April 18, 2014

Summertime sadness: Venting on the fading Tribe

brantleyongroundWith their loss to the Motor City Kitties on Saturday night, the Indians fell to a stunningly awful 3-15 against their division foes. They also fell to five games back in the Wild Card hunt (trailing Tampa, Oakland, New York, and Baltimore now) and 8.5 games in the division. Dropping five straight in key series against Atlanta and Detroit with one more to come tomorrow before Baltimore comes to town for three, the Indians’ easy September schedule won’t matter much if they continue fading as fast as they are right now. What will follow is some of my thoughts collected in the past week while watching this train wreck.

-This offense is bad right now. Like, really bad. I find it hard to not sit there everytime Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera come to the plate and scream “YOU RUINED EVERYTHING!”. With the money the two of those guys are making and given their prominence in the lineup, they’ve been BEYOND disappointing. Cabrera is mentally aloof and has a terrible attitude when he is mentally checked in. His defense has been problematic in key situations this year, and we’ve seen far less spectacular plays at shortstop. He repeatedly swings at the first pitch and refuses to work the count, and his baserunning gaffe earlier in the week was just a microcosm of a guy being Manny Ramirez-like without the talent to back it up. Cabrera has zero homers and 3 RBI in his last 18 games and has a OPS of just .686 on the season. I truly hope he is not on the roster next year. As for Swisher, he does work the count and still get on base well, and his versatility is nice, but his lack of power and slugging has been disappointing for a guy who is supposed to be your cleanup hitter. He’s likely going to have the fewest HR and RBI in his career with the exception of his rookie season. While his OPS is respectable at .740, it’s by far his lowest since 2008 when he was with the White Sox. In his previous four seasons, Swisher had at least 23 HR, 82 RBI and a OPS of .822. That’s the player that the Indians signed on for with the massive contract he received. If these two play even CLOSE to their normal output, the Indians are leaders in the Wild Card and on the heels of the Tigers.

-The pitching has been so unexpectedly solid that it’s hard to rag on it much. Still, Scott Kazmir showed last night (and has off and on over the last month) that his useful innings left in 2013 are dwindling. He has pitched like hot garbage in three of his last four outings, and he has made it through six innings in only one of those last four. Couple that with Salazar’s harsh pitch count and the loss of Kluber, and really, you only have two guys that you can count on for consistent innings in Masterson and McAllister as Ubaldo seldom gets through more than six innings tops. Masterson has failed to deliver in those high-profile “we need an ace effort” type games this year, further cementing my go-to retort on Masterson: “He’s a number one starter, but he’s NOT an ace.” The Indians need a one or two starter, and I hope Salazar or Bauer can develop into that going forward, because while I like Kluber and McAllister, you’re a lot better off if they’re your three and four starters. For the stretch run, it’s likely that they’re going to chain Carrasco and Tomlin to Salazar and Kazmir for their starts, and that’s great, but should they make the postseason by some miracle, I don’t know what they’re going to do.

-The Kubel acquisition was a decent one but it was too late. They could’ve made a waiver wire deal for someone like Kubel (maybe someone even better) WEEKS ago! This offense has been in a true tailspin, and losing Ryan Raburn certainly has only made it worse. Your amazing bench from the first half is being pressed into everyday duty with the ineffectiveness of Lonnie Chisenhall and the cut ties with Mark Reynolds. It’s frustrating when you see guys like Michael Morse, Michael Young, Justin Morneau, and Kendrys Morales put on waivers and/or traded with the Tribe not able to get anything done until Kubel just this week. Even Kubel a few weeks ago would’ve been better than Kubel now.

-The bullpen has been an adventure, but it’s hard to fingerpoint. There’ve been some serious shifts of roles throughout the year with Perez as closer really the only constant. It’s been an absolute killer not having Vinnie Pestano in that eighth inning, allowing Joe Smith to own the seventh. Instead, Bryan Shaw, Matt Albers, and Cody Allen have been pressed into more high leverage situations, and they’ve all had their moments of failure. I still like a lot of the young talent they have under control, and I echo Jacob’s sentiments earlier in the week that this team can’t afford to pay Perez next season.

-The most frustrating thing in these last five games is that it’s a play here or there that turns the tide and a bad break or two turns a close game into a rout. There was the Bourn sac fly lost in the twilight on Friday, and there was the near-catch by Michael Brantley of Omar Infante’s second homer last night. In Atlanta, you had a comedy of errors defensively along with several dynamic plays made by the Atlanta infielders to prevent a slew of infield hits by less than a half-step. Team Streak has been like this all year long, so it’s bound to turn around, but it could be too late at that point.

-I get pretty pissed on Twitter when I’ve been watching this week. I try to explain to folks that if this team just wasn’t good enough, then I wouldn’t be so adamant about them losing to good teams. But they’ve shown they have the ability to hang with these teams (even the Tigers, how many of these games have they been in until the late innings?). It’s mental miscues, poor moves, and players not playing up to their abilities right now that are preventing them from being a true contender. I picked this team to win 86 games, and they’re certainly looking to wind up somewhere around there, but with all the unknown surprises in Raburn, Gomes, Kluber, Kazmir, Jimenez (to a point), and Cody Allen, all they needed was their “known” commodities to live up to close to their expectations. Unfortunately, they haven’t, and what is facing the Indians now because of it is long odds at the wild card.

(Photo: Duane Burleson/AP)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The offense isn’t bad right now it’s been bad for nearly a month. Cue the FO to make a move…hello…Bueller…Bueller? Oh that’s right they traded for Jason Kubel and picked up Kelly Shoppach off the street, my bad. Speaking of Mr. Kubel has anyone seen him? I saw the Pirates traded for Justin Morneau who was in Texas to start the day and by the seventh inning, same day, he was in Pittsburgh dressed for his new team.

    This team has been trending down for the last month honestly I give Francona all the credit in the world for keeping it afloat as long as he has because if you use your head and not your heart you know this team isn’t playoff caliber. It’s also why a month ago I scoffed at those who repeatedly said the schedule would get easier as if that was going to be the magic bullet to save the Indians playoff hopes. The problem is those same people assumed the other playoff contenders who were facing off would nuke each other while the Indians stayed afloat. Well so much for staying afloat. The dingy done sprung a leak and is sinking fast. I hope whenever Kubel arrives he brings a big bucket if not a bat!

  • Adam Copeland

    I agree with the entirety of this post, but while this Indians team has holes, if you want to boil their season down to one problem, that problem is the Tigers. The Tigers are 15-3 (.833) v. #Indians & 65-53 (.551) v. all other opponents. Indians are 3-15 (.167) v. Tigers & 68-49 (.581) v. everyone else. So the #Indians actually have a better record than Tigers when they’re not playing each other. 3-15 head-to-head is reason DET will make playoffs & CLE won’t. If the Indians even go a below average 7-11 against the Tigers, they’re 4.5 back in the division and 0.5 back in the Wild Card. You can’t go 3-15 against any team, much less the division leader, and expect to be a playoff contender.

  • JNeids

    I know Vinnie is coming back up now, but what’s the story on him? Has he been getting it back together in CBus? Is he gonna be effective at all, or is he still a shell of him former self?

  • Matt underwood

    3 years in a row of pissing away a great start

  • Wow

    Not even Wild Thing could save this team.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Looks like the road trip is going to be salvaged with, I called it, a shutout today. Thank goodness for an Aviles grand slam otherwise the offense wouldn’t have done anything, again.

  • mgbode

    even with the win today (oh boy, 4-15) you have hit the nail on the head. the Tigers have destroyed us and thus deserve the playoff spot and we will get nothing and like it.