It’s getting better for the Cleveland Indians. It really is.
For a while there, this team was spiraling into one of the most unwatchable teams in the league. Neither the SI curse or the Curse of Rocky Colavito has hindered this team’s performance as much as their inability to make intelligent baseball plays. Too many blunders; too many bad plays.
And that’s how a team as talented as the Tribe winds up 9-15 and fourth in the AL Central through a month and some change of the season.
The Indians hit the road again for a brief stint with Kansas City before returning to Progressive Field to take on the lowly Minnesota Twins. It’s as good of a time as ever to pick up the pace and get two series wins, their first since winning the Opening Day series against the red-hot Houston Astros.
Sure, the Indians went just 3-4 in Cleveland. But there are more positives than negatives this week and that’s always a good sign. Let’s take a look at who’s hot and who’s not after the fourth week of the season:
Apr 28, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians third basemanLonnie Chisenhall
(8) and left fielderMichael Brantley
(23) celebrate after Chisenhall scored during the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Kipnis has answered the call since he was called upon as the Indians’ lead-off man last weekend. He’s been patient, and he’s been the perfect mix of power and speed — the same guy Tribe fans grew to love just two seasons ago. Hitting .393 over the last seven days, the Indians’ former All-Star second baseman has posted a team-best .500 on-base percentage while clubbing three round-trippers and adding a team-high seven RBIs. Kipnis has been nothing short of fantastic for the Indians and, even better, his presence at the top of the order has been crucial in front of the scorching-hot Brantley.
If there were any questions about whether or not Brantley had recovered from those early-season back issues, the Tribe’s early-season MVP candidate has put them to rest. In seven games this week, Brantley has torched opposing pitching to the tune of .370/.469/.630. He’s hit four doubles in a week’s time, adding a home run and six RBIs to the stat sheet. Brantley now has his season average up to .352 and continues to torture the opposition in key situations. The Tribe’s left-handed left fielder is hitting .444 with two outs and .556 with runners in scoring position.
As Zack Meisel of The Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted yesterday, Raburn is a modern day Ty Cobb…in odd years…against left-handed pitching. Whatever he is, Raburn has been an absolute menace against opposing pitching thus far this season. In 14 at-bats this week, Raburn has tallied six hits, including a double, and two huge RBIs against the Blue Jays in the series finale. He has been next to impossible for lefties to retire, as he improve his season average to .457 against southpaws, and he has hit a whopping .400 with runners in scoring position. As long as he continues to hit, Francona has to continue finding at-bats for him — and that will only get trickier with tomorrow’s return of Nick Swisher.
After an impressive road trip, Santana cooled off considerably over the last week and put together a rather unproductive home stand. Hitting out of the clean-up spot, Santana managed just five hits in 22 at-bats. He was unable to tally any extra-base hits while lowering his season average to .244. Fortunately, Santana continues to get on base at an efficient clip (.452 on-base percentage) and has struck out just twice in the seven-day span. It’s not all bad for Santana, but the Indians need more out of the clean-up spot — and they need more to protect Brantley in the lineup.
Factory of Sadness
One way or another, Ramirez will make it off this list. Whether he hits himself out of slump, or the Indians find a more suitable replacement (see: Francisco Lindor) remains to be seen. To date, Ramirez has looked frustratingly over-matched. He has just 14 hits on the season and boasts a batting average that’s hovering around the Mendoza line. In five games this week, Ramirez hit just .190/.190/.238. On top of the poor offensive display, Ramirez leads the team with four errors and a team-worst .945 fielding percentage. He’s not been a pleasant sight to watch so far this season and could very well be playing himself out of a job with Lindor heating up in Triple-A.
In no way has Kluber been the worst starter of the bunch this week, but he is the one from whom the Indians expect the most. Still winless this season, the Indians’ ace is 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA over the last seven days. He has been knocked around for 11 runs (8 earned) and struck out just eight hitter in 11.1 innings. Kluber has allowed 18 hits in his last two starts against the Royals and Blue Jays, and he’ll have to get back on track when he closes out the Royals series on Thursday afternoon opposite Edinson Volquez.