Bringing Consistency and Calmness to the Field, Brantley Looks to Build On Past Accomplishments
Danny Madden | On 25, Mar 2014
The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ players who is a core member of the team and key to contention this season and beyond.
The Doctor is in.
The nickname “Dr. Smooth” was given to Michael Brantley because of what he accomplishes not only at the plate, but also on the field. When it comes to consistency and class, Brantley fits that bill perfectly. He’s the kind of player that managers want on their team, and the Indians believed the same thing when they locked him up to a four year $25 million extension earlier this off season.
Brantley was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh round of the 2005 First Year Player Draft. He spent the rest of the 2007 and 2008 seasons in the Milwaukee system before being traded to Cleveland in October of 2008. Along with Brantley came Rob Bryson and Matt LaPorta for Cleveland’s 2007 Cy Young winning C.C. Sabathia. Brantley was actually the “player to be named later” in the trade, while Matt LaPorta was designated as the centerpiece of it.
In 2009, Brantley made his major league debut in September. After spending some time down in the minors in 2010, Brantley was called up again by the big league club and never looked back. Since arriving in the Cleveland, he has posted a 0.277/.330/.711. Last year, he led the club in batting average at .288 and hopes to improve this year. He doesn’t strike out a whole lot, but he also doesn’t hit for power either. Brantley is a guy who can hit a ton of doubles as he had 26 of them last year, but his game is just to get on base.
What was fantastic about Brantley in 2014 was his ability to drive in runners that were in scoring position. His batting average with runners in scoring position last year was .375, and with runners in scoring position and with two outs it stood at .364. When you have a player with that high of a batting average with runners on, it doesn’t matter if they’re hitting a home run or just getting a single. As long as the runners are being brought in, then the man at the plate has done his job. That is exactly what Brantley was able achieve all season long.
Another aspect of Brantley that makes him so vital to this club is the fact that he can hit virtually anywhere in the lineup. Last season, he bounced around the lineup all season long. He batted in each spot at least one time, except for the ninth hole.
Going into the 2014 season, Brantley now knows what is expected of him and his club. After going to the one game wild card playoff game, Brantley wants nothing more than to be back there this October.
“That playoff game was unbelievable, the crowd we had at this game, and they were in there for every pitch. It was something that I’ll never forget. The first playoff game was something that words don’t describe in my mind how fun it was, how exciting it was. I look forward to doing it again this year.”
The excitement that Brantley had from this game led him to wanting to contribute to this team for as long as he can. After signing his extension, Brantley has built himself into the core of this team along with Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn.
“It’s going to be exciting, I’m glad to be a part of it,” Brantley said. “We have a great group of the core coming back. Last year was everyone’s time to get to know each other. Everyone’s developed a good relationship and now we’re just going to move forward and we’re going to have a great season this year.”
Currently through 12 Cactus League spring training games, Brantley is red hot as he is hitting an incredible .500/.526/1.232 in 34 at bats along with 7 RBI’s, 1 stolen base, 2 walks, and not a single strike out. The important stat to notice is the fact that he has yet to strike out. That goes to show the kind of plate discipline that Brantley has. Last season he only struck out 67 times in 556 at bats. That’s a solid 11% strike out rate.
At the age of 26, soon to be 27 in May, Brantley has nowhere to go but up. He has to the potential to improve on what he achieved last year. Now that he’s comfortable with knowing where he’ll be for the next four years, he just needs to continue with his consistency at the plate, and continue to dazzle us in the field. After having 11 assists from left field last year, he won’t be a mystery to runners this coming season. Also, coming into the 2014 season, he holds the record for the most games without causing an error in the outfield and hasn’t committed an error in over 200 games.
Hoping to continue the success of last year, Brantley wants to be able to contribute in any way he can. Whether he’s making a great catch in left field, scoring a runner who’s on base, or just being there to support his fellow team mates. Now knowing what he’s apart of on this team, he can’t wait for this season to start.
“It was a great time, it was a great atmosphere that we were involved in, and I look forward to doing it again this year,” Brantley said.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer