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Second Thoughts: Indians continue to lack consistency

Second Thoughts: Indians continue to lack consistency
Jason Kipnis and the lineup have had their ups and downs this season. (Photo: AP)
August 19, 2014
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Consistency Nowhere to be Found

Inconsistency is the only thing that’s been consistent with the Indians this season.

Their latest feat has been the offense’s struggles to back a starting pitching staff that has pitched well of late. It wasn’t much more than a week ago where the big question was where the team was going to find starters to complement Corey Kluber. Then they had great starts from Trevor BauerJosh Tomlin,Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco and Kluber twice.

In those seven starts the team went 5-2, but you can’t help but feel that an opportunity was still missed. You certainly can’t win every game, no matter how good your starting pitcher performs, but after a season of struggling through less than quality starts it’s disappointing to see the team lose the two games in the manner in which they did. There’s certainly good news to be had here, with Carlos Carrasco looking outstanding in his two starts back in the rotation. Danny Salazar has been more good than bad since the All-Star break and Trevor Bauer is coming off the best start of his career. Setting the playoff race aside for a brief moment, if those three can keep pitching well the Indians future gets much brighter.

For the present, the Indians might have finally found a five man rotation that can lead them to wins. What they can’t have happen at the same time is for the offense to bottom out. Carlos SantanaLonnie Chisenhall, and Chris Dickerson have struggled mightily in the month of August. Mike AvilesJason Kipnis, and Ryan Raburn have continued their year-long struggles. Nick Swisher and David Murphy are hurt. Recent call-ups Jose Ramirez andZach Walters have helped in spots, but more is needed.

Right now the Indians are getting consistent offensive production from two players, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes. Past those two and Carlos Santana, it’s hard to see where the production is going to come from. There are players that might be able to help in Columbus, but that’s a gamble, and one the team doesn’t appear to be inclined to make until the rosters expand in September. That leaves the current group with the large task of cutting down its deficit in the Wild Card and Division standings over the next two weeks.

I can’t help but feel the team might have missed an opportunity to be proactive when it comes to trying to spark the offense. I understand the reasoning for sending down Tyler Holt last week, but I don’t agree with it. Not at this point in this season. It’s clear, at least to me, that Chris Dickerson’s usefulness has run its course. In addition, Ryan Raburn’s usefulness ran its course months ago. Yet, those two are still on the team and at least one of them will find themselves in the lineup every day, depending on the matchup. While Holt might not be a great option against right handed pitching, and isn’t anywhere close to a high-impact offensive player, he did provide a spark when he was here. The team needs that spark now, not two weeks from now. 

The team should be exhausting all internal possibilities for jump-starting the offense, versus simply playing out the string on non-impact veterans such as Dickerson and Raburn.

Schedule Notes

The Indians begin a nine game stretch against Minnesota, Houston, and Chicago today. These are the same teams that they went 10-0 against to close last season. They need that same kind of stretch this year. If they don’t pick up a couple of games on their playoff competitors during these series', then their season is going to be on life support. This is one of the last remaining opportunities for the team to get on a run, and it’s essential that they don’t waste it like they have so many other times this year.

There is another stretch in mid-September with seven games against Minnesota and Houston, but that’s following a series against Kansas City and Detroit (twice) that could knock the team out of contention officially. The good news is that the team is entering this stretch on a high note. The offense’s woes aside, they’re 9-6 in August and the pitching staff could finally be able to string together quality starts. I don’t think taking seven of the next nine games is out of the realm of possibility if the pitchers continue to pitch well.

Even so, they’re still going to need a strong finish in September and the schedule is going to be tougher than it was this month, or last September. With Kansas City playing as well as they are right now, those seven games in September against Detroit could hold serious Wild Card implications. The team needs to beat up on the teams they’re supposed to AND win some of the remaining series against Kansas City and Detroit. It’s a tough task for sure, but this is still a team that won 20 games last September and has nine walk-off wins this year. I’m not going to count them out until they’re actually out.

