Cleveland entered 2021 with serious questions at several spots in the infield. The platoons of Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario at shortstop and the failed Yu Chang, Jake Bauers experiment at first base. Fortunately, the Tribe had re-signed 2020 Gold Glove winner Cesar Hernandez, Jose Ramirez is still Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez was still behind the dish.
However, the organization was reminded just how valuable Perez is, having played just 20 games in the first half of the season and unable to work with the young cast of pitchers thrust into the rotation. Austin Hedges, Ryan Lavarnway and Rene Rivera combined for the other 61 games in Perez’s absence, leaving an offensive black hole at the position. Perez did return in game 81, so barring any other injuries some extended time back in the lineup should be fruitful in every phase of the game.
Bobby Bradley made his much anticipated season debut on June 5th and took over every day first baseman duties after the injury to Josh Naylor, slashing .235/.316/.565 in 25 games with eight home runs and 17 runs driven in, doubling the production of Jake Bauers and Yu Chang in half the time. Amed Rosario has also made some noise over the past two months despite a slow April, fitting perfectly into the number two hole in the lineup behind Hernandez, slashing .264/.315/.375 in 74 games.
Jose Ramirez has been more vital to the Tribe’s success than ever, slashing .265/.345/.537 in the first half with 18 home runs, 18 doubles and 50 runs driven in while the team took until June to find a lineup that clicked. Recently selected to his third All-Star game, the 2020 AL MVP runner-up should be even more impactful with the hopeful return of Cleveland’s other stars in the second half.
Personally, I’ve always believed in grading on a curve. It’s entirely possible some college classes in my past would need to be re-taken to avoid a pass/fail (sorry Mom.) In that spirit, what the Indians have figured out since the beginning of June represents a formula for success for the next 81 games, at least in terms of offensive production from the infield, though the team could use some extra defensive drills on off days. The infielders have done enough to establish recency bias, granting a respectable B-.