Cleveland Indians: What is Driving the Tribe’s Playoff Push in 2015?


In the week’s Weekly Wroundtable, the Wahoo’s on First staff took a look at the Cleveland Indians’ recent run in the Wild Card standings. Everyone knows that Francisco Lindor is responsible for a good portion of their turnaround, and the infusion of young talent and his repeated success both in the field and at the plate has been a big factor for the Tribe. But what else is behind the Tribe’s return to prominence in the playoff race?

There’s a lot that goes into a late-season playoff push, but if you had to pick one player who’s had the biggest impact on the Tribe’s turnaround (outside of Lindor), who would it be?

Here were the responses:

Matthew Bretz: There’s a couple guys that come to mind when thinking about the turnaround to the Tribe’s season, but the one player that really sticks out for me is Lonnie Chisenhall. After struggling with the bat early in the year he was sent to Triple-A and lost his starting third base job to rookie Gio Urshela. He burned his final option while in Columbus and his 2016 prospects with the Cleveland Indians looked grim. But a switch to the outfield may have saved his career. I always thought outfield would be a good fit for him but never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d be this good out there this quickly. The numbers are staggering: +12 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and +7.6 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). All that in a little over six weeks!

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The offense hasn’t been too shabby either though. Since being recalled he is hitting .324 with an .829 OPS. Sure a lot of that is thanks to his insanely high .415 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play); however, he also has improved his eye at the plate as his walk rate has improved from an abysmal 3.7% in the first half of the year to 9.7% since his recall. In any case, whether it’s been pure “luck” or not, the Cleveland Indians wouldn’t be in the position they are now without Lonnie Chisenhall in rightfield. Guys like Josh Tomlin stepping up in the fifth spot in the rotation has been huge as well, but having a guy like Chisenhall in the outfield chasing down those hard hit liners/flyballs he gives up has helped not only Tomlin but the entire pitching staff. Chisenhall’s impact has been felt on both sides of the ball.

Cody Norman: Shockingly, Abraham Almonte has made the most significant impact of anyone on this team not named Francisco Lindor. While his numbers aren’t particularly staggering, Almonte, like Lindor, brought a different attitude to Cleveland. Originally thought of as a throw-away piece in a deal that shed the salary of Marc Rzepczynski, Almonte is exactly the type of hustle player the Indians needed to make a run. While the 26-year-old switch-hitting center fielder likely isn’t the answer to the Tribe’s center field woes long term, he has put up a respectable .267/.321/.492 batting average in 34 games since coming over. He’s a legitimate stolen base threat and has some gap-to-gap power, clubbing 14 extra-base hits since the deadline. He is 5-for-14 in late-inning, close game situations and has driven in 16 runs as a member of the Tribe. There is no denying the impact Lindor has had on this team, but credit some of the “never die” attitude to Almonte as well.

Ryan Rosko: Josh Tomlin has contributed significantly in the team’s turnaround. Though he has been strictly used as a starting pitcher, I believe he would have had the same impact if used in relief too. So far this season, Tomlin has two complete games with a very good 2.70 ERA in addition to his 5-2 record.

After enduring his own setbacks injury-wise, he has been clutch for the Indians solidifying the back end of the rotation. That was an area Cleveland struggled to figure out due to poor performance as well as other pitcher’s injuries. Should Cleveland be able to continue this run and end up clinching a wild card spot, I have complete confidence that Tomlin will continue his success.

There are multiple key offensive players that have really helped too (including recent acquisitions), but for the Cleveland Indians it all goes back to their pitching staff.

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Andrew Schmid: I would argue that Lonnie Chisenhall has had the biggest impact on the Tribe’s season turn around. Since returning to the big leagues from a minor league reboot, he has slashed a robust .324/.387/.441 leading to a wRC+, which measures a player’s run output in percent of league average, of 129. Perhaps more impressively, his outfield defense has been outstanding, as evidenced by his 12 defensive runs saved. Even further, he owns the highest UZR/150 of any outfielder this season. Not only has he been a good batter and defender, but his baserunning has been uncharacteristically good. Combining these newly found skills together has helped the Cleveland Indians rebound in the late months of the season.

Katrina Putnam: I am quite torn between Chisenhall and Tomlin, but I would have to give the edge to the everyday player rather than the guy who pitches every fifth day. Matt and Andrew has already provided lots of good information already, so I won’t repeat it, but Chisenhall has provided an unexpected jolt to both the defense and the offense. He’s made sensational plays in the outfield, he’s gotten hits when it counted, and he’s even swiped a few bases. Who thought the Indians would be talking about him as an average defender by the end of the season, let alone above-average? This move to the outfield was the best thing that’s ever happened for his career, but it’s also the best thing that could have happened for the Tribe’s 2015 playoff campaign.

Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section below!