When the Indians season started, offense was a dirty word that never quite appeared. Until late April, Michael Bourn was leading the Indians lineup after being rumored to be able to get on base, but proving ineffective at drawing walks and delivering hits that put him on base and resulted in runs being scored. Once he moved out of the leadoff spot, Jason Kipnis took over and, slowly but surely, the top of the Indians lineup has begun to transform into something that will be an asset for years to come.
No longer is offense something unheard of. Yes, the Indians may not be scoring massive amounts of runs each and every game, but they haven’t been blanked since July 24. While that doesn’t mean they’ve amassed numerous 10+ run games in that stretch, the team has shown that there is power to be had at the top of the lineup, power that will continue into next year.
It’s long been the Indians mantra that next year will be the year that things change. While next year may not necessarily be a life-changing season, there is certainly more promise looking at what next year’s lineup will be.
Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Francisco Lindor currently find themselves at the top of the Indians lineup, and fans should be reassured with them there. Kipnis and Brantley are currently leading the American League in average, with Kipnis hitting .325 and Brantley close behind at .320. Kipnis’s performance this year earned him a trip to the All-Star game, as well as American League player of the month honors earlier this year in June. Brantley has always been known by fans as Dr. Smooth, not only for his effortless play in the field but for his ability to deliver in clutch situations in a similarly effortless manner. This season, Brantley is hitting .259 late in close games and .323 during tie games. He’s hitting only .217 with two outs and runners in scoring position, but with the whole team struggling to perform with runners on base, that stat is par for the course this season. Kipnis is hitting .238 with two outs and runners in scoring position, giving credence to the decision to keep him at the top of the order.
Between these two veterans, however, is another strong asset to have in the lineup in the form of Francisco Lindor, the 21-year-old whom the Indians waited (what now seems like) far too long to bring up to the big leagues. In his 63 games with the big league club, Lindor is hitting .306 with 11 doubles, seven home runs, and 30 RBI. His batting average is second among American League rookies, and he’s easily living p to the hype that was built around him throughout his time in the Indians organization. His defensive prowess has helped his role, as well, as he hasn’t crumbled under being league pressure.
To make things better, all three are secured with the Tribe for the definite future. Lindor will at least be with the organization until 2020, probably until 2021, Brantley is singed through 2017 with a option for 2018, and Kipnis is signed through 2019 with an option for 2020.
Of course, the downside to having such a dominant 1-2-3 at the top of the lineup is the rest of the group pales in comparison. Throughout the rest of the Indians lineup, the next-highest averages come from Ryan Raburn, Abraham Almonte and Lonnie Chisenhall at .281, .262, and .258 respectively. Those aren’t awful averages by any means, but there is a little bit of concern in having to say that the next-best hitting players on your team are Raburn, Chisenhall, and a newcomer who may or may not replicate these stats next season.
The bottom line is that the Indians have done well in securing their hitters whom they know can produce in the coming seasons. The rest of the lineup leaves question marks and unknowable future performance, but it’s better to be starting with something than rebuilding a lineup in 2016 from nothing.
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