As the Cleveland Indians continue to win, potentially at a record-setting pace, it’s a good a time as ever to look back at some of the silly concerns fans had in the early months of the season. Because despite teams riding highs and lows every single year, the same thing happens every April: Dramatic overreactions.
The Indians were coming off a World Series run and an offseason that saw them add the best hitter available, but that didn’t stop anyone from freaking out a little bit over every little thing. Some of the reactions made sense — even I got a little worried and thought the team flat-out sucked for a few weeks — but perspective is always important. A bad Indians team in June does not mean that same team will be bad in September, October, or beyond. Baseball is weird and constantly shifting.
In the interest of perspective, I asked everyone on Twitter what their favorite worry was that looks bad in retrospect. Here are some answers, as well as my own observations.
Corey Kluber is done
Depth of rotation— Nick Juskewycz (@NickJuskewycz) September 10, 2017
This list isn’t necessarily in chronological order, but if it were this would still be first. This would also fall into the sub-category of being something that was realistically concerning.
Corey Kluber was phenomenal in the 2016 postseason, but he was pretty rough coming out of the gate in 2017. A series of nagging injuries plagued his first month of the season, leading to an inflated 5.06 ERA and sky-high (by Kluber standards) 8.2 percent walk rate through his first six starts. In typical Kluber fashion, even in his awful month, he still had a complete game shutout of the Chicago White Sox.
Other than that, though, the beginning of the season was rough for the Klubot and he eventually went on the disabled list, returning a month later as a brand new pitcher.
Since June 1, he has looked like the best pitcher in baseball, boasting a 2.17 ERA, 2.18 FIP, and over a dozen strikeouts per nine innings. He still might not win the American League Cy Young because Chris Sale is amazing* and didn’t miss a month of the season, but it’ll be damn close.
*against everyone but the Indians.
Francisco Lindor can’t play defense
This is another one from very early in the season and it was a weird one. Francisco Lindor was always a glove-first prospect coming up, and even when his bat lit on fire in the majors he has still looked like an otherworldly fielder at shortstop. But he struggled early on this season.
Lindor’s defense isn’t quite as good as it was last season by advanced metrics, make no mistake, but the dude is still one of the best. And he’s certainly not as bad as the early-season hysteria would have had you believe.
Francisco Lindor is hitting the ball too high
Lindor swinging from the fences as his average tanked. I didn't think he was an All Star. Not silly at time, but glad he turned it around.— Travis (@Travis_Hoffman1) September 10, 2017
I won’t claim to be above all of these silly fears, but I was never worried about Lindor’s new approach at the plate, which involves a lot of balls hit really high in the air.
Lindor started the year hitting the ball at a higher launch angle than ever before, enough so that it was pretty obvious he made a change in his swing. I wrote about it, and seemingly everyone around baseball agreed that he was a better hitter with the ball elevated.
Then he hit a slump and suddenly the approach sucked. Wait a minute, that’s not how it works. If you believed that Lindor hitting the ball at a higher angle was good when it worked, it doesn’t suddenly become a bad strategy because he struggled with it for a month. His BABIP plummeted as he failed to hit the ball out of the park through June and into the July. But lo and behold, he eventually found his power stroke again and the higher launch angle is good again. Truth is, it’s always been a good approach, and he’s going to hit 30 home runs because of it.
But he’s still not a power hitter.
Babies ruin everything
The entire team having babies— Megan Coughlin (@MeganCogs) September 10, 2017
This is one of my favorites because it’s so weird.
The Indians won the American League Championship on October 19, 2017. Starting in June, approximately eight months after, Indians players began to have babies en masse. Michael Brantley started the flood, then Cody Allen followed six days later. Carlos Santana came next, with Lonnie Chisenhall and Dan Otero following in August.
That’s a lot of key players missing throughout the season, and it led to some worry. Luckily, it didn’t really matter and if you tweeted angry things at any of the players or their wives because they brought a life into the world you are a terrible person. Congrats.
