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2017 Indians: 68 and counting

Discussion in 'Adopt-a-Team' started by Ford Frick's Asterisk, Jun 3, 2017.

  1. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    My dad turned 78 this week. As a 9-year-old, he listened over the radio at Lazarus Department Store in downtown Columbus, Ohio when the Cleveland Indians clinched their last World Championship. Last year I sat behind home plate at Progressive Field, watching the Fox broadcast of Game #5 of the World Series on the scoreboard, hoping to be there when the drought finally ended. Like each and every autumn beginning with 1949, Tribe fans ended up disappointed.

    The 2017 season has started off a bit slow, but so did the 2016 season. They find themselves in almost the identical spot in the standings as they were 365 days ago, but in the weak AL Central, they can probably afford to figure things out along the way.

    The brightest revelation at the moment is rookie center fielder Bradley Zimmer. Last year team injuries left rookie Tyler Naquin in position to seize the spotlight, but after a great first half, the league adjusted to Naquin. In the final two months Naquin hit .234/.331/.331. He also played center field like a future right fielder. He struck out in 61% of his post-season at-bats. Naquin was demoted just 6 games into the 2017 season.

    Injuries to three Cleveland outfielders would have put Naquin in line for another shot, except he's been out of action himself with a lower back strain. Enter Zimmer, the Tribe's #2 prospect. The 24-year-old was expected to play good defense, hit a few home runs and steal some bases. He wasn't expected to get on base much yet, but in his first 16 games he's hit .302/.375/.605. It's a small sample size for a guy there's not really a book on yet. It also seems unlikely the OBP will hold up if he continues to strike out in a third of his at-bats. However, it looks like the Indians might have their present and future center fielder in the lineup. Zimmer is a center fielder in the make of Grady Sizemore... a good glove, power and speed, but he'll swing and miss a lot. The strikeouts won't look as bad if his walk rate also translates to the MLB level. That's not say he is the next Sizemore, who had already been a major league star for two years when he was Zimmer's age.

    When Cleveland traded for Andrew Miller last July, I thought they gave up way too much talent. I would rather have seen them trade Zimmer at the time than Clint Frazier, who's younger and seemed more advanced. It turns out Chris Antonetti might now his team a little better than I do. Granted, I haven't complained about the trade once since the start of last year's playoffs. Frazier is having a solid year with the Yankees AAA team, but I wouldn't have guessed a year ago that Zimmer would be the one succeeding in the majors right now. The conundrum with Frazier is he didn't fit the outfield's biggest need -- a legit center fielder. In Cleveland he would have been battling for a job in RF, trying to convince Tito he's worthy of playing full-time, rather than simply platooning with Naquin or Lonnie Chisenhall.

    A smaller aspect of that trade I didn't care for at the time was including Ben Heller as a throw in. Heller isn't a relief prospect to count on, but I thought he was in line to get a shot in Cleveland in the second half of 2016. Antonetti more than made up for that with a seemingly minor deal with New York over the winter to get Nick Goody, who had been DFA'd to add Aroldis Chapman to the roster. I look at this as an extension of last July's deal, and Goody has more than replaced Heller's role in the organization. In fact, he's quickly become a dependable reliever in Cleveland, only allowing his first earned run of the season this afternoon. Miller and Goody, the two relievers acquired from New York in the past year have combined for a 0.38 ERA over 47.1 innings (23 H, 10 BB, 60 K).

    Since I've gotten a late start on this, I'll talk more about the bullpen and other aspects of the team later.

  2. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    The biggest reason for Cleveland's early struggles was expected to be one of their greatest strengths. We're two months in, and their starting pitching has the worst ERA (4.75) in the AL. It's been a roller coaster performance though, as they also rank 2nd in K's and 1st in combined shutouts. Only Carlos Carrasco has repeated last season's performance to date. Corey Kluber missed a few weeks to back strain, and had been inconsistent prior to that, but turned in his best performance of the year upon his return this week against the A's (6 shutout innings, 3 base runners, 10K). Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin have strung together a few good starts, but have also been rocked at times.

