Notes from the Wigwam: Tribe wins two more series
The Indians go 4-2 this past week and have now won four straight series overall
The Indians went 4-2 this past week, and they remain in the thick of the American League Central race as they trail the Detroit Tigers by four games. They also won two series and have now won four straight series overall.
As many pundits will point out, this year’s Cleveland Indians team is far from perfect. However, it does appear as if we’re starting to get a feel for what this team may really be. They’re certainly not the 18-4 team that they were throughout a stretch in May, but they’re also not the 4-16 team that we saw a couple weeks back.
Rather, this team is probably a few games better than .500, and that may be where they’ll linger for much of the 2013 season. Of course, if things start to really go well, the Indians could finish several games above .500, but again, that’s going to take a bit of luck.
Nonetheless, the team already seems to have the ability to compete in the Central, and they seem to have cemented themselves as the clear No. 2 team in the division. Only time will tell if they can eventually take over that No. 1 spot.
With that being said, let’s take a look back at the week that was for the Indians…
June 17 vs. Kansas City, L 2-1 (WP: Crow, LP: Shaw)
June 18 vs. Kansas City, W 4-3 (WP: Allen, LP: Herrera)
June 19 vs. Kansas City, W 6-3 (WP: Masterson, LP: Mendoza)
June 21 vs. Minnesota, W 5-1 (WP: Kazmir, LP: Deduno)
June 22 vs. Minnesota, W 8-7 (WP: Kluber, LP: Walters)
June 23 vs. Minnesota, L 5-3 (WP: Hernandez, LP: Carrasco)
Player of the Week
Jason Kipnis — Second baseman
6 G, 9-for-21, 1 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 7 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K, 2 SB
After another brilliant week, Kipnis’ season line now sits at .283/.359/.486. While it may be a long shot because of the plethora of talented second basemen in the American League, Kipnis should firmly be in the discussion for a spot on the AL All-Star Team. It’s shocking to think of Kipnis' turnaround, especially when you consider that he was only hitting .189 on May 1st which was nearly a month into the 2013 season. That now seems to be a distant memory as Kipnis has really been the team’s most consistent performer over the past month. The left-handed hitting Kipnis was arguably at his very best in Saturday’s win against the Royals as he came just a home run shy of the cycle. Had Kipnis completed the feat, he would have been the first Indian to accomplish it since Travis Hafner. Of course, given Kipnis’ wide variety of skills, it should come as no surprise. He is truly a five-tool player, and definitely someone that the Tribe can build upon in the seasons to come.
Minor League Player of the Week
Ronny Rodriguez — Shortstop, Akron Aeros
5 G, 11-for-23, 4 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 SB
Like Kipnis, Rodriguez is another player within the Indians system who has dug himself out of an early-season slump to post some incredible numbers. On May 18, Rodriguez was hitting a mere .217, but his average is now all the way up .293, which is very impressive. Rodriguez has done a bit of everything this season as he has recorded 15 doubles, six triples and four home runs while also driving in 35 runs. Rodriguez has also performed well on the base paths as he’s recorded nine steals so far. While he’s been on an offensive tear for quite some time now, Rodriguez has been especially impressive in his last four games, which have all been multi-hit performances. Opinions are still mixed in regard to what kind of future Rodriguez can have as far as the Major Leagues are concerned, but one of the key things to remember is that he just turned 21-years-old on April 17, and he’s already dominating the Double-A level. He does need to be a bit more selective with the pitches that he takes, but there’s still plenty of time for him to improve in that area. The bottom line is that Rodriguez is just another stellar infield prospect to add to the lot that already includes Francisco Lindor and Dorssys Paulino.
A rough week
Michael Brantley — Left field
6 G, 4-for-20, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 K, 2 SB
It’s hard to knock Brantley too much, especially considering that he did have a multi-home run game this past week, which is a big accomplishment from someone like Brantley. However, the bottom line is that the left-handed hitting outfielder just was not his usual productive self as he was not having consistent at-bats, and he even was benched for Sunday’s contest against the Minnesota Twins. On May 28, Brantley was hitting a stellar .303, but his average now sits at .274. While this recent stretch of play has been a rough one for Brantley, the positive thing is that it probably won’t last for long. Brantley has such a compact, short swing that it really would be difficult for a player like him to go into a sustained tailspin at the plate. While his performance this past week may have left a bit to be desired, today is a new day, and let’s hope that Brantley is able to quickly turn things around as we know that he can be one of the most important offensive players on this ball club.
