It’s OPENING DAY at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario WE CAN WIN A WORLD SERIES PEOPLE!
In the immortal words of Sherlock Holmes, the game is afoot here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and your Cleveland Indians are tried and true contenders for the 2018 World Series Championship. Why waste time getting to that punchline, even though it seemed as though Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff were doing plenty of that time wasting during this past Hot Stove Season.
But now is not the time to rehash the crickets of winter, but to acknowledge the butterflies that are fluttering in the stomachs of every Cleveland Indians’ fan that follows those Erie Warriors on the North Coast. While opening day is just one game in the long form tale that is a Major League baseball season, it is the official ending of the sad faces that have been staring out the windows at the piles of winter snow growing in our yards.
Your Cleveland Indians are about to take the field for the first time in 2018…and they’re pretty damn good.
Returning in 2018 is your reigning Cy Young award winner, and now-two-time winner, Corey Kluber. I could just end this Kluber second with one sentence:
He’s very good.
And while that would fit Kluber’s demeanor on the mound, it isn’t anywhere near worthy of how good Kluber is, and how good Kluber has been. Before getting into the numbers, it will forever be impossible to discuss the importance of Kluber to this starting rotation. While Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin will in some way help Kluber form one of the best rotations in baseball in 2018, each has tipped their cap to Kluber over the years, as they’ve tried to model pitches and approach to mimic the Indians’ ace.
But how do you mimic brilliance?
That breaking ball:
So let’s leave Kluber there. I could continue to show his arsenal in GIF form…but we’d be here for awhile, and I need to actually publish this piece before the game tonight. Kluber has officially been in “I’m going to watch every second of his appearances so that I can enjoy-it-while-I-got-it” mode…so enjoy it while you got it. Kluber is as good a starter as you’ll ever see where an Indians’ jersey, so ponder what names that puts him in with.
Carlos Carrasco is going to win the Cy Young.
Fingers typing on my laptop…what did you just say?
Carlos Carrasco is going to win the Cy Young.
This is officially the third year in a row in which I’ve said such a thing, so either one of two things is going to happen. He’s either going to win it this year, or Kluber will read this, as I’m sure he’s done the past two seasons, and he’s going to take another run at it to spite me. Whichever happens…good.
But Carrasco has a really nice Fastball/Curve/Slider/Change mix that he’s used over the past several years, and while he mostly throws fastballs, the Curve/Slider/Change took steps last year that should get him the gold this year. The key is that fastball, that’s still averaging 94+.
Trevor Bauer is really, really good, and keeps getting better. I know that he’s mercurial. I know that he does things a whole lot different than everyone else. What impresses me the most about Bauer is how durable he is. When you think of the term “tough” as a pitcher, you think of Bauer. While his warm-up program was initially discussed as odd, and I even heard a scout scoff in Carolina when the Indians brought him over saying, “he’s going to blow his arm out,” he’s proven everyone wrong.
And this year, he’s done something that a really smart pitcher should do. In a Jordan Bastian article from late July, Bauer gave us this tidbit on his new breaking ball.
“The modified slider has been nixed,” Bauer said. “I’ve replaced it with what hopefully will have a similar movement profile to a Marcus Stroman curveball or a Corey Kluber slurve. All the info that I have on it so far says that it profiles very similar to those two. Obviously, we’ll see once I get up against a hitter in a game.”
Trevor Bauer’s breaking ball in 2000 frames/second! Shot with an Edgertronic SC2X, 300mm Nikon lens, 1200 ISO, 2500 shutter – all at 1080p resolution. @indians @BauerOutage #drivelinepros pic.twitter.com/GrsdDr5CRs
— Kyle Boddy (@drivelinebases) March 13, 2018
And Bauer has had some kind of spring…
#Indians @ #Dbacks
Trevor Bauer records seven strikeouts over five innings of work against the D-backs
MLB Gameday: https://t.co/zFZVFpd1k7 pic.twitter.com/c8sgyWdT1w
— Ballpark Videos (@BallparkVids) March 28, 2018
Is it possible to give out three Cy Youngs?
And I haven’t forgotten about you, Danny Salazar, even though everyone else has. You are special. You are important. You are awesome. Your stuff is amazing. Take your time. Get healthy. Remember that grit you were showing in your climb through the minors. There’s a lot of folks that haven’t gotten to see how hard you worked back then, and didn’t get to talk to you about how hard it was for you to hold back, and take your time, and find your stride.
But you did.
I was the least surprised to see you throwing 100 MPH in your first start.
Back then, some giant idiots were saying, “put him in the bullpen.”
They were crazy back then.
Now, I can’t call them idiots. Your arm hasn’t been right. You haven’t been consistent. Something hasn’t been right.
But I know you don’t want to be in the bullpen.