    Cleveland made it's first big move last week when Danny Salazar was sent to the bullpen. Salazar made last year's All-Star squad with a 10-3 first half, and 2.75 ERA. Since pitching in the All-Star Game, he's gone 4-8, 6.25. Oddly enough, his strikeout rate has risen during that stretch, but so has his walk rate. Beyond the Box Score gives an in depth look at Salazar's struggles. In simple terms, Danny has abandoned his 4-seamer too often in favor of the changeup, which batters aren't offering at. The team wants him to be more aggressive, attacking hitters in the strike zone and early in the count.

    The team is emphatic that Salazar isn't being "demoted", and the move is temporary. They've taken this same approach with Carrasco (in 2014), which completely turned his career around. Bauer also started the 2016 season in the pen, and returned to the rotation with better results. Salazar did everything right in his first relief appearance, but struggled a bit on Saturday... although by the time he entered, the team had already blown a lead, and was snowballing towards a loss where they had checked out defensively.

    Meanwhile, Mike Clevinger will fill his spot in the rotation, although he's had much the same problems as Salazar throughout his pro career. Clevinger has been hard to hit this year with the Tribe (.188 BAA), but all too often he can't keep it in the strike zone, and he's been hit hard lately when forced to put it over the plate. From a "devil you don't know" view, Clevinger has been popular with Indians fans, while Bauer receives more criticism than anyone. Few realize Clevinger is a month older than Bauer.

    Bauer is 3-0 in his last 5 starts with a 3.86 ERA, 5BB/36K over 25.2 IP, although he had to be lifted in the 2nd inning today due to a rain delay. It looks like there will be an open competition for the final three spots in the rotation over the next month or so between Bauer, Tomlin, Clevinger and Salazar, with none of them truly safe. Last year's ALCS sensation Ryan Merritt struggled badly in AAA during April, and likely won't have a chance to return to Cleveland until the 2nd half.

  3. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    I expect the Tribe to do their due diligence in scouting a few mid-rotation starters over the next couple of weeks, but I think it will be a quiet trade deadline in Cleveland. The bullpen has been pretty well set and effective since spring training, and I don't see anyone in the lineup realistically getting bumped or dumped for an upgrade. With disappointing seasons from Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin, they're probably feeling uneasy about their 3rd starter for October. However, with capable and healthy in-house options, and little to no competition for the AL Central title, I think patience is the road they'll take. Also, with last year's trade of Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, and this year's graduation of Bradley Zimmer, they don't have the prospects to get into a bidding war for the top prizes.

    Catcher is the one spot in the lineup they could improve on, but Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez are both under contract for at least two more years, and top prospect Francisco Mejia could be the starting in front of both before the end of next season. Mejia was all but traded last July when it looked like Jonathan Lucroy was headed to Cleveland. However, Lucroy's failed power play to force Cleveland to decline the team option in his contract worked out great for Cleveland, and Mejia now seems untouchable. Lucroy was subsequently traded to a team his limited no trade clause allowed no leverage against, and this year he's costing himself millions by playing an awful lot like Cleveland's catchers.

    One thing they need in October is a better utility infielder. It's usually not an issue during the regular season with Kipnis, Lindor and Ramirez playing every day. However, they cannot afford to send Michael Martinez (Tito's binky, who is back in the organization for a fourth time) to the plate in a do-or-die situation again as they did last year. Eric Gonzalez (50 ab, .300/.314/.480 and good defense) looks like a major league ready solution to that problem, and will get a chance to prove that during the rest of July with Kipnis back on the DL. If he struggles over the next two weeks, they might make a small deal for a proven utility guy.

    If the playoffs started today, the rotation would be Kluber-Carrasco-Clevinger-Bauer. The hope is obviously that Danny Salazar rediscovers himself in AAA, but his first 3 starts in Columbus haven't been any better than his struggles in Cleveland. If Tomlin continues to struggle and they choose to take a slow-hand approach with Salazar, then Ryan Merritt will also get a look in August and September.

