the offseason is fast approaching now. it's hard to believe after this, i only have one more month of stats to calculate before the 2015 season is over. things are really starting to heat up not only for Michael, but the Indians as well. can they continue to rack up wins and potentially grab a wild card spot? and what will Michael do for an encore in September? i can't wait to find out! but first, let's all relish in what turned out to be an astounding August for Dr. Smooth.
there was seemingly no stopping Michael in August--the man was scorching hot! it was quite reminiscent of his MVP-caliber performances every month last season, when he was setting career highs and achieving things he'd never achieved before on the regular. he certainly didn't look like a player fighting through injuries, going through the dog days of summer, and/or battling just to make it to the end of the year. instead, he currently looks primed and ready for a stretch run. and now i am so excited to get into his monthly statistics, some of which are historical! =D
in Michael's first 10 games, he bat .425 (17-for-40) from August 1-13. he was then shut down for a few days with a little left shoulder inflammation. when he came back from that brief 3-day rest (which probably also did some good for his back), he played in 14 more games, batting .393 (22-for-56) from August 17-31. he saw some extra time as the designated hitter this month until his throwing shoulder was ready to carry the left field load, but no matter what his role, Michael put up the best month of his 2015 campaign yet. he earned an August batting average of
.406, bringing his season BA up to .322, a 22 point increase from the end of July!
that's a huge jump for this time of year and is by no means an easy feat to accomplish. not only did Michael take back the team lead in batting average, but, just like last season, he's gotten himself right in the middle of the race for the American League batting title. after everything he's dealt with this year, the injuries and slumps, i couldn't be happier for Michael!
the Indians began the month on the road, finishing the last 2 games of a 4-game series against the Oakland Athletics and then playing 3 games against the Los Angeles Angels. Michael rode into August on a meager hit streak of 5 games but quickly expanded that to a 9-game hitting streak before it ended on a pinch hit appearance in the final Angels game (one that he was supposed to have off at the outset, i might add). his road line read 6-for-16, with him going 2-for-7 in Oakland and 4-for-9 in Anaheim.
after that, the Indians came home to play 6 games--3 versus the Minnesota Twins and 3 versus the New York Yankees. during this time, Michael had 4 straight multi-hit games and 3 straight 3-hit games when he went 8-for-14 in the Twins series and 3-for-6 in the first game versus the Yanks. that Yankees game actually went to 16 innings, with Michael winning it on a walk-off single, his first walk-off hit of the year.
the long game combined with a tough lefty on the mound gave Michael the second game of the series off, and when he played in the third, he went 0-for-4, generating a 3-for-10 total showing versus New York. that may have been a clue that something was bothering him, but this time it wasn't his back.
when the Tribe began their big 11-day road trip, Michael stayed behind in Cleveland to have an MRI on his left shoulder, which came back clean, before flying out to join the team in Minnesota. he received a shot of cortisone for his inflammation and missed that whole 3-game series. as the trip continued, Michael went 6-for-13 against the Boston Red Sox in 3 games, but only 5-for-17 against the Yankees in 4 games.
subsequently, the Indians embarked on their final interleague play of the year. they started with a makeup game (from June) against the Chicago Cubs, the last stop on their arduous road trip, where Michael went an average 1-for-4. then they returned to Cleveland for a short 2-game series versus the Milwaukee Brewers. much like in July, Michael dominated the team who originally drafted him, going 4-for-7 with 2 home runs, 4 RBI, and 3 walks. the third walk he drew gave him a new career high in walks, his first new career high of the year.
the Angels came to town for 3 games and Michael really stuck it to their pitchers, going 6-for-11 during the Tribe's sweep to end the August homestand. he also acquired his 40th double of the season, giving him back-to-back seasons of 40 doubles for the first time in his career.
the month ended with the beginning of another long road trip, opening in Canada. the Indians played game 1 (of 3) against the Toronto Blue Jays and Michael had the challenging onus of facing lefty David Price. inopportunely, he could not muster a hit off him and was blanked 0-for-3. he also went 0-for-1 against Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil, which snapped the modest 7-game hitting streak he had going. however, he produced a .604 SLG and 1.067 OPS for the month, which are both the highest SLG and OPS he's ever attained in one month in his major league career!
