27 Games Later

Now that's more like it!

The third set of 27 games saw our beloved Indians play more like the team many of us expected them to be in 2019. They reached the 15 game plateau on June 23rd with 4 games remaining in the set and finished off the set with a record of 17-10 and to be honest they probably left a win or two on the table. Overall though this has been a very pleasant set of games for the Indians and was a great way to kick off summer! The team fell as far back as 11.5 games behind the Twins but rebounded nicely, didn't lose a series after June 2nd and find themselves closing in on both the top wild card spot and the Minnesota Twins.

This set of games wasn't without trouble though. Carlos Carrasco has fallen ill and while we did get some good news recently that his condition is not fatal he's probably still a long way off from returning to the rotation. Mike Clevinger was able to come back much earlier than expected, YAH!, but was immediately placed back on the injured list due to a bad ankle, BOO! Corey Kluber got good news but still seems like he's months away from returning. Jose Ramirez continues to wander the desert trying to find his way out of one of the longest most bizarre slumps I've ever seen and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. I know there is still a couple days left in June but Jose has somehow managed to be almost as bad in June, wRC+ of 64 as he was in April, wRC+ of 47, which is mind boggling. A guy many of us believed would be an MVP candidate in 2019 has been a replacement level player. Hopefully he'll get it together after the All Star break.


Carlos Santana - Has there been a better story on the 2019 Indians than the return of Carlos Santana to Cleveland? Santana is having a renaissance type season in 2019 and I for one couldn't be happier that he's back with the Ribe. Santana has always been a good hitter but he's been even better in 2019. He's likely going to blow away his preseason projections even if he regresses a bit in the second half and has easily been the Indians MVP for the first half of the season. He leads the team in wRC+, HR, walk rate and fWAR. He's also the only Indians starting in the All Star Game. Things could not have worked out much better for Carlos Santana and the Indians in 2019.

Roberto Perez - The move by CLEFO to promote Bebo to the starting catching role was widely panned over the winter. We had an All Star catcher what did Perez do to deserve the promotion? Those criticisms look silly now. Perez is among the leaders among all catchers in fWAR , wRC+, HR and is one of the best game mangers and defensive catchers in baseball to boot. Yan Gomes who?

Oscar Mercado - Oscar has been a pleasant surprise since being called up. His projections at the start of 2019 were rather uninspiring but he has basically blown them out of the water. He's basically held down the #2 spot in the line up since very shortly after being called up and has done a nice job defensively, on the base paths and especially at the plate. His wRC+ of 113 is roughly 40 points higher than what many thought we could expect from Mercado at the plate this year. Now if we could just get him to stop bunting that would be great.

The Bullpen - The bullpen has started leaking some oil here in the last week but that doesn't take away from what they've already been able to accomplish in 2019. The Indians relief corp has the 3rd lowest ERA in all of baseball, the 6th best FIP and the 7th best fWAR. For a group of players that many expected to be absolutely dreadful in 2019 this group of guys is a big reason why Indians are 10 games under .500 right now. Hopefully this little slide there on right now will be cured by a couple days off during the All Star Break.

About what we expected

Francisco Lindor - Lindor scuffled a bit in the middle of June but came back strong over the final 10 days and ended the month of June with a wRC+ of 123 which is down ever so slightly from May when he put up a wRC+ of 124. For the season that number sits at 117. Lindor is bringing his trademark slick fielding to the team and it seems he has also expanded his leadership role on the club. This team is Lindor's now and he's holding other guys accountable for their crappy efforts. This guy clearly wants his teammates to play better and give a better effort. Hopefully they'll all start following his example.

Jordan Luplow, Jake Bauers, Tyler Naquin and Jason Kipnis - I'm going to address all for of these guys at once because they were all similarly good in June. The wRC+ for the following group of players in our last set of games was 131, 92, 93 and 106. I know those middle two numbers belonging to Kipnis and Bauers aren't so great but those numbers are right around what they were projected for at the beginning of the season. Luplow and Naquin look like they could be quite the platoon out in RF if Naquin can stay healthy. Luplow just absolutely kills left handed pitching and Naquin is looking like maybe he's figured some things out. Overall this group played well in our last set and we'll need them to continue to play well if we're going to stay in the playoff race.


