On days like these, during an opening month like this, while the Indians are still trying to find their early season way here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, it’s easy to want to begin pondering the end of days. Nothing makes it harder than this idiotic weekend series with the Detroit Tigers. The Indians 4-1 Sunday loss to the Motor City Kitties was their second loss to their division rivals, on April 16. Last season, their second Tigers’ loss didn’t come until September 18. Sure, their 14-4 record against Detroit was likely a bit of an aberration, but they’re still a better baseball team.
OK, losing to the Tigers sucks. The Indians’ are the better team, and losing to them feels like such a underachievement. But it’s early, and Terry Francona-led Indians teams lose early.
The Indians are a deep baseball team, and a deep organization, but this club has some very interesting stories developing regarding their as-yet-to-be-complete roster. While certain players are really showcasing mid-season form, there are some worrisome trends to watch unfold over the coming days and weeks. With a full week of baseball before the Indians’ next off day, this next week could really be a proving ground for a group of players.
Thankfully, Yandy Diaz continues to showcase something defensively, and while there are still those folks making bold and bland statements that Yandy isn’t good defensively, I’m in the “give me a break” mode. I do believe that he could be a bit rangier there, and his reads are a little robotic, but he certainly makes up for it athletically. Take this play from earlier today.1
Diaz gets a somewhat slow read on the ball hit to his glove side, he quickly adjusts, makes a nice diving play, and makes the quick, reactionary throw to second for the force out. In a way, his reaction to the ball is reminiscent of Jose Ramirez and his early forays at third base, and the outfield. Diaz has the advantage of being bigger, and just as athletic, so in theory, he should be able to make more of these plays, and perhaps gets a little better read with time.
Later in the game, Diaz makes another great play, this time to the backhand side.
Diaz is positioned closer to the line, gets a slightly slow read on the ball, but again, is there in one quick step. The easy part to enjoy is his quick-up-and-release, and utilizing the ground on the throw. I’ve seen some complaints that his throw was wicked low, but often, infield coaches teach their players to throw that way. It gives the first baseman time to react, as opposed to short hops.
My favorite part of that last video though, is his quick twitch react to the hop. If you watch his glove late, it’s positioned below the ball. He never takes his eye of the ball, and alters his backhand by almost four inches at the last second. That’s the move of a third baseman folks. I’ll get to Yandy more, in a second.
- I don’t know how Terry Francona can continue justifying plate appearances for Yan Gomes. I suppose there’s an old school line of thinking, that says you have to play through a slump, but he really looks lost. Of course, the saving grace for Gomes is that Roberto Perez has looked just as bad offensively, but has only made four starts. There has to come a time in which Perez gets the everyday chance, if only for the very same reason that Gomes has been given a nine-game chance to start the year. You can make a pretty solid case that Perez earned a regular chance in the playoffs last year. Gomes seriously looks like an offensive bag full of unwound yarn at the plate. I know, I know, Perez is never going to be an offensive juggernaut, but perhaps regular at bats can make him that on base guru that can become a run scoring opportunist at the bottom end of the line-up. On a side-note, Gomes has been framing well (5th in Statcorner framing, and 24th in Baseball Prospectus, while Perez is 5th and 39th in comparison), if you buy into that. I’ll never make a case that Gomes is a better defender than Perez, but you can at least make an early season case that Gomes defense has earned him at least a split. But nine games-to-four?
- I’ll take it a step further for Gomes. Gomes should have multiple options left to be sent down to the minors. If this is the case, send him down. Get him right. That ball of yarn needs unwound, and after almost two full years of struggle, it’s time to find him regular at bats where he won’t feel the pressure. Bring up Moore, or bring up Kratz for the time being. Or, give him the week as the lesser-half of the catching duo. Hell, give him the rest of the week to find his way, but don’t let it get past next Monday’s off day. If he’s not hitting in whatever role you have him in, let him find his way. For as much as I’ve had to listen to the “Yandy to the minors to fix his swing” discussion, I’m pretty surprised this hasn’t captured the social media wave yet. Of course, with Francona talk of his hurt psyche, I’m not sure moving Gomes to the minors will be in the cards. Hopefully in May, this is all an afterthought.
- Either way, it’s hard not to get excited about Francisco Mejia’s hot start at Akron. No, I’m not making the case for a Mejia call-up, but I am making a case that it’s okay to take a peak. Mejia likely has at least another year, and based on what the Indians would want to do regarding control, I would be just shocked if he even touched a big league diamond prior to next June. Hell, I’d be shocked if we see him before 2019, with the way this organization deals with prospects. But I wonder. If Gomes is done (we aren’t there yet, are we?), and Perez is just what he is offensively, would the Indians ponder Mejia if he continues to just eat minor league pitching up, and spit it out? But like I said, 2019.
