Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 12 – Francisco Lindor
Bob Toth | On 22, Mar 2017
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Countdown to Opening Day – 12
One of the disappointing consequences of the World Baseball Classic for the Cleveland Indians has been losing the energy and excitement for baseball that Francisco Lindor seems to bring to the field with him every single day. It is an invaluable trait that his teammates undoubtedly miss and one that younger prospects in the farm system could have benefited from during the Tribe’s spring training festivities in Goodyear, Arizona.
Compounding that problem for the Indians has been the success of Team Puerto Rico in the WBC, which has kept Lindor away from the club for as long as the tournament allows. Lindor’s squad will play Team USA in the WBC Championship Game Wednesday night at 9:00 PM ET from Los Angeles, California, finally spelling an end of his absence from the Tribe’s camp.
Lindor has been a top performer for his country mates, appearing in six games for Puerto Rico entering action on Wednesday while putting up a .435/.481/.739 slash (7-for-23 at the plate) with a double, two homers, and four RBI in the exhibition. Before he left the Indians at the beginning of the month to prepare for the WBC, Lindor had worked in six games in spring training with four hits in 18 at bats (.222) with a pair of doubles, a walk, and three RBI to his credit.
There was no slumping in his sophomore performance last season as Lindor made a name for himself in Major League Baseball. The budding star and a face of the Indians franchise was coming off of a strong .313/.353/.482 performance over 99 games in his debut season for Cleveland in 2015, finishing second in the American League Rookie of the Year race to his WBC teammate Carlos Correa while also leading all AL players in sacrifices with 13.
He may have started a bit slow in April, but his overall numbers for the month masked the few issues he had. It was his lightest month for run production and scoring runs himself and his strikeout rate was at 19.35%, but that would be the worst result he would show at the plate for the season. While the strikeout rate was high for him, his walk rate was his second-highest monthly output for the season. He hit .293 with a .359 on-base percentage.
Many of his numbers improved over the course of the rest of the season. He hit .316 in May with a season-high .373 OBP. Twenty-eight of his 36 hits for the month were singles and his high tendency to be on base led to a season-high 21 runs scored in his 28 games. He had a power surge in June, hitting six doubles, a triple, and six home runs while driving in 17 and hitting .301 for the month.
He went into the All-Star break with a .306 average and a .363 OBP in the first half with 20 doubles, a triple, ten homers, and 45 RBI and added 13 thefts on the base paths. His strong play earned him a trip to San Diego to participate in the Major League All-Star Game as one of the bench players on the AL roster.
He continued to get on base at a consistent clip in July after the break, hitting .304 in 24 games in the month with a .346 OBP. The following month, he saw the ball well at the plate, drawing just two walks in August, but hitting .341 with a season-high 42 hits (including 34 singles). As the season’s final month played out, he hit just .233, but he put up his second-best OBP (.365) as he drew 19 walks (16.38% of his plate appearances in the span), or an amount equal to the previous three months combined.
For the second half in his well-rounded and balanced season, he slashed .296/.352/.404 with ten doubles, two more triples, five homers, and 33 RBI.
If Lindor had an issue during the regular season, it was playing away from Progressive Field. He had a batting line of .344/.401/.493 at home with 23 of his 30 doubles on the year, but on the road, he put up a .258/.314/.377 triple slash with nine of his 15 homers coming outside of Cleveland. The switch-hitter’s splits against opposing pitchers were nearly even, with a higher average and a tiny bit more pop coming from the left side of the plate.
While the big lights of the postseason could have been intimidating for a player just 22 years old at the time, his results did not show it. He hit .250 in three games in the ALCS with a double and a solo homer. He batted .368 in the ALCS against Toronto, adding another double and homer while driving in three in the five-game set. He provided a .296 average in the World Series, delivering his third double of the postseason while driving in two more runs in the seven-game series.
Now 23 and possessing a name for baseball fans around the world to know, Lindor will look to lead the Indians back to the playoffs for a second straight year, intent to take care of the team’s unfinished business from a season ago. He has quickly earned himself attention across the globe for his energy, enthusiasm, and high-flying high-fives, but one can only wonder how gigantic his already infectious smile could become if the Tribe can complete its goal of a world championship.
Other notable 12’s in Indians history: Willis Hudlin (1930-40), Don Mossi (1954-58), Woodie Held (1963-64), Graig Nettles (1970-72), Jeff Kent (1996), Greg Swindell (1996), Roberto Alomar (1999-2001), Ben Francisco (2007-09), Ezequiel Carrera (2011-12), Mark Reynolds (2013)
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images