You told me that in 2012, when you were talking to me about how frustrating it was to have a pitch count.
But that arm is magic when your head is in the game. Get your head in the game.
Give me a reason to call them idiots again!
Because until then..sigh…
(his stuff really is so damn good…HE COULD WIN THE CY YOUNG WITH A FULL SEASON OF HEALTH…AND…WHATEVER ELSE HE NEEDS…HE REALLY COULD…GIVE THEM ALL THE CY YOUNGS!!!)
The bullpen is led by two of the top ten relievers in all of baseball, and they’re playing for a contract. While the fear of our bullpen falling off a cliff in 2019 is real, ponder what that means for 2018? We are likely going to witness Miller and Allen doing what they do best…well…because they’re pretty good…and…you know…that contract thing.
I’m not going to say anything more about our bullpen because I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with the mash-up that we have going beneath our two best. I do like the mix of Tyler Olsen and Nick Goody and Zach McAllister and Dan Otero and whoever else ends up there by season’s end, but bullpens are like the spring weather in Cleveland. One day, you’re frolicking in the sun, dreaming of puppies, kittens, good beer, clubbin’, and more good beer, and the next?
If this bullpen doesn’t give Miller, Allen, and that rotation the support it needs…
Now I’d love to sit here and spin sweet nothings to you about the Cleveland Indians’ outfield. Sure, there is a very electronic version of a person sitting somewhere right now looking at the conglomeration of Tyler Naquin and Bradley Zimmer and Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer and Michael Brantley and Rajai Davis and saying in their best robot voice, “THEY WILL BE FINE. THEY FIT TOGETHER PERFECTLY. RIGHT-LEFTY-ZIMMER EXPLOSION-BRANTLEY INJURIES DON’T RELATE-CHISENHALL WILL PUT IT ALL TOGETHER FOR ONE FULL SEASON FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER-RAJAI DAVIS HOME RUNS-TITO WILL TRUST YANDY,” while in the real world, we’re all sweating, and for good reason.
Maybe Tyler Naquin will be fine in the corners. Maybe Brantley will cram it down everyone’s throats, as he proved to be healthy before the season started, even though he’s on the DL, and hopefully will be back in a week.
I think Brantley could return in a week, which could simplify things
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) March 29, 2018
HE WILL BE FINE (and ignore that mess about Urshela and EGone getting more time…just. ignore. it.)!
So expect Greg Allen to make his debut in the Indians outfield, and so should Yandy Diaz, and yeah, even though it could hurt his development, put Francisco Mejia out there too. Why should we see all of these dudes out in the outfield at one point or the other?
YEAH, I SAID IT, THEY CAN WIN THE WHOLE FREAKIN’ THING. SO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO WIN THE WHOLE FREAKIN’ THING.
That leads me to Jason Kipnis, who is likely the most pissed off player on the planet right now. The Indians signed him to a pretty lucrative contract, and most everyone raved about it when he signed it, without really paying much attention to the big escalation the last two years. You know, if it’s out of reach, just ignore it.
Then, Kipnis was basically a non-entity in 2017. He was banged up, lost his position, had to play center, was terrible offensively in the playoffs, then almost got traded in the offseason to Mickey Callaway’s Mets. It was…really close.
The Indians had already called him a taxi.
Tito busily packed up his bags.
Then Callaway called from the Mets and said, “Um, Tito, we change our minds. It turns out we don’t want him after all.”
And Tito was like, “Um, Jason, we almost traded you, BUT DIDN’T. SO GOOD NEWS! You don’t have a position right now, because, you know, we traded you, and planned for life without you, but…WELCOME BACK!”
Now Kipnis is back at second.
The funny thing here is that I love Kipnis playing pissed off. I love him having to stand in front of the cameras, saying things like, “I love being in this locker room,” and “it’s just business.” He’s happy…amiright?
Oh, and put Kipnis in the outfield too. PUT EVERYONE OUT THERE UNTIL YOU FIND AN OUTFIELD, AND THEN TRADE EVERYONE YOU PUT OUT THERE UNTIL YOU FIND SOMEONE TO PLAY IN THE OUTFIELD.
Yonder Alonso isn’t Carlos Santana. Now, you over there, and over there, and over there…and yeah…you over there…that just stood up and cheered…because Carlos Santana is gone…
But I like Yonder Alonso. You know, he took part in the historic “flyball revolution” that everyone keeps talking about. When asked about the flyball revolution, Alonso, Francona, Francisco Lindor, and people that don’t believe in Metrics because they’re voodoo…had this to say:
So he’s clearly not doing it. Nope.
Yonder Alonso HR! pic.twitter.com/1lEcB4ZA1R
— Craig Hyatt (@HyattCraig) March 22, 2018
But I’m excited about Yonder Alonso at first base, and while he’ll never be Carlos Santana, he can still be special in our hearts…especially when he talks his brother-in-law to sign with the Indians next year for a couple hundred million less than he could sign for.