    One thing to watch over the next week is how Tyler Naquin performs in his return to Cleveland. After being a pleasant surprise for most of 2016, Naquin struggled badly at the end of last season, particularly in chasing the high fastball. He was demoted one week into the 2017 season, and almost immediately went on the DL with a back strain. In 35 games at Columbus, he put up almost identical rate stats as he had last year in Cleveland. In the meantime, Zimmer has made himself at home as the present and future center fielder (and Naquin always looked better in right). With Lonnie Chisenhall out for 2 weeks, Naquin could be showcasing himself for a potential trade at the end of the month.
  4. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    I think the Indians have already "acquired" their big arm for the stretch drive with the return of Danny Salazar. After resting a sore shoulder and making four AAA starts, Salazar has returned pitching better than he has in more than a year. In his two starts, Salazar has allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks over 13 innings (16 K). Both runs scored on his final pitch tonight, after he'd been staked to an 8-0 lead. It seems likely they'll let Salazar, Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin compete for the two postseason rotation spots after Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

    A lefty specialist would appear to be the #1 trade target in the next few days, since Boone Logan's strained lat will likely end his season. Until Logan's injury, Cleveland had 6 relievers who had spent over half the season healthy and effective. I've been watching baseball for 30+ years, and can't remember a bullpen that deep and consistent.

    • After going 54 games without a home run, Michael Brantley has gone deep in 3 of the past 6 (8 HR on the year).

    • Carlos Santana has never hit before June, and this year was no different. On June 14th his line was .211/.305/.384 through 62 games. In 35 games since, he's hitting .315/.409/.535.

    • In the 14 games since the All-Star break, Francisco Lindor is hitting .368/.438/.491.

    • Last year the Indians brought in Rajai Davis as a backup outfielder on a NRI spring deal. He led the league with 43 stolen bases and hit a home run that nearly won the World Series for them. Davis left for a bigger role and bigger payday in Oakland, so the Indians brought in Austin Jackson this spring as a NRI backup outfielder. He's missed some time to injury, but is hitting .327/.415/.504 through 113 AB.

    • For the first time since May 3, 2014, the Indians lineup didn't strike out once tonight.

  5. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    Lots of thoughts...

    The Indians enter September on a 7-game winning streak, and 16 victories in their last 20 contests. All this while putting 9 guys on the disabled list, most of them key regulars (Andrew Miller, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Danny Salazar, Boone Logan, Josh Tomlin). They've also done this despite playing 13 of the 20 games on the road, where they've posted the second best record in the AL this season. This has also included their toughest workload of the season, playing in 4 cities in 6 days, and today they wrap up the rough stretch with their second double-header in 3 days.

    The reason for winning is simple: a staff ERA of 3.18 and a .670 OPSa since the All-Star break. Throwing the ball by hitters continues to be the best means of run prevention. Salazar, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco occupy 5 of the top 11 spots in K/9 in the AL (min. 90 IP). During the 20-game stretch they pitched 6 shutouts and allowed one run in 3 others.

    All of this means they can focus on rest and health in September, and there were some interesting additions to the expanded roster today. Chisenhall, Tomlin and Abe Almonte have been activated from the DL (Almonte won't play much since the addition of Jay Bruce). They also promoted bullpen depth only Tribe fans would care about. The biggest news is the promotion of baseball's top catching prospect Francisco Mejia.

    Non-Tribe fans will recognize Mejia as either the kid who was traded for Jonathan Lucroy until Lucroy nixed the deal, or as the guy with the 50-game minor league hitting streak last season. Although the Tribe has two catchers under contract for awhile (Gomes thru '19/Perez thru '20), I don't think either will stand in the way of Mejia's development. This seems like a way to get the butterflies out of the way and introduce Mejia to the pitching staff, but if he starts hot, a playoff spot might not be out of the question. If all goes well, I think he takes over as the starter by the second half of 2018. I still wonder about the ceiling for a small framed catcher (5'10", 180 lb., and doesn't look like a body type that's going to fill out much), but I've stopped questioning his hit tool. He still has some rough edges behind the plate, but he has a good arm and his athleticism should fix any issues with additional experience. Personally, I'm a little disappointed just because I'm headed to the AA-Akron game on Saturday, and Cleveland just called up their best two players. The other, Greg Little, was a surprise. He's a lead-off hitting type in center field, and missed significant time to hamate surgery this season. He'll serve as a September pinch-runner, but looks like a trade chip for next year, as all his tools fall a bit short of Bradley Zimmer, and he doesn't have a corner outfielder's bat.

    One of the biggest keys for Cleveland heading into the postseason will be getting Zimmer through some adjustments at the plate. He looked much more polished than I expected after his May call-up, but he's struggled badly the past month. He started August in a 0-fer-36 drought, and batted .141/.215/.155 while striking out in 42% of his at-bats for the month. Still, he's by far the best center field option on the roster, and the 3rd fastest runner in MLB, so it's worth keeping him in the lineup both short and long term.

