The Tribe has not been looking like the club that had one of the most potent lineups and one of the better starting rotations in the big leagues near the end of last season. People could argue that they should look even better right now than they did during their World Series run last October. Their number two and three starters are healthy again, and they upgraded their cleanup hitter with Edwin Encarnacion and their left fielder with a healthy Michael Brantley. However, the team had not looked very good as of late.
They’ve slipped into second place in the Central Division behind the Minnesota Twins, and they are 4-6 in their last 10 games. I know that the Indians have a tendency to start the season slow, and they will have times in the season where they go through hitting droughts and pitching inconsistencies. I am not suggesting anybody should panic, but the team has been kind of frustrating to watch lately. Let’s take a look at some of the things that have been troubling the Tribe recently.
Corey Kluber has been hurt.
Any time your ace goes down, even for a short time, it has an effect on the rest of the staff. They are missing the guy they trust to go out and be consistent every time out. It can also cause other guys in the rotation to put added pressure on themselves to make up for his absence. This can cause them to be more tightly round and pitch worse.
2. The starting staff has been inconsistent.
Carlos Carrasco has been the most consistent guy in the rotation and has pitched great so far this season. Mike Clevinger stepped up to pitch a good game in Kluber’s absence by giving up only one run. However, Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar have been inconsistent all year, and Trevor Bauer has just been bad. The bullpen has done a great job of picking up the slack, but the starters are going to need to step up if the rotation wants to get back to being considered one of MLB’s best.
3. The hot hitters have cooled off.
The guys that started the season on fire like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Lonnie Chisenhall have all cooled off recently and started to go through a bit of a slump. Michael Brantley has not been quite as good lately either, but he’s also missed a few games due to an ankle injury. Without the team’s most consistent and clutch hitters from the first month of the season coming through when they’re needed, the team has struggled to put runs on the board to help the struggling pitching staff. The only guy who has been really hot lately is Yan Gomes, and with the terrible start he had, it’s good to see him finally stringing some hits together.
4. They’re still waiting for some of the key players to get going.
The normally slow-starting Encarnacion has still not gotten it going and has definitely not been the feared cleanup hitter the Indians needed in the middle of the order to this point in the season. Jason Kipnis has also gotten off to a slow start since beginning the year on the disabled list. If those two guys can start to produce the way they are capable of, and the other guys can get back to how they were hitting at the beginning of the year, that could affect the mentality of the starters and really boost their morale. More runs and less pressure on the starters could propel the Tribe into a winning stretch.
5. The Indians have played a lot of road games.
The Indians have played 21 road games so far this year versus only 13 at home. I know that technically their home record is under .500, and they are three games above .500 on the road. However, I think that going to spring training in Arizona and then playing so many road games at the beginning of the season has taken a bit of a toll on the players. Hopefully once the team starts catching up on their home games, they can get a little more comfortable and look like the dominant team we saw at the end of the year a season ago.
The Indians are still right near the top of their division, and I don’t see the Twins sticking around up there all season. I know that the season is long, and I think that the Tribe will start to put it together and look like the championship-caliber team that they are soon. All it takes is a few wins in a row to gain confidence. This is a good baseball team, and there is no reason to panic at this time of the year.