so even despite that last hitless game, Michael had himself an incredible August. then again who wouldn't with 13 multi-hit games? not many players tally 39 hits (13 of which went for extra bases), 17 RBI, 10 walks, and 58 total bases in one month. and let's not forget, Michael only played 24 out of 28 games. i think he easily would have topped 40 hits if not for the 4 games he missed. #beastmode lol
as much as i don't want baseball season to end, i am so anxious to see what happens for Michael (and the rest of my Tribe boys) in September/October! can he finish up strong without any additional injury issues? is he going to set any more career highs? will he end up with the highest batting average on the team? is it in the realm of possibility that he could win the AL batting title? stay tuned, because we're going to find out real soon.
Areas Of Concern
it's kind of hard to find many concerning areas when a guy bats over .400 for the month, but i do have a couple, some of which you've heard before.
at first Michael was making adequate progress this month with 2 outs in an inning, but since August 18, he's been struggling again. he finally broke an 0-for-8 skid in 10 plate appearances after hitting a 2-out single on August 29.
i didn't see much improvement with RISP and 2 outs in August either. although that didn't seem to bother his opponents because he was intentionally walked 3 times when coming up to bat in that instance. he's earned that respect.
Michael also had a hard time with RISP and 0 outs this month, not getting so much as 1 hit in 5 opportunities.
and while his overall RISP numbers in August are still quite exceptional, Michael did experience a rough patch, going 0-for-8 in 11 plate appearances from August 22-28 before hitting a double in his first at bat on August 30.
one area i didn't expect to be a problem for Michael was strikeouts. he swung and missed at a lot of pitches and struck out swinging more in August than any other month this year. normally one of the toughest hitters in the league to K, he was making it a little too easy on some of the pitchers he faced. his inability to put the bat on the ball in several big game situations was not only disappointing but definitely alarming. i hope he makes more contact in his final month of the season, like he regularly does and like i know he can.
What's The Lineup Today, Tito?
i really felt like once the Indians were done making all their trades, then we'd have a bit of consistency in the starting 9. ha!
it began with Jason Kipnis' sore shoulder. he was out of the lineup on August 2, so Lonnie Chisenhall made his leadoff spot debut. Santana was batting cleanup, Jerry Sands was 5th, and Giovanny Urshela was 6th against a right-handed starter. (Yan Gomes got this game off.)
the following day on August 3, Kipnis was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Jose Ramirez was called up from Columbus and he took over the leadoff duties. Santana bat 4th, Gomes bat 5th, and Chiz bat 6th against another righty starter.
while Terry Francona said he wasn't sure if Ramirez would lead off every day, that ended up being the case because Ramirez was doing such a good job getting on base and setting the table when he first came up. so the top 4 from then on out was Ramirez-Francisco Lindor-Brantley-Santana. i will simply specify who bat 5th and 6th for the remainder of this section.
for the game on August 4, Gomes and Chiz bat 5th and 6th against a righty again.
Michael didn't start the August 5 game. the plan was to give him the day off because the Tribe had August 6 off, but he ended up pinch hitting late in the game in the 5th spot, where Ryan Raburn had been batting. in Michael's normal 3rd spot was Sands, while Santana bat cleanup as usual, and Urshela bat 6th against a lefty. Gomes did not play.
from August 7-9 and August 11, Gomes bat 5th. on August 7 and 8, Chiz bat 6th while on August 9 and 11, Abraham Almonte bat 6th (when Chiz did not play). these games were against all righty starters. (the Tribe had off on August 10.)
for the August 12 game, Michael had off so Chris Johnson bat 3rd, Santana was 4th, Sands was 5th, and Urshela was 6th against southpaw CC Sabathia. (Gomes also had off.)
on August 13, we were back to Gomes 5th and Almonte 6th against a righty.
then Michael missed the next 3 games because his throwing shoulder was sore and inflammed. with him out, the lineup was very irregular, as someone needed to take over his 3rd spot.
when Michael got back to game action on August 17, Almonte was 5th while Gomes bat 6th against a right-handed pitcher.
a left-hander started on August 18, so Raburn was in the lineup batting 5th and Roberto Perez was batting 6th. (Gomes sat out this game.)