The number of home runs that Indians right-hander Vinnie Pestano has allowed this season in 22 innings. Pestano allowed another home run in the ninth inning of Saturday’s 8-7 win against the Twins. In 2011, Pestano allowed a total of five home runs in 62 innings, and he allowed a total of seven home runs in 70 innings in 2012.
News & notes
— One of the greatest acquisitions of this season has proven to be outfielder Michael Bourn, who just causes absolute havoc at the top of the Indians lineup. Bourn collected 11 more hits this week, and he’s now hitting .310/.361/.404 on the season. It’s nice to have Bourn because he really is the truest leadoff man that the Indians have had since Kenny Lofton. While Bourn does still strike out too much (15 BB: 51 K), when he is able to get on base, the other team is forced to take notice because there’s a good chance that he could be running. While Bourn only has 11 stolen bases so far, that is a number that will certainly increase significantly as the season continues. There were some pundits who believed that the Indians may have overpaid to acquire Bourn’s services, but he continues to prove his worth with every day that passes. It’s a shame that Bourn does not hit for more power as he’s another player who could be worthy of All-Star consideration, yet that notion seems unlikely since he only has two home runs on the season.
— It could be that Major League pitchers or finally catching up to him or it could be that he’s just not playing with enough regularity, but the fact is that Indians catcher Yan Gomes seems to have come back to Earth. Gomes only played in two contests this past week, and he went 0-for-6 while managing to drive in a run. His average now sits at .257, which is the lowest it has been since May 9. Gomes quickly became a fan favorite after a number of his big, clutch hits, but it’s unfortunately been awhile since we’ve been treated to one of those blasts. Many Tribe fans were skeptical at the idea that Gomes should be sent back down when Lou Marson is healthy, but it’s easy to see why that may be the prevailing thinking with some. Since his playing time has been so limited, especially with the return of third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, Gomes has watched his numbers, playing time and average suffer. Baseball is very much a game of repetition where it’s important for a player to get into a rhythm at the plate, but Gomes has been unable to do that as of late. We know that he has a solid bat, but the Indians have been struggling to find a way to get his bat into the lineup. It would be easy to conclude that that’s not benefiting either Gomes or the Indians, so the best course of action may be to option Gomes back to Columbus once Marson is healthy, or the Indians simply have to find a way to get him consistent playing time.
— Carlos Carrasco built off his tremendous start from a weak ago with a mediocre outing on Sunday. In 4 2/3 innings of work, Carrasco allowed six hits and three runs while walking four batters and striking out three. The outing was not terrible in the regard that at least Carrasco did not totally implode, and the Indians still had a chance to win the game. However, he really did not give the team much length, and he also needed a lot of pitches (104) just to make it through less than five innings of work. We know that Carrasco has a great stuff and is capable of being an above-average pitcher at the Major League level, but he needs to be more efficient when he’s on the mound. It would have been nice to see him go out and dominate on Sunday, yet we had to settle for an average outing. However, perhaps growth can still be seen simply for the fact that Carrasco managed to keep his team in the game even if he was unable to record a quality start.
— How in the heck can anyone get a read on Scott Kazmir? Just when you think he could be destined for a role in the bullpen, he goes out and pitches a masterpiece like he did on Friday. The left-hander needed just 95 pitches to make it through seven innings against the Minnesota Twins while allowing just one run, which came off a solo shot. Kazmir also struck out seven batters in the effort, and his stuff was clearly outstanding. This outing proceeded an outing in which Kazmir allowed five earned runs and three home runs in just 2 2/3 innings of work. So, who exactly is the real Scott Kazmir? For much of the year, Kazmir has pitched exactly like this as a stellar outing will follow a poor one and vice versa. Many have argued that Kazmir would be an ideal solution to the Indians’ left-handed bullpen woes, but it would be hard to remove him from the rotation as long as he’s pitching like this. The one positive is that the Indians probably will not have to make a decision for a little while yet as it’s been reported that right-hander Zach McAllister is still a few weeks from returning from his finger injury. However, when McAllister is ready, he certainly will want to reclaim his spot in the rotation that he technically never lost, and someone will have to be replaced. The bottom line is that Kazmir is still the most likely candidate.
— The Indians announced Sunday that right-hander Brett Myers would return to the Indians in a bullpen capacity once he is healthy enough to be activated off of the disabled list. Myers has been on the disabled list because of elbow inflammation, and he is expected to throw an inning for Single-A Mahoning Valley today. The right-hander is 0-3 with an 8.02 ERA in four appearances for the Indians this season.
— Closer Chris Perez, who has been on the disabled list since May 27 because of shoulder soreness, is expected to pitch in one more rehab outing later this week. At that time, the Indians will reevaluate him and decide whether or not to take him off the disabled list.
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.