So here we are at the quarter-mark of the season. The Indians, despite a pervading sentiment that the team is crumbling to the ground, are 22-19 and four games behind the frisky Twins in the AL Central.
Don’t let that previous sentence make you think I’m here to carry the water for this roster, because I’m not. The offense has largely looked like a group that should be playing its games at Classic Park in Lake County. The injuries to Kluber and Clevinger, while unlucky, have obviously been distressing as well.
Yet, a makeshift starting rotation and a surprisingly effective bullpen have kept the team afloat.
Things obviously need to change, as my fellow WFNY writers have clamored for many times already. Heck, a chunk of the names in this post probably won’t be on the team come September.
But, while we’re here let’s have some fun with awards as we cross the quarter mark of the season.
.271/.370/.421, 5 HR, 107 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR
Yes, he’s cooled off recently, but I don’t want to know where this Indians offense would be without his hot first month. He carried a desolate offense through April and successfully bridged the gap between Opening Day and the return of Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis. Entering May, he was slashing .316/.430/.447.
His walk-rate remains sturdy, hovering around the 14% mark and his average exit-velocity (93.6 MPH) ranks 10th in the MLB among hitters with at least 50 batted balls.
Hopefully, some warmer summer air will yield a few more bombs from one of the Indians’ only true power threats.
9 GS, 3.05 ERA, 29.9 K%, 1.3 fWAR
There’s not much surprise about this award nor much to say about it. Bauer, who leads the MLB in innings pitched, has been the necessary workhorse of this Indians rotation. In the wake of the Clevinger and Kluber injuries, it’ll have to be more of the same moving forward.
Bauer already has three outings this season in which he’s gone at least 7 IP, allowing 2 or fewer hits and no runs.
Carlos Carrasco — 12 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 12 K in his last two starts — is making a valiant recent charge for this award.
14.2 IP, 1.23 ERA, 10.43 K/9, 0.61 BB/9
It was tough not to go with Brad Hand here, who is just been stellar as well, but Wittgren is having what could end up being a career-changing season.
The 27-year-old came over in a trade with the Miami Marlins this past offseason and has done nothing but mow down hitters. In 14.2 IP, he’s tallied a 1.23 ERA and 0.75 WHIP while walking just one batter. His stat sheet littered with career-highs and his mark of 10.4 K/9 is certainly encouraging as well.
Wittgren and Hand at the back end of this bullpen could be a whole bunch of fun to watch this summer.
.280 BA, 339 OBP, 4 HR
This one became easy with how well Luplow’s been hitting lately.
Prior to Tuesday’s game that saw him go 2-for-5 with 2 HR and 3 RBI, the 25-year-old was already slashing .300/.353/.567 with a pair of bombs since being recalled on April 28.
Jordan Luplow leads the Indians in batting average, slugging percentage, wRC+ and WAR, as everyone expected.
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) May 14, 2019
Whether it be in the corner outfield spots or the revolving door that has been the Tribe’s DH spot this season, Luplow deserves everyday at-bats.
“I don’t want to be the one to cool him off,” Terry Francona told Zack Meisel of The Athletic after Luplow’s other multi-homer performance last Thursday.
“I’ll look at it. But to your point, we don’t want him to be strictly a platoon guy.”
Well, that seems to be a more encouraging quote than Yandy ever got here.
The Hanley Ramirez “Your Time Here Is Running Out” Award: Carlos Gonzalez
.221/.272/.302, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 52 wRC+
This award could honestly come to fruition in the next couple of weeks.
Much-discussed outfield prospect Oscar Mercado is finally up, officially adding another outfield name to the mix. To make room for the youngster, Tyler Naquin is off to the 10-day IL with a calf strain, and CarGo will surely be fearing for his job once he’s healed.
The 33-year-old was an experiment similar to that of Hanley, a veteran bat could maaaybe see a magical career resurgence in Cleveland. That has not been the story for Gonzalez, who is staring down career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and wRC+.
This one took a bit of a hit this week when it was announced the Karinchak would be heading for the 7-day IL with a hamstring strain, but a call-up is certainly in the near future for the 23-year-old, should this injury be nothing more than a blip on the radar.
This season, he maintains a perfect 0.00 ERA in his 13 IP with just 5 hits and an absurd 32 strikeouts. Across all levels of competition, he’s averaged 15.2 strikeouts per 9 innings. Absolutely filthy.
It’s not even that the bullpen is a weakness right now — the unit ranks second in the majors in ERA (3.10) — it’s that he’s most likely already better than a few relievers already on the roster. Cough, cough, Neil Ramirez.
It was hard not to give this one to the namesake himself, but considering the roster holes that currently exist, Zimmer (remember him?) is absolutely the pick here.
The tall, lanky speedster was touted as one of the top prospects in the organization from the moment he was selected in the 2014 draft, and for a few months there, we fully realized why. After being promoted in 2017, he slashed .285/.339/.450 with 5 HR and 9 SB before his average tanked and never fully recovered.
Considering that it’s been shoulder surgery keeping him off the field since last June, he should at least be able to provide his stellar glove in the field, but the Indians surely would like a lot more than that.
I’d contend that the offensive potential is still there with Zimmer — he never had a full season in the minor leagues with a sub-100 wRC+. That strikeout rate (38.6% in 2018) must come down, though.