Kipnis was back to leading off on August 19 and Ramirez was then moved down to 9th in the order. (Ramirez was also playing in left field because Michael's shoulder was not ready to play the outfield yet at this time.) Chiz was 5th and Gomes was 6th against a righty starter.
August 20 and 21 were the same as the 19th with Chiz 5th and Gomes 6th against a righty. (Michael resumed his position as the left fielder on the 21st.)
on August 22, Chiz bat 5th and Almonte bat 6th against a righty. (Gomes had off and Michael was DHing again.)
on August 23, Kip got a "routine day off" against the tough lefty Sabathia while Michael was stuck playing (as the left fielder). so Lindor led off for his first time this season and Mike Aviles bat 2nd. Santana was the usual 4th batter, Raburn was 5th (DHing), and Gomes was 6th. BUT once Sabathia suffered right knee pain and was taken out of the game in the top of the 3rd inning, Kipnis' off day disappeared and he replaced Raburn batting 5th in the lineup.
on August 24, Gomes bat 5th and Aviles bat 6th against a left-handed starter in a National League park. (this was a make-up game from June.)
on August 25 and 26, 5 and 6 in the order were occupied by Chiz and Gomes against a righty starter.
then with a lefty starting on August 28, Tito had Raburn 5th and Gomes 6th.
on August 29, the lineup consisted of Chiz and Gomes batting 5 and 6 against a righty again. and when Gomes got the day off against a righty on August 30, Urshela bat 6th.
the month concluded on August 31 with the Indians facing southpaw David Price, which gave the 5 and 6 spots to Raburn and Gomes.
it's getting so hard to keep up at this point. aside from 1-4, you never know who is going to appear where on any given day against any type of pitcher. it's a new surprise every game lol
of course i'm happy that Michael's no longer jumping all around the order, but i maintain the desire for hitters behind him who can drive him home after he gets on. for the most part, those hitters are now comprised of a Santana, Gomes, Chiz, and/or Almonte mix.
in August, Michael reached base a total of 54 times via hits, walks, hit by pitches, and fielder's choices. he scored a total of 19 runs, 3 coming from the home runs he hit, and 16 coming from the boys behind him. that's double the amount of times his teammates drove him home last month. so it looks to me like the 4-5-6 guys are finally doing well not only for themselves, but for Michael also.
Kipnis and Lindor remained hot at the top 2 spots in the order, Lindor especially as he really seemed to hit another gear this month. that bodes well for Michael as it continues to give him numerous chances to add to his RBI total, and i love that. he won't get a hit every time they're on base, but i'd rather they be on for him than not.
Add Another Ailment to the Mix
and i thought Michael's lower back strain was his biggest obstacle this year. apparently not anymore cause his back strain didn't seem to be a problem at all this month. instead, it was shoulder inflammation that kept him out of some games in August. ain't that a bitch?
before i get into all that, i have to address some other things first. on August 3, Michael was the game's DH. no particular reason was given, but he did play 9.2 innings in left field the night prior, so it's plausible that had something to do with it.
Michael was not in the starting lineup on August 5, which really had me stumped. the starter for the Los Angeles Angels was Hector Santiago. yes he's a lefty, but Michael is 3-for-8 against him in his career. not to mention Michael owned a 9-game hitting streak and 12-game road hitting streak at the time. so why sit him? was it because this game was at 12:35 pm PST, and Michael played 12 innings in left field on August 4, a 10:05 pm PST game? was it the "long flight back to Cleveland after the game" excuse again? nope, neither. according to Terry Francona, this was just a scheduled day off for Michael, which would give him 2 successive days off with the Tribe's August 6 off day.
not gonna lie, this decision was somewhat curious. the Indians actually had a few off days coming up, and Michael easily could have sat out one of those games and still gotten 2 consecutive days off. for example, Michael could have been given the August 7 game off combined with the off day on August 6. that would have made him nice and fresh for his bobblehead giveaway game on August 8. another suggestion would have been to rest Michael on August 9 or 11 to go with the Indians' August 10 off day. so you see, there were plenty of options.
what really pissed me off is that Tito ended up using Michael late in the game as a pinch hitter in spite of the fact that the Indians were winning. and of course, he grounded into a forceout, ending all his streaks with one quick AB. sigh. (i really dig more into this in the August Standout Games, Spotlights, and Quotes section of this blog down below.)
