The Glass is Half Something—Random Thoughts from September
Steve Eby | On 24, Sep 2014
“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”
-Richard M. Nixon
WHERE CREDIT IS DUE:
Personally, my playoff dreams for the Indians felt crushed in late April, but I—as everyone around baseball should—have to give the Indians some credit for hanging around in the race into the last week of the season. We are likely down to hours away from being officially eliminated, but at the very least, they kept us entertained all summer long. Thanks for a fun summer Tribe.
Sometimes I get this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about this team. I’m not talking about memories of the helmet-sized super nachos or the delicious but deadly deep-fried cookie dough that you can eat at Progressive Field, but about the fear that this is the kind of team that the Indians are going to try and sell the fans on for the next several seasons. I’m afraid of an annual patchwork team that is constructed of a few solid homegrown players and filled out with baseball’s spare parts along the way. The yearly “impact” free agent signings of guys like David Murphy, John Axford, Ryan Raburn, Mark Reynolds and Brett Myers are enough to make a caffeine-hopped teenager yawn. Worse yet, a team counting on players of that caliber are never going to be title contenders. I foresee a lot of teams that win between 79 and 88 games with an occasional Wild Card spot thrown in. I never foresee a parade heading down East Ninth Street with this philosophy, however.
A YEAR FOR THE AGES:
Did you watch ESPN’s Sportscenter on Monday morning?
If you did, you probably heard anchor John Buccigross mention Did the Tribe Win Last Night? writer Todd Paquette’s tweet about Michael Brantley and how he will become the first player in Indians history with 200 hits, 40 doubles, 20 homeruns and 20 steals in a single season if he can reach the 200 hit plateau—a feat that he is within four hits of.
The point is—Brantley has had one hell of a season.
Here’s some more tweeted-out Dr. Smooth facts courtesy our now most-famous writer (@IndiansAccounts):
-Brantley’s .320+ average will be the highest by an Indian since Roberto Alomar hit .336 in 2001.
-Brantley has the most hits (196) in a single season by an Indian this century.
-Brantley has the third highest wRC+ (154) of all Indians in the past decade, trailing only Travis Hafner’s 2006 and 2005 seasons.
Amazingly enough, Brantley’s star wasn’t even the brightest shining on the Indians team this year, as Corey Kluber has outshined every player east of Seattle this season. Just like the team he plays for, every time it seemed that Kluber was likely going to fall just a little shy of his goal (in this case—the AL Cy Young Award), he did something to bring his name right back into the conversation.
The award has seemed to be the Mariners Felix Hernandez’s for the taking all season long, but Kluber has consistently battled and has put on a huge push over the past month. Kluber has won his last four outings while pitching one complete game and two starts of eight innings or more as well. Even more impressive are his last two starts where he set a new career high on September 16 in Houston with 14 strikeouts and then matched the feat five days later in Minnesota. Another one of those could launch Kluber to the top of the race and knock King Felix off of his throne in the season’s final weekend. If nothing else, it will give us all a reason to watch him this weekend.
OUR NEXT STAR:
With Brantley and Kluber in the fold for the next several years, another nebula could be turning into a star right before our very eyes as well.
Yan Gomes is really, really good and he’s getting better and better. Tribe fans should be excited to see what the future brings for Gomes because he’s under team control through the 2021 season assuming that his club options are picked up. Gomes already has impressive offensive numbers for his first two years in Cleveland (.287/31/109 in 219 games) and it’s worth mentioning just how low the bar is set when it comes to Indians catching greats.
There are basically three catchers that could arguably hold the title of greatest catcher in Indians history: Jim Hegan, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Victor Martinez. All three were outstanding at what they did well, but all had glaring holes in their game as well. Aside from an abysmal April defensively, Gomes does not seem to have many large gaps at this time.
Hegan was the catcher on the 1948 Championship team during a career where he caught over 15,000 games in 14 years with the Tribe. The problem with Hegan was certainly not defense, but offense, as he batted only .230 during his long stay in Cleveland.
Alomar was the next long-term great, but Sandy’s career was hampered by injuries. Yes, he had multiple signature moments during the 1997 season and postseason, but the rest of his time in Cleveland was either spent on the DL or buried at the bottom of the Tribe’s hefty lineup. Over 11 seasons, Alomar’s offensive game probably isn’t as great as you remember it (.277/92/453) nor was his defense (a dWAR of over 1.0 just twice and below 0.0 once).
Finally there’s Martinez, who was the best hitter of them all, but the worst defender. Martinez batted .297 during his Cleveland tenure with 103 homeruns and 518 RBI. He was brutal behind the plate (zero seasons above 1.0 dWAR and three times below 0.0) and probably spent more time at first base and DH than most people realize.
It certainly is far too early, but if Gomes can continue to stay healthy and improve, he could move up the ladder very quickly into some elite company among Tribe catching greats.
Normally the Stock Up and Stock Down Awards are monthly achievements and focus on how I feel the player projects for the rest of the season. Since there are only four games left, however, this month’s edition will project those heading forward and how they compare heading into 2015 to how they looked back in March.
Stock Up Awards go to: Austin Adams, Cody Allen, Trevor Bauer, Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Crockett, Lonnie Chisenhall, Gomes, Tyler Holt, T.J. House, Kluber, Francisco Lindor, Roberto Perez, Jose Ramirez and Zach Walters.
That’s 15 thumbs up and nine thumbs down…I guess that’s a good sign moving into next season.
SEASON MVP: Michael Brantley
SEASON CY YOUNG: Corey Kluber
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images