The feeling around Let's Go Tribe, and anywhere a group of Cleveland Indians congregate, has been pretty down lately -- and rightfully so. After a so-so West Coast trip, the Tribe returned to a watchable timezone and promptly died on live television against a division rival. They lost three games a row, and more importantly, the division lead, which led to everyone panicking, and me turning the LGT Twitter account into a Cricket account. But it really is not all bad for the Indians, and if you think it is then I do not think you are really paying attention.
So, in an effort to inject some optimism into the Indians fan base (and, to be honest, it was either this or cry myself to sleep, record it, and embed it into a post), let's take a look at all the things going quite okay for the tied-for-first-place-in-the-America-League-Central Indians.
Francisco Lindor is still playing baseball for the Indians
Sure, if Lindor wants to play baseball, the rules dictate he has to do it with the Indians, but do not be so quick to rule out him deciding he would rather take up plant photography and call it quits before baseball wears down his body for the next decade. But as it is, he is still here, we are still happy, and he is still amazing.
In the last week alone, playing through multiple time zones and around a bunch of grown baseball players who were probably tired and grumpy all the time, Lindor has held a solid .269/.355/.462 slash and only struck out in 12.9 percent of his at-bats. Oh, and he is still doing things like this on defense:
(Tip: To maintain your current state of happiness, do not look up what happened right before this spectacular play.)
The Indians are still five games above .500
Think back to just last year, and how damaging a three-game losing streak would have been to that Indians team. They were lucky to ever touch .500, let alone be above it for weeks at a time. Now we are in 2016, the year of the testicle shot, and a three-game losing streak to a division rival only means they are now tied for the division lead.
Admittedly, it is not fun having to share a lead with the Kansas City Royals, but this team is far from being dead in the water altogether.
Rajai Davis is better than Michael Bourn
No matter what happens, you can always (always) take solace in the fact that Rajai Davis is better than Michael Bourn. The Indians are still paying Bourn to not play for them, but based on how Rajai Davis has played this season, it is better that way.
Davis is currently right on the line of an average hitter at 100 wRC+, and he leads the Indians in stolen bases while being tied for fourth in home runs with seven. That is not a bad return on investment for $5.2 million.
The Indians finally get an off day
While the team itself will not make any excuses, there is no denying they looked exhausted in the series against the Royals. They came into it in the midst of a 20-game marathon that included a seven-game trip on the West Coast before immediately returning to Central Time to face the Royals.
The Tribe will be returning home on Friday to face another division rival, the Chicago White Sox, but first they get a well deserved day off. I assume they are spending it sleeping, relaxing, and reading their favorite Indians blog that rhymes with shmets shmo shmribe.
Another bonus of having an off day today is that Bryan Shaw will not pitch, so everyone's blood pressure can re-adjust for a day.
Danny Salazar is a legitimate Cy Young contender
Lost in Carlos Carrasco's hamstring injury and Corey Kluber's usual excellence is Danny Salazar, who has a 2.19 ERA, 3.15 FIP, and a team-leading 29.8 percent strikeout rate. Not to mention still one of the most stylish beards in the big leagues.
(Take a moment, dim the lights, play some quiet music and enjoy this marvel. You deserve it.)
No pitcher in the American League has a lower ERA or a higher strikeouts per nine innings than Salazar and only two starters -- Steven Wright and Jose Quintana -- have given up fewer home runs per nine innings. The Dzar is a monster, and he is quietly having a breakout season.
The one issue Danny has this season as walks, as he leads all AL starters with a 4.50 walks per nine, but if he can get that under control he is going to be something else entirely.
Forget about starting in the AL All-Star game (on second thought let's do that too), Salazar has a real shot at being this year's Cy Young winner.
There are holes on the Indians roster, but nothing insurmountable
You could probably name the number of teams of who have had perfect rosters in MLB history on one hand. Whether it's a hitter, a starting pitcher, or a member of the bullpen, someone on your favorite team's roster is going to be a weakness. On the Indians, there are a few notable holes -- bullpen, third base, and the outfield come to mind -- but nothing sticks out as anything that will completely sink the team.
Going by FanGraphs WAR, here is where the Indians rank at each position in MLB (out of 30).
- C: 26th
- 1B: 11th
- 2B: 9th
- SS: 4th
- 3B: 11th
- RF: 13th
- CF: 10th
- LF: 1st
- DH: 7th (out of 16)
- SP: 6th (1st in AL)
- BP: 24th
Jose Ramirez tips the scales at third base a bit, considering he has spent the majority of his time in left field, but he has been spectacular no matter where he plays this season, even if he did look a bit exhausted towards the end of this recent streak of games.
Even the Chicago Cubs, who are considered to infallible -- a roster crafted by the baseball Gods themslves led by their Sheppard, Joe Madden -- would kill for a good, everyday replacement for the injured Kyle Schwarber right now. Few rosters are perfect, and no perfect roster is guaranteed to win.
* * *
This post is far from me trying to guarantee an Indians World Series, but I thought coming into the season that they could at least be in the mix in October and I still firmly believe that. One bad series in Kansas City (literally a week after making that same team look pathetic) is not enough to sway that feeling.
Just breathe. Or at least learn some good Sri Lankan Cricket trivia.
Which Sri Lankan Cricket great has the highest career batting average?— Let's Go Tribe (@LetsGoTribe) June 16, 2016
(Hint: He's also a great wicket-keeper)