regardless, Francona continuing to look for 2 days off for Michael tells me the Indians still feel the need to err on the side of caution with that back, which isn't the worst thing. but again, he could have rested another day and genuinely had that entire game off. who knows, maybe this is around the time that the shoulder thing really began. which brings me to my next topic.
i had no idea that anything might have been bothering Michael because he was swinging the bat so well. but when it came out on August 14 that he wasn't starting and was day-to-day with left shoulder inflammation, i looked back and realized it wasn't all that surprising.
when Michael wasn't in the lineup on August 12, i understood it. he'd played 16 innings in left field the night before in a marathon game against the New York Yankees, in which he hit the winning single. (more on that in my August Standout Games section below.) the later that game went on, the more i figured Michael would be getting the next day off because that was just about 2 straight games in 1, and it was probable that Francona would rest him to protect his back.
but another reason was given for his rest day, and that was because the team was facing lefty CC Sabathia, whom left-handed hitters have not had much success against this season. Tito clarified, "he played 16 innings Tuesday night and CC has been pretty tough on him." Michael's only 1-for-11 with 6 strikeouts against Sabathia in his career, so this was a good judgment call. BUT, Francona never seems to be concerned with Michael's stats against the left-handed, problematic Chris Sale when he's facing the Tribe. and that's what made it suspicious.
Michael played on August 13 and went 0-for-4 with an RBI sac fly and 2 swinging strikeouts after multi-hitting in each of his last 6 starts. more frustrating was how every other Indians starter had at least 1 hit in this game, yet Michael--the best hitter in the lineup--went hitless. red flag alert.
on August 14, the starting lineup was released without Michael's name and my mind immediately went to "the back strain's back." instead, he was said to be day-to-day with left shoulder inflammation. he stayed in Cleveland to have an MRI while the Indians flew to Minnesota to begin their series with the Twins/11-day road trip. he was scheduled to fly to Minneapolis later that night. naturally i went into panic mode, thinking he'd probably end up on the DL like Jason Kipnis was with his shoulder inflammation. and i was so discouraged because if there was one thing i expected to put Michael on the DL this year, it was his back, not this.
shortly after the news broke, Jordan Bastian calmed my fears by tweeting that the MRI came back okay. Michael received a cortisone injection and would only miss 2-3 games. the best part was he was not expected to go on the DL over this. cue my sigh of relief.
despite the remarkable timing, this had nothing to do with Michael's teammates pounding on him after his August 11 walk-off hit. that was purely coincidental. Francona specified that Michael's shoulder had actually been bothering him lately, but intensified on August 13. "last night after the game it was pretty hot. so, after talking to him, he got it looked at. he wasn't going to play tonight, because we just wanted to let it cool off. and then we thought, 'you know what? if he's not going to play tonight, let's get it looked at.' that seemed to make sense. he got an injection to cool it down. so he'll sit for a couple days. but it's not a DL (injury)."
"he's been playing through a lot," Tito went on. "hopefully, when something like this happens, maybe a couple days down helps the rest of his body, because he's found a way to be still so productive and so good, but i know it's probably been hard for him at times. he doesn't say anything. he doesn't like saying anything about it, nor is he going to. maybe this will help him a little bit. it's hard to not have him for a couple or three days, but it's a heck of a lot better than not having him for a couple or three months."
okay, that's the 3rd time this year he's said something along those lines, justifying not putting Michael on the DL because the team needs him. i just hoped they were doing the right thing. it was also bad timing because with Kip still on the DL then, i really wanted Michael to get all the games in that he could to gain more ground on all of Kip's team high stats. with him missing out on 3 games against Minnesota, a team he pulverized one week earlier in Cleveland, he lost out on a great opportunity to increase his numbers. not that Michael cared about that, but you know that's what i was thinking lol
when it was suggested that Michael's shoulder injury could have been caused by his back issue, Francona didn't know for sure. "it could very well be. you start playing this game and you get nicked up because you're playing every day. i could see where you could start chasing your tail a little bit."
