Kluber exits early as Tribe falls to the Tigers yet again

For the Cleveland Indians, Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers was a collection of bad outcomes which had both adverse short- and long-terms effects. Justin Verlander was finally able to find some success against an Indians team which has given him fits throughout his career, but the larger story line was the struggles and early exit of Indians ace Corey Kluber.

Deactivate the Klubot?

Kluber gave up five earned runs over three innings but the most dangerous part if you are an Indians fan was his exit due to back tightness. According to Kluber and the Indians medical staff, Kluber has been struggling with back tightness throughout the early season and has been altering his preparation in order to best protect his health for each start.

Yet, with back pain causing a quick exit and the new luxury of the 10-day disabled list, it would likely be best to sideline Kluber for two starts allowing him to strengthen his back and core. Even better for the Indians, Mike Clevinger pitched for Columbus last night therefore the timing of the transition would be a seamless one to get Kluber and his ailing back rest.

Is Yan Gomes Rebounding?

Gomes had a two-hit night on Tuesday including a double and his batting average once again settled at the Mendoza line. Gomes defense has been incredible in 2017 as his already special arm has been a nearly constant gun show when opposing runners dare test him. Gomes is currently rocking a wRC+ of 70 (weighted runs created where 100 is average and 70 is 30 percent below league average). While this sounds less than exciting last year Gomes ran a wRC+ of 33, which means the catcher has provided more than he did during last year’s offensive nightmare. When Gomes sits near 80-90 wRC+ the Indians have a league average starter at catcher who provides significant value, the question is whether he can continue to make progress.

Time for a few oddities which suggest a profile shift for Gomes. First, Gomes is running the lowest ISO of his big league career reflecting a power decline. However, the catcher is running his best big league walk rate and lowest big league strikeout rate. These are fantastic gains.

These plate discipline gains are built through a career low o-swing% (or chase rate), and improved contact on pitches outside the strike zone. Gomes has better plate coverage and better discipline than any other point in his career. This has come at a cost, however.

Increased plate coverage has impacted his batted ball profile so far with Gomes hitting a career high number of ground balls while seeing decreases in fly balls and line drives, which is a huge cost in terms of contact quality for Gomes as it caps a player’s power output and batting average expectations when one is as slow-footed as Gomes.

Gomes has made some fantastic adjustments that have raised his offensive floor. Improved plate discipline and plate coverage are a step in the right direction but Gomes must now find a way to incorporate more contact authority if he wants to see a return of his power production from years past. For the Indians, Gomes offensive approach is an important evolution to follow in 2017.