It came down to the final day for many, but the Cleveland Indians have been able to avoid several uncomfortable arbitration hearings this winter as they announced deals with seven eligible players on contract figures for the coming 2017 season.
Friday marked the deadline for teams to exchange contract figures. The deals eliminated seven of the eight players with whom the Indians were potentially going to have to go to arbitration hearings, scheduled to occur between January 30 and February 17. The team can still reach an agreement between now and then with outfielder Brandon Guyer, the lone player eligible who did not come to terms. The two sides were a reported $400,000 apart between figures, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Nearly every baseball team that finds success in any given season can point to unexpected contributions from a player or two along the way. The Cleveland Indians had several of those during their 2016 run to Game 7 of the World Series.
Tyler Naquin and Jose Ramirez certainly fit that bill. However, both of those players are young and were hoped to eventually become solid Major League contributors at some point in their careers. It just happened that that point came this past season.
For last year’s Indians, the most unexpected important contributor to the success of the team was a guy who was on three rosters in a span of a month and a half.
Six RBI from shortstop Addison Russell and another strong pitching performance from Chicago’s Jake Arrieta helped the Cubs force a Game 7 in the World Series with a 9-3 win over the Indians at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
A return home for the Indians was not enough to clinch the club’s first title since 1948, even with the last living member of that season’s team, Eddie Robinson, in attendance at Game 6 of the World Series. Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin was rocked for six runs in the first three innings and the Indians once again failed to answer the call when opportunity knocked.
The Chicago win forces a winner-takes-all showdown on Wednesday night for the title of World Champions.
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned.” The quote from LeBron James has become a silent mantra for the city of Cleveland and was certainly appropriate for the Indians this season. Monday night proved to be no different as, despite losing starter Trevor Bauer just two outs into the first inning with blood gushing from his stitched together right pinkie finger, the Tribe bullpen combined with four runs of offense to defeat the Blue Jays, 4-2, in Toronto in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
The improbable, incomprehensible, and magical victory for the Indians moved the club just one win from clinching the American League pennant with four chances remaining to drive the final nail into the Blue Jays’ coffin for 2016. As obstacle after obstacle and distraction after distraction has stood menacingly in the way of the Indians this season and again in the postseason, a team of destiny appears not only up to the task of defying the odds, but defeating them in the most unrealistic of ways.
Throughout the playoffs thus far, there’s been a lot of talk in regards to how the Indians pitching staff may not be strong enough to make it through to the World Series. While this could potentially be true, there’s a key component of this Indians team that could propel them through all of the injuries, and that would be their bullpen.
Coming into the season, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the pen as a whole. In 2015, it was pretty clear that manager Terry Francona loved to rely on his two guys – closer Cody Allen and setup man Bryan Shaw. Allen, appeared in 70 games in 2015 and threw in 69 1/3 innings. Shaw, on the other hand, appeared in 74 games and threw 64 innings.
These two were the anchors of a pen that was fairly questionable through most of the 2015 season. Like most seasons, Tito made a relatively unknown guy amazing in Jeff Manship, just as he had done to Scott Atchison in 2014. Along with them, there was Zach McAllister, Kyle Crockett, and even Trevor Bauer at the end of the season. From time to time we did see guys in the likes of Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong, and Giovanni Soto.
Carlos Santana supplied the Tribe with the deciding runs for the second straight night as his three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning broke a 2-2 tie while sending the Cleveland Indians to a 5-2 victory and three-game sweep over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.
With the game knotted up at deuces and reliever Dillon Gee on for his second inning of work in relief of Kansas City starter Jason Vargas, Jason Kipnis was plunked by a pitch with the count full. Francisco Lindor worked a five-pitch walk before Mike Napoli popped up to short for the first out. Two pitches later, Santana hooked a homer into the seats in right to put Cleveland on top by a 5-2 count.
