Look, I get it. The Cavaliers looked like winners from the beginning of the NBA season, and the Cleveland Indians were not great last year. Maybe you did not follow the Tribe this year because you were focused solely on the Cavs, or maybe you just have not been that interested in Cleveland sports before watching the entire city erupt at the sight of a championship.
I'm not here to judge. No matter what excuse you have for not following the Indians, now is your time to catch up -- and this post is here to help.
Unlike last season, the Indians have had no trouble getting to -- and staying above -- .500. Once they reached that mark, they have not turned back, and now they sit nine games above .500 with a one-game lead over the second-place Kansas City Royals.
So, while I expect many of you will keep celebrating the Cavs win for the next several weeks (as you should), if you chose to start following the Indians soon, here are some universal truths you should know to be up to speed, as well as some links to more reading if you want to go in-depth:
You love Francisco Lindor
Let's just start off with the easy one: You love Francisco Lindor. I don't care if you have never watched baseball before, if you have never rooted for the Indians before, or if you cannot even read and you are currently staring confused at a bunch of symbols you unable to interpret. The fact of the matter is, you love Francisco Lindor.
Since he debuted last June, Francisco Lindor (or "Frankie" if you really want) has been one of the best players in the entire league, going by FanGraphs WAR. His defense has always been a strong point, but his offense came out of nowhere last year and it has carried over 2016. If you followed Lindor last season and are coming into 2016 late and worried about a Sophomore slump -- don't. He is still great, offensively.
The only thing about Lindor's game that has taken a minor dip is power, but we are talking .016 points off his slugging percentage. He is getting on base at an even better clip than last year (.375 OBP in 2016, .353 OBP in 2015), and his BABIP has actually gone down.
As for defense... well, I could not pick just one. So here is a playlist of Francisco Lindor highlights. Just watch it.
- Francisco Lindor had the worst of his career at the plate and you didn't even notice
- Francisco Lindor's first year with the Cleveland Indians was historically good
- The Ballad of Francisco Lindor
Corey Kluber struggles early in games, but he usually turns it around
This may be especially jarring if you did not watch the Indians last season at all. Just be warned, 2016 Corey Kluber is not quite 2014 Cy Young-winning Corey Kluber. He is still very good, but not every game is a masterpiece.
Corey Kluber has had a pretty consistent problem getting off to good starts in games this season. Opposing batters are averaging .400 off his fourseam fastball in the first inning, .294 against his sinker, and .286 off his cutter, according to Brook's Baseball. Nothing really works early on for Kluber. Sometimes he will work out his issues and turn the start into a dominant, vintage Klubot outing, though.
One such example came on May 20 against the Boston Red Sox when he allowed four hits and two earned runs in the first two innings before going on to throw one-hit ball over the next five innings. Or on May 3 against the Detroit Tigers when he allowed two hits and issued two walks in two innings -- he then allowed three hits and struck out seven over the final seven innings in his first complete game of the season.
Other times, it is just a bad outing, such as his most recent start when he allowed eight earned runs in five innings, or on May 9 when he allowed five runs in just 2.2 innings.
Either way, if Kluber is having a rough day in the first two innings, just hold off on your Twitter hot takes. Because if you turn out to be wrong, and Kluber turns out to have a great day, we will find you. And we will mock you.
- Corey Kluber may have some mechanical issues to work out
- Corey Kluber magnificent as the Cleveland Indians beat Detroit Tigers, 4-0
Trevor Bauer is good now
No, really. This post is about #facts, not just trolling you with random things that are not actually true. I promise -- Trevor Bauer has been really good this season. The 25-year-old starter currently carries a 3.46 ERA and a 3.52 FIP in time split between a reliever and a starter.
You heard that right, Trevor Bauer was in the bullpen. He started the season there after losing the starting job out of spring training to Cody Anderson, but Anderson was a trainwreck and Carlos Carrasco got injured, opening the door for Bauer.
