Win or Lose, it's a Long Season...It Ends in October
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Hashtag, sarcasm, right?
Well now it's May and while that suddenly doesn't change a damn thing, it certainly does change everything. That's how it works in baseball, right? New month, new slate. This team is sitting at the bottom of the AL Central as we speak, and while all is not lost, it feels as if things are slipping away, and most of you are frustrated. You probably don't want to read this right now. You're sick of mantras like "it's a marathon, not a sprint" and "it's a long way til September."
Understood. I'm frustrated. I know this isn't exactly what you want to hear, but guess what? You're gonna hear it. Because I am going to talk about it. Its easier to be doom and gloom, but as I continued to go back to last year. Don't get ahead of yourself. For a first month, while things could have gone a lot better, much much better in fact, they could also be a whole lot worse. How so? The pitching sucks, the hitting sucks, the defense REALLY sucks, the bullpen sucks, the manager sucks, everything sucks. Suck suck suck suck suck. Right?
The AL Central is tougher this year, we've seen it first hand, the Twins probably are not the pushovers they had become the past two years, and Chicago seems to at least be on a similar page as of right now. But at least they don't play in the loaded NL Central, were a team in a similar position, Pittsburgh, is already nine games back despite having a similar record to the Indians. Yeah this has nothing to do with the Indians actual play. But it kind of does. Despite the crap play, the Indians are not staring down a 10 game deficit or anything like that.
Like I said, things could look bleaker. The Indians are pretty lucky to be sitting where they are sitting based off the play they've had thus far. The pitching has been rocky, the hitting has shown signs early on, but largely has been the foiler of their efforts during this little slide the team went on to end April. There's some inconsistencies that if they get pulled together, this team will be okay.
Let's see if I can run down this mental list of things that I need to talk about, while also providing you only the best segues that I know.
Primarily on my mind has to be what is going on with this rotation, and the news that Carlos Carrasco has been bumped over to the bullpen (yay eight man bullpen is back!). The Indians have certainly decided that April was quite simply enough in terms of seeing if Car-Squared could cut it. I have to agree. While it may be fun to ask if this could eventually be an Ubaldo situation like we explored a few weeks ago, you simply can't wait around for that to happen. Especially since Carrasco has never had an Ubaldo-like year or stretch, and Trevor Bauer is down in Columbus lighting the world on fire.
It's Bauer Time. Point blank. This kid is ready to help the rotation and could be the boost that this team needs right now. You keep running the automatic loss out there every five days, mix in with the inconsistencies from your top three and the growth period that Danny Salazar is going through, and that is just one plain-in-sight reason as to why the Indians have the record that they have.
And if it ends up not being Bauer time, then we know what Josh Tomlin is all about and that is at least better than Tito having to put out grease fires with his bullpen every five days. Because that's exactly what Carlos has been every time out. Even if he starts out good and looks sharp, he falls completely apart. The guy has never, and probably will never be able to give you any sort of consistency. Whatever his deal is, he can't do it. If he has any effectiveness, it will be in the bullpen. It stinks, because he certainly has the stuff and the ability, but when it comes to putting it together over the course of six innings on a weekly basis, he cannot do it. Maybe asking him to get three outs every other day will yield better results, you would at least hope so. He can still be useful to this team.
The rest of the rotation. Just let this ride out. McAllister has been fine. Masterson will figure it out and get back to being somewhat consistent, but you are definitely seeing why the Indians have been hesitant to go with a real long deal with him. Kluber will be fine. And Mr. Electricity's loss in velocity is nothing to be worried about. I'm sure he knows he has to make it through an entire year. I'd be shocked if that didn't start to rise soon enough.
Hey, speaking of things people keep getting bent out of shape about (which always happens when a team struggles early, unbend yourselves!), how about the "response run" business? Yeah it seems like the Indians are giving away runs just as they are getting them. But guess what, that's baseball. It doesn't matter when either team scores the run, the point is they are being scored. I say this as I watch Hank Conger hit a two-run shot a half inning after the Indians put their first run of the game up on the board. Yeah, its frustrating, but its no different than if the run scored an inning before in the grand scheme of things. There's not some psychological problem that the Indians can't go an inning after they score without giving up a run.
I get it though. Remember that last post I had a few weeks ago? When I basically wrote a loving ode to Nyjer Morgan and how he should stick around. Well the Indians didnt' keep him around, because they gave in to the logic of need and even though they've used Elliot Johnson sparingly, they really would have had no use for Nyjer Morgan.
I went pretty hard after Michael Bourn after he got back. Didn't matter, but I crushed him for awhile there. And most of it has to do with the fact that I know Bourn's game. Yeah, he can hit, but a large part of his game has always been utilizing his speed. He does get a large portion of his hits based off his speed. And I thought that was in jeopardy of going from elite to passable, which makes him go from a good player to a decent player. The Indians are not paying him decent money, so that's where the frustration boils.
But Bourny seems to be past his injury woes and turned it on after I held his feet over the fire and jabbed at his back with a pitchfork.
