Okay, I may be an overreacting Cleveland Indians fan, but some something just doesn’t feel right about this group of Indians. They haven’t been able to get into a groove, the starting pitching has been lackluster, and the offense have sputtered. But it’s not all bad in Cleveland. They had 5 All-Stars, a winning record, and are sitting in first place in the division at 48-43. So, let’s look a little closer at the defending AL Champions and see where they stack up this season.
Key Pieces on the DL: Right now, the Indians outfield is in shambles. They currently have Lonnie Chisenhall and Austin Jackson on the DL, and they are using several bench players to cover the lost playing time. Second baseman Jason Kipnis has found himself on the DL for the second time this season, which has forced Jose Ramirez to cover second and has created a hole at third. Starting pitcher Danny Salazar has struggled and landed on the DL with a shoulder issue and really hasn’t been heard from again. These holes at key positions has lead to inconsistency on the field.
Starting Pitcher Woes: What was a strength for the Indians last season has now become one of its greatest weaknesses. While the Tribe still features a 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, they bottom of the rotation in Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer have not lived up to expectations. Tomlin has an ERA approaching 6.00 while Bauer has an ERA well over 5. Danny Salazar did not perform well either with an ERA of 5.40 in 12 games pitched. What was a strength all regular season for the Indians last year before the playoffs has now become a major liability.
Sub-Par Catching: While the Indians have two fantastic defensive catchers in Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, they have not produced offensively. Gomes has hit a light .219 with 5 home runs and 21 RBIs while Perez has a .173 average with 1 home run and 15 RBIs. In short, it is definitely not the kind of production your looking for from your catchers and it’s a far cry from Yan Gomes’ Silver Slugger campaign back in 2014.
The $60 Million Man: The Tribe pushed their chips into the middle after falling short in the World Series and signed DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion to a 3-year contract with an option for a 4th season. With Edwin’s history of putting up gaudy numbers and being an RBI machine, it seemed he would be the piece in the middle of the order that would help this offense produce. Things have not gone as expected. Currently, Edwin has a .255 average with 19 home runs and 50 RIBs. While that is decent production to this point, it is a far cry from what the Indians paid for and he has only recently started to turn it on after starting the season in a major slump. Encarnacion is traditionally a second half player, so we will see if he can turn things around and help this offense settle in.
Are the Indians In Trouble?: That’s why you’re here. You probably want me to be like the drunk fan from Major League yelling from the bleachers to pack it in. The season is over! Bulldoze the field! Not quite. Are the Indians in trouble? Yes, and no. The team is set for the long haul with players under club control for years to come. No one expected the team to perform quite to last year’s standards, which is the key. The Indians, however, should be dominating the AL Central with the Twins being only 1.5 games back. At the beginning of the season, baseball writers were saying the Tribe would run away with the division and coast into the playoffs. Not so. I do think they will win the division. I don’t see the Twins being able to have enough in the tank to finish at the end of the season. In that sense, I don’t see the Indians in trouble. I do, however, see the team in trouble in another sense. They need to fill the holes in their roster if they want to stabilize the team for a deep run. The team does have Francisco Mejia (one of the top prospects in baseball) and could use him to get really any major addition they want. The team has recently been tied to the A’s starter Sonny Gray, so it’s not as if they haven’t been active on the trade market. If they want to take another crack at winning a title, they need to address the holes on their roster. If they don’t, then yes, this team is in trouble.