Cleveland Indians: Some final remarks at the end of 2017

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There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to the Cleveland Indians in 2018, even though things didn’t go as planned in 2017. The Cleveland Indians didn’t have a great finish to 2017, but at least it went better than the team that plays near the lake. It is always interesting to […]

Cleveland Indians: Some final remarks at the end of 2017Believeland BallBelieveland Ball – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Cleveland Indians: A mistake to gamble on Yonder Alonso’s swing change?

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Yonder Alonso is the Cleveland Indians’ new first baseman and the club is gambling on his new and improved swing, which could be a big mistake. The Cleveland Indians entered the offseason knowing they would likely have to find a new starting first baseman with former mainstay Carlos Santana a free agent. After he signed […]

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Pair of Old Hands Could Be Keys to Tribe’s 2018 Success

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What if you were told the Cleveland Indians could add a pair of former two-time All-Stars to their lineup? Add to that statement that neither player had anything to do with the Tribe’s epic 22-game winning streak this past summer, one that helped launch the club to the best record in the American League. Also, add to that that neither player was much of a factor in a disappointing five-game ALDS defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees. Now what if you were told that the Indians would have to give up nothing to add the All-Star veterans to a lineup that neither was really much of a part of in the second half of 2017?

You would probably happily take this scenario, just before asking how the Indians could add two quality pieces to their everyday lineup without giving anything up. That part is simple. The two players are Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley.

With Carlos Santana now gone to Philadelphia, Brantley and Kipnis serve as the Indians’ longest-tenured players. They probably serve as two of the biggest keys to Cleveland’s hopes of winning a third straight American League Central Division title and, more importantly, getting back to the World Series for the first time in two years and winning it for the first time in 70 years.

Both Kipnis and Brantley had different 2017 campaigns. Brantley was an All-Star for the second time in his career, following a strong first half that served notice that he had put his 2016 shoulder issues behind him. Instead, a bum ankle wiped out nearly all of his August and September and then made him a shell of himself as a designated hitter in the ALDS when thrust into the lineup daily after Edwin Encarnacion‘s own ankle injury. Brantley did not have the sweet swing Tribe fans have become accustomed to from Dr. Smooth during the postseason, which may have very well been because he was essentially in spring training form after being out of action nearly two months and getting three at bats in the Tribe’s final two regular season contests.

When Brantley was playing early in the season, he was playing at the All-Star and MVP-caliber level  he was at in 2014 and 2015. He was limited to just 90 games thanks to the second half ankle woes. However, he hit .299 with nine home runs and 52 RBI. When healthy, he was still one of Cleveland’s best offensive players.

As for Kipnis, his entire season was muddled by injuries. He began the year on the disabled list with an injured shoulder. He had a pair of other DL stints due to a bad hamstring. All told, he played 90 games. He never was quite right at the plate, hitting a career worst .232. He hit 12 bombs and collected 35 RBI. The power was still there when he was able to get into the lineup, but his overall hitting was off.

Neither Kipnis or Brantley played a single game during the best run of success in franchise history and the second-best winning streak in the history of the sport. The club did not miss a beat, thanks to MVP-caliber seasons from Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor to go with the usually mashing from Encarnacion. Santana and Jay Bruce, a pair of solid power hitters, were key parts of the Indians’ 2017 success. Santana is gone and Bruce is likely to follow out the free agent doors. That makes rebounds from Brantley and Kipnis almost imperative. With two key pieces from last year’s team gone, the return to full form of two key pieces of Tribe teams in years past would be a huge boon to the Indians.

When going at their best, Brantley and Kipnis are All-Stars who can both hit for decent power, have good speed, and can both hit for high averages.

Kipnis is just a year removed from his best season in 2016 when he was a huge factor in the Tribe’s run to the World Series. He had career high of 23 homers to go with 82 RBI while hitting .275. He hit a career-best .303 in his 2015 All-Star campaign. He stole 30 bases while collecting a career-high 84 RBI in his 2013 All-Star season. That year was just one off his watershed stolen base mark of 31 in 2012. Clearly he is a strong presence in the Tribe lineup when healthy.

As for Brantley, he did well when he played this past season, after missing all but 11 games of the 2016 campaign. His biggest years were 2014 and 2015. The first of those he was third in the American League MVP voting when he hit 20 dingers, drove in 97 runs, scored 94 runs, stole 23 bases, and hit .327 (all were career-best numbers). He followed that up with a strong 2015, when he had 15 bombs, 84 RBI, and hit .310 in 19 fewer games than the season before. It was the end of that season when he injured his shoulder, setting in motion what became a frustrating year-and-a-half of surgeries and questions about whether he could ever again be the same player.

Brantley proved he could put the shoulder issues behind him. Now he needs to prove he can put October’s ankle surgery behind him as he hopes to get back in time for the start of the 2018 season. There are no such concerns with Kipnis. He should be a full go by mid-February when a new baseball calendar kicks off with spring training.