"he's a pro. he's what you're looking for," Francona finished.
on August 15, Bastian confirmed that Michael was in Minneapolis with the team, but would not be playing in that night's game. Tito also said Michael was doubtful for August 16, but would possibly play in the August 17 game against the Boston Red Sox. "he's getting treatment," Francona elaborated. "i think the best thing he could do would be swing the bat Sunday because i don't want him to go cold turkey into a game."
moreover, Michael would likely need to be in the designated hitter role whenever he returned, the same going for Kipnis. "we're going to have to figure out how to manage that," the skipper disclosed. he speculated that if Michael was activated on August 17, then Kipnis' return could be delayed a day, as he was initially going to come off the DL on the 17th.
after missing the final game against Minnesota on August 16, Michael was back in the lineup against Boston on August 17, batting 3rd and DHing. Francona provided this update: "Brantley is not ready to play left field yet. i want to make sure he's able to make all the throws when he needs to. i don't want him to go through what he did and then set him back just because he's willing to play."
Michael did however play catch at 90 feet before the game. "it's been bothering me for a little bit," he confessed. "but i'm back in there today and excited to be there for my teammates." (i bet they were happy to have him back, too, after he got 2 hits and an RBI lol)
this same day, Bastian reported that Michael's shoulder had truthfully been bothering him off and on for a couple of weeks. based on how well he was hitting, no one ever would have guessed that.
Paul Hoynes tweeted that the plan for Kipnis would be based on Michael's return to the outfield. Kip would be activated August 18 or 19, depending on whether or not Michael needed more time as the DH. "the good news is that Kip is really feeling good and Brantley's feeling pretty good," Tito publicized. "so that's good."
during the August 17 game, WTAM 1100 broadcaster Tom Hamilton continually mentioned on the radio how Michael's throwing shoulder was sore so "he can't play left field and won't play left for a while." Hammy really made it sound like Michael would be DHing for a week at minimum. but knowing Kip's activation was right around the corner, i wasn't convinced Michael's shoulder was THAT sore because with Kip also needing to break back in as a DH, Michael would have to be back in left in a matter of days. i thought maybe they could take turns DHing, but still, Tito was going to want both of his top hitters in the lineup on a daily basis. something had to give.
on August 18, Michael again was the DH. Francona said Michael needed another day or two as the DH before returning to the outfield. Kipnis was officially activated from the DL, but not playing. it was anticipated that Kip would start at 2nd base on August 19, though he ended up making a pinch hit appearance in the top of the 9th inning on the 18th cause the Indians were losing and that gave him a chance to at least swing the bat in a game again.
Michael upheld the role of DH on August 19 for the third straight day. he played catch again before the game, but was still unlikely to play left field when the Indians took on the New York Yankees on August 20. "it felt good," Michael revealed. "i'll know more tomorrow when i see how it feels."
Tito added, "there's no urgency to rush him back to the outfield. we have his bat in the lineup." boy did they. his bat provided 3 hits that night. what shoulder soreness?
when the Indians began their 4-game series against the Yankees on August 20, Michael was delegated to designated hitter for the fourth day in a row. there was still no rush to put him back in left field. "he could probably get by anyway, but i just don't think that needs to be until he's really feeling like he can do everything he wants to do," Francona explicated. "and then maybe he makes a throw and now all of a sudden he's back to where it's bothering him hitting. we really don't want that to happen." (nothing was bothering his hitting this night--he added 2 more hits to his stats.)
after hearing Tito say all that, and agreeing with his assessment of "protecting" Michael's arm, i was a bit perplexed when i saw him in the lineup on August 21 as the left fielder. it was just strange how Michael didn't seem at all ready to make his outfield return the day before, yet now everything was all good again. Kip took over the DH spot for this game, making me think the move was made a little more for Kipnis, and not so much because Michael was 100% ready. "we can go back and forth a little bit," rationalized Francona. "this gives us some flexibility. Kipnis hadn't played in a couple weeks, so it'll help him." just as i suspected.
sure enough, the ball found Michael in left a few times in this game. he went full out and made a nice diving catch (which i expound upon in my In The Field section of the blog down below), and also made a strong throw to the plate in an attempt to throw a runner out at home. seeing that was promising, but i couldn't help but fret that those things might make him wake up with a "hot" shoulder again the following day. offensively, Michael had 2 big hits and 2 RBI in this Tribe win.
