The Cleveland Indians are welcoming back their All-Star second baseman, Jason Kipnis this weekend. For the first time this season, the Indians’ offensive line-up will be complete. While the Kipnis return is tasty for an offense that’s already starting to find its footing without Kipnis, it does present an interesting conundrum for Tribe manager Terry Francona.
And before we beat any drums, this is a good problem to have. The Indians roster is as stacked as it’s been since the vaunted 90’s, and any sort of lineup or 25-man incarnation that Francona comes up with will be solid. But there are some fun questions to be had, right out of the gate.
The first question that will need to be answered this afternoon is how the roster will change once Kipnis is activated. The likely scenario will have Yandy Diaz optioned down to Columbus to continue his development as a utility player by garnering time in the outfield1. With Diaz gone, Jose Ramirez will move back to his third base position, Kipnis will return to second, and Michael Martinez will remain as the 25th man on the roster.
This scenario allows everyone to entertain the ridiculous theory that Yandy Diaz needs regular at bats, which has been grinding out of the PR machine for the past two weeks. This is the same PR machine that said Diaz couldn’t play third very well (he can), and the same PR machine that says every team needs a Michael Martinez (who is possibly the worst player in the league, playing on the best team in the league—put that together).2
It’s the easiest move to make, since the only thing that changes is Kipnis replacing Diaz in the lineup. Today, this is a good thing. As I wrote earlier this year, Kipnis is a chameleon of sorts, altering his approach at the plate, dependent on where he’s hitting in the line-up. While it’s easy to soft-soap Kipnis and his impact to the Indians roster while he’s been injured, he was a 5 WAR player in 2015, and a 4.8 WAR player in 2016. In 2015, he was the primary lead-off hitter on that roster (121 times leading off), and without hesitation, he moved to the No. 2 spot in the lineup in 2016.
This brings us to the second “issue.” Where does Kipnis hit in this line-up?
The current line-up has been fairly fixed in the 1-5 positions, and has looked like this:
- Carlos Santana
- Francisco Lindor
- Michael Brantley
- Edwin Encarnacion
- Jose Ramirez
The 6-9 slots have been a mish-mosh, as things tend to be, with Yandy Diaz getting the most slots in the six- and seven-hole, but overall, it’s been a daily switch for Francona, past the early big-five. With Kipnis returning, we now have a Big Six.
So how will that top six slot?
Kipnis has hit lead-off before, so it’s feasible that he could slot into there, at least in a part-time role. Kipnis, who is a better hitter against right-handed pitching, could lead-off against righties, moving Santana out of the lead-off spot, and back to hitting fifth. This would in essence, make Kipnis the primary lead-off hitter, but would provide the power slot to Santana, who hits more home runs when he’s hitting right-handed pitching. It seems to make some sense there, and would give the Indians this line-up vs. righties:
Against lefties, Santana would shift back to the lead-off slot:
But where do I begin with my angst with either one of these line-ups. What’s become instantly apparent in this early 2017 season is that Jose Ramirez isn’t a No. 6 hitter. While it’s really hard to move a guy like Kipnis down to the six-hole thanks to his back-to-back 5-fWAR seasons, let’s not forget that Jose Ramirez was a 4.8 WAR player last year as well, and in his age 23 season.
When do folks acknowledge that Ramirez very well may be one of the top three hitters in the line-up?
If the Indians have moved on from Kipnis leading off, there is an easy scenario, which was mentioned in several pieces outside of WFNY over the past week, and that would simply to use the “lefty” scenario in place full-time, or the righty scenario. I’ve seen a variety of reasoning for this, and will begrudgingly admit, that it’s likely what’s going to happen. I can’t fathom the Indians moving Lindor or Brantley at this point, and Encarnacion, for now, is entrenched in the four-hole. That leaves the only mobile spots the lead-off, five and six, and that’s where we’re likely to see the action.
In the end, the line-up discussion in 2017 is going to be a fun one, but for kicks and giggles, let’s make a fun line-up or two, shall we?
What if Jose Ramirez is way better than anyone has given him credit for. That’s hard for me to say, since I’ve had him in my top four prospects since he played in Lake County. But as high as even I’ve been on JRam, it’s distinctly possible that the Jose Altuve comparison I’ve been making since John Grimm brought it up in a conversation with Mike Hattery at EHC three years ago is not only true, but likely. What if Jose Ramirez is a 7 WAR player in the making? What if there’s more power there? What if he’s one of the top three hitters in the lineup?