The return to form of both Kipnis and Brantley would certainly boost the Tribe’s chances to have another great regular season and sustained playoff run. Imagine the two of them at their peaks in lineup with Lindor, Ramirez, Encarnacion and the newly acquisition Yonder Alonso. Throw in Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez at catcher and the makings are still there for a potent lineup even with the free agent departures this winter.

Kipnis and Brantley have been teammates with the Indians since 2011. They are the Indians’ longest-tenured players, having seen the lean times of 2011 and 2012, the good times under Terry Francona from 2013-2017, and the great times of an October to remember in 2016. There is still work to do for this team to finally get over that last hurdle and hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy after a fourth World Series victory. It seems almost right for those hopes to rest largely on two of the club’s veteran leaders.

Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Source: http://www.didthetribewinlastnight.com/rss

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Cleveland Indians: Hall of Fame voting remains a frustrating process

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The Cleveland Indians have two former players on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, but watching the ballots come in remains a frustrating process. It is rather astonishing when something is clearly broken, everyone knows it, but nothing is done to fix it. That is where we are with Hall of Fame voting, as the […]

Cleveland Indians: Hall of Fame voting remains a frustrating processBelieveland BallBelieveland Ball – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Cleveland Indians: Some fun New Year’s resolutions for fans

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2018 is nearly here and it is a perfect time for Cleveland Indians fans to set some New Year’s resolutions focusing on the team. Gyms around the country will be filled next week as the New Year’s resolutions make a triumphant return at the start of 2018. Whether you make a bunch of resolutions or […]

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Cleveland Indians’ 2017 Year in Review – What If?

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For many Tribe fans, the 2017 season will be looked upon with the same marketing tagline that the 2012 season had at its outset.

“What If?”

What if Corey Kluber was healthy in the postseason and not dealing with injury? What if the rotation was not negatively impacted again by inconsistent and injury-riddled performances from Danny Salazar? What if Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis did not lose gigantic chunks of the campaign on the disabled list while looking to be shells of their former All-Star selves when meaningful October baseball arrived? What if the Indians had not wasted the last seasons in a Cleveland uniform of Carlos Santana and Bryan Shaw? What if Bradley Zimmer did not get stepped on by Baltimore’s Chris Davis to prematurely end his rookie debut while putting the outfield into further disarray? What if Edwin Encarnacion did not jam and roll his ankle retreating to second base in the first inning of the second game of the postseason? What if the Indians did not blow a 2-0 lead to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series after clinching home field advantage throughout the AL bracket of the playoffs?

Instead of defending their AL pennant from 2016 and making another long run through the postseason, as many had hoped and others had predicted prior to the season, the Indians fell on their collective faces when the stakes were the highest, costing the team a year of contention during its most recent “window of opportunity”. Sure, the AL Central essentially looks like the city of Cleveland during the summer – with orange construction barrels strewn about every corner – while the majority of the division is in some state of rebuild. The rest of the league, however, has spent its offseason working to get stronger, so while the path through the Central might require little fight for the Tribe, the beasts of the AL East and the best of the AL West have done little back-stepping this winter with a chance to improve.

Shaw - Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Shaw – Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Indians, meanwhile, have subtracted the big bats of Santana and Jay Bruce from the lineup and the arms of Shaw and Joe Smith from the productive and underrated bullpen.

The Indians, backed by an AL record 22-game winning streak in August and September, finished the season with the second-most wins (102) and fourth-best winning percentage (.630) in 117 years of junior circuit baseball on the north coast. But just as was the case for the Golden State Warriors’ NBA record 73-game win season in the 2015-16 season, records do not always equate to championships. So while the Indians looked poised for postseason dreams, the reality was a nightmare and disappointment.

The AL Central was a back-and-forth race throughout the season. The Chicago White Sox sold off early, dealing Chris Sale in the offseason before dumping everything of substantial value that they could at and before the trade deadline. The Detroit Tigers waited to see if they could pull one more rabbit out of their ball caps, but instead followed with both a midseason and offseason purge of several big names from the Motor City, including skipper Brad Ausmus. Things in Kansas City have gone almost exactly as expected, as the team held on to all of its chips and tried for one more postseason push, but now will suffer through a rebuild without assets that could have been acquired for the expiring contracts of the likes of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and several other contributors to the club’s back-to-back World Series appearances just a few years ago. The Minnesota Twins were a wild card, a team that exceeded most’s expectations and snuck into the AL Wild Card play-in game before giving the Yankees a scare. Young and hungry, they would be expected to be right back in the mix in 2018.

