The Indians enter this weekend series against the Kansas City Royals coming off one of the most successful team-weeks all season long. Since this last Sunday, the Indians have won five straight games, four of which came off another Detroit Tigers series sweep where the Tribe outscored the Tigers 29-11. The Tribe also closed the AL Central gap to 4.0 games which is quite the positive if you think of where this team was just one month ago. However, many Indians fans have found themselves at a crossroads, asking themselves, “should this team sell away their talents and build for the future?” Or “does this team have what it takes and should look to buy at the Trade Deadline?” Let’s take a look at where the Indians sit as of right now and I’ll let you decide.
The Core is Fully Woke
The Indians core players, who this franchise hangs their current hat on, are in full fledged attack mode. Francisco Lindor is having, once again, a solid season hitting .285 with an .837 OPS, 35 RBIs, and 15 HRs. That also doesn’t include quite a few SportsCenter Top 10 defensive plays. He also acts as the strongest form of glue and motivation in this Indians clubhouse.
Carlos Santana is currently having the best season of his career and reached his first All-Star game this year. Santana, who is currently hitting .288 with a .941 OPS, 54 RBIs, and 21 HRs, has been producing on this high level all season long and has not faltered once. He has set the precedent for this young team all year long and continues to do so.
Lastly, Jose “The Dominican Bear” Ramirez, has finally woken up from his long, over-slept winter slumber and is looking a lot like the Jose Ramirez we know and love. He has improved his season batting average to .232, which seems like it’s nothing but over the last 30 games he has hit .296 with 23 RBIs, five HRs, and contributing to 24 runs. Jose has found his swing and it is a beautiful sight.
The Youngsters are Impressing
Oscar Mercado has been one of the brightest spots of this Indians lineup all season long. His level of athleticism in the outfield, his speed on the base paths, and most importantly his poise and talent at the plate have made him my vote for Rookie Of The Year. While I may have a biased opinion, I’ll let Oscar’s stats speak for themselves. Mercado is hitting .281 this season with 23 RBIs and seven HRs while contributing to 33 runs. All of this before the kid’s 25th year on this planet. This kid has nothing but upside and we’ve been spoiled with the high level of play he’s put out thus far. On the other side of the youngster spectrum, Jake Bauers, who has been having a very up and down season, has turned his level of play around recently as well. In his last 15 games, Bauers is hitting .327 with 16 RBIs and five HRs, contributing exactly how a young ball player should. Hats off to both of these young studs.
Middle Lineup is Clicking
Every baseball fan knows that it’s not about the superstar athlete(s) you have on your team, it’s about the supporting cast around those guys. Does the rest of your team have the chutzpah? I most definitely had to google how to spell that. Anyway, this Tribe team’s middle lineup has a whole lot of chutzpah. Tyler Naquin continues to prove all of the haters of the world wrong with his hitting. Over his last 30 games, Naquin is hitting .300 with 18 RBIs, seven HRs. This stat line is exactly what you’re looking for, if not more, out of a middle of the lineup guy.
Mike Freeman and Jason Kipnis are two names that have been in everyone’s mouths lately. The main topic of conversation is about how both are carrying their weight on offense, but lately there has been a lot of conversation on whether Freeman should play every day or remain a utility guy. Over the last 30 days, these guys’ stat lines have looked pretty similar. Freeman has been hitting .317 with 10 RBIs and three HRs, while Kipnis has been hitting .300 with 22 RBIs and five HRs. I’ll let you guys decide who should start over who, but if you want my advice, don’t fix what isn’t broken. Keep doing what you’re doing with respect to frequency of play between these two because it is working.
Lastly, Roberto “Robo” Perez continues to show everyone in the MLB why he should’ve been selected to his first All-Star Game a little over a week ago and not finish seventh in voting (not that I’m bitter or anything). Robo has been producing at the plate well above what was expected of him at the start of the year. While many fans were still washing the Yan Gomes trade taste out of the mouth, Robo has been just the mouth wash we need. This season Robo has hit .246 with 38 RBIs and 16 HRs. You heard that right, Roberto Perez is currently second on the Indians for total number of home runs. Santana is first (21) and Lindor is third (15). Quite the showing from Robo and what better way to say “I told you so” than hitting 16 “Whammy’s!” halfway through the season. What’s Yan Gomes up to you ask? Hitting .202 with three HRs for the Nationals. You do the math.
Bullpen Woes? More like “Bullpen, Woah!”
Remember back in April when everyone was talking about what the Indians biggest weakness were? If you don’t, everyone (including myself) would say that the bullpen and the outfield were our weakest points. Well, I’m here to tell you folks that the Cleveland Indians have the number one bullpen in baseball. The Tribe are currently posting a collective bullpen ERA of 3.32. The closest to them in this category is Tampa Bay with 3.74 and Houston with 3.82. I would be lying if I told you that I predicted this, but I can tell you that regardless of many people’s thoughts on the Indians offseason, the addition of Tyler Clippard, A.J. Cole, and Nick Wittgren have paid off tremendously when paired up with Brad Hand’s current All-Star season. Hats off to the Indians pitching staff for the great job they’ve done dealing with a tremendous amount of adversity.
Starting Pitching Is Currently Checking out of the Hospital
With the amount of
Current Position Compared to Last Year
The Indians currently sit four games behind the Twins in the AL Central and due to a Twins victory over the Oakland A’s last night. However, the Tribe will love to close this gap even further with some easy upcoming series against the Royals, Blue Jays, and the Royals again. The other bright side is that since the A’s lost to the Twins last night, the Indians are currently sitting in the number one spot for the AL Wild Card game, which I know doesn’t get too many people excited, but the playoffs are still the playoffs, and everyone has a chance. We’re currently two wins better than we were at this point in 2018 and we only stand to improve with our upcoming schedule, which leads me to my next and final part of the article, my predictions.
Cleveland fans, we’re doing okay! This Indians team is good and our core is still intact and able to win big games when they matter. Every team goes through stretches of figuring out their lineup, the Indians are the epitome of this! And while we may not be the Yankees or Astros with respect to depth, we have had young guys step up and succeed when needed and we also have a team full of All-Stars and a few with near-All-star seasons. This brings me to the Trade Deadline discussions lately. I don’t think the Indians make a giant splash at the deadline this season. I’ve said this may happen in one of my previous articles, but I don’t think the Indians move on from Trevor Bauer. This trade does in fact make the most sense, but I just don’t see it happening anytime soon. In fact, I don’t see Trevor Bauer going anywhere else even after this season. Call me crazy but I think he’s an Indian for the rest of this season and at least for the start of next season. Trevor loves working with Roberto Perez too much request a trade and Tito likes Bauers stuff too much for them to move on form him. I also personally believe that the Indians should not move on from Brad Hand. If you’re going to want to win playoff games, you need a deep bullpen and one that can produce. Brad Hand has been one of the main reasons that the Indians bullpen has been so dominant this season. I don’t expect them to move on from Hand anytime soon.
Look for the AL Central gap to close to at least 2.5 games by the end of the weekend with us playing a team like the Royals and the Twins having to play the A’s. Now sit back and enjoy some baseball this weekend! Roll Tribe!