Jose Ramirez - Jose Ramirez has been absolutely dreadful in 2019. His agent recently said that Jose is trying too hard to beat the shift by going the other way rather than just looking for his pitch and smashing it into oblivion like he did in 2017 and 2018. So Jose is seemingly caught in between crushing balls to the moon and trying to slap them the other way for singles. We also recently found out that Jose is going to be a Father so maybe that's been weighing on him. I said this during the last set Jose Ramirez needs to get right if the Indians are going to have a chance to get back into the race in the AL Central. Hopefully we'll see the Jose we all know and love in the 2nd half of the season because I don't particularly care for the 68 wRC+ 0.1 fWAR Jose Ramirez.

Trevor Bauer - Bauer has been more like the pre ASB 2017 version than the pitcher we saw from mid July 2017 through April 2019. He's not very efficient, can't find the strike zone, walks too many guys and struggles to get through 5 innings without throwing 100 pitches. He has a rubber arm but even Bauer noted about 2 weeks ago that he's a bit banged up and is having a hard time staying healthy enough to pitch at the level he'd like to. Trevor can help himself by being more efficient on the mound and TIto can help by not letting Trevor throw 173 pitches every time he takes the mound.

Leonys Martin - I appreciate what Martin did for the Indians early on this season but as the year wore on he just played worse and worse. Maybe it's related to his health scare last season or maybe he's just not a good baseball player. Either way he's no longer with the club and I wish him the best of luck going forward.

Potential Trade Targets

I think it's pretty obvious now at the half way point that the Indians should not and likely will not be sellers. The team is going to close the gap with the Twins to challenge for the division title and is going to remain in the WC race for the remainder of the season. Anyone who doesn't think playing in a WC game to potentially match up with the Twins in the ALDS just doesn't understand how MLB playoffs work. I know the Indians have been a bit unlucky in the ALDS the last 2 seasons but we should still want to make the post season as often as possible. You just never know when 2 hot bats and 2 hot relief pitchers are going to carry you to victory in a playoff series.

OF/DH - This need has seemingly remained the same since forever, a RH bat with some pop and I think it's really the teams only offensive need that can be addressed at the deadline.

Probably cheap rentals - Nick Castellanos, Yasiel Puig, Todd Frazier,

More Expensive options - Trey Mancini, David Peralta, Jorge Soler

There is another option to add an OF/DH or relief pitcher and that would be to trade a starting pitcher currently in the rotation for help, the most likely candidate being Trevor Bauer. Bauer is still valuable despite his somewhat disappointing 2019 campaign. He would bring back some decent help I'd imagine. 3-4 fWAR pitchers don't just grow on trees and teams covet starting pitching. Given the teams injury problems in the rotation this year though I'm not sure trading Bauer is wise. 2019 should have definitely taught us that no team can ever have enough starting pitching and even though Bauer hasn't been great he still shows up every 5th day and throws 6-7 innings, 110+ pitches and most days gives the team a chance to win while allowing the bullpen to rest. I think I'd lean towards keeping Bauer.

RP - Even though the bullpen has been fine so far this year we could probably use a RH compliment to Brad Hand and there are some good options available. Generally speaking I think going after a rental here would be a better idea to cut down on the prospect cost. So that would rule out a bunch of players that I'd like to target. Guys like Kirby Yates, Nick Anderson, Ken Giles or Raisel Iglesias. Basically I'm looking for someone here with a high strike out rate, lowish walk rate, those things should lead to a decent FIP and team control at most through 2020 to control the cost.

Probably Cheap Rentals - No clue who would even fill this category right now. Perhaps someone like Mychal Givens from Baltimore or Jake Diekman from KC.

Moe Expensive options - David Hernandez, Kirby Yates, Nick Anderson, Ken Giles. Not sure these are even realistic options to be honest unless the team decides to burn down the farm system and push all their chips into the pot for this season which seems unlikely.

Cheapest option - Promote from within. Perhaps a month from now Karinchak or Sandlin will be ready and they can just come up to the big league club and lock down a spot. There are some other creative options available as well but maybe we'll talk about those in our next edition.

This next set of games positions the Indians well again to make up some ground against the Twins. This next set, just like the last one, features only 6 games against teams actually trying to win baseball games, 3 against the Twins and 3 against Houston. This set also features a break for the All Star Game and the one and only trading deadline we get this year. We need to see another set where the team wins 17-19 games to make things interesting the rest of the way because the first 3 weeks of August which make up the first 20 games of our fifth set are absolutely brutal and could potentially make or break our season.

This set starts in Baltimore on June 29th and ends against the Astros on August 2nd and hopefully we'll all be really excited about some new shiny acquisitions CLEFO has just made for the Indians playoff push. Hope you all are enjoying your summer and I'll see you guys on August 2nd. PEW! PEW!

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