Well…how about this line-up against right-handed hitters?
I’ve heard some folks talk about making sure you “protect” Encarnacion. Well, what about Brantley and Kipnis? I know, Francona discussed meeting his Brantley and Kipnis about hitting two lefties back-to-back, but, wouldn’t that behoove the lineup against right-handed pitching? We can get into the semantics of that, but even if you swapped Lindor and JRam, or hell, moved Santana to the five-hole, slid up Lindor and JRam, and moved Brantley back to his three-hole, still looks pretty damn good, doesn’t it?
Now I know what you’re thinking. You don’t move veterans like that down in the line-up. But, aren’t Brantley and Kipnis the locker room leaders? Isn’t Terry Francona a wunderkind in the dugout? Isn’t he a leader of men?
Shouldn’t be an issue, and if it is, all that “locker mess” turns out to be BS. So let’s just get past that, shall we?
In the end, I suspect whatever line-up we see this weekend won’t be set in stone, and we still haven’t talked about the bottom three yet. While I’m sure WFNY will dive head-first into that discussion, I know I will…this coming week in my Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
But that’s for another day.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Okay, I just watched the 12 MCU films, in order, over the past month, and here’s my current top 12 list:
- Captain America: The Winter Solder
- Captain America: Civil War
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Marvel’s Avengers
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Iron Man
- Iron Man 2
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Thor: The Dark World
- The Incredible Hulk
- Doctor Strange
- Iron Man 3
A couple of things to note. I liked every one of these movies. They are all well done, and while when I saw Age of Ultron, I didn’t particularly enjoy it, I actually liked it a bit more while watching it as a piece of the MCU. A lot of things made more sense, having just seen the other movies. Thor’s part in the movie, for example, bugged me at first, but it fit better knowing where it came from, and where it was, and is going.
When I first saw Doc Strange, I rated it #6. For some reason, that movie just hasn’t resonated with me yet. I love the character, loved the production, and loved Benedict Cumberbatch in that movie. I have it 12, behind Hulk. That will likely change though, as time passes.
I liked the Hulk movie, and while Ed Norton takes his Hollywood beating yearly, and perhaps for good reason, I liked him in this role. That said, I like Mark Ruffalo as well. I’d have this movie higher, if Norton continued. He didn’t, so I don’t.
The Captain America arc is as good as it gets to me. CA isn’t on the playing field as Batman in the pantheon of characters, but boy has Marvel made him special. Also, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man gets overlooked all the time. Without it being as amazing as it was, would there be an MCU?
To me, the Top 8 MCU movies are incredibly good for what they are, and 9-12 aren’t too shabby either. With Guardians 2 coming up to bat, I’ll reshuffle these then. And sheesh, how good was Guardians 1? I don’t have it #1, but I could, and at one time, I did. Give me some time, but either way, this should be fun.
Buy Vinyl, because it’s good and righteous
I had a talk with a friend of mine a few weeks ago, about vinyl, and why there aren’t necessarily better than remasters, but do different things. He said, “there are things on albums that you can’t remaster, because they don’t make the electronics that made the vinyl back then.”
Deep thoughts, right?
I’ll get into this more with my next While We’re Waiting, but Albums are going to be my thing. The next time I snag WWW from someone, there are rumors of a vinyl run with WFNY’s Jeff Nomina. Nothing good can come of this, although I’m sure we’ll be singing hillbilly songs. Look out My Mind’s Eye in Lakewood, we’re coming for you.
This week’s vinyl?
When I was nine years old, my friend gave me Queen: The Game. I was a Freddie Mercury fan from that moment on. “Another One Bites the Dust” was on that album, and to this day, remains Queen’s biggest hit in the states. The Game hit huge in the U.S., and it’s still one of my favorites.
Here’s the album:
Here’s the song:
- or perhaps, get more time at third base, where he proven to be solid already, but that’s for another piece [↩]
- Since this piece is more about Kipnis, than about Diaz vs. Martinez, I’ll leave this here to boil for a bit, but rest assured, once the roster decision is announced, there will be another column to follow to address it. [↩]