How to Throw a Game on Accident

  It’s sometimes hard to believe Chicago is dead last. Looking at the names on their starting line up, you would think they have a good roster. Statistically, though, not so much; mediocre at best. Statistically, they don’t even have the worst pitching staff, other than giving up walks. They’re the best at that.

  So what is it that is causing them to look so bad?  Little things. Costly errors. The consistent perfect timing of unfortunate events isn’t just digging a hole for them; it’s burying them right along with it. Their offense did a great job tying the ball game giving them an opportunity to make something happen and lo and behold, with two men on base, a batter is hit by the pitch loading them up followed by another hit batsman to walk in the go-ahead (and eventually the winning) run.

  It is a struggle to come back and tie a ball game against Cleveland as it is. So far in the month of July, the Indians have allowed 6 or more runs in only 5 games out of the 25 played. They have allowed 5 runs in only 4 of the remaining 20 games. The remaining 64% have been held to 4 or less.

  Fortunately for Chicago, they did not get swept. The next game saw an awesome pitcher’s duel with Carlos Rodon coming up victorious, striking out 9 Indians. Matt Davidson broke the tie and ended the game with a no-doubt-about-it walk-off homer to center field.

  It may have been the game the Sox needed to boost their confidence into the next game. It was enough to break the Tribe’s winning streak, but more than likely not enough to thwart their vicious offensive drive.

 The Indians now move on to pay visit to the team that stopped Kansas City’s fire and doused their embers. This will be the first time this year the two teams have met. They are evenly ranked with 57 wins a piece. Boston has a 30-20 record at home while Cleveland has a 29-22 record away from home.


Michael’s View

Doug Fister – MLB.com

  Boston’s Doug Fister is set to host Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger in the first game of their 3-game series. Fister did not have a quality start in his last outing against the Blue Jays, giving up 6 runs on 7 hits and walking 4. He’s going to need to keep his pitches down and on the corners to be effective. Anything he leaves up in the zone flatlines drastically and can be seen by the batters as fat pitches. He needs to also be wary of pitches down over the plate. Opponents are batting .600 in that area. So location is an absolute must for Fister.

Mike Clevinger – MLB.com

  Clevinger wasn’t much better during his last outing, either, also giving up 6 runs, but with more hits (9), two of them homers. Clevinger, on the other hand, does not have to be as selective in his location as he does which pitch can be thrown where. He can paint almost any portion of the strike zone with little worry. Nearly all of his opponents’ damage has stemmed from pitches thrown middle/middle-in and he must stay away from that area as much as possible as his release point makes it easier to read pitches there.

 

  It may very well be a batter bonanza tomorrow. We’ll see which of these starters, if any, can buckle down and give the other team a tough set of plate appearances.

Salazar Stops Chicago

  How many shutout innings does a pitcher need to pitch before fans finally stop being so negative? Especially the fans who get extremely upset when they lose a game and think the entire season is finished because of it.

  Salazar isn’t an ace, we know that. He’s still capable of throwing 6 scoreless innings and that’s what matters. You can argue that they won against the worst team. Sure you can. They’re not the worst team because of their hitting. If your pitchers aren’t doing their job, the White Sox can pack a pounding. Avisail Garcia is batting .303, Leury Garcia .298, Melky Cabrera .295, Jose Abreu .293, with a combined 198 RBIs. Salazar was able to keep those dangerous batters at bay until the 7th inning when he gave up the only 2 runs of the game. Any ace pitcher with common sense would be happy to have that type of an outing.

  Salazar’s performance comes at a key time when the Indians are on a hot streak, giving them 8 consecutive wins. Corey Kluber takes the mound tomorrow looking for number 9.

Indians Red Hot, But Who’s Hotter?

 

  If you’re an Indians fan, you’re probably pretty happy. The team that was 21-24 at home before winning a game has just swept their homestand, won seven in a row, and flip-flopped their home record to four games over .500. This puts their win/loss total to ten games over .500, which should be a comfortable place to rest.

  But is it? Although the Kansas City Royals are two games behind Cleveland, they’re one game ahead in their win streak, technically making them hotter (at least for now). They’re no strangers to contention and they’re not going to give up. It just feels like these guys never lose games. Every time you hear something about them, they’re winning whatever it is. But even that is just a worry that Cleveland has only in their own division.

  The remainder of worries lies in any other division in baseball other than NL Central. As a matter of fact, the only first-place team who has a worse record is the current MLB champions. In a nutshell, the two teams who seem to have the most attention are the two teams who played against each other in the World Series, and out of all the first-place teams, they’re both dead last in their respective leagues.

  So who’s really hotter? Cleveland has won 55 games. Boston has won 56. Washington, 61. Houston, 67. LA Dodgers, a whopping 71. The Dodgers are winning in a division where the next team down (Arizona) is 12 games behind, and even they are 16 games over .500, just ahead of Colorado, who are 13 games over .500. That can only partially be blamed on the Padres and Giants.

  My opinion is this: The National League has more bad teams, which makes the good teams look better, whereas the American League has more good teams, making the better teams look worse. But we all know what opinions are like, and everbody has one.

Still Doubting Encarnacion?

