The Guardians have started out May on a hot streak, so what will the rest of the month look like for them?
The Cleveland Guardians have started May on a roll, winning five of their first seven games in the month, most recently taking four of six against playoff hopefuls like the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays.
Though the schedule begins to lighten up later in the month, the Guardians must first take care of business in Chicago against the White Sox, who have won six in a row themselves. Then, Cleveland travels on to Minnesota to take on the Twins, who have been a bit of a pleasant surprise themselves. In fact, 15 games this month are against AL Central opponents, so this is still a critical stretch for the team.
Here are just a few things to consider looking forward to the rest of the month for the Guardians:
Where will Yu Chang fit?
Honestly, it’s incredibly hard to see how Yu Chang is going to fit on this team moving forward. Once he’s officially back from the IL, he’ll get some at-bats due to his positional versatility, but he’ll need to produce immediately. Right now, Ernie Clement is occupying that super utility role and he’s hardly getting any at-bats himself, so Chang’s time in Cleveland is likely limited regardless.
When will we see Richie Palacios again?
Palacios was sent back to Triple-A Columbus over the weekend in order to get regular at-bats, which he wasn’t going to see in Cleveland, not with Amed Rosario healthy and the need to keep the bats of Andrés Giménez, Steven Kwan, Owen Miller and Josh Naylor in the lineup at all times. There just isn’t a ton of space on the roster at the moment, but Palacios should be back soon, though this month would likely be too early barring an injury.
Palacios, 24, certainly held his own during his first taste of the big leagues, batting .259/.310/.296 with seven hits and two RBIs in 29 plate appearances.
Is the Guardians’ offense for real?
Some hot-hitting Guardians are no doubt due for a regression at some point, but the fact remains that, right now, Cleveland has seven players with a wRC+ over 100 (José Ramírez, Miller, Luke Maile, Giménez, Kwan, Naylor, and Myles Straw). Two of them – Ramírez and Miller – have a wRC+ over 200.
This offense is very real in the sense that the lineup makes pitchers work, the hitters are elite at making contact and they hardly strike out. Right now, Cleveland is enjoying a stretch where just about everyone is swinging a solid bat, and while there will be plenty of ebbs and flows throughout the season, there’s a good chance the Guardians can sustain a similar type of production in the long run.
Fans are witnessing a complete organizational shift in offensive philosophy, and it’s certainly refreshing to see, but it’s coming at the perfect time when one considers the lack of home runs being hit around baseball and the impending limits on the shift, which will benefit a team that looks to get on base by any means necessary.
Can the rotation hold up its end of the bargain?
Who would have thought that a healthy rotation would be the biggest weakness for the Guardians this far into the season? The starters currently sport a 4.56 ERA, which is the sixth-highest mark in baseball, though a 3.85 FIP suggests things aren’t as bad as they look on the surface. But still, it has been worrying to see Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac get knocked around while Shane Bieber continues to lose velocity on his fastball.
You could blame some of the rotation’s early struggles on the shortened spring training, or maybe the new ball that so many other pitchers around the league have complained about, or maybe you could blame it a touch on bad luck, but it’s all a bit perplexing. Sooner or later, the Guardians are going to need their starters to start throwing as hard as history suggests they can.