Tribe is Well Represented in 89th All-Star Game
Bob Toth | On 17, Jul 2018
While things might not have gone according to plan for the Cleveland Indians in the first half, individual performances on the team have certainly merited the team’s six All-Star representatives for Tuesday night’s 89th Major League Baseball All-Star Game from Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. Regardless of the team’s overall record of 52-43, the Indians still sit atop the American League Central Division at the break with a seven and a half game lead over the Minnesota Twins, the largest lead of any of the six divisional leaders.
Deserving picks came from spots all across the 25-man roster, as a pair of starting pitchers, two infielders, an outfielder, and the squad’s resurgent backstop all made the trip to the nation’s capital for the annual exhibition, giving the Tribe its largest collection of All-Stars in nearly 20 years (matching the team’s six players on the American League roster in 1999). Their six All-Stars this season are also the most in the Majors, tied with the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.
Each of the top three hitters from the Tribe’s lineup made the trip east, as leadoff man Francisco Lindor, left fielder Michael Brantley, and three-hitter and third baseman Jose Ramirez composed the initial offensive gathering for the Indians for the contest.
Lindor and Brantley each made the team as backups, beat out in the popular vote. That was not the case for Ramirez, who for the second straight season was picked as the starting third baseman for the team, an honor deserving of a player who finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player voting a season ago and heads into the break tied for the Major League lead in homers with 29 and the top WAR man in the game (according to Fangraphs) with a 6.5 mark (tied with Mike Trout and Mookie Betts). Ramirez comes in with a 6.6 mark, 0.2 behind Trout, on the Baseball-Reference overall WAR leaderboard and at 5.6 in offensive WAR, just behind Betts and 0.7 behind Trout for the best mark in the Majors.
Ramirez is right there in the mix for MVP consideration once again. He quietly has put up a .302/.401/.628 line at the plate, making him arguably one of the most dangerous players in the game today without the big name recognition that his numbers deserve. He is the team leader in OBP, slugging, and OPS. He is second on the team with 26 doubles, 108 hits, and 68 runs scored. He is tied for the Major League lead in homers with 29, joining Boston’s J.D. Martinez, much more considered a home run threat at the plate. His 57 walks and 70 RBI are tops on the Tribe and the run production is second in the league to Martinez’s 80. He also leads the Indians with 20 stolen bases in 23 opportunities, making him one of just a handful of players to hit 25 homers and steal 20 bases in the first half of a season. While fans may not yet know his name fully or appreciate his efforts, his eight intentional walks show that he at least is getting the respect of many opposing managers.
Ramirez is the leading hitter in All-Star Game history – at least, he is in a 58-way tie for that designation with a 1.000 batting average after going 2-for-2 in last season’s game. Only five players on that list have career averages that include three hits (Willie Davis, Vince DiMaggio, Jonathan Lucroy, Tim McCarver, and Jimmy Rollins). He will get a chance to add to that early in the contest on Tuesday – he will hit fifth in manager AJ Hinch’s lineup in his second ever trip to the Midsummer Classic.
Lindor has been an offensive threat for most of the season, making up for a slow start with big numbers at the plate. He has been an extra base hit machine and a multi-hit contributor all year long. He is second in all of baseball in extra base hits, trailing only Ramirez with his 55 multi-base hits. He has tallied multiple hits in 38 different games this season. He leads the club in hits with 113 and doubles with 30. He is second in homers with 25 and third in RBI with 62. His 85 runs scored are tops in all of baseball. He has provided the Indians with a .291/.367/.562 line at the dish.
The 24-year-old switch-hitter is hitless in four career plate appearances in his first two All-Star trips with two strikeouts.
Brantley has proven worth every penny of the contract extension that was picked up in the offseason. He has steadily remained above the .300 mark for the majority of the year, putting up a .308/.355/.493 slash at the plate in 84 games with 25 doubles, one triple, 12 homers, and 56 RBI. Staying healthy and in the lineup, he is the team’s leader in batting and is among the leaders on the team in hits, doubles, and RBI. The 31-year-old could be playing through his final season in Cleveland, as he may be able to turn his strong season into a decent payday this winter.
Brantley is 1-for-3 through his first two All-Star appearances (2014, 2017) with a single.
Kluber had struggled some over his last few starts and was given an injection in his knee, leading him to pull out of the All-Star Game last week to rest up. He was replaced on the roster by deserving Tampa Bay starting pitcher Blake Snell. Kluber headed into the All-Star break with a 12-5 record in 20 starts with one complete game. He has missed out on other wins due to the poor performances of his bullpen mates. The 32-year-old two-time Cy Young winnner owns a 2.76 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP through the first half in 133 2/3 innings. While his home run rate is up, he has allowed just 17 walks to 132 strikeouts in the first half, posting a 1.1 walk/nine rate and a 7.76 strikeout/walk rate, both best in the Majors. He will not participate in the game, but his selection marked the third straight season that he was named to the team.
Bauer, 27, has had the season that he has been waiting his whole career for in the first half, putting himself on the radar for some outside consideration for the league’s Cy Young Award with his performance over the first three and a half months. Like Kluber, some late inning failures by the bullpen have kept his win-loss record modest at 8-6. But through his 20 starts, he has a team-best 2.24 ERA in 136 1/3 innings of work. He has struck out 175 batters, averaging 11.6 per nine innings for the top mark on the staff, and his 1.08 WHIP trails only Kluber. He has quietly kept the ball in the yard this year – after allowing 20 or more in each of the last three seasons, he has surrendered just six in his 20 starts this year, giving him an MLB-low rate of 0.4 per nine innings. He is expected only to see the mound if the game were to extend to extra innings as he worked in Sunday’s first half finale against the New York Yankees, taking a no-decision in the contest.
Catcher Yan Gomes was a late addition to the team, joining the collection on Saturday night as an injury replacement for Rays’ catcher Wilson Ramos, who suffered a hamstring injury and is expected to be placed on the disabled list by the time play resumes at the end of the week. The Cleveland batterymate of Kluber and Bauer rebounded from a slow start and a rough few years at the plate with a good overall season and is among the leaders in a handful of offensive categories at his position. The 30-year Gomes will participate in his first big league All-Star Game and just the second such contest of his professional career, following a Florida State League All-Star appearance in 2010.
Through 69 games this season, Gomes is slashing .247/.306/.437 with 17 doubles, ten homers, and 32 RBI. When he enters the game on Tuesday, he will become the first Brazilian-born player to ever appear in an All-Star Game.
The Tribe five will be reason enough to watch the game, as several are almost guaranteed to make it into the game and there should be some sort of Cleveland representation on the field at nearly all times. Ramirez is the starter at third and Brantley and Lindor could be among the first at their positions to take the field in the middle and later innings. Gomes is one of two catchers on the roster, so he will take over for Salvador Perez for the final half of the game. Bauer will likely only catch some action if the game requires extra innings.
The 89th edition of the Midsummer Classic will take place at 8:00 PM ET and will be broadcast live on FOX.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images