his exit in the fourth inning, after an Edwin Encarnacion single bumped the Indians lead up to 5-1.

This is where we come to the comedy portion of today’s game. I had the volume down, so I truly have no clue what happened. With Encarnacion on first, and Michael Brantley on second, it sorta looked like J-Ram was about to square to bunt. He pulled back, took a called ball, and mayhem ensued. Perhaps it was a fake bunt. Perhaps it was a hit-and-run (unlikely, but who knows). Regardless, Encarnacion bolted to second base, and there really wasn’t anything that was going to stop him, including Brantley, who was already on second. Why explain it, when you can see it:

The real story of this inning was one again, Jose Ramirez. Seriously, there are games that all seem to come together, and this one was it. With Brantley and Encarnacion on, #JRaMVP launched a 2-0 fastball over the right-field wall for a three-run homer.

Is this where I mention his spot in the order again?

Clevinger continued his strange-as-it-gets start with an 11-pitch inning. At the end of the fourth, Clevinger sat at 74 pitches, and 53 of those pitches were in the second and the fourth inning. Walking five hitters isn’t a healthy way to go if you want to be a long-term starter in this league, but boy can this kid battle.

The Fifth

I need to take an interlude here to mention this little tidbit that popped up during the game, via Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

In the meantime, the Indians went 1-2-3, with Kipnis striking out to end the Inning. Clevinger struck out the side, while only giving up a single to J.D. Martinez.

Oh, about Lucroy. Francisco Mejia has a .341/.385/.571 slash in Double-A Akron. Yu-Cheng Chang has 17 homers in 70 games. Greg Allen is hurt, but is generally considered the best defensive center fielder in the system, and yeah, that includes Bradley Zimmer. All three, along with Shawn Armstrong, were part of the deal for Lucroy.

Crisis averted (and I’m ignoring Armstrong’s performance in the ninth, because we aren’t there yet).

The Sixth

The Indians just kept hitting. Lindor singled, and swapped places with Brantley after a Fielder’s Choice. Edwin Encarnacion tripled.

**dramatic pause**

J-Ram was then intentionally walked, and Chisenhall drew a walk, to load the bases for Carlos Santana, who promptly doubled home two more runs, driving the Indians lead up to 11-1.

Past that, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley left the game for replacements. Kipnis finished the day as the only starter not to get a hit… you know… our lead-off hitter. He did walk once though, to be fair.

Clevinger didn’t give up a run in the sixth, and exited the game after the inning. It was his second straight six-inning game, and second straight game in which he’d only given up one earned run.

Oh, and did I mention a fantastic defensive play by one #JRaMVP?

The Seventh

#JRam actually made an out this inning, with runners on first and second, and two out. Wonders never cease. This is also the moment of the game in which I start worrying about who ends up making an appearance in the game out of the bullpen. I can’t imagine any scenario in which we see Miller, Allen or Shaw, since they’ve seen a lot of recent work, but you just never know1. Goody pitched the seventh, and gave up a run.

It’s important to note here that Jose Ramirez has hits in 18 of his last 20, and it would be 19 of 20, if not for the pinch hitting garbage.

There really aren’t enough good words to say about Jose Ramirez, but I’ll try:

The Eighth

Gomes doubled in the eighth, and Otero pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the inning. Minnesota is beating Kansas City, so if things hold true, the Indians should have a three-game lead at the end of this ballgame.

This is really just a #JRaMVP victory lap though:

The Ninth

Oh, the hell with Boone Logan. The Indians did the right thing, and stayed away from the anchors of their bullpen. What did Boone Logan do? He gave up four runs and five hits, in 1/3 inning, and was yanked out of the game in favor of Shawn Armstrong, who promptly gave up a solo shot.

After another single, Francona had to pull Armstrong for closer, Cody Allen, who shut down the Tigers on three pitches, with a ground out to Allen.

Oh, and things held true. The Indians have a three-game lead over the Twinkies and Old-Royals with a day off to rest. It’s fun being in first, and knowing you still have a lot on the table. This team is so damn frustrating, but still winning. What happens if they stop being frustrating?

The (Hate) List

  1. Low leverage bullpen guys that force the manager to use high leverage bullpen guys
  2. Jason Kipnis shouldn’t be hitting lead-off
  3. GM-less teams taking press away from first place teams with great front offices
  4. Redundant narrative (we KNOW BRADLEY ZIMMER IS FAST, COME UP WITH A DIFFERENT TAKE!)
  5. Did I mention the line-up?
  1. You truly never know, do you []

  • Harv

    Tito has said he likes Ramirez protecting Encarnacion, and that seems to have started working. Edwin looks way more relaxed now, and could very well get white hot after the break. Edwin could quickly become the main cog in an explosive offense, so I don’t move Ramirez unless someone else – Brantley? – really locks in.

    Something no one is mentioning: Ramirez is bringing intensity to every play the first year after he got paid. That’s not how it usually works. Special kid. This could be Michael Chernoff’s signing for he ages, a baseball equivalent of Bob Myers inking Steph Curry in ’13.

  • jpftribe

    I think Kip’s spot in the lineup is to put pressure on him now to see how he responds, before the trade deadline. I also think the process is about through and we’ll see Chis move up and Kip moved down, maybe as soon as tomorrow. JRam stays behind EE, unless they start to lose, then maybe he goes to 3. Don’t see a 1-2 scenario. I think Zimmer stays at the bottom for at least a few more weeks, and his ultimate spot could be tied to Lindor’s slash line.

    Love watching the Clevinger thing play out and polar opposite frustrated watching Tomlin. One’s trying to break through a ceiling, the other looking for a floor. Salazar is a hot mess. Gotta believe they are trying to get Danny MLB innings before the deadline.

    Be interesting to see if there is any market value left for Lucroy. Could give insight into Gomes value.

    Enjoy this. A case can be made that we have the best starter, reliever and player in the MLB on this team. And they aren’t named Lindor, Brantley, Chisenhall or Encarnacion.

  • paulbip

    GROG>>>Get Rid Of Gomes!