This year, we should finally see a shifting of the guard, from Yan Gomes to Roberto Perez. Perez is clearly on the upswing, is better defensively, and has some untapped offense we’ve only begun to see with his regular at-bats, so Gomes will likely take a back seat.
In all seriousness, the Indians have a good problem. I am a Gomes fan, and he’ll provide this team with solid defense, and a good arm. He has a good rapport with the staff, and there’s no reason why that won’t continue…and it’s often overlooked.
I do think Roberto Perez should get at least 100 games behind the plate. He’s worked with each of the starters, is better defensively, and as I mentioned, has an upside on offense I’m not sure we’ve gotten to see yet with regular at-bats.
Plus, we should see Francisco Mejia at some point this year, so that I can start saying “Dos Franciscos” along with Francisco Lindor…or perhaps even “Franciscdos.”
I CALL COPYRIGHT ON BOTH!
Jose Ramirez broke out again last year. Ramirez finished third in the MVP voting last year, and deserved every inch of those accolades. I’ve heard the discussion about JRam regressing in 2018, but I just want to bring to light a couple of things. First, JRam’s game is based on his contact skills. His overall contact last year at balls that he swung at was just over 87%, which is pretty elite. It’s also the lowest of his career, in his best season. His O-Swing dropped to 25%, and he hits those 77% of the time, which is elite as well. His Z-Swing has improved dramatically over the past three years, which is why we’ve seen him grow into an elite offensive player, and he’s hitting 92% of those zone swings. He only has 5.5% swinging strikes, which is also pretty elite.
What’s it all mean? He gets the bat on a lot of baseballs, and he rarely strikes out. If he walked a little more…phew.
But there’s nothing skewed to suggest that anything he’s done is off kilter. His BABIP in 2017 was .319, which was down from .333 in 2016. We aren’t seeing a lucky player…we’re seeing a good player.
He’ll be at second at some point this year. I hope it’s because everyone is healthy, and Kipnis has asked to play left, once Brantley gets…
And that leaves me with Francisco Lindor. It’s funny that when you’re as good as Lindor is, you can sorta forget how good a player really is. JRam really stole the show in a lot of ways last year, and while Lindor was busy hitting 33 homers, he still wasn’t the best offensive player on the team. He was still figuring out some things, but the power was certainly there.
This year, I think Lindor steps up the mountain. I think everything stabilizes for him offensively, and he will continue to be an elite level defensive shortstop. I’ve already talked about the whys a couple weeks ago, but look at this sensibly. There are a lot of pundits out there saying, “I TOLD YOU I SAW THIS POWER WAY BACK WHEN THEY DRAFTED LINDOR!”
Back then, I heard a whole lotta, “He’s got a really great glove! If he’s lucky, he’ll be the next Omar Vizquel.” This is no offense to Omar Vizquel, who was one of the five best shortstops to ever play in Cleveland, but Lindor is no Omar Vizquel…and that’s a good thing.
As good as Vizquel was, and I do believe he’ll be a Hall of Famer, Lindor is that much better. He has more range, more power, and has the same on-base skills that Vizquel had. Lindor has the potential…and why say potential anymore…Lindor is one of the ten best baseball players in the league, and I believe, this year will be a top five guy.
And oh, by the way, Francisco Lindor is going to be pushing for 40 homers and will win the American League MVP…if he stays healthy.
People have been underselling him for years, which is pretty tough to do when you are putting up those kinds of numbers. This year, he’s going to make yet another statement…at the ripe ole’ age of 24. And here’s what’s really fun. We aren’t close to his ceiling. Not anywhere close.
So what do I believe these Indians are going to do this year?
They’re going to win the Central, and as close as people think the Twins will be, they aren’t going to surprise anyone this year. I think the Indians will win the Central handily. I think the rotation will be even better than it was last year. I think the Tribe knows how to win, and are going to send the term variance right down the toilet.
I think come November, there’s going to be a parade, and not a controversial one either.
So get outside today…and grab that baseball glove. Pop a ball in it a few times, and play some catch, even if you’re freezing your ass off. Think back to 1995, when the Indians made it to their first World Series in 41 years. Think back to 1997, when they made it in a year everyone thought they wouldn’t, because Lofton, Baerga, and Belle were gone, and they were winning, with two outs LEFT IN THE GAME. Think back to 2016, when they were one swing of the bat away.
Feel that pain…then forget it. Cleveland isn’t playing in Mudville this year. They’re the underdogs…the team that may just get in…if they’re lucky…right?
But we know better, don’t we.
It’s opening day…anything is possible.
And Craig Lyndall…this one’s for you…
Happy opening day everybody…