Speaking of pitchforks. There's been a giant one being sharpened with every at bat Carlos Santana hasn't produced a home run on. Seriously, I get it. But again, let's go back to managing our expectations. Let's also keep into perspective that despite his struggles swinging the bat, Santana still manages a .321 OBP going into last night's game and leads the team in walks.
Yeah, he's in the middle of the order, but that's what happens to middle of the order hitters He doesn't get much to hit. And compact that with just the fact that he doesn't quite have it right, and you'll get those poor results. Santana hasn't gone anywhere. He's still walking at the rate we can are accustomed to, and as you've seen this week, he still has the capabilities to produce. Give it a little time friends. This isn't Carrasco, he has a track record.
The Indians are going to need him to continue to trend upward with the bat though, because if this Jason Kipnis injury is for realsies, then the Indians are losing one third of the hitters that they could consistently count on. So far, it has been Murphy, Brantely, and Kipnis. Lonnie Baseball is hitting the ball, but the Indians have not had to rely upon him in that sense. If Kipnis is out, Santana needs to pick it up, or else this offense will sputter around for awhile. Elliot Johnson ain't saving the day.
Speaking of Lonnie Baseball. Looks like he has finally figured it out. Doesn't it? Look, I'm happy he's hitting and is being given the opportunity, but like we say for Carlos Santana's rough start, the same thing applies to Chisenhall's good one. He's had one at-bat, yes one at-bat against left-handed pitching. He has been completely guarded against his kyrptonite thus far. Yeah he does have a hit in that one at-bat and against righties, he's crushing it period. But just be weary of anointing him. He has just three walks on the year and needs to do this consistently before we go thinking he's got it all figured out.
Just by looking at him though. I gotta say, he's passing the eye-test. He's putting up good at-bats and is looking a lot more comfortable up there. He seems to be falling into a rhythm and that might have everything to do with knowing when and how much he's playing. Tito doesn't seem to be erratic in terms of how he uses Chiz, and that's good for him.
Let's double back a second to the Elliot Johnson point. So up until now, he's seemed pretty useless right? The Indians are carrying a guy in Giambi that DHs every so often and pinch hits every now and then and a guy in Johnson that they've barely used in the first month. Why? Hey, I'm not the guy controlling the roster. I don't know. We had this argument when deciding who to send down for Bourn. I thought it was time to boot the guy you were not using in Johnson and keep a guy like Morgan around because he was fun-loving, a spark, and producing. They probably want Morgan to be playing though in case they need him, so I understand that.
If Kipnis has to go to the DL, then Johnson becomes a little more needed as Aviles would start at second and you then need Johnson to be your primary utility man.
I may get smacked upside the head for that fun-loving comment, because a lot of people like to bag on Nick Swisher and Giambi for the whole "clubhouse" aspect that they provide. Its funny, when the team is winning, that never seems to get brought up. But the minute the team isn't going right and Swish is going wrong, people like to cry out. Is Swish producing right now? No. Is it concerning? Of course. Last year wasn't exactly stellar and I'm sure the expectations are that he has it on himself to turn it around and do better offensively. And so far, he hasn't done that.
But snark will get us no where. Embrace the aspects that make Swish a valuable part of the team and let him figure out what is holding him back right now. Yeah he's getting paid a lot of money, but he has more than a month to earn his contract.
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Here's something that's incredibly concerning, and I have no problem lashing out about, because this is a severe case of consistently being bad. And it goes directly against a track record that has been established regarding something that you don't really "slump into". I mean, you can, but what the heck is up with Rube Baker, I mean Yan Gomes throwing lately? The dude has been all sorts of bad, which is directly opposite of what he did last year.
What is it with catchers? They seem to have good years and bad years. Remember when Lou Marson was unstoppable behind the plate? He was throwing out everyone who tried running on him, much like Yan Gomes did last year. Santana has even had that good year where he's been on-point. But then they'll come up and have a year that makes them look like they forgot everything they ever learned or had their muscles replaced with sand. I don't understand.
If anything, Gomes' crap defense has been the epitome of what this team has done so far. It's been hard to watch. And not hard to watch because it has been completely awful, because it hasn't. Yeah the throws have been awful, but this team hasn't. I know you probably want to snicker at that comment, but its easy to look at yesterday's game and automatically say they are horrible, because last night was probably the tip of frustration.
Take it from the title. You can say things like "It's going to be a long season if this continues." Guess what, it's going to be a long season even if they turn it around. Its the longest professional season out there. Strap in if you are in for the ride. Bail out the door if you aren't.
I got a lot of faith in the talent that this team has. I have a lot of faith in the leadership this team has. You can dog it all you want. You can bash Swisher and Giambi to no end, but they are the leaders in the clubhouse and they are damn good leaders to have. Tito will not let this ship crash and burn in the way many people are thinking it is going to happen this year. It isn't 2008 all of over again. This is 2014, it is a new and different year. Yes, you have expectations that have been built upon 2013, but you also have to understand, that as annoying as it is, this is an incredibly long season.
And yes, you can't win a division in April, but you can lose one, know for a fact that this team did not lose the division or a playoff spot in April. They've stayed afloat and have plenty of time to mesh this thing together before they get to the cliff.