Cleveland’s Slow Start is a Bummer but Not Cause for Panic
After the end of one month of baseball, the Indians sit in the cellar of the American League Central division with an abysmal record of 11-17. They lead all of baseball in errors and are 21st in ERA, 22nd in opponent batting average, 25th in team batting average and 27th in the team slugging percentage category. They have scored more than three runs in just one of their last 10 games, and totaled just 13 runs on their most recent road trip, while their opponents totaled 33. Their starting pitchers only have 8 quality starts between them; less than a third of the games they have played.
Yet the Indians should not be counted out yet by any means. This is a team that had two winning streaks of at least eight games last season, including winning their final ten games to end the season. This team can get cold at times, but when we’ve seen them get hot, they’ve all gotten hot together. Despite losing the last six games, there have been some good signs in recent games. I’d like to point out a few of them for those who are panicking.
1. Danny Salazar had a great outing
In Danny Salazar’s last outing, he allowed just one run over seven innings while striking out eight batters. It was his longest outing of the year, and showed us a glimpse of what we saw from the young fireballer last season. It is important to consider the fact that Danny Salazar didn’t really have a chance to get stretched out in Spring Training. He started late and didn’t get in nearly as many games as the average pitcher. I’m confident that outings like this will start to become the norm for him, rather than the four-inning starter he looked like in his first few outings.
2. Carlos Carrasco has finally been moved to the bullpen
This move could not have come soon enough. Carrasco has struggled this year in the rotation, going 0-3 with an ERA of 6.95. He hasn’t proven that he has the confidence to succeed as a starter at the big league level, though I will say he has the tools to do it. However, he had a sterling 1.32 ERA out of the bullpen last year down the stretch. The Indians’ bullpen hasn’t been struggling, but I’d rather see Carrasco in the bullpen over C.C. Lee on a contending team. He’s been good in the bullpen and floundering as a starter, so the choice seems pretty clear-cut. That being said…
3. Trevor Bauer has been killing it in Columbus
So far, Trevor Bauer has looked every bit like the piece we expected to receive in the Shin-Soo Choo trade last year. Between the majors and the minors this year, he has an impressive 1.44 ERA across 31.2 innings, compiling 38 strikeouts against just 9 walks. All five starts he’s made have been quality starts. The kid has looked good. Carlos Carrasco’s demotion to the bullpen might pave the way for Bauer to join the big league pitching staff, and boy could we use some quality innings.
4. Carlos Santana has started to bounce back
Being squeezed out of his old position by Brazilian Marble Statue Yan Gomes appears to have done a number on Santana’s confidence early in the season. But after a stretch in which he went 4-for-60, the Tribe’s starting third baseman homered in back to back games and seems to be on track for a rebound, if not a hot streak. We’ve all seen how dangerous Carlos Santana can be when he’s hitting well. Now that he’s gotten some confidence back, we’re much more likely to see the old version of him at the plate. The effects of this will be magnified with him hitting out of the cleanup spot.
5. Michael Bourn has put his slow start behind him
After looking like a chump through his first few games, Michael Bourn has begun to silence all the haters, bumping his average up to .263 on the year. He’s added a pair of triples as well, both coming on the recent road trip. He’s been aggressive on the basepaths and looks to be getting it in gear at the top of the lineup. He needs to keep this up and be the table-setter the Indians have wanted him to be since signing him last offseason.
The Indians are coming off a six-game losing streak, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the race. Look for them to heat up soon and start playing like the team we expected to see at the beginning of the season.