    Jay Bruce has cooled down a bit, but is still hitting .279/.364/.529 after his first 19 games in a Tribe uniform. Lonnie Chisenhall probably switches over to left field now that he's off the DL. The situation will get trickier for Tito once Michael Brantley returns in a couple weeks. With Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana occupying the DH/1B spots, there may not be a way to also get all of Bruce, Chisenhall and Brantley in the lineup. Chisenhall will definitely sit against LHP, but could also play CF... it just depends if they really want to accept the huge drop off in defense from Zimmer to Chiz.

    Danny Salazar (elbow inflamation) throws a simulated game on Friday, which could him back on the active roster by the end of next week. His health should determine whether he or Clevinger will be the 4th starter on the playoff roster. After returning from the DL with a shoulder issue after the All-Star break, Salazar posted a 1.39 ERA (.161/.233/.233) before getting roughed up in the start before the latest DL trip. Trevor Bauer going 7-0, 2.42 ERA over his last 9 games seems to have secured his spot in the rotation behind Kluber and Carrasco.

    Eric Gonzalez (2B/SS) and Gio Urshela (3B/poss. SS) will continue to jockey for the utility infield spot in October. Both have good gloves and terrible plate discipline, and Jose Ramirez's ability to play any infield position makes both viable. Tito seems to favor Urshela, who plays jaw-dropping defense, but has less potential at the plate. EDIT: Too many thoughts to keep track of... I left out Yandy Diaz, who can play 3B, and has the highest offensive potential of the group, but is a weak defender. Diaz could be another trade chip over the next 12 months. He's ripped, but has a line-drive swing, making him a doubles hitter who will put up a good bb/k ratio, but they're still trying to find a comfortable spot for the Cuban defector in the field.

    #5 Ford Frick's Asterisk, Sep 1, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2017
  6. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    I've been much more concerned about facing Boston in the playoffs than Houston, because of the Astros uninspiring rotation and spotty bullpen. The acquisition of Justin Verlander certainly changes things, however, it's still nice to know both teams the Tribe likely has to go through feature aces they've owned over the past few years. I'm not sure how to find a breakdown of the splits over the past 3-5 years, but both Verlander and Chris Sale struggle more against the Indians than any other team they've faced... and as former AL Central players, it's not a small sample size.

    This also makes things look easier for Cleveland in the AL Central in 2018, although granted, Detroit wasn't going to compete next year anyway. It looks like the Twins will be the only other team trying to win games next year, and with their alternate turns at being either the most overachieving or underachieving team in the league, who knows what to expect from them? Kansas City set themselves back a couple years by trying to compete this season with a team that's mediocre or worse in every aspect aside from defense. I don't expect them to resign more than one of Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain. They won't dare make a qualifying offer to either Jason Vargas or Alcides Escobar, but could probably afford either on a multi-year deal... the question is (why) would they want to?

  7. Fratboy

    Fratboy Mr. MENsa Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I don't think they're going to lose a game for the rest of the season. This is unbelievable.
  8. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

    Kevin Durant just quit hoops and signed with the Indians.
  9. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member


    I mentioned this in the September game thread, but the best part of the winning streak is that it hasn't required any extra effort. In 17 of the 22 games, the pitching staff has held their opponent to 2 or less runs. That's allowed the bullpen to stay rested, and has made it easy to overlook that 3 starting position players are on the disabled list. The lack of offense for much of the past week has lead to some tighter games, but they're still outscoring opponents 142-37.

    Shortly before the All-Star break last year, the Indians went on a (then franchise record) 14-game winning streak. That streak seemed to involve more drama with 2 walk-offs and 2 extra-inning games, including a 19-inning marathon for win #14. It seemed to have a hangover effect, leading to a 3-6 stretch until the All-Star break. I think they've learned from that experience, and also have the benefit of the expanded roster this time. Francona has specifically talked about this in keeping everything in balance and perspective, and has done a beautiful job of getting everyone involved while not leaning too heavily on anyone. They've even rested Jose Ramirez (wrist) and Bradley Zimmer (concussion symptoms) for a few games during the stretch for precautionary reasons. This is a team that was so close to finally bringing the first World Series Championship to Cleveland during most of their fans' lifetimes, I don't think they're going to sacrifice anything for the current winning streak with the playoffs in plain view.

