The Indians outfield continues to decrepify.
A mysterious malady has struck the latest addition to the team in Leonys Martin, Lonnie Chisenhall’s calves are made of mist and wishes apparently, and both Tyler Naquin and Bradley Zimmer suffer from various cases of fall-apart. It seems like center field in particular is cursed in some way, but the evil magic evidently drifts to right field occasionally as well. It’s strange that only Michael Brantley is the one unaffected, but that’s a mystery for another day. This curse or whatever it is needs breaking. The Indians also need an outfield bat. Only one man can do both.
Understand that I am an avid Conan the Barbarian fan. The works of Robert E. Howard, anachronistic and problematic as they are, wondrously depict the stories of a monster of a man who deals with trickery and mysticism with the point of a blade. As much Conan hates magic, he deals with it without fear, brutalizing his way through wizards, mages, illusionists and any manner of supernatural beings with sheer might. If there is a curse that looms over the Cleveland Indians outfield, who better than their mightiest man to brush off the spellcaster’s wicked powers and free his teammates from their ailments? It only makes sense. Plus he’s so big he could carry Jose Ramirez on his shoulder and have double power or something. You know, like Master Blaster in Beyond the Thunderdome.
So he’s got the chops — or at least steely thews, to take a bit from Mr. Howard — to help stop any evil wizard that may be bedeviling the team, if they Indians are bold enough to stick him in the outfield. But while he’s in the outfield, why can’t he play baseball for the Indians? It’s a novel idea that the team just seems resistant to. He’s been in the majors enough to compile 193 at-bats over two years, and shown us every bit of who he is at the plate. He hits the ball very hard, evidenced by his being 14th in baseball in average exit velocity the last two years. He also hits the ball on the ground, evidenced by the 57.8 percent ground ball rate the last two years. That’s basically the same as Dee Gordon, a man decidedly the opposite of Diaz. Last year he walked a lot (11.7 percent walk rate) and didn’t hit for power, posting a .679 OPS despite being the size of a split-level. This year in a very small sample he hit .500 and didn’t walk once. He is ever under the influence of the BABIP gods because of his love of grounders.
So this is what we live with when it comes to Yandy. Yes, we all want him to embrace the teachings of the Launch Angle Revolution and turn those sizzlers through the infield into bombs to John Adams’ drum. Maybe he will do that some day. He did have a much lower 46.2 percent ground ball rate in his cup of coffee this year, 13 points lower than a year ago. Yes, his fly ball rate did fall three points at the same time, thanks for asking. So it’s probably noise and mostly nothing.
But right now, outside of Brantley the Indians have exactly that in right field — nothing. Well, Melky Cabrera is there most nights, and he’s at least an adventure of a defender in right. Which helps tie in with my whole Conan theme — every swords-and-sorcery hero needs a sidekick too. But seriously, if the decision is Melky or Yandy, where is the argument for Cabrera? He’s no worse a defender than Diaz would be in right, maybe worse. Diaz at least has a hypercannon of an arm and the athleticism of an infielder. Considering who the Tribe has rolled out as a right fielder this season there’s literally nothing that could go worse for them. Plus he’s tall as hell, he could rob some home runs at that low fence.
The Indains in recent years have used novel ideas to fix the outfield situation. Kipnis in center. Santana in left in the World Series. Now Brandon Guyer might play center field. The fact that it’s not a surprising development is a testament to the black hole the outfield has been for the Indians this year.
Do I want Diaz to just be on the team no matter what? Of course. I think he could be a contributor and he’s cool. He has a great eye and hits the ball hard. He’s two-thirds of a great hitter in that respect. The Indians have a lot of flawed hitters on the team right now as it is, and a few guys who are having simply bad offensive seasons. Diaz can’t be any worse, and if luck is on his side for a few weeks he could very definitely have a huge October if it happened at the right time.
This curse must be lifted. Craft and wiles could help both that and in the Indians’ quest for victory. But so can the might of a man’s arms. They have that lurking, and they have a place on the field for him to play now, even if it’s not a natural fit. He surely wants to play in the majors. It’s not like there’s any drama in the season as it is, why not give it a whirl?