Terry Pluto gave Michael some high praise prior to the August 22 afternoon game, writing in an article how he is such a consistent player, and even though he has not been healthy, he continues to hit. he referred to Michael as "a leader and role model without having to say a word."
regarding the day's game, i figured Michael would get back to the DH spot and i was right. i worried that he might have a bad game at the plate because of all the outfield/shoulder action from the night before. once again, i was right, as he went 0-for-4.
Sabathia was pitching the final game of the series for the Yanks. bear in mind, Francona was pretty adamant about Michael not playing in the August 12 game against Sabathia. so when he was in the lineup on August 23, i took it to mean that Michael got that previous game off because of his shoulder, and not because Tito was concerned with how poorly Michael's done in his career when facing CC. (another thing i assumed all along.)
this game was stated as a routine day off for Kipnis because Sabathia was pitching. that evidently forced Michael to have to be the only left-handed hitter in the Indians lineup against him because Francona didn't want both guys off on the same day, and Michael was probably getting the August 24 game off. so how nice he got to be the sacrificial left-handed lamb.
alright, here comes my rant. Francona had no problem with an all righty lineup the last time CC pitched, so why was it an issue now? i think he was reaching with this explanation because he had to find a way to "cover up" the "rest day" excuse for Michael on August 12 when he may have actually been sitting that game out due to health reasons. i'd bet on that. as a manager, if i know that the opposing starter is very tough on lefties, i would want my lineup stacked with righties and not care if my best 2 lefties were both sitting. why put them in a position where they potentially would be doing the team a disservice? and why do you want Michael in the lineup against a guy he just can't hit (1-for-11 lifetime)?
i don't get Tito's management decisions sometimes, i really don't. he had right-handed batter Jose Ramirez on the bench, who easily could have slipped into the lineup and in the field somewhere. Michael was the left fielder on this day. Ramirez could have taken his place there, or Mike Aviles could have played there, or Ryan Raburn, and we could have preserved an all righty lineup against the southpaw. or hell, throw Michael a bone by permitting him to sit out for this game and have Kip just be the game's DH. i mean, let's keep it real--coming up with a more effective solution here was not an incomprehensible task.
making this worse was the fact that Michael just had a rough game the day before, going 0-for-4. recognizing he could theoretically go 0-for-4 again against Sabathia, i was exponentially unhappy and put it out there that if the Indians lost this game, Francona deserved that L on his record. i don't play when it comes to Michael.
so as expected, Michael did not record a hit off Sabathia. he had 2 quick outs after seeing only 4 pitches from him. then in the top of the 3rd inning, CC experienced right knee pain and was taken out of the game. oh that was such a gift for Michael. right-hander Nick Rumbelow came out of the bullpen and in Michael's next at bat, he hit a single! conveniently, Kipnis' off day became obsolete at this point, and he came in to PH for Raburn and remained the DH for the rest of the game. facepalm. when off days turn into PH appearances, i just can't. if a guy needs the rest, you give it to him. don't change your mind mid-game because a situation occurred where a different handed pitcher comes on. sigh.
another left-handed starter was pitching on August 24, the plausible off day for Michael while Kip got back in the starting lineup. except, Michael didn't get the day off after all, and was playing left field again, his first back-to-back days in left since August 8-9.
Francona said he originally thought about resting Michael until Michael himself assured Tito that he was fine. "i just wanted to protect him with a day if he needed it. a lot of times, we ask guys about days off and try to get a gauge just by the way they answer. he's good to go." i feel like Michael says that all the time though, and i questioned whether or not his shoulder was gonna hold up.
evidently it did because Michael continued to play and play in left field in the Tribe's games from August 25-26 and August 28-29. and nothing more was ever said about it.
during the August 28 game, an article came out by Joe Vardon that partly addressed Michael's lingering health issues this season. Francona depicted, "i would say he's steady at a high level. it's easier to be steady, a lot of us are steady at a mediocre level. his routines are impeccable. the way he hits, if you could draw it up, that's probably how you'd draw it. he's able to repeat his swing so often...it's just so fundamentally correct the way he hits, that (it) allows him to fight off tough pitches, hit the ball to left field off of lefties, lay off the breaking ball away, turn on the ball in. he's very intelligent on what he wants to do." that's the utmost respect and acclaim right there.