    The one setback during the streak was Zimmer breaking his hand when Chris Davis stepped on it during a head-first slide last Sunday. This absolutely affects the playoff roster, even if Zimmer is correct in predicting he'll be back on the field yet in October. Austin Jackson should now start vs. all lefties in the postseason, while the possibilities for the other half of the platoon get a little complex.

    Michael Brantley is the wildcard for the lineup. He's been slow to heal from a sprained ankle, and the best case scenario probably has him returning during the last few days of the regular season (he's hitting but not running yet). If he can man left field in October, the Indians can go "offense first", playing Lonnie Chisenhall in center. If Brantley is done for the year, Chisenhall will mostly play left field.

    Then to really add a wrinkle to the situation, Jason Kipnis, who hasn't played a game himself in nearly a month (re-aggravated hamstring strain) might still get in on the action. Kipnis could start playing games again in a week, but will be eased in with no minor league rehab or even the spring training complex available. On top of that, they say they'll experiment with him in center field. Kipnis has never played the position in the majors, but it was his primary position in college. If Kipnis can play his way back into the everyday lineup, he could play CF when facing RHP and 2B when facing LHP.

    In the meantime, Greg Allen will continue to get more playing time than expected since being promoted from AA two weeks ago. He offers the best defense in center and at the very least would offer the team a pinch-runner and defensive replacement in October. Tyler Naquin is also getting a second chance to see if he can get on a roll. He finished 3rd in RoY balloting last season, but the organization had lost faith in him as a starter by last September, when the league finally figured out he can't lay off shoulder high fastballs. He then confirmed it by striking out in 14 of his 23 postseason at-bats... and defensively he's worse than Chisenhall. Abe Almonte is sort of the default candidate if no one else looks capable, but the health of Brantley and Kipnis, and performance of Allen probably make Almonte Plan D at best.

    This all further complicates the situation in the infield, where October could see the intended infield that consists of Kipnis at 2B and Ramirez at 3B... or Yandy Diaz, Gio Urshela and Eric Gonzalez could still be battling for an important part-time role.

    Thank God for this roster's flexibility.

    #9 Ford Frick's Asterisk, Sep 15, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  10. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    First attempt at the postseason roster:

    Yan Gomes (C)
    Roberto Hernandez (C)
    Carlos Santana (1B)
    Jose Ramirez (2B/3B)
    Francisco Lindor (SS)
    Yandy Diaz (3B)
    Gio Urshela (3B/SS)
    Lonnie Chisenhall (LF)
    Jason Kipnis (CF/2B)
    Jay Bruce (RF)
    Austin Jackson (OF)
    Greg Allen (CF/PR)
    Edwin Encarnacion (DH)

    Corey Kluber (SP)
    Carlos Carrasco (SP)
    Trevor Bauer (SP)
    Mike Clevinger (SP)
    Danny Salazar (RP)
    Dan Otero (RP)
    Zach McAllister (RP)
    Tyler Olson (RP)
    Nick Goody (RP)
    Andrew Miller (RP)
    Bryan Shaw (RP)
    Cody Allen (RP)

    I'll surprised if that's not the pitching staff. The biggest question seems to be whether Danny Salazar is ready to drop any restrictions and be a multiple inning reliever for the remainder of the season. He won't pitch consecutive days, but if he regains some consistency, he gives the team another guy with filthy stuff who can allow Tito a quick hook on a starter. This would also lessen the load on Andrew Miller this October. I still expect Miller to be used frequently in high leverage situations, but this staff has considerably more quality depth than last fall's version. The emergence of Olson as a situational lefty (.371 OPSa vs. LHH, unscored on in 17.2 ip) further frees up Miller's role.

