Things are starting to fall into place for the Cleveland Indians. With the team finding their groove, are they set to go on a hot streak before the break?
Going into a nine game home stand always bodes well for a team. Being in the middle of a long stretch of playing against the AL Central also gives these Cleveland Indians a chance to gain some separation in the division. Right now the Indians sit 4.5 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers. They’ll face those Tigers to cap off this long home-stand.
The Indians have had their struggles this year but they are still currently sitting with a better record than they had at this time last year. Slow starts are something that Manager Terry Francona has gotten used to in his career. But is the team primed to go on a hot streak as they go into the All-Star break? Let’s take a look.
The road ahead
When you look at the Indians upcoming schedule, it’s more than favorable for the Tribe. In fact, of the nine opponents the Indians play before the break, just two are over .500: The St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees. Aside from that, the team has a lot of games to play in the division. As we know all too well, the AL Central has only one team above .500.
When it comes to road trips, the Indians will take one last road trip out to the west coast this year. That will be to face the Oakland A’s, who are 34-35 right now, but are struggling to stay in the AL West race. The Indians will also face the Cincinnati Reds at home the week before the break. The Reds are an atrocious 25-43
The biggest challenge the the team will see is the series against the Yankees right before the break. While the Indians can go on a hot streak given their upcoming schedule, they don’t want to stumble into the All-Star break against a team that has swept them once.
The offense is dominant
I know I’ve talked about the offense struggling as of late, but that’s really only been an issue in the last week. Overall, the Tribe offense is still among the best in baseball. They are third in home runs behind only the Yankees and Red Sox, and have a team batting average of .252: a better average than any of their upcoming opponents. They even sit at third in extra base hits.
The top third of the Indians lineup is perhaps the best top three in baseball. Francisco Lindor has flourished in the leadoff role with an OBP of .365 and wRC+ of 145. He isn’t even playing his best baseball right now as we’ve seen Lindor play better in the past. He could still hit his stride going forward and surpass Manny Machado‘s numbers in the AL.
Jose Ramirez is a guy who is playing the best baseball of his career. If you thought his 29 home runs last year were impressive for the young buck, JRam already has 20 homers this year, and we aren’t even halfway home. He has 20 doubles to match that and team high 46 RBI’s. Overall the Indians have five players with over 30 RBI’s and three with 40+
The rotation is just as dominant
When you look at the Indians rotation, you can match them up with just about any rotation in the league. Corey Kluber is, somehow, having a better year than he had in his two Cy Young award winning seasons. He is already 10-4 with the highest fWAR of any pitcher in baseball. Kluber’s value cannot be understated enough, but he’s not alone.
Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer sit behind Kluber and make for weeklong nightmares for the opposition. Bauer is quietly having the best season of his career. He sits among the best in strikeouts per nine innings with 11.63. Clevinger joins the fold as he is playing some of the best baseball of his young career.
The only lingering question with this rotation is the fifth starter. Right now Adam Plutko sits in that spot. He will get a chance to retain that spot against the Twins this weekend. Should he falter, the team can always bring their young star Shane Bieber back up from Triple-A.
If the team really wants to make the most of this year, they can go out and trade for a starter to fill that void. Lance Lynn, Chris Archer, and Dylan Bundy are among the names that could be moved at the deadline. But for now, the rotation is showing no signs of slumping.
The bullpen is improving
There’s no question the the bullpen is the weakest link of this team. But they are improving from their long treacherous stretch. In fact, they’re no longer the worst unit in the league. That honor now goes to the Kansas City Royals. They’ve moved some pieces around and it’s made for an improvement.
Starting with Neil Ramirez; he hasn’t allowed a run in his last seven starts and has a WHIP of 0.68. He’s struck out seven batters in that stretch and has proven his worth as a middle reliever. Oliver Perez has earned the sole as a valuable set-up man in Andrew Miller‘s absence. He hasn’t allowed a run since joining the Tribe bullpen and has a WHIP of 0.50 in his last seven appearances.
Zach McAllister has had a roller coaster season this year, but he certainly on a fantastic roll right now. In his last 15 appearances he’s allowed just five runs. That’s a major improvement as that number triples when you go back just 15 more games.
On top of all of this, the return of Andrew Miller is imminent. The improving performance of the bullpen means that the Indians can give Miller more time to rehab as needed. If proper rehab is what Miller needs to return to the stud reliever he’s always been; than hiss return could send this bullpen to a whole new level.
All of these things spell a recipe for success for the Tribe. If their team performs as well as they’re capable of, they’ll have no problems handling their upcoming schedule. If the Indians kick off this homestead the right way, it could snowball into a long stretch of winning for the Tribe.