The Royals are too good
It’s August 1 and the Royals are two games back and bought at the deadline, the Indians are doooOoooOooOoomed!
The Twins are too good
It’s June 25 and the Twins are leading the AL Central, the Indians are doooOoOOoooOmed!
The Tigers are too good
The season hasn’t started yet, but the Tigers are built to win this year, the Indians are doooOoooOooOm!
The White Sox are too good
It’s April 28 and I don’t understand how baseball works, the Indians are doooooOoOoOoOOmed!
Bryan Shaw still sucks
Bryan Shaw— Bob Majoras (@bmajoras) September 10, 2017
For some Indians fans, it doesn’t matter what Bryan Shaw does, he’s always going to be hated. It’s completely unfair to him, and to yourself if you’re ignoring a really good reliever like Shaw. It’s gotten to the point where Shaw is aware of the Twitter hate, and understandably, he’s not a fan of it, as he told The Athletic earlier this year.
Like every year, he was never that bad over any given stretch. He was rough in July and August, but he has a 3.19 ERA on the season and a career-low 3.40 FIP.
One of the best things to come out all the hate, and The Athletic post, was the mass of people coming out to show support for Shaw, as a baseball player and as a person.
The Indians are nothing without Rajai Davis
Lack of a Rajai Davis-level base-stealer would lead to a decrease in offensive production.— Collin Jones (@CollinJones) September 10, 2017
I’ll admit I sort of bought into this one. Not that they needed Rajai Davis to win a World Series, but that they would miss him dearly. He stole a lot of third bases when he didn’t need to, but he also helped his teammates get better at swiping second.
Turns out, the Indians had an even faster player in Bradley Zimmer, and they don’t need Rajai’s stolen bases when they hit a bunch of dingers.
The Indians are nothing without Mike Napoli
Its obviously that this team doesnt care because they dont have napoli— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) September 10, 2017
This one was silly from the beginning. Mike Napoli disappeared down the stretch last year, and the notion that the Indians couldn’t possibly have clubhouse chemistry without him never held water.
It definitely didn’t look like the Indians were a very cohesive clubhouse when they were losing in June, but they are one of the most-fun teams in the league right now. Wonder if there is some kind of correlation?
Jose Ramirez was a fluke
Ramirez season last year was a fluke— Matt Weisgarber (@FakeMWeisgarber) September 10, 2017
Jose Ramirez came out of nowhere to put up a 4.7-win season last year, there’s no way he can replicate this year. What’s that? In 2017, he’s already surpassed his WAR total, double his home runs, increased his walks, played at multiple positions at a Gold Glove level, and is doing it all with a very sustainable .310 BABIP? Oh, alright then.
Edwin Encarnacion left his magic in Canada
I always said the early season Edwin is bad, but a piece of me thought he might be washed. He's been great since the middle of May— Mike LaPenta (@MikeLaPenta) September 10, 2017
I wasn't really sure how well the fruit loop hot dog would be received but it seems to be selling well.— HingleMcCringleberry (@j_americo_bet) September 11, 2017
encarnancion falling off a cliff after signing a big deal— David Osborne (@PiecesOfJunkin) September 10, 2017
Hey remember all those times professional journalists, random people on Twitter, and I were telling you that Edwin Encarnacion has always been a slow starter and maybe you shouldn’t worry about it? You should’ve listened.
Edwin was slashing .200/.343/.353 in April, just months after signing one of the biggest deals in Indians history. Clearly he’s done. Let’s just ignore the fact that he has a career 102 wRC+ in April, yet holds a 126 wRC+ overall in his career. Nothing to see here.
Of course Edwin went off in the middle months of the season, and he hasn’t slowed down much. He’s currently third on the Indians with a 130 wRC+ and leads with 34 home runs and a 15.8 percent walk rate. Even when he wasn’t hitting for power he was drawing walks and providing value to his new team — that alone is encouraging for the next three years.
Don’t bring that evil in here
Michael Martinez would be on this roster— nick (@nick_skolmutch) September 10, 2017
There’s still time.