Blast this baseball column! It’s joyful and triumphant. Refusing to rob one’s self of joy by worrying about an uncontrollable future due to noticeable imperfections in the present rather than being grateful and appreciative for the positive aspects and potential for happiness. The impudence! The audacity! The unmitigated gall!1
If you haven’t noticed– and judging by the amount of complaints about lineups, bunting, Lindor’s contract, and calls for everyone from Trevor Bauer to Brad Hand to be shipped out; you have not– the Cleveland Indians have managed to win a few games.2 While it was disappointing for the Tribe to not win the second-half opening series against the Minnesota Twins, the team is just 6.5 games back with two and a half months of regular season baseball left. The American League Wild Card is also there for the taking.
Returning to the MLB postseason for the fourth consecutive season will not be easy. However, the Indians have found they can start by relying on the four players that were selected for the 2019 All-Star Game.
All-Star player trivia tidbits
high-risk collection of outfielders and relievers; not to mention no discernible player to designate as a hitter. Some hand-wringing is justified given potential small, short-term signings for mitigation being bypassed.
Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley are departures with no obvious heir.
The gambit on the bullpen has proven a success. There are the anecdotal measures such as the bliss felt as Adam Cimber and Brad Hand dominated the Twins lineup to secure an important Sunday win over the Twins. There are also multitudes of hard data such as the Tribe relievers being No. 5 in MLB fWAR (3.2); despite having pitched the second least amount of innings.5 The bullpen is No. 1 in ERA (3.52), No. 4 in FIP (3.95), No. 6 in K-BB% (16.7%), No. 7 in HR/9 (1.17),6 and… well, you get the point. Some mock the amount of relief arms that are carried on the 25-man roster, but the front office and manager are being successful in the back-end of games.
Roberto Perez has also been a pleasant surprise taking over for Gomes. The catcher has continued his framing and defensive excellence as Baseball Prospectus has him ranked as the third best defensive catcher in MLB behind the Philadelphia Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto and the San Diego Padres’ Austin Hedges. Few expected the offensive outburst though. The 16 home runs and 121 wRC+ behind his .257/.343/.519 slash line gave him a case for the All-Star Game in his age 30 season. Even if he regresses to a league average bat, his defensive prowess boosts his profile.7
The early returns on the outfield have been less inspiring. The team is hitting a meager .238/.303/.401 from the outfield positions in the lineup. The good news is that the worst numbers contributing to that line are no longer with the team. Carlos Gonzalez and Leonys Martin were bad enough to have already been designated for assignment leaving the Tribe to many youthful options; each with both potential and limitations.8 The Indians will need at least two of these six players to take another step in their development over the next few months.
Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis round out the remaining regulars from the lineup.9 Each veteran under-performed to their expectations in the first half of the season, but both Kipnis10 and Ramirez11 have offered hope of renewed competence.
The starting pitchers remain potentially great with health being the chief deciding factor on if they can achieve greatness. Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and Trevor Bauer anchor the current rotation with Zach Plesac, Adam Plutko, and Aaron Civale filling in when needed. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Jefry Rodriguez continue to rehab their injuries and illnesses. Even Danny Salazar is being mentioned as a potential return candidate as he has begun his rehab assignment.12
The front office has proven quite capable of making moves to improve the ballclub mid-season. Significant trade deadline and waiver period moves each of the past three seasons have re-shaped the roster. There have been no indications 2019 will be any different with the obvious needs would be acquiring more offense via a more consistent plate-performing outfielder and perhaps a middle infielder.13
Here’s the thing. The Indians are still a good baseball team. There will always be a Grinch component to every fanbase, which can turn many conversations negative. Please remember, as Cindy Lou Who taught us, no one can steal your joy unless you allow them. Maybe baseball joy doesn’t come from signing a free agent. Maybe baseball, perhaps, is about fan engagement or appreciating the moments one must stand in amazement.
You’re a mean one, Tribe-fan Grinch
You really hate the bunt
An angry online persona, you’re not happy with Francona, Tribe-fan Grinch
If the front office doesn’t make your proposed trade, you’ll go on a witch hunt!
There is a ton of good baseball content being written about the Indians. WFNY will look to highlight some of the best stuff here each week.