User Comments

August 20, 2014 - 8:14 PM EDT
POK- I don't know if you remember the guy 2 yrs ago who was acquired from TB having lit up Triple A pitching, Russ Canzler. The first thing Francona said about him in camp was "The ball really jumps off his bat". Walters reminds me a lot of Canzler - size, build, the ability to play many positions but none of them well, and of course how the ball jumps off his bat. Problem is the bat speed is mediocre and the pitch recognition is poor which of course is a bad combination against Major League pitching. Will he get better? Hope so, but don't know. Canzler hasn't.
August 20, 2014 - 1:24 PM EDT
Yes, these next eight games w sub-.500 teams are super important, and also (obviously) the games with KC and Det. This imo is pretty much where we will either sink or swim re a wildcard spot. If we're even 5-6 games out of the WC on September 5th then it is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make the playoffs.

In regards to Holt, he's doing better than anyone would have thought this year, but I agree with Norm that expecting a rookie to come in and light it up is a little silly. That said, he and Walters are players. Boy, the ball just jumps off of Walters' bat. I mean when he makes contact, it really rockets off of that!
August 20, 2014 - 6:53 AM EDT
Coming back to win after being down 5-0 with nobody out in the first inning against a quality pitcher was huge. This win could be the turning point in the season. The Tribe has now won 6-of-8. They have a chance to make up some ground in the next eight games before facing KC and Detroit. They can't let down now.

The kids came through last night with Holt and Walters each driving in two runs with clutch hits. Even Bourn got into the act with two hits, although he made two baserunning blunders.
August 19, 2014 - 11:55 PM EDT
It is a surprise to me that any Indian follower would believe that the roster or potential organizational candidates would be consistent ML players. There are few healthy highly paid veterans with a consistent track record. Even the more highly paid emerging players are a mixed bag. While the optimist might expect our minor league prospects to light up the majors immediately, it usually does not happen that way. Experience and time at the ML level create the consistency and even then players are subject to good and bad years. Expecting every year to be a career year is not realistic, particularly with the overall talent level of this team. This team is performing pretty well for one that has lost its top three pitchers from a year ago to FA or trade. Even though I would like to see some of the minor changes that others would like to make, that is not going to make the Indians "more consistent" winners. The implication that posters on this site know more about managing the Indians than Francona is pretty silly if you think about it. Criticizing his predecessor may have been more realistic in that regard.
August 19, 2014 - 8:12 PM EDT
Hitting is bad. And yet again we have kipnis ahead of gomes? Just dumb.
August 19, 2014 - 5:57 PM EDT
Does anyone know if insurance pays the salaries of players while they're on the DL? Eg, with Swisher having missed this time so far and possibly the rest of the year, does the salary he makes while on the DL get paid by insurance or by the Dolans? Although the Tribe obviously has to pay to have the insurance coverage in the first place, they nonetheless might save a fair chunk of change if Swisher's salary is being paid through insurance while he's on the DL (and same with Bourn's while he was out, etc). Is it reasonable to think those savings could be added to the pot of savings from the Masterson trade to provide some more payroll flexibility for next year? We're talking upwards of $10 million in savings among those 3 if Swisher/Bourn's salaries are paid through insurance while they were injured.
August 19, 2014 - 1:13 PM EDT
In our next nine games we face three lefties, if the schedule holds, and one of those is John Danks. So we have a decent shot at putting up a good result over those games if we catch a breakonour offense and with continued good pitching. As far as the lineup goes I agree completely on Holt versus Rayburn, or even Dickerson. As far as the rest of the lineup goes though we are pretty set and it really is up to the players. If Kip is still hurt I wish he'd say so and let someone else play, and I very much hope we can give others some playing time at third, where Chiz has been an offensive sink hole ever since the break. But other than there, we look settled and our offense just needs a little spark.

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