Opening day has come and gone and the 2016 season is underway for the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians were scheduled to play six games in the first week of the campaign but mother nature had other plans.
After Opening Day was called off in Cleveland, the Indians have already seen three games get postponed during the young season.
After splitting two games with the Red Sox at Progressive Field the Tribe went on to do the same with the White Sox in Chicago as they sit at 2-2 after one week of play.
Through the four games the Tribe has been able to play we’ve seen just about what was expected early in the year.
To the surprise of few the offense has gotten off to a slow start. So far the Indians have hit just .233 while only getting on base at a .295 clip.
It has been the leadoff spot that has really put the team behind the eight ball. The Indians have produced just one hit and two walks in 12 at-bats at the top of the order.
Rajai Davis has been given the task of manning that spot in the lineup for now but he doesn’t look comfortable as he’s swinging and missing left and right. One of the big question marks beginning the year with Michael Brantley on the disabled list was who would fill the void at the top of the lineup until his return.
So far Terry Francona has gone with Davis but with the way Jose Ramirez has been swinging the bat early (5 for 14), he’s given Tito another candidate near the top of the order. The only question with Ramirez at the moment is can he play in the outfield on a regular basis?
Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana have picked up where they left off last year.
Mike Napoli has brought some power that the Indians were looking for when they signed him during the offseason.
Napoli has already belted two home runs including the game winner against the Red Sox on Wednesday. Along with Napoli, the Tribe signed other veterans to help their offense get on track but so far they aren’t producing at all.
Aside from Napoli, the Tribe acquired other veteran free agents to bring leadership to the clubhouse and help right the ship from last year. Marlon Byrd, Davis and Juan Uribe have combined to hit .132 (5 for 38).
The offense needs to find a way to be more consistent until Brantley returns or else it’s going to be a long month of April.
While the holes in the offense without Brantley in the lineup were well known and figured to take some time to straighten out, the pitching staff was expected to come out firing.
The top two pitchers in the rotation who figure to be in the running for Cy Young honors this year got off to a rough start.
Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco were shaky in their first appearances of 2016. Both starters gave up four earned runs, Kluber in 5.1 innings, Carrasco in five.
Danny Salazar and Cody Anderson picked up the staff in Chicago by giving up just one and two runs respectively.
As with the offensive output so far, this is a small sample size and there is absolutely no reason for any panic thus far with the starting rotation.
Then you have to look at the bullpen.
Indians pitchers have surrendered 20 runs through four games, 11 of which were by way of the starters in 21.2 innings. That leaves the bullpen responsible for nine runs in 13.1 innings, marking an ERA of 6.08.
Bryan Shaw and Ross Detwiler have allowed seven of those nine runs. Shaw, the dependable setup man the last couple years for the Tribe, surrendered five runs in just 0.2 innings Saturday while being charged with the blown save.
If you look past that uncharacteristic outing from Shaw the bullpen numbers haven’t been terrible. While Shaw’s numbers have slightly declined throughout the past two years, don’t expect that outing to repeat itself very often.
The only other bullpen arm to allow any runs so far is starter turned reliever Trevor Bauer when he gave up a two run homer to David Ortiz in his first outing of the season. He rebounded nicely in his latest appearance.
The bullpen’s shaky numbers are a product of two bad innings and the numbers will be skewed accordingly. If the starting pitching and offense can routinely give these guys a lead to work with, they will finish it off more times than not.
After the first half of 2015 was filled with errors all over the field, the Tribe turned the defense around after Lindor’s arrival in June.
The Tribe looked to carry that momentum into 2016 but so far the team has been charged with four errors, two of which have been made by newly acquired third basemen Uribe who has been known for his play at third base in the past.
The Indians have also let a couple little league pop flies drop for hits due to lack of communication. Say what you will about new personnel in the outfield and rookie Tyler Naquin having some jitters playing his first week in the big league, but that just can’t happen. It will likely work itself out, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Could the Tribe have gotten off to a better start? Possibly.
Could they have lost more than two of the four? Yes.
All things considered, the Indians got through a crazy first week of 2016 splitting four games.
Kluber and Carrasco didn’t pitch like themselves, and Shaw blew a save.
The offense struggled to produce consistently but got some timely hits to win a couple games.
The key for this team is to stay around .500 until Brantley is healthy. If they can do that, the race to the playoffs will be exciting.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Projected Pitching Matchups
April 12 – April 14 @ Tampa Bay Rays (2-4)
Corey Kluber (0-1, 6.75) vs. Matt Moore (0-0, 5.40)
Carlos Carrasco (0-0, 7.40) vs. Drew Smyly (0-1, 6.75)
Danny Salazar (1-0, 1.69) vs. Chris Archer (0-2, 7.20)
April 15 – April 17 vs. New York Mets (2-3)
Bartolo Colon (0-1, 1.23) vs. Cody Anderson (0-0, 3.00)
Matt Harvey(0-2, 4.63) vs. Josh Tomlin (No Starts)
Steven Matz (No Starts) vs. Corey Kluber (0-1, 6.75)