And then there is the Tribe, left to ponder what went wrong in 2017 while debating if the existing components of the present roster are enough to legitimately contend in the AL playoff picture for 2018. Yonder Alonso becomes the team’s big offseason addition, following in the footsteps of another first baseman-type from a year ago in Encarnacion, albeit on a shorter and cheaper commitment after a breakout season split between Oakland and Seattle. The coaching staff has been shuffled up, with Mickey Callaway, Matt Quatraro, and Jason Bere gone for new opportunities. There are holes abound, as the outfield looks thin and the hot corner has to deal with lagging production of cooler bats that failed to produce reliable results from both sides of the game. The starting rotation should be great again, especially with the return of Carlos Carrasco in the second spot after finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young voting behind two-time winner Kluber. Trevor Bauer will be able to build upon a season when he reached the expectations set forth for him when he was a first round draft pick by Arizona in 2011, while the rest of the rotation would be presumably durable with Salazar, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger, and even Ryan Merritt in play for the final two spots on the staff. The bullpen will be remodeled, with Shaw, Smith, and Boone Logan all gone from the roster. The front office has brought in what feels like a dozen reclamation projects to contend for openings in the bullpen bunch, with the “losers” of the rotation battle likely also factoring heavily into the relief corps’ makeup, but it will all amount to a heavy workload for Cody Allen and Andrew Miller in what could be their final years in Indians jerseys.

While Santana and Shaw had become punching bags for the fans throughout their stays in Cleveland, their absences will be felt. The offense will have to pick up the slack that Santana (.259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers, and 79 RBI), Austin Jackson (.318/.387/.482 in 85 games), and Bruce (nine doubles, seven homers, and 26 RBI in 43 games), but the Indians do return their second third-place finisher in the AL MVP voting in the last four years in Jose Ramirez. The utility man, who became an All-Star third baseman and later the everyday second baseman, proved that his offensive contributions in 2016 were no fluke with an MLB-leading 56 doubles, 29 homers, and 83 RBI while slashing .318/.374/.583. Francisco Lindor will still pair with him, either up the middle or as the left side of the infield tandem, and will bring his bats that burst out with an unexpected 33-homer, 44-double, 89-RBI power display in 2017. After a slow start, even Encarnacion’s numbers evened out, as the 34-year-old big bopper hit 38 bombs and drove in a team-leading 107 runs.

Kluber took home the Cy and led the AL in more than a handful of pitching statistics, despite missing a month of action early in the season. Carrasco came on and lived up to his top of the rotation billing, tying Kluber for the league’s lead with 18 wins while topping the 200-strikeout mark for the second time in his career. Bauer stabilized the middle of the rotation and made more than a few batters look foolish at the plate with the assortment of filth in his arsenal. Allen continued to be one of the more underappreciated closers in the game, saving 30 of 34 games with a 2.94 ERA, while a magnifying glass was needed to find Miller’s ERA (1.44) and WHIP (0.83). Late season knee problems did slow down one of the more effective relief arms in the game. Shaw earned four wins and three saves while getting holds in another 26 contests, all while making an MLB-high 79 appearances on the mound (his fifth straight season with 70 or more trips to the rubber).

The pieces were in place, the expectations were high, but a slew of questions curtailed and derailed what could have been a season to remember in Cleveland. It will still be remembered now by Tribe fans, but for all of the wrong reasons as the season slipped away in disappointing fashion.

As the calendar prepares to flip over for a new year, the core of the Cleveland Indians is still largely together, but all these questions remain. After wondering “What if?” in the past and once again this season, the question becomes “Now what?”. For the city that is always waiting for the next year, that next year is upon us as the Indians celebrate 80 years since their last world title.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

Source: http://www.didthetribewinlastnight.com/rss

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Cleveland Indians: The excitement of receiving a great gift

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Cleveland Indians fans may be staring at mounds of snow right now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t rep some new gear around the holidays. Baseball season seems years away as snow continues to fall in and around Northeast Ohio, but at least it’s a holiday weekend. Cleveland Indians fans can hide inside and throw […]

Cleveland Indians: The excitement of receiving a great giftBelieveland BallBelieveland Ball – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Cleveland Indians: Rounding up all the top stories from 2017

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Cleveland Indians fans will have high expectations in 2018, but before we look ahead let’s look back at all the top stories from 2017. The final weekday of 2017 is here and it is almost time to relax and hide from the bitter cold as we prepare to welcome 2018’s arrival. Cleveland Indians fans are […]

Cleveland Indians: Rounding up all the top stories from 2017Believeland BallBelieveland Ball – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Cleveland Indians remain high in FanSided’s offseason power rankings

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The Cleveland Indians haven’t made any major changes this offseason, but remain as one of the top teams heading into the 2018 season. The Cleveland Indians are playing a meaningful baseball game in less than 100 days. Add that to the fact the days are getting longer again and all is well as Cleveland freezes […]

Cleveland Indians remain high in FanSided’s offseason power rankingsBelieveland BallBelieveland Ball – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Cleveland Indians: Not expecting any major changes before Opening Day

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Some Cleveland Indians fans may have hoped for a big splash in free agency, but the team isn’t expected to make any major moves before Opening Day. It is easy to get carried away during the offseason. Cleveland Indians fans see Carlos Santana leave and want the team to make a major move, with some […]

Cleveland Indians: Not expecting any major changes before Opening DayBelieveland BallBelieveland Ball – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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