With Solid Starters, Tribe Needs to Focus on the Rest Moving in Second Half

It’s already the midway point of the season, and the Indians, who were rumored to have a team strong enough to appear in the World Series at the beginning of the season, have sunk to a 41-44 record. A sweep this weekend against the Oakland Athletics would send them into the second half of the season with a .500 record, though their chances of making the playoffs in anything other than potentially a Wild Card spot are likely few and far between.

The Tribe was able to send one player into the All-Star game in second baseman Jason Kipnis as a reserve player after a tumultuous fan All-Star vote this season. Despite that lone showing, however, the Indians are not without their strengths as the season’s midway point comes and goes. Despite not being recognized with any All-Star accolades, the Indians starting rotation is, undoubtedly, one of, if not the, best in baseball. It’s the rest of their roster that needs some retooling and revaluation as the season moves into its second half.

The Tribe’s starting rotation has always been their strongest asset this season, and has recently notched a new point of distinction: the Indians are the first club in Major League history to have four starters collect 100+ strikeouts before the All-Star break.

Although their starting rotation is 21st in all of baseball with a 4.23 ERA, the team is first with 528 strikeouts. The Chicago White Sox are their closest competitor, with 486.

The numbers are jarring compared with the rest of the Indians performance. But they should be encouraging, especially when considering how long the Indians have these pitchers under their control.

Corey Kluber, last year’s Cy Young winner and still one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, despite his 4-9 record, is signed until 2019, with 2020 and 2012 team options. He currently has a 3.45 ERA and 148 strikeouts on the season. Trevor Bauer is 8-5 with 102 strikeouts, and cannot become a free agent until after the 2020 season. Carlos Carrasco is 10-7 with a 4.17 ERA and 115 strikeouts, and Danny Salazar is 7-4 with a 4.10 ERA and 108 strikeouts. Carrasco is signed by the Tribe through 2018 with 2019 and 2020 team options, and Salazar is eligible to be a free agent in 2021.

The success of this core four of starters for the Tribe has flown under the radar for quite some time, masked by the team’s paltry offense and at times subpar defense. However, despite All-Star snubs for any of the starting pitching staff, the strength of these four hurlers seems to be gaining momentum, and the strong start fifth starter Cody Anderson has had thus far is helping move the Tribe into a more prominent role again.

Nothing being said here is new; it’s all been said before. The Indians have the potential to be very good, but have been held back by a myriad of circumstances. They have let a number of strong starts go to waste with their inability to hit, and their starting pitchers are not getting the recognition they deserve.

The call-ups of Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor have certainly helped the team defensively, with Urshela being more than a satisfactory substitute for Lonnie Chisenhall at third base. Lindor has treated Tribe fans to plays reminiscent of those made by Omar Vizquel in the ‘90s. They are the beginnings of what could be a young core of revitalizing players for the organization.

It’s this eye toward the future that needs to remain a priority for the Indians as the second half looms and decisions will  need to be made about trades and expanded rosters. The Indians have a phenomenal starting pitching staff. Who can help them out on the rest of the field? The team has one All-Star this year. Who could boost that number in future years?

The focus should, of course, be trying everything possible to make a playoff spot in some way at the end of this season. However, the Indians also need to look at seasons down the road and what gaps need to be filled. They need to dig deeper into who they have emerging in their farm system, and who they may need to say farewell to in order to find deeper success in all facets in seasons to come. With pitchers locked up, the team needs the rest to fall into place in order to be a true contender.

Photo: Tony Dejak/AP Photo

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. The starting pitching has not been strong all the time. It is one thing to pitch well against Tampa or Houston without Springer. But one of the main reasons the Indians struggled in the first half was the pitching against Detroit. The starting pitchers gave up early runs against Detroit and some of those games the offense scored enough runs to beat Detroit. And Detroit is a .500 team. Kluber especially has been guilty in this first half of the season of giving up runs early. Too many people have nothing but offense on the brain but in todays baseball you need to win 3-0 or 1-0 like KC and the White Sox did last night. It is going to come down to what the Indians can do against the other teams in the Central. They need their starting pitching to not give up runs early and win games 3-1 or 2-0.

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