April Report Card: Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians played in the World Series in 2016, losing in a dramatic seven-game series to the Chicago Cubs. Last year they won 102 games, but bowed out in the divisional round of the playoffs to a lesser New York Yankees team. What will this year hold for the Tribe? Well, they have a lot of parts that got them to the Series two years ago still on the team, thanks to some great young players that haven’t hit their contract year yet and some great signings/trades made by the front office. I do not think that enough attention is paid to the fact that the Indians are not one of these teams that goes out and rents a player for a few months and then they hit free agency never to be heard from again, but rather they get guys that will be good for them for a few years and will be under contract, ala Andrew Miller. The Indians, under the leadership of Terry Francona and General Manager Chris Antonetti, are enjoying success the city of Cleveland hasn’t experienced since the mid-nineties.
Currently, the 2018 version of the Indians are sitting in first place in the Central Division, three games ahead of the Detroit Tigers. In the Tribe’s 19 ball games so far this season, 17 in April and 2 in May, the Tribe has scored 120 runs and have given up 115 runs in the first 19 games. The bats have been relatively quiet the first part of the season, but that could be due to a whole lot of factors, mainly that they play their home games at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, and the weather has been terrible to start this season. Without further ado, here is the breakdown of the offense, defense, pitching, and managing of the team in the first 1/8th of the season.
The offense has struggled at times to score runs other than hitting home runs. The big bat that they acquired in the offseason, Yonder Alonso, has added some pop to the middle of the lineup. One of their young studs, Jose Ramirez, struggled out of the gate, but seemed to find his stride about the middle of April. He is now hitting about .270. Francisco Lindor is the teams best and most exciting young player on the team and he too is struggling at the plate so far in this season. Lindor did supply the most exciting moment of this young season as he homered to break open a scoreless game with the Twins. The exciting part wasn’t that he hit yet another homer. The excitement came because of where he hit it, in his homeland in Puerto Rico. Francisco is one of a few Puerto Rican players, along with Roberto Perez of the Indians, that were welcomed home as heroes when the Tribe played there earlier in the season. Look for the Tribe’s bats to heat up as the weather gets warmer and play gets more consistent.
Not only did the Indians offense get a boost with the addition of Alonso, but also the defense. Alonso is a good first baseman and a bigger target to throw to than the departed Santana. The infield has always been solid, even with Kipnis getting older and losing a step or two at second base. The outfield gets a much added boost with Bradley Zimmer in centerfield and Michael Brantley moving to left. While Lonnie Chisenhall gets healthy, having a young Tyler Naquin getting reps in right field is a pretty good thing for the future. The Indians have arguably the best catching duo in the league, between Perez and Yan Gomes. Both are solid defensively, especially throwing runners out trying to steal.
The Indians have a sure fire Hall of Famer as their number one starter in Cory Kluber, and a really good two and three starter. The problems with the rotation start with these two spots. Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger have not been able to find the consistency to establish themselves as solid major league rotation guys. Clevinger has been becoming more solid in his, as he threw eight innings in his last start and a complete game two-hit shutout in the start before. I believe the inconsistency in games has played a major role in these two becoming less established in their roles. If the Indians have a game postponed or suspended, then their start gets pushed and sometimes passed until their next start, which would lead to inconsistencies.
Terry Francona is the best manager in the game! This is not even close. He should win the Manager of the Year Award every year. The Indians are in great shape in this department and Tito always has the squad playing their best in September and October.
The Tribe is off to a great start and I still like them to represent the AL in the World Series and win the whole thing this time.