The Cleveland Indians are three-quarters of the way through the 2016 baseball season. With only 40 games left to play, the Tribe sit at 71-51 with a seven-game lead in the American League central. It feels like yesterday that I bought a brand new raincoat to watch the Indians take on the Chicago White Sox at the beginning of the season only to learn that the game had been postponed at the last possible moment. April 10th: more than four months ago.
Most Valuable Player: Still complicated.
Francisco Lindor snagged the award the first two times around, with Danny Salazar lurking close behind. Lindor isn't doing badly, but his slugging is a little but down from the first half. Also, Salazar struggled and eventually sat out a few starts with a sore elbow. We now instead look to Lindor's friends on the infield: Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez.
If you've been paying any attention at all, you'll know that Jose Ramirez has become Death, the destroyer of leads. Meanwhile, Jason Kipnis is having similar success, but in a much quieter fashion. No one in the national media has mentioned him at all this season, and even punks like me haven't given him his due up to this point. All Kipnis has managed to do this season is very casually rack up 4.3 WAR, 15th among all hitters and 3rd among 2nd baseman. He's channeling Tim Duncan: no flash, just solid performances every night.
Since the break, do the numbers bear out any difference in the two players? In fact, let's see if we can figure out which player is responsible for which stat line:
|1||Player 1||33||139||6||24||18||6||9.4 %||20.1 %||.220||.385||.333||.391||.553||.399||152||0.8||9.5||2.1||1.7|
|2||Player 2||33||139||5||25||17||10||7.9 %||9.4 %||.197||.355||.346||.396||.543||.399||152||3.0||11.7||-0.9||1.6|
It's unbelievable how similar the numbers are. The main difference comes into play on the basepaths, where Player 2 stole four more bases and appears to have a more aggressive approach overall. It should not surprise you to learn, then, that Player 2 is indeed Jose Ramirez, and Player 1 is Jason Kipnis. it doesn't seem fair to make a decision about this at all, but I'm going tip the scales in favor of Ramirez. He's relied on luck a little bit less to sustain those numbers.
Most Disappointing Player: Roberto Perez or anyone else who puts on the mask.
Nothing can be done to alleviate the catcher's position this year for the Indians. They remained patient with Gomes and sacrificed a chicken in his honor. He got hurt. They waited for Roberto Perez to return from his own injury, certain that the backstop's patience and underrated power would help him prevail. He's hitting .117. They tried to trade for Jonathan Lucroy, but he declined to complete the deal and went to Texas instead. Pretty much all you need to know is that Chris Gimenez is easily the most valuable catcher for the Indians since the second half.
I'm wondering if it's becoming the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching job. The Indians could go back in time and kidnap Johnny Bench and something terrible would still happen, whether an awful injury or dementors flooding the bleachers. There's some hope that Gomes may return for the playoffs, and that Roberto Perez might remember how to baseball, but it's probably time to just accept this sad fact: the Indians basically give up the advantage of having a DH with how poorly their catchers hit.
I do not wish to discuss Josh Tomlin at this time. The wounds are too fresh.
Most Exciting Player: Tyler Naquin
Last time around I listed Naquin as the biggest surprise on the season for the Indians. I think that still holds, although we have a little bit better idea of what to expect from the rookie:
Rock on, Tyler. Rock on.
Right now, Baequin is hitting .304/.367/.595 with a still-lofty .422 BABIP. We've joked all season long about how the regression seems to be taking it's time, as if it too wants Naquin to win rookie of the year. Also confounding Naquin's numbers is a 34.4 percent strikeout rate in the second half. At some point the numbers will begin to decline, but for now, who cares? It's been an incredible season for Naquin, and I'd like to see him hit a few more walk-offs.
Thing that I won't shut up about: Calling up Yandy Diaz.
I've crusaded for the kid on the podcast, I've yammered about him on Facebook Live, and I even wrote an entire feature about him. He's still hitting .321/.395/.450 in 300+ ABs with 80/80 defense at third and excellent play in the outfield. I don't particularly know what Michael Martinez is doing on the roster instead of him; Yandy can play shortstop and second base as well, like Jose Ramirez. To me, he's an obvious choice to replace Abraham Almonte on the 25-man playoff roster due to his versatility and continual dominance of Triple-A pitching. Somehow, I'm beginning to despair and think that it won't happen at all.
Best T-Shirt: Danny Salazar
Most Surprising Stat: Andrew Miller's WAR
We know that relievers typically don't rack up a ton of WAR the way that they are used today. Between LOOGYs and closers and set-up men, most only pitch an inning at a time. From that perspective, Andrew Miller's .1 fWAR for nine innings of work makes sense.
However, you can certainly feel the impact that a dominant reliever has on a game, and even on the rest of a bullpen. Andrew Miller's presence on the roster gives the pitching staff an entirely different feel; there's a bit of an extra swagger in having a truly elite arm to pair with Cody Allen for late-game heroics. Perhaps then his bWAR of .5 for nine innings of work is more reasonable.
I'm not even sure that WAR makes much sense for evaluating relievers in the first place, but I'm surprised to see such a difference between the two stathouses.
Worst Thing that can Possibly Happen: No one hits 30 dingerz
Mike Napoli sits at 29. Carlos Santana owns 26. Jason Kipnis might even sneak across the milestone, as he's hit 20. Imagine a nightmare scenario in which all three of those players — and why not Lindor, too? Let's say he goes on a spree — all finish with 29 home runs. The 30 dinger threshold cannot be passed. It is an unbreakable seal, an insurmountable challenge, an ineluctable curse.
Thing that I'm Still too Upset About to Properly Discuss: Michael Brantley
I can't believe your song is gone so soon. We'd barely learned the tune.