It may no longer be the dog days of summer, but Cleveland’s boys of summer gave one to the dogs on Tuesday as the Indians were stunned by a seven-run onslaught in the sixth in an 8-1 loss in Chicago to the White Sox.
In front of 1,122 dogs, their subservient humans, and a handful of other unleashed baseball fans, the White Sox unleashed a hurting on Indians starter Trevor Bauer after he had shut down 12 straight and 13 of 14 as the game quickly ran away from the Tribe.
The score was tied 1-1 after two innings. The White Sox struck for a run in the bottom of the first as the pesky Adam Eaton singled off of Bauer, moved to second on a sacrifice, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on a two-out base knock by Jose Abreu for the early lead. Brandon Guyer’s homer to left with one down in the top of the second off of Chicago starter Jose Quintana evened things up.
Time may be expiring on Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin, but it is not on the Indians and their pursuit of the postseason as a terrific job by the Tribe bullpen sent the Minnesota Twins to a 12th consecutive loss on Wednesday night, 5-4.
Things felt bleak in the early going for the Indians as their scuffling offense was put in a big hole just two innings into the game. It took just one pitch from Tomlin to make things feel uneasy.
Cleveland loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning but could not push across the tying run as a strikeout and a weak fly out ended an ugly road trip for the Indians as they fell 2-1 to the Texas Rangers on Sunday afternoon.
Danny Salazar took the mound and was in need of a big performance after struggling for an extended length of time in the Indians rotation. He looked far more his former self than the more recent version, pitching deeper into the ball game and minimizing the damage. He showed that he still has work to do, drastically missing on some pitch locations throughout the day, but his end results kept the game close, which sometimes is all that can be asked of a starting pitcher.
After 106 games, the Cleveland Indians have failed to lose four games in a row. They dodged another bullet on Thursday afternoon with a balanced attack, strong pitching, and plenty of offensive support to end a three-game bender as the Tribe knocked off the Minnesota Twins by a 9-2 score.
Mike Clevinger, tasked with the unenviable job of doing what Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer could not do before him, gave the Indians nearly five innings of stability on the mound. He handed the ball off to the bullpen and manager Terry Francona’s relief arms got the job done with four and two-thirds inning of no-hit baseball.
Clevinger got the early support that has been lacking from the Indians offense for much of the homestand, as Cleveland jumped out to a lead in the bottom of the first against new Minnesota starter and former All-Star Hector Santiago.
If someone had told you before this baseball season began that the Cleveland Indians bullpen would have some issues and be the weakest part of the ball club, you might have though the team was going to in bad shape by the campaign’s midway point.
By the same token, if someone had told you in March that the Tribe’s offense would be nearly as responsible for a strong first half as the team’s vaunted rotation, you might have though you were being lied to. Especially if it was added that Michael Brantley would miss most of the season’s first 100 games and Yan Gomes would have one of the lowest batting averages in the game. Those two have been key pieces to Cleveland’s batting order over the last few years.
However, here we are as the post All-Star break portion of the schedule has just gotten under way. The bullpen has been average at best and suspect at various times in the season. Closer Cody Allen has not been lights out, but has at least gotten the job done a lot more times than not. After that, most of the rest of the relievers have either performed below expectations, not pitched enough to gauge, or are young and/or inexperienced in their role.
Who has been the most clutch Tribe reliever this year? At first, this seems like a silly question.
The answer is simple, you might think. It’s obviously closer Cody Allen. He’s been 14-for-16 in save situations this year and has a 3.23 ERA. Plus, he’s only pitched in the eighth inning or later, generally considered the most important innings in a game. According to the clutch metric on FanGraphs, Allen is the wrong answer.
The right answer, and the leader in clutch score across all of baseball, is actually Dan Otero. That’s right, the 31-year-old middle reliever acquired for cash considerations in the offseason has been the Tribe’s most clutch reliever so far. His clutch score, which according to FanGraphs’ David Appelman measures “how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment,” is 1.40. The second highest in the AL among relievers is 1.25.