The Cleveland Indians finally played a baseball game yesterday. It was not the kind of baseball game Indians fans wanted to see, and I'm guessing it is not the type of game the players wanted to play either, but it still happened. While it is far too early to make any sweeping generalizations about the 2016 squad, we can still make some assumptions based on our first impressions.
After all, first impressions are important. You can say you do not judge a book by its cover all you want, but first impressions often determine whether you land or don't land that big job, or whether or not your new girlfriend's parents are going to resent you for the next several decades.
So, what first impressions can we observe from the first Indians game of the 2016 season?
Everyone hates Collin Cowgill
Poor Collin Cowgill. There is no way that he should be on Opening Day roster, but injuries to an already-depleted Indians outfield thrust him into the role, anyway. Considering how bad every outfielder was yesterday (0-9, 8K combined), Cowgill really did not do any worse than anyone else with his 0-for-2, two strikeout night, but he caught the brunt of the heat from Twitter fans anyway.
Cowgill is just an easy target -- he is only playing right now because Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall are both on the disabled list, and he will probably be the first to go when one of them comes back. Who knows, maybe he plays well enough to make the decision a little more difficult, but the first impression of him for 2016 was not a good one.
Trevor Bauer still looks like Trevor Bauer
All Trevor Bauer needed to do yesterday was come in, pitch for an inning, and stay out of the headlines. Instead, he came in and walked a batter then immediately surrendered a two-run home run to David Ortiz. Hopefully, some more time in the bullpen will do some good, and he will never allow an earned again in his entire playing career, but that was not the case in the Indians' opener.
Mike Napoli's value may not always show up in the box score
Yesterday's performance is exactly what I was hoping for out of Napoli. That may sound strange considering all he did was go 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts. Okay, maybe that is not an ideal outing, but he did a lot of things really well.
For one, he was already an obvious improvement over Carlos Santana at first base. He made a risky move in the sixth inning that panned out when he threw to second to get a running Brock Holt out instead of tagging up the hitter at first base.
More importantly, he made the opposing starting pitcher, David Price, work for nearly every out. Napoli saw a total of 26 pitches on Opening Day, including a fourth inning, 11-pitch at-bat that wore down Price and led to the Indians' only runs scored of the game. Napoli's long at-bats are not going to result in a strikeout 75% of the time over a whole season; a lot of those are going to wind being walks or crucial hits. But, either way, his value will not always be apparent when you glance at the box score, but it will definitely be there.
This team might still struggle against lefties
This may just be something we have to admit going forward. Granted, lefties do not get much better than Price, but this should be the Indians' optimal lineup against left-handed pitchers and it got eviscerated.
We will see how it plays out when Michael Brantley returns, but there is really no other help coming specifically to face lefties. The Indians just have to hope some splits do not get too dramatic. And maybe hope that Jason Kipnis outperforms his career .247/.310/.352 slash against left-handed pitchers this season. Hope.
Francisco Lindor is still awesome
Offseason? What offseason? Frankie picked up yesterday right where he left off in 2015, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and playing excellent defense (he and Santana were also the only two players not to strikeout). At the very least, everyone can wait another day before they start yelling "SOPHOMORE SLUMP!!! OMG!!!"
Indians fans need to step back and take a deep breath
Just... breathe. These past two days have been frustrating -- first the postponement on Monday and now the loss yesterday -- but that is no reason to suddenly jump ship on this team after one game against a Cy Young-caliber pitcher. This is still a very talented Indians team with one of the best starting rotations in the league. The first couple weeks without Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall are going to be tough, make no mistake about it, but this is a team built to compete.
The Indians should just use the white on red jerseys and kill off the cream
I have said it on Twitter a lot, but I do not believe I've ever said in a post so here you go -- death to the cream jerseys. They are garbage and look horrible. They look like each player was lightly dipped in urine and rolled around in dirt before the game. The white jerseys with the red underneath are superior in every way. Wear them. Kill the cream.