Don’t get me wrong, I love Tito. He has done so much for the Cleveland Indians since returning to the shores of Lake Erie back in 2013. Judging by the picture I (wisely) chose above, I wish it was as easy as questioning the kind or flavor of gum he chews, but it’s not.
With that said, there have been plenty of questionable decisions that Terry Francona has made since becoming the manager of the Indians. I’m not a baseball analytics guys so I won’t be including any non-Average Joe numbers here, but with the lineup the Indians rolled out Tuesday night in Detroit, it made me realize that there are times where I question Tito’s decision making.
What in the heck was that lineup the Indians had Tuesday night?
The Indians’ offense has been quite a rollercoaster so far this season. While every player deserves a day off here and there, a manager needs to make sure that his team can roll out a solid lineup in all 162 regular season games while also making sure his hitters stay as healthy and energized as possible.
Tuesday night in Detroit, Tito’s starting lineup was questionable, to say the least. Sitting Yonder Alonso against a left-handed starter seems wise, allowing him to take a day off against the kind of pitcher that he somewhat struggles against. But why would you sit Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion, let alone the fact that Encarnacion’s off days should come against a right-hander, not a lefty?
Not only that but what’s up with the love Rajai Davis? Yes, he’s fast. Yes, he’s a great leader. Yes, he had that unbelievable home run in Game 7 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs that Cleveland fans will always remember. But it’s 2018 now. When you have guys such as Greg Allen and Yandy Diaz,1 the latter of which was sent to Columbus to play Triple-A prior to Opening Day, having Davis taking up a roster spot is questionable. To make matters worse, why is he batting leadoff again? The guy has a .206/.261/.238 slash line in 27 games (71 at-bats) and you’re going to put him atop the lineup? I love Davis, but he should rarely ever receive playing time, let alone never bat leadoff
The Indians scored eight runs Tuesday night, but that still doesn’t mean we can’t question the lineup he started the game with.
Jason Kipnis batting in the two-hole for so long
This wouldn’t be a question if Kipnis was still his 2015 (or even 2016) self, but he isn’t. That’s clear, right?
In 2015, he had a .303/.372/.451 slash line. In 2016 it dropped to a .275/.343/.469. In 2017, while plagued with injuries and only playing 90 games, the second baseman had just a .232/.291/.414 slash line. It can’t get worse now that he’s healthy in 2018, right? You thought wrong. While many people believed that Kip would have a bounce-back year, it hasn’t happened so far this season. In 39 games so far this year, the 31-year-old has just a .170/.256/.248 slash.
Although he has been struggling mightily at the plate all season, it took until last Friday to move Kip down in the batting order. That’s right, Kipnis was in the two-hole until Game 37th game of the season even though it’s obvious that he has been dismal in the batter’s box.
I love the guy, but to keep arguably your worst hitter in the second spot of the order for so long is questionable, to say the least. Kudos to Tito for (finally) moving him down in the order, but it just took too long to do so.
Not only that, but it may be time to give some of Kip’s at bats to Erik Gonzalez, but that’s for another day.
Where art thou Yandy Diaz?
The Indians could sure use a solid right-handed bat when guys like Encarnacion need a day off, right? If only there was one that they had in their organization.
Oh, you forgot about Yandy Diaz? The guy that is (for some reason) still in Columbus, playing for the Triple-A affiliate Clippers?
Tito loves versatility, so he must want Diaz to be able to play more than just the outfield, third base, and even first at times.2 He fit on the 25-man in 2017, let alone in 2018. He needs to get called up sooner rather than later, Tuesday night’s lineup is another great example of why that needs to be the case.
Starting pitchers are putting in way too much work already
Don’t get me wrong, watching pitchers such as Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco throw a complete game and dominate an opponent is fun. But considering it’s only mid-May and the Indians’ goal is to make it to late October (and even early November), the amount of innings the starting rotations has also racked up is somewhat concerning.
While the bullpen’s struggles likely play a key role, it’s time to take some of the strain off the rotation as well. They shouldn’t be throwing 110-plus pitches on a nightly basis. WFNY’s Joe Gerberry did an outstanding job going more in-depth on this issue on Tuesday.
[Rewinds back to the both 2016 and 2017 postseasons to question Tito’s decisions again.]
Michael Martinez in the batter’s box for one of the most important at bats in Indians’ history
In case you forgot about Michael Martinez, I just wanted to remind you that the second baseman-turned-outfielder-turned-relief pitcher was in the batter’s box for the most important at bat in Indians’ history in 2016, with two outs in Game 7 of the World Series. Going in-depth about this only makes it worse so I won’t do that, but it’s one of Tito’s biggest (and worst) blunders and one that many Cleveland fans will never forget.
Starting Trevor Bauer twice (instead of Carlos Carrasco) in the 2017 ALDS
Outside of Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, the Indians also had another Cy Young candidate in 2017. What if I told you that he didn’t get the chance to start twice in a five-game ALDS, but yet the team’s third-best starting pitcher got the nod twice instead? Yep, it happened.
Like the World Series in 2016, I won’t go in-depth about this, but this is yet another very questionable decision Francona has made over the years.
I’m sure the #TrustInTito and Tito truthers will hate on this solely due to the title of the article, but please, before you do, realize that everyone makes mistakes. Tito’s a great manager, but it really is Ok to question some decisions he has made over the years, with the most glaring being in the last year-and-a-half because they’re the easiest to rememeber.
I named a few, but there are plenty more that could have been rattled off, I just didn’t want to drill on Tito for even more time. Feel free to name other questionable decisions below.