Well, through the first month and a half of the baseball season it seems my original article of why the Indians will win the AL Central can be thrown out the window. What happened? Let’s look back at the 10 reasons and discuss why the Tribe is struggling so much.
Here’s the original article: 10 Reasons Why the Indians will Win the AL Central
Read it, laught at it, tweet mean things about it and make sure to reference me (@CST_Doje)!
1. Detroit’s pitching has declined.
This one is statistically false, in 2014 the Tigers had a team ERA of 4.01, while in 2015 they have a team ERA 3.70. However, after starting the season off with a blistering 11-2 record, the Tigers have come back down to earth, going 10-12 over their last 22 games. But make no mistake, this team is led by its offense.
David Price and Alfredo Simon are the only Tigers starters with ERAs under 4.00. The difference with the Tigers this season, is that Joakim Soria is perfect in his save chances and has done it only allowing 2 runs in 16 innings, much better than Joe Nathan and his 4.81 ERA in 2014.
We still don’t know how Justin Verlander is going to pitch, and I expect the Tigers to stay closer to the 10-12 team than the 11-2 team. So yes, while the numbers say the pitching has improved, the Tigers won’t be able to go an entire season with 3 starters having 4.33+ ERAs.
2. Kansas City: lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Apparently it does. the Royals sport an AL best 22-13 record. They have the second best offense, and the fourth best pitching. On the offensive side of the field, the Royals boast 5 players batting .300 or better, and that doesn’t count Alex Rios, who is slated to return from the DL at the end of the month. While the Royals defy the “Moneyball” system (they don’t hit home runs or walk very much), they do lead in the AL in team batting average, and rarely strike out. What they lack in the home run department, they make up for with doubles and triples, leading the AL in both categories.
While the starting pitching might not strike fear in anyone (except for Yordano Ventura, but only because he will throw at you), Edinson Volquez is the only starter with an ERA under 5.00. The bullpen is a different story. Greg Holland, Ryan Madson, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Chris Young, and Jason Frasor all have ERAs under 2.00. The Royals turn every game into a 6-inning affair, if they have the lead late in the game, you might as well start thinking about the next game.
3. The White Sox have no depth.
Depth hasn’t necessarily hurt the White Sox so far in 2015, a last place offense has. Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton, and Alexei Ramirez are all hitting .250 or worse. Jose Abreu hasn’t exactly been a world beater this season either. The pitching isn’t helping the Sox either, as the immortal Chris Sale has looked surprisingly, well, mortal. Sale has a 5.09 ERA, while his rotation mate Jeff Samardzija has a 4.80 ERA. All that and the Sox still sport a 14-17 record and sit 3 games ahead of the Indians in the standings.
4. Michael Brantley and Corey Kluber
Nothing wrong with Michael Brantley in 2015, after dealing with some back soreness early in the season, Branltey is hitting a steroid era .349. At the current pace Brantley is on, he will end up with these numbers: 19 HR, 95 RBI, 29 SB, and 52 doubles on the year. Corey Kluber is alittle bit of a different story, after taking the AL by storm in 2014, Klubler has started off slower than expected (looking back at 2014, Kluber didn’t settle in until May), but if his last start, an 18 strikeout affair showed us anything, it’s that the Klubot has returned. While his ERA may be 4.27 on the season, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is at 2.56, meaning Kluber has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in 2015. On his current pace, Kluber will end the season with 305 strikeouts.
5. 3-6 spots in the lineup
With the early struggles from the offense, Terry Francona was forced to make changes to the lineup. We expect to see a middle-of-the-order featuring: Brantley, Santana, Moss, and Gomes. Brantley is still firmly entrenched in that 3-spot, while Santana has moved into the 2-hole, due to his high OBP. Brandon Moss has most been in the 5-hole, but has been pretty inconsistent this season, but when he is on, he is one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. Meanwhile, Yan Gomes has been out since the first week of the season. Ryan Raburn, Nick Swisher, and David Murphy have all rotated in this spot and have proved above-average offense. However, this offense has yet to have its full compliment of players.
6. Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis
Despite being as healthy as he as ever been in his time with the Tribe, Michael Bourn has yet to find his groove for the 2015 season. Bourn started the year off so poorly, that Terry Francona had no choice to move him down in the lienup, but it got worse, and Bourn is now strictly platoon guy against right-handed pitchers, aka $13.5 million down the drain. However, since being moved from the leadoff spot, Bourn is batting .277, but is no threat on the base paths any more, with just 2 steals in 4 attempts.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jason Kipnis, who since taking over the leadoff spot from Bourn is batting .419. Kipnis is batting .333 on the season and is on pace for 224 hits on the season. Of course, we’ve seen this story before (a la 2013), so does Kipnis keep his strong hitting going all season or does he slow down once July comes around?
7. The defense
It’s still horrendous. #FreeLindor
8. Terry Francona
I don’t care how slow the Indians start, Terry Francona is one of the best managers in the game, and probably the greatest manger the Indians have had in their franchise history.
9. A young, controllable, power rotation
While the rotation hasn’t lived up to the billing of being the best in the AL, it has been very underrated so far. While the starters ERA might not be the greatest, their FIP is. The Indians team ERA is 4.45, the team FIP is 3.54. The starting pitching isn’t the problem, the defense and bullpen are the main contributors to the Indians slow start.
The Indians have plenty of Minor League options, but with the glut of veterans on the roster fans have yet to truly see the Indians real depth. Fans are just counting down the days until Francisco Lindor replaces Jose Ramirez.
–Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images