I heard it over and over on talk radio and sports programs about the woes of getting Edwin Encarnacion. I watched him whine in Toronto during the playoffs. I even nicknamed him Edwhine, but the bottom line is that I still respected him as a hitter. His name is known to any true baseball fan, revered by rookies, and feared by pitchers.

Cleveland fans tend to have a problem with drastic changes. The moment it was released that Edwin would be on the Indians, the radio was filled with haters. He’s old. He’s washed up. Look what he did in the playoffs.

Well, let’s look at those complaints.

He’s Old: That completely depends on the player. For Edwin, he’s not old yet. At 34, he’s prime for power, which is exactly why Cleveland has him. He’s still a clutch hitter.

He’s washed up: What planet are you referring to? Oh, because he started terrible. Edwin’s history will tell you that he’s notorious for terrible starts. By all means, Ed, get it out of the way early. Most players only wish they could do it that way. I wouldn’t consider his 2016 stats anywhere close to Washed Up. He was 1st in AL with 127 RBIs and 3rd with 42 homers.

Look what he did in the playoffs: This one cracks me up. He was actually amazing in the playoffs, until he faced Cleveland! In the 2016 Division Series, he batted .417 with a .500 OBP and .917 Slugging. Cleveland, however, did not allow such greatness to emit. Out of the 19 at bats against Cleveland, he only produced 4 hits and 2 RBIs.  Let’s change this to “Look what he did against Toronto,” because he was on fire. Let’s change this to “Look what he did against Los Angeles,” hitting a walk-off grand slam.

EncarnacionGrandSlam
Edwin Encarnacion hits a walk-off grand slam against the Los Angeles Angels – MLB.com

I think that most of the fan frustrations have come from knowing that Cleveland has one of the best farming systems in the league, and have been known to use it against fans’ wishes, trading prospect after prospect. Cleveland was doing itself a big solid in the long run and we are looking at the results. Remember, we got to watch an unhealthy team make it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series while a number of our big names were on the disabled list. That, my friends, is good depth, and is also what most teams lack.  Edwin is a superb addition to Cleveland’s depth. He has a while to go before we need to worry about him. Let’s savor the season.

 

A Few Honorable Mentions

     I recently wrote about the possibility of Cleveland needing another outfielder in my first post. The organization has been keeping an eye on Zach Walters, although he has been an infielder during most of his career. As of now, they are training him solely as an outfielder, allowing him a chance to compete for one of the available outfielder positions. Throughout his brief two years and eight game career, his numbers have significantly dropped from one year to the next. It is possible he was playing with a problem waiting to happen, and it finally did when he tore the labrum in his shoulder diving into home plate on October 2, 2015. This is only a guess on my behalf, of course. There must be something about him, because they certainly haven’t given up on him. We’ll have to see when the time comes.

     Manager, Terry Francona has also been keeping an eye on newbie center fielder, Tyler Naquin, who has been swinging the bat very well in Akron’s minor AA Rubberducks. In 76 games, he pulled in a .313 average with 30 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

     As far as the fifth spot in the pitching rotation, it appears as though Josh Tomlin and Cody Anderson are the two main competitors. They will be the first two pitchers to start the Cactus League games, Tomlin will start on March 1st and Anderson will start on the 2nd.

Brantley Is A Workhorse

     Without a doubt, Michael Brantley is an individual who is determined to earn every penny of his payroll. During his right shoulder surgery rehabilitation, he has been giving the Indians Organization his all. Although the possibility of Brantley being available for Opening Day is pretty slim, he has continued to make it his goal.

     His progression is far better than expected, as he is already batting balls off of a tee, a step normally taken weeks later. Brantley, on the other hand, feels the opposite. “I feel like it’s going very slow,” he mentioned. “It’s a long process… but… I’m excited where I’m at right now.”

     “I love the fact that he’s pushing,” said Indians manager, Terry Francona. “I think he’s getting better quick, which is good.” Brantley had already pushed himself too hard in the past, and has assured Francona that he will be honest about his condition. “There’s a lot of trust there that he’s built up, as should be. He deserves that.”

     Even while playing through various health issues last year, Brantley still batted a healthy .310 with 45 Doubles, 84 RBIs and 15 home runs. His return will be golden.

Possible Ties to Uribe

    It’s a shame third baseman Giovanny Urshela has had health issues. As much as I’d like to see him play, it’s likely that he’ll be taken back down to Triple-A Columbus, that is, if free agent Juan Uribe dons a Cleveland uniform. Indians sources have already confirmed that Uribe and the Indians have reached an agreement on a contract. There has not yet been anything official. Uribe could still take several days to reach the Indians’ training camp while he’s working out visa issues.

    The 37-year-old veteran could possibly prove beneficial, assuming he stays healthy. He has had a couple of slump years, but he’s been positive for the most part, and he does add a little bit of power to the lineup. He averages 13 homers and 53 RBIs per season with a .257 batting average, which is a pretty big step-up from Urshela’s performance at the plate.

    Defensively, they have nearly the same fielding percentages, with Uribe just one point higher than Urshela at .970 (Uribe at 3B position). When you consider Uribe’s fielding range is a bit wider than Urshela’s on top of having an equal percentage, then add the bigger bat, the Indians have made a wise decision.

    Urshela will have a chance to work on his health and produce better numbers in Columbus if Uribe completes the signing. That could potentially be a win-win for the Tribe in the long run.