It’s no secret Michael Brantley will be the difference in how far this team will go this season.
Two seasons ago, the hearts of Tribe fans everywhere were crushed when the Indians blew a 3-1 lead to the Chicago Cubs to lose the 2016 World Series, taking over the longest active championship drought in baseball from, well, the Cubs of all teams. The team arguably overachieved that entire season and while the national media came around to giving the team its warranted respect, the achievements (and the ultimate underachievement) of that season were done in spite of not having one the team’s better players in Brantley.
Just one season ago, Brantley was expected to return and be the reliable producer he had been in the past while helping the team win a championship. To Brantley’s credit, when healthy, he produced and look every bit like Dr. Smooth but got hurt while trying to make a play in the outfield and, to his defense, it was not his surgically-repaired shoulder. Ultimately, Brantley returned in time for the postseason but struggled mightily alongside his teammates as the Indians blew a 2-0 lead to the New York Yankees and were eliminated from the first round in just five games.
Finally back to full health, Brantley has returned to the team as a source of top offensive production so far this season. Through 12 games played this season, Brantley is currently hitting .320/.346/.460 and the team has gone 9-3 when he is in the lineup. In Brantley’s last seven games alone, he is hitting .364/.364/.576 and before the team’s 2-1 win Monday night against the Orioles, he had not struck out in his previous nine games played.
Another interesting stat is that Brantley also leads Major League Baseball in contact percentage (min. 50 PA) at 97.3 percent. By comparison, the average sits at 76.5 percent. Brantley simply knows how to work at-bats, to not get cheated, all while possessing one of the prettiest and textbook swings you will ever see a baseball player have.
Michael Brantley currently ranks 1st in MLB with a 97.3 contact% (min. 50 PA), while league rate is down to 76.5%. He's defied the league-wide trend throughout his career. pic.twitter.com/lRCmlCPnVJ
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 24, 2018
After a regular off-day for Brantley Tuesday night, look for him to continue his steady approach at the plate and be the reliable bat the team had been missing over the past two seasons in the middle of the lineup.
Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller will all have their moments and produce when needed, but if this team is finally going to end its long-standing championship drought, Dr. Smooth is the guy people will be calling on to come through and take this team to a new level: a World Series Championship-winning team.