The Indians also went out and traded to bring back Chris Gimenez, who has been a personal catcher for Bauer. Gimenez's influence, plus all the offseason work Trevor put in with Driveline Baseball, has him on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career. He currently has a career-high groundball rate, a career-low home run rate, a career-low walk rate, and one of the best strikeout rates of his young career. Good things are coming for Trevor Bauer, and you are here just in time to witness it. Lucky you.
There's a Party at Napoli's and everyone is invited
One fun thing this season has been Mike Napoli. In particular, Twitter user @HipsterTito invented a new slogan that has caught on like wildfire: Party at Napoli's.
PARTY AT NAPOLI'S#TribeLive @Indians @MikeNapoli25 pic.twitter.com/TzczYtZTW1— HIPSTER TITO (@HipsterTito) April 20, 2016
Fans, players, and everyone around Progressive Field has taken to the slogan as a celebration every time the Indians do something good, especially a home run off the bat of Napoli.
On a semi-related note, Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis have both been pretty good for the Indians this season. Napoli is striking out a ton (35.4 K%), but he has a team-leading 15 home runs this season, and he has had a couple hot streaks when the team needed them most. Rajai Davis, on the other hand, leads the American League in steals with 21, he is slashing .264/.332/.418 (105 wRC+), and he has been playing solid defense in center field and left field or wherever he has been needed.
Especially lately, Davis has been extremely hot. Literally
The mitt isn't to protect him from other people, it's to protect other people from him. https://t.co/TfAFtnpPgK— Let's Go Tribe (@LetsGoTribe) June 21, 2016
Michael Brantley is still injured, but it hasn't made a huge difference
Remember at the end of last season, when Michael Brantley had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder? Yeah, he still has not recovered from that. He came back briefly in early May, but he was not very good and he went right back on the disabled list after only a couple weeks.
The Indians have been very cagey with any kind of information about Brantley's recovery, but there have been reports that they are concerned about him being out a very long time. Of course, we will not hear a word of that from the front office until after the trade deadline.
Luckily, Jose Ramirez (more on him in a minute) has been great filling in at right field, while Tyler Naquin has filled in nicely in center field. Having a fully healthy Brantley would be a huge benefit to the Tribe, of course, but they have coped extremely well without him.
- Michael Brantley receives anti-inflammatory shot in shoulder, no timetable for return
- Indians reportedly concerned that Michael Brantley could miss "significant" time
- How the Cleveland Indians offense managed to stay afloat without Michael Brantley
You love Jose Ramirez
Just believe me, you do. This is not the same guy that was doing nothing but taking up space at shortstop while Francisco Lindor waited in the minors last season. Jose Ramirez is one of the best hitters on the Indians right now, and he has a legitimate case to be an All-Star.
One of the most fun things about the season has been seeing Ramirez fly around the bases and have his helmet fly off. We even commemorated it with a shirt. Also, his nickname is Angry Hamster, nothing else.
Bryan Shaw will give you heart palpitations
Last season, if you were overly harsh on Bryan Shaw you were probably wrong. Not this season. This season, Bryan Shaw is giving up way too home runs and way too many walks. Regardless, Terry Francona is riding him straight into the ground, or until his arm falls. Shaw has pitched in 28 innings this season (33 games), allowing 16 earned runs and seven home runs in that time.
Occasionally he will have a total shutdown performance, such as last night. It's a temporary redemption of Shaw, if you will.
As requested. pic.twitter.com/RqjYAOXl2g— Let's Go Tribe (@LetsGoTribe) June 21, 2016
At the heart of Shaw's problem is getting behind batters far too often. Shaw has faced 359 batters this season, he has been behind (1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1 counts) in 136 of those. That's not great.
The Indians are in first place, they are really good, you can be optimistic
This is the most important one. You may be hesitant to say that the Indians can win it all, but with what the city of Cleveland just witnessed with the Cavs, the negativity should be gone. The Indians are a legitimate threat to the rest of the American League right now, even without one of their best offensive players. At the very least, the Indians will be competing for a Wild Card spot until the last day of the season, if they do not have the AL Central clinched by then.
This team is real, this team is fun. Watch and be excited.