Appreciation for under-appreciated Tribe players: Between Innings

Pouty-face Paul was in full effect, so you know the Cleveland Indians (8-7) had gotten under the skin of Minnesota Twins (7-8) manager Paul Molitor. Instead of counting his blessings the Wednesday night contest was rained out, Molitor decided to throw an on-field tantrum so that he could shower an inning earlier than the Indians clinched the sweep over the Twins, 6-2.

The Tribe came to the Land of Lakes in last place in the AL Central Division, but a three-game sweep has pushed the Indians back into the divisional lead. Such is life during the early portions of the season where panic is instinctual but rarely proves to be the correct response.

The Thursday afternoon game wound up being something of a spectacle for under-appreciated Tribe players as Trevor Bauer, Carlos Santana, and Cody Allen shined during the victory. Well, the entire bullpen continued to shine as they allowed zero runs in another 2.2 IP between Bryan Shaw, Boone Logan, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller (Now 5-for-5 in SLAM opportunities as Will Gage likes to refer to them).

Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer (6.1 IP 3 H 2 R 3 BB 7 SO) had a solid outing on Thursday. Despite a fourth inning where he threw more pitches (38) than he had in the three prior combined (34), Bauer was able to minimize the damage from the Twins in his lone bad inning as he struck out Rosario to end things. Plus, one of the two runs scored was pushed across on a balk, which is the second most exciting play in baseball! The ability to compartmentalize the fourth inning when he came back out for the fifth was fantastic to see as he dominated the opposition the rest of the way.

From 2014-2017, Bauer now has a 6.1 fWAR, which is good for 60th in MLB as a starting pitcher in that timeframe. Despite all the bumps and battles through his development, Bauer has given the Indians the value of a low-end second rotation starter or high-end third rotation starter over the past few seasons. His 4.41 ERA and 4.15 FIP over that timeframe might not be flashy or dominant, but his durability and relative consistency is incredibly valuable. There are few teams that can rely upon a backend starter to continue to pump out quality innings as the Indians can with Bauer.

Carlos Santana

The best lead off hitter in MLB (see table below) had a strong game.1 Santana doubled twice (3-for-5 on the day), which led to all of the runs the Indians needed. His double in the fifth inning scored Abraham Almonte (who doubled ahead of him). His double in the seventh scored Yandy Diaz, then he scored on MLB’s most exciting play. That’s right, a bases loaded walk! The Tribe doubled the exictement in the inning as Michael Brantley registered his own bases loaded walk earlier to push Michael Martinez across the plate (note: Martinez was on the basepaths pinch-running for Roberto Perez.).

Best in Baseball

The two doubles for Santana pushed him to 205 for his career, which is No. 23 All-Time in Indians franchise history for two-baggers ahead of Terry Turner. He is now just 12 away from Grady Sizemore for a Top 20 position. He is also 19 doubles away from Albert Belle (17th), 33 from Manny Ramirez (14th), and 40 from Kenny Lofton (11th), which is the highest he could conceivably reach in 2017 (and it would take a monster year on the doubles front to do so).

Cody Allen

In a season where closers are blowing saves at an epic pace, Allen slammed the door once again with two strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning (non-save situation).

Hey, remember the reference to 2014-2017 fWAR for Bauer above? Well, for relief pitchers, Allen is 10th in MLB among relief pitchers in that same timeframe (5.3 fWAR) as his 2.49 ERA / 2.58 FIP is elite. His strikeout-rate is also seventh (34.1%), but most should expect such as he has the fifth most strikeouts in MLB among relievers during that timeframe (292).

Andrew Miller is better in all categories above, but do not sleep on the dominance of Cody Allen.

  1. Hat-tip to Michael Goodman for the reminder. []