- Speaking of Yandy, the Diaz Express continues its charge through the first 12 games of the season. Diaz is the first rookie to start the first twelve games since Super Joe Charboneau did it in 1980. Charboneau went on to win the Rookie of the Year in 1980, and while I won’t go so far as to say that the same will happen to Diaz, I will go out on a limb and say he’s earned his spot as a regular on this team. I understand the metrics showcase perhaps some range issues, but most defensive metrics remain flawed at best. Diaz clearly has both the glove skill, and the hand-eye skill, to play the position, and be really good at it. His defensive alignments have been spectacular (good job coaching staff), and his ability to stop the ball and get it to first has been exceptional. While there’s a growing minority that are actually questioning his defense, there’s growing SENSE that Diaz is not only a good defender at third, but with time, could be great. My only question is whether or not Diaz has earned the position going forward.
- Should Jose Ramirez be the regular third baseman, or should the Indians keep him as the uber-utility player that he was at the start of the year. I understand that this is hard for some to wrap their mind around, but I could legitimately see the Indians finding time for Jose Ramirez at 2B, 3B, SS, and LF. He could anchor third, and buy days off for Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis. I know that the worry is that Jose takes a hit offensively shuffling around the field, but have you seen him? It’s not a thing. While it sounds great, I’m not sure it’s in the cards. A lot of it depends on how many games JRam gets at third. If he’s there three times a week, are there three or four starts a week at second and left? Probably not. So the big question is how many starts Yandy needs a week. I say he can work as a part-time player. I mean, what’s the alternative? Nah, not going to say it.
- I wouldn’t be shocked if JRam’s brief time at second this year makes it a thing that the Indians ponder going forward. What would this mean for Jason Kipnis? If Michael Brantley continues to stay healthy, and if he continues to rake, it’s a no-brainer for the Indians to pick up his option. But, if Brantley struggles with health, or if something happens that keep his option from being picked up, and if Carlos Santana leaves via free agency, could the Indians ponder a Kipnis move to first or left? That’s for the future, but it could be interesting, and it’s fun to think that Diaz could help force that issue, whether he’s an infielder, an outfielder, or both.
- Carlos Carrasco is going to be the best Indians starter this year. I know to some, that’s heresy, but his stuff is so liquid good. The only thing that’s stopped him from overtaking Corey Kluber has been these random injuries over the past year. Carrasco gave up a two-out, two-run blast to Alex Avila, then let the first two runners get on base in the third, before locking things down. My only concern about Carrasco was his walk rate. He gave up five, while striking out five, but overall, still a nice start. The offense just couldn’t get it done.
- It’s time for a Larry Doby Day, every year, in which the American League teams all wear No. 14. This isn’t an either/or thing, nor is it some sort of rise against the Robinson machine. In a land of nuance, both players would be given the credit that is deserved them. Jackie Robinson was first, and he’s accommodated a day in which the league correctly and collectively wears the #42 jersey. Robinson was a great man, before, during and after his tenure with the Dodgers. But Doby should be given that same gesture. On July 5, 1947, Doby played his first baseball game in the Major Leagues. Doby had three days to prep for his Big League debut, and excelled. Remember, the A.L. and the N.L. didn’t mingle, so while Doby was the second African American to play Major League Baseball, he was the first American Leaguer to do it. He faced the exact same trials and tribulations, with far less fanfare than Robinson. Obviously, this is a deeper conversation than a bullet point, but I’ll end it with this. The Indians wore #14 once, and MLB okayed this, but only once. For whatever reason, Doby isn’t put on a platform with his fellow Hall of Famer, Jackie Robinson.
- So Major League Baseball, give Doby his due. Let the Indians wear the #14 every July 5th. Better yet, let the American League wear #14 every July 5th. If you don’t want to go that far, let the remaining American League franchises that played in 1947 don the #14. This would include the Yankees, Tigers, A’s, Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles and the Indians.2 My point? Enough is enough. Let’s honor both heroes, in both leagues.
The (Love) List
- Whining about stealing signs
- Francisco Lindor’s ten-game hit streak
- JRam Forever is currently on a four-game hit streak in which he’s gone 10-for-15, with five runs, two homers, eight RBI, two walks and two strikeouts. That’s pretty good. His deal already feels like a bargain.
- Carlos Carrasco and a future Cy Young. Hard to believe h’s 30.
- Michael Brantley is really looking like his old self offensively. Boy do I hope this continues.