Notes from the Wigwam: Indians move into first-place tie
Tribe goes 6-2, caps off week with four-game sweep of Chicago White Sox
Are you still trying to catch your breath after this past week's Cleveland Indians games? That's probably especially true if you took any time to watch the Tribe's four-game series against the Chicago White Sox.
The games were fast and furious, but the end result was the Indians completing a four-game sweep and ultimately reclaiming the top spot in the American League Central.
With their record now at 44-38, the Indians are tied with the 43-37 Tigers, and perhaps the best thing is that the Indians have a chance to gain more ground in the division this week as they have series against both the Kansas City Royals and the Tigers.
It's hard to believe, but June ended up being a decent month for the Indians as the team finished with a 15-13 record. That seems impossible, especially since the Indians dropped eight straight games at one point, but it now appears as if the ship has been righted.
Of course, it would not be fair to move forward before we take a look back at the past week and what a week it was indeed. Here are a few statistics from this weekend's series against the White Sox...
- The Friday doubleheader lasted seven hours and 53 minutes, which makes it the longest doubleheader of two nine-inning games in Major League history.
- Trevor Bauer threw 49 pitches in game one of the doubleheader and recorded just two outs. He left the game with the Indians trailing 5-0, but the Tribe came back to win the contest 19-10.
- Three of the Tribe's four wins in the series were come-from-behind victories. The four-game sweep all but ensured that the White Sox will be sellers at the deadline as their record now stands at 32-47, and the team is now 10 1/2 games behind in the Central. Chicago's record is also the second worst mark in the American League.
Aside from the doubleheader, there were plenty of other storylines during the past week, so without further ado, let's take a look at the week that was for the Tribe...
June 24 at Baltimore, W 5-2 (WP: Jimenez, LP: Britton)
June 25 at Baltimore, L 6-3 (WP: Tillman, LP: Masterson)
June 26 at Baltimore, W 4-3 (WP: Smith, LP: Johnson)
June 27 at Baltimore, L 7-3 (WP: Gonzalez, LP: Kluber)
June 28 at Chicago, W 19-10 (WP: Albers, LP: Omogrosso)
June 28 at Chicago, W 9-8 (WP: Langwell, LP: Reed)
June 29 at Chicago, W 4-3 (WP: Martinez, LP: Crain)
June 30 at Chicago, W 4-0 (WP: Masterson, LP: Sale)
Player of the Week
Jason Kipnis — Second baseman
7 G, 11-for-23, 9 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 8 BB, 3 K, 2 SB
Let's just take a moment to review Jason Kipnis' June. In 27 games, the star second baseman went 39-for-93 (.419) with 12 doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBI and nine stolen bases. Because of his amazing June effort, Kipnis' overall line now sits at .299/.384/.533. The left-handed hitter was instrumental this past week in several Tribe wins. For example, on Friday evening in the second contest against Chicago, Kipnis hit a game-tying sacrifice fly before Nick Swisher launched a home run, which proved to be the game winner. Kipnis then came right back in Saturday's contest with another clutch moment as he hit a two-run home run to tie the game at 3-3. It's evident that Kipnis is a player who is capable of putting a team on his back and carrying them because that's essentially what he's done for the entire month of June. Perhas the only negative with Kipnis is that today marks the first of July, and it seems as if it would be impossible for him to continue at this torrid pace. However, stranger things have happened and after his month of June, it's obvious that Kipnis may be capable of just about anything.
Minor League Player of the Week
Joe Wendle — Second baseman, Carolina Mudcats
7 G, 12-for-30, 4 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K
What is it with the Indians and infield prospects? For whatever reason, it seems like more and more of them seem to pop up by the day. Wendle was the Tribe's sixth round draft pick out of Division II West Chester University, but he continues to prove his worth and show that while he may have been a Division II player, he was clearly a Division I talent. In 49 games this season, Wendle has compiled a .321/.399/.588 line with 17 doubles, three triples, nine home runs and 35 RBI. He's also shown solid patience as he's drawn 21 walks while only striking out 28 times. The knock on Wendle is age as he's already 23 years old and playing against younger players at the High-A level. However, given his torrid pace, it seems reasonable to conclude that Wendle will find himself in Akron before too long. Given his skillset and decent power, the Indians could be looking at a potential great future Major League utilityman. Also, perhaps that's selling Wendle a bit too short. He probably has greater aspirations for himself and who knows, maybe he'll even be able to reach them.
A rough week
Carlos Carrasco — Starting pitcher
1 GS, 5.2 IP, 10 H, 6 R/ER, 2 BB, 3 K.
This is tough because no one player really had all that terrible of a week for the Indians. Also, a case can be made that Trevor Bauer should earn this recognition but since he's still a rookie and was tinkering with things in his start, it seems more appropriate to give the distinction to Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco started the second game against the Chicago White Sox and while he did manage to almost pitch six innings, that's where the positives begin and end with Carrasco. Carrasco is so frustrating for the simple fact that he made his Triple-A debut in 2008 when he was 21 years old. Carrasco is now 26 years old and that was five years ago, but what kind of progress has really been made? He has basically dominated the Triple-A level since then, but he's been inconsistent on the Major League level ever since. WIll he figure it out? Maybe. After all, 26 is not really old by any means. However, with every subsequent inconsistent outing, it seems as if it becomes more and more unlikely that he'll ever become the dominant pitcher that he was supposed to be. At this point, it seems like most would probably settle for average, which would be a big improvement from what we've seen so far.