let me also acknowledge that i went to the game on August 29, and for the first time in months, i did not see Michael hunched over in left field at any point. that made me extremely happy. i believe his back is truly okay now. however, a scary incident (scary to me, at least) transpired in the top of the 4th inning when Michael misplayed a ball that bounced over behind the tarp, and he wound up banging his shoulder into the side rails. (sadly, he was charged with an error, but my only concern was that he wasn't hurt.) fortunately, it was the opposite shoulder from the one he had soreness in. i thought maybe Michael would have been the DH for this particular game, but Kipnis was. then after the error, i fully expected him to DH the next day (on August 30), mainly because he played 6 games in a row in left field and so Tito might want to give him a quasi-break. and he did.
the Indians finished August north of the border, playing against the Toronto Blue Jays on their AstroTurf. while Michael was the left fielder on August 31, i'm not sure he will play both of the next 2 games in the field at Rogers Centre. frankly, i hope he doesn't. but we shall see.
can i make a wish that in his final month of this year he doesn't suffer any setbacks with either his lower back strain or shoulder inflammation, and that no new injuries develop so he can finish the season as strong as possible without any extra problems? thanks!
Team Batting Title Competition
i don't know if this is a fair comparison this month because Jason Kipnis was on the disabled list for over half of it with right shoulder inflammation. (it was brought to light on August 11 that Kip's shoulder had been bugging him since June 1, and i was all, nope, don't even try to be like Michael saying you've been playing hurt for most of the season lol) yes, Michael also missed some time with his own shoulder inflammation, but not nearly as much as Kip. Michael played 24 games while Kipnis played 14. looking at August averages alone, the month belonged to Michael, hands down, and almost by default. that gives Michael higher BAs in 3 months of the season versus Kipnis' higher BA in 2 months (May and June).
despite the time off, both players remain qualifiers. Kip's stint on the DL allowed for Michael to attempt to bridge the gap in the overall batting average race. not only that, but with all the time Kipnis would be sitting out, i believed Michael could also give Kip a run for his money regarding the rest of his team high stats. it was entirely in Michael's hands and he did exceptionally well, but he didn't actually overtake the team BA lead until after Kipnis returned to play. with one month to go and just 3 points separating these 2 men, it will be an exciting battle. i don't think Michael's going to give up his 3-year reign of possessing the highest team BA without a fight. can't wait to see who ends up on top after the final game on October 4!
Home Runs, RBI, K Rate, and Outs
even with Michael's shoulder issues and missed games in August, he hit 3 home runs this month. 2 of those came in the same game on August 25, which was pretty awesome. knowing he can still hit a ball out of the park once and a while, albeit his injury hindrances, is encouraging. it also shows me that his power from last year really hasn't diminished any, it's just stifled sometimes depending on how he feels.
Michael had another month full of ribbies. his 17 RBI, while not a career high for August, is still a substantial amount of guys driven in. he did leave 38 guys on base, though. if only he could have managed one or two more hits with RISP, he definitely would have set a new high for this month. and, not to place blame on his teammates, but there were a few baserunning mistakes when Michael was at the plate that easily cost him 3 RBI. i don't want to see that happen anymore.
time for the HR:RBI ratio in the month of August. 1 of Michael's 3 home runs was solo and the other 2 were 2-run bombs. therefore, 1 of his 17 RBI for August (5.9%) came from his solo homer, while 5 of his 17 RBI (29.4%) came from all 3 of his home runs.
in a shocking plot twist, Michael struck out more this month than in any of his previous months this season. his K rate in August was 12.0% (13 K/108 PA), marking the first time his monthly strikeout rate was over 10%.
in August, Michael had a total of 26 groundouts versus 22 flyouts. those numbers are both down due to the excess amount of strikeouts he acquired. besides that, he hit just 8 lineouts for the month, which is also lower than his norm.
Streaks and Situational Statistics
Michael had a hit in 20 of the 24 games he played in August and reached base safely in 21 games. he had 4 hitless games, but reached base in 1 of those. Michael had 13 multi-hit games, 6 3+ hit games, and 3 multi-RBI games. he had at least 1 RBI in 11 games. in addition, he had 3 go-ahead hits and 3 go-ahead RBI this month. the Indians were 14-10 in games that Michael played in and 2-2 in games that he sat out.
