The Cleveland Indians season has not exactly gone to plan thus far but even with all the adversity they are still in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Maybe the All-Star Break is not the best thing for the Cleveland Indians at this moment in time. The Tribe are one of the hottest teams in baseball, winners of six straight including 23 of their past 31 games. After trailing the Twins by double-digits in the standings, Cleveland is only 5.5 games back of Minnesota. The Indians are up by 1.5 games over Oakland for the second Wild Card spot. The postseason is not out of the question at the All-Star Break after multiple instances that may have derailed other teams.
Cleveland’s pitching staff was thought to be the strength of the team. The Indians would rally behind the likes of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Trevor Bauer. The only problem is that has not been the case. Clevinger has missed the majority of the season and only just returned to the rotation recently Corey Kluber is still recovering from a right arm fracture and any contribution from Kluber going forward is bonus. Trevor Bauer has not pitched up to the level that most expected. Bauer is one to always be working and tinkering with his mechanics and pitches. His regression form past season may be due to a bit of overwork on his pitches.
Then there is Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco went on the injured list in early-June with an undisclosed blood disorder. It is only know that Carrasco informed everyone that he has diagnosed with Leukemia. The reality of the situation is that Cleveland should be prepared to not have Carrasco for the remainder of the season. Carrasco’s health comes first, baseball is a distant second. Carrasco need to make sure that he is right for himself and his family before even considering making a return to baseball.
Cleveland has called upon Shane Bieber to step up his game this season and he has certainly delivered. In 19 games Bieber has an ERA of 3.45 while striking out an average 11.3 batters per nine innings. Bieber has been the best pitcher for the Indians so far this season. Even if the others were available, Bieber still has outperformed the other Indians pitchers.
The Tribe bullpen was quite the contentious area coming into the season. The departures of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen did not sit well with many and most thought the weak spot of the team would be the bullpen. Surprisingly Cleveland’s bullpen has been one of the best in baseball. With a league leading 3.45 ERA, this group has surprised many due to the lack of big names. Outside of Brad Hand, the names in the bullpen are not household names. Names such as Tyler Olson, Adam Cimber, Oliver Perez, Nick Wittgren and Tyler Clippard have held their own this season. The collective 1.24 WHIP (sixth best in baseball) has certainly helped he Cleveland bullpen limit damage so far this season.
Several players the Indians gave a chance to this season have found themselves phased out. Players such as Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Gonzalez and Leonys Martin saw play time earlier this season. All three are no longer with the club. A disappointing campaign from Jose Ramirez did not help things in the early going, but things have been heading in the right direction as of late.
Carlos Santana has enjoyed one of his best seasons of his career in 2019. Batting just under .300 with 19 home runs and 17 doubles, Santana has been one of the best hitters in the Indians lineup this season. Cleveland will need Santana to continue to produce at the plate moving forward.
The surge of Roberto Perez is a bit surprising. Coming into this season not many thought “Bebo” was capable of this. Slashing .256/.345/.527.872 with 16 home runs and driving in 36 runs. Perez has more than proved that trading Yan Gomes was not the Tribe waving the white flag. In fact the team had confidence that Perez could improve at the plate and take over regular catching duties.
The addition of Oscar Mercado to the lineup has provided a bit more clarity to an outfield that was in limbo coming into the season. Mercado has slashed .281/.328/.427/.755 in 43 games this season. Mercado’s performance has dipped a bit lately, but a break should allow himself to refocus and get ready for the remainder of the season.
After the break outlook
There is a very critical stretch right after the All-Star Break. The Indians begin a 10 game home stand against the Twins, Tigers and Royals. It will be crucial to continue their winning ways, especially against Minnesota. Every win against the Twins closes the gap in the standings by one game and that is truly needed right now.
If things go sideways at any point between that initial home stand and the end of the month, the Indians could find themselves trading players such as Trevor Bauer and Brad Hand. As long as the Indians can keep winning and the Twins lose, the race in the American League Central is not over.