The Indians' team UZR rating, which currently ranks fourth in the Majors behind only the Giants, Diamondbacks and Royals. In comparison, the Indians team UZR was -23.1 last season, which ranked last in the American League and second to last in the Majors. If you need evidence of the Indians' improved defense, look no further than this number here.
News & notes
— It would be inappropriate if we did not at least make mention of Trevor Bauer and his spot start in the first contest of Friday's doubleheader against the White Sox. One of the strangest storylines of the contest was Bauer's decision to start the game pitching out of the stretch rather than the windup. Columbus pitching coach Tony Arnoldsaid Bauer had felt uncomfortable with his delivery, so Bauer decided to pitch out of the stretch in an effort to simplify things. This soon became a moot point though as Bauer allowed plenty of baserunners, so he would have been pitching out of the stretch regardless. There is another question to consider though. Could the Indians perhaps be tinkering too much with Bauer? Clearly the decision to start from the stretch did not have much success as the right-hander was rocked for five runs in less than an inning of work. His performance totally taxed the bullpen as this was the first game of the doubleheader. One thing to make note of is the progress that Mickey Callawayhas made with Ubaldo Jimenez. Last season, Scott Radinsky struggled with Jimenez as he constantly was trying to tinker with just about every aspect of Jimenez and his delivery. In comparison, Callaway has instead just focused on Jimenez repeating and speeding up his delivery, which has led to Jimenez once again becoming an effective pitcher. Similarly, perhaps less is better when it comes to the Indians' approach to Bauer, and this may be something worth considering.
— With another complete game shutout Sunday, Justin Masterson is now entering special territory. The victory was Masterson's third complete game shutout of the season, and the right-hander moved to 10-6 on the season with 124 innings pitched, which currently leads the Majors. Time will tell if Masterson will be an All-Star this season, but he's certainly making a strong case. At this point, Masterson is on pace to pitch more than 200 innings and record 200 strikeouts. There's no for-sure definition of what qualifies a pitcher as an ace, but both of those statistics certainly point toward that designation. There are times when Masterson will still struggle with his command, but the bottom line is that when he's on, he can pitch as good as just about anyone in the game. Ace or not, Masterson is an incredibly valuable player to the Indians and the team's chances of making the postseason.
— One of the more underrated players this season has been right fielder Drew Stubbs. It's a known fact that he does still strikeout at a startling rate (85 Ks in 257 at-bats this season), but Stubbs seems to make up for that with some of the other skills he possesses. He had some key hits this past week for the Tribe against both Baltimore and Chicago, and he also continues to play a well above-average right field. According to FanGraphs, Stubbs has been worth 1.4 wins this season, and it's only July 1. That's a very impressive statistic for a guy who was supposed to be the worst offensive starter on the team. Overall, Stubbs is hitting .241 (62-for-257) with 14 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 30 RBI. He's also been impressive on the base paths as he has eight stolen bases, and he has not been thrown out even once. As long as Stubbs is able to at least maintain this current pace of production, the Indians have themselves an intriguing outfielder for the next couple of seasons. His success also just continues to make the Shin-Soo Choo trade look better and better by the day.
— Just a week ago, it seemed as if there were some concerns about Yan Gomes, but the right-handed hitting catcher had a nice three-game stretch this past week as he went 6-for-11 to bring his average back up to .284. The difficult thing with Gomes is that it's just been so difficult for the Indians to find him an ample amount of at-bats. The team seems committed to having him stay at catcher, and while Gomes can play other positions, this does not seem to be something that the Indians are open to exploring. However, perhaps the more beneficial thing to do would to have Carlos Santana spend more time at designated hitter or first base to ensure that Gomes can get some regular at-bats. While Santana started out the season at a torrid pace and hit .389 in April, he has since proceeded to hit .200 in May and .250 in June. His overall line is still plenty good at .269/.378/.458, but from what we have seen, it appears as if Gomes could be capable of compiling a similar line if he were given more regular playing time. Both catchers have above-average power for their position, but the difference for Santana is that he's a much more patient hitter. Nonetheless, both players have value and while Gomes is a very valuable bench piece, an argument could be made that he can be even more valuable as a regular contributor.
— The Indians begin a three-game series Tuesday against the Kansas City Royals, who currently trail the Indians and Tigers by 4 1/2 games in the AL Central. Tribe right-hander Corey Kluber will face Luis Mendoza in the first contest, and Kluber will be looking to rebound from a rough contest where he allowed six earned runs in under five innings of work.
— The Indians signed right-hander Boof Bonser to a minor league deal on Sunday. Bonser last pitched in the Majors in 2010 when he compiled a 6.12 ERA in 25 combined innings with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics.
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.