    I think Greg Allen makes the roster as the 5th outfielder, who can serve as a defensive replacement for whoever's starting in center field, and also be the designated pinch-runner. Two things are becoming more apparent this week: (1) Michael Brantley isn't likely to be ready for the ALDS, and (2) Jason Kipnis is going to see considerable time in center field. I think vs. RHP: Kipnis in center, Ramirez at 2B and Diaz plays 3B. While vs. LHP: Jackson in center, Kipnis at 2B and Ramirez plays 3B. Based on how I see Francona leaning, I think Urshela will be other infielder, although Eric Gonzalez is still a possibility. Neither is likely to be used as a pinch-hitter, but Urshela is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, and allows Diaz to be lifted in the late innings without shifting Ramirez and/or Kipnis. Gonzalez makes less sense since 2B is his best position. The roster could certainly change if they get through the ALDS with Brantley possibly returning, but I don't think anyone is counting on him anymore.

  11. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    I'm already wrong about one thing. Rather than being the 4th starter, Mike Clevinger will join the bullpen in October. He'll fill the role I thought they were preparing Danny Salazar for -- a right-handed multiple-inning reliever to ease Andrew Miller's workload. While I understand Clevinger has fewer questions about his health than Salazar, I feel like Clevinger's bouts of wildness are better tamed as a starter. This isn't a "demotion" type move, as Francona feels Clevinger can be used to better leverage in this role. The 4th starter will now either be Salazar or Josh Tomlin, although it sounds like there's a chance they'll use a 3-man rotation in the ALDS... crossing my fingers they don't feel the need to do that.
  12. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

    Better late than never... the end of September was hectic for me, but now I can sit back and hopefully enjoy some October baseball. So the Tribe's ALDS roster and rotation raised some eyebrows:

    ALDS Rotation
    Game 1: Trevor Bauer
    Game 2: Corey Kluber
    Game 3: Carlos Carrasco
    Game 4: Josh Tomlin (if needed)
    Game 5: Corey Kluber (if needed)

    Cody Allen
    Andrew Miller
    Bryan Shaw
    Joe Smith
    Tyler Olson
    Danny Salazar
    Mike Clevinger

    Position players
    C: Yan Gomes:
    C: Roberto Perez
    1B: Carlos Santana
    2B: Jose Ramirez
    SS: Francisco Lindor
    3B: Giovanny Urshela
    DH: Edwin Encarnacion
    OF: Lonnie Chisenhall
    OF: Austin Jackson
    OF: Michael Brantley
    OF: Greg Allen
    OF: Jason Kipnis
    OF: Jay Bruce
    INF: Erik Gonzalez

    I've reached the point where I've stopped really questioning the moves of either Antonetti or Francona, because every time I think I know better than them, I'm reminded of how little I know about baseball. The flak directed at Tito's roster decisions was directed at Bauer as the game #1 starter, but I think the order of Bauer/Kluber/Carrasco was overblown, and there were multiple reasons to justify it. I'm more at odds with the final bullpen spots, as I don't see a need to carry all of the team's 6 starters, while leaving off Nick Goody and Dan Otero (or Zach McAllister) with the extra off-days minimizing the need for long relief. Personally, I'd take Danny Salazar's upside as the game #4 starter over Josh Tomlin, knowing Mike Clevinger can be ready to pitch 3+ innings if Salazar doesn't have it. If Salazar struggles, at least it's usually his control, and he can still get a strikeout or two, which gives the pen time to get ready. When Tomlin is off, it's one meatball after another right over the plate, and he gives up 3-4 runs before you can get anyone warmed up. The Indians used 7 starting pitchers this year, and Tomlin was clearly the 7th best.

    Erik Gonzalez getting the final roster spot is confusing since Francona's usage of the bench clearly favored Yandy Diaz over Gonzalez during the regular season. Gonzalez makes the roster better defensively, but with three guys who can already play second base, I'd have gone with the better offense Diaz adds to third base (and the opportunity to pinch-hit for Urshela without burning another player). And while Kipnis has been used exclusively in center field since returning from injury, this suggests to me that Austin Jackson will get his share of playing time there, with Kipnis playing some 2B, and Ramirez shifting to 3B. The other lineup question is just how much Michael Brantley can play.

    Bauer already proved the rotation decision was the right one. If Gary Sanchez is catching again today, I expect to see the Indians try to pressure the defensive shortcomings of he and Sabathia with some early aggressive small ball. Considering how historically bad Sanchez has been behind the plate whenever the Indians have seen him, I suspect they'll push him until he's wearing the goat horns, benched or steps up.

  13. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

    So was something physically wrong with Kluber? He and Francona kind of alluded to that after, but he was so dominant down the stretch, so it's a little odd.

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