As much fun as they were to watch on Sunday, the Cleveland Indians have still not completely recovered from an extended early season skid. They still have not won a series at home and own a horrid 5-10 record at Progressive Field. And to top it all off, the Tribe hosts the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game set starting on Tuesday.
It doesn’t get any easier.
Fortunately, though, Yan Gomes is on the mend and could begin a rehab assignment this week. While the loss of Gomes is certainly not the lone reason for the Indians’ struggles, returning their potential All-Star catcher is undoubtedly part of the answer — both offensively and defensively.
Let’s take a look at who’s hot and who’s not after the fifth week of the season:
Kipnis has been nothing short of fantastic for the Tribe thus far in 2015. He appears to have completely shaken off the oblique injury that hampered his 2014 campaign and he’s returned to the dynamic form that earned him an All-Star Game appearance two seasons ago. In another week at the top of the Indians’ lineup, Kipnis has hit .370/.414/.556 with four extra-base hits. He has compiled a team-high 10 hits over that stretch, stealing a team-best three bases and clubbing a team-best three doubles. The Indians struggled last season to find a complementary piece for Michael Brantley last season and, with Kipnis returned to full health, he seems to be that guy for this Indians’ offense.
At this point in his career, Bourn is probably better suited for a lower profile role than leading off for an aspiring playoff team. He’s not the hitter he once was; he’s not the base-stealer he once was; and he’s just not the same overall threat at the top of any lineup. But there is still value here and Bourn seems to have turned a corner since accepting a role in the lower-third of the lineup. This week, Bourn posted the second-best batting average among everyday players for the Tribe. He hit .357/.500/.429 and drew four walks over the last seven days. His struggles against left-handed pitching have forced manager Terry Francona to place Bourn in a platoon role, but Bourn has been exceptional while on the field.
Salazar has been far and away the Tribe’s best starting pitcher this week. While the rest of the staff continues to struggle without their safety blanket, Yan Gomes, behind the dish, Salazar has posted two solid outings. In 14 innings pitched, Salazar has allowed five earned runs and struck out almost three times more hitters (20) than any other pitcher on the staff. In Sunday’s series finale against Minnesota, Salazar allowed a lead-off home run to Brian Dozier before sitting down 21 consecutive Twins’ hitters.
Apr 28, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielderBrandon Moss
(44) celebrates his three-run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the sixth inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Moss is going to make frequent appearances on this list. He’s either scorching hot or he’s ice cold. There’s seemingly no in-between. This week, Moss tallied just four hits, including a home run, and three RBIs. He struck out three times and posted a team-worst .227 on-base percentage among everyday players. While Carlos Santana hasn’t been much better at the plate, Santana offers significant value in his ability to get on base and score runs. Santana has scored a team-high seven runs this week. Moss, on the other hand, has scored twice.
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The Indians cannot get any production whatsoever from the shortstop position. Whether it’s been Ramirez, Mike Aviles or Zach Walters, Cleveland has been sapped of any offensive production from their shortstops. For his part, Ramirez has been relegated to a platoon-type role with Aviles or Walters and has been nothing short of putrid in his three games of work this week. Ramirez is 0-for-9 with three strikeouts on the week without so much as a walk or an RBI. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. With Francisco Lindor struggling in Triple-A, however, Francona is forced to sit on his hands and wait for someone to take the job.
This might be a little unfair because Hagadone is certainly not the only member of the Indians’ bullpen to have struggled this week. After pitching so well last month, Hagadone three just two innings this week and allowed six runs (three earned) while walking two batters. Hagadone has surrendered seven hits this week despite being utilized mainly as a left-handed specialist. Thus far in 2015, Hagadone has surrendered five hits in 4.1 innings pitched against left-handers, allowing opposing batters to hit .263 against him. If those numbers continue, expect Kyle Crockett back in the big leagues — or, at very least, Bruce Chen to take some innings away from Hagadone.