Michael had a 9-game hitting streak from July 27 - August 4, batting .364 (12-for-33) with 3 multi-hit games. he had 12 hits, 2 extra base hits, and 16 total bases. in this streak, he collected 10 singles, 1 double, 1 home run, 2 RBI, 4 runs, 5 walks, 1 intentional walk, 1 hit by pitch, 2 stolen bases (1 - 3rd), 4 strikeouts (3 swinging, 1 looking), and 6 first at bat hits, leaving 10 men on base in 39 plate appearances and 33 at bats. his OBP and SLG were .462 and .485, respectively, giving him a .946 OPS. defensively, Michael only played left field. in 7 games, he recorded 7 putouts in 65.2 innings and had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. he was the DH in 2 games.
he had a 12-game hitting streak on the road from July 5 - August 4 as well.
Michael also had a 3-game, 3-hit streak spanning from August 8-11 (over 4 days).
he put together a small 7-game hitting streak from August 23-30, too, batting .462 (12-for-26).
additionally, he had a 9-game on-base streak from July 27 - August 4 along with a 12-game on base streak on the road from July 5 - August 4.
Michael safely reached base in 13 straight games from August 17-30 and safely reached base in 8 straight road games between August 17-30 as well.
in August, Michael bat .441 (26-for-59) against right-handed pitchers and .351 (13-for-37) against left-handed pitchers. he's still hitting righties better than lefties, but considering he hit over .350 against both this month, i can't even complain that he's not equally splitting his hitting between the 2 different type handers.
Michael hit .500 (21-for-42) with 11 RBI at home and .333 (18-for-54) with 6 RBI on the road in August. he hit safely in 9 of the 10 home games he played and safely got on base in 9 of them. he was hitless in 1 home game. he also hit safely in 11 of 14 road games and safely reached base in 12 games as well. he was hitless in 3 road games, still reaching in 1.
this month, Michael bat .346 (9-for-26) with runners in scoring position, producing 12 RBI. specifically, he bat .000 (0-for-5) with RISP and 0 outs, .538 (7-for-13) with RISP and 1 out, and .250 (2-for-8) with RISP and 2 outs. not only does his RISP and 2 outs game continue to be weak, but now he's starting to develop problems with RISP and no outs. that was sad to see.
with 2 outs in an inning in August, Michael hit .259 (7-for-27). aside from April, that's the best he's done in one month this year with 2 outs. (insert surprised face here.)
furthermore, Michael bat .404 (19-for-47) with 16 RBI with runners on base and .500 (1-for-2) with 1 RBI with bases loaded in August. he had almost the same amount of at bats this month with no one on base and did just about the same, batting .408 (20-for-49) with bases empty, with 6 doubles, 1 home run, and 1 RBI.
finally, Michael had a 1.5 fWAR (wins above replacement), a 194 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus--the ability to create runs compared to the league average), and a 0.4 BsR (baserunning runs above average with stolen bases and caught stealings) in August. his WAR and wRC+ ranked 2nd, while his BsR ranked 8th among American League left fielders. [these stats are courtesy of fangraphs.com.]
Versus AL Central Division Teams
vs. the Minnesota Twins, Michael bat .571 (8-for-14) in 3 games in August. (he missed 3 games due to left shoulder inflammation.) he had 3 doubles, 4 RBI, 5 runs, 1 walk, 1 stolen base, 1 first at bat hit, and 11 total bases. he also had 2 swinging strikeouts and stranded 3 runners. defensively, he recorded 5 putouts in 25 innings as the left fielder.
the Indians did not face the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, or Kansas City Royals this month.
August Team Leads, Career Highs, and League Rankings
you can't keep a good player down, no matter what ailment he may have. at least that was the case with Michael this month.
in August, Michael led the team with 13 extra base hits, 10 doubles, 19 runs, 3 intentional walks, 58 total bases, .406 batting average, .463 OBP, .604 SLG, and 1.067 OPS.
he was 2nd on the team with 39 hits, 26 singles, 3 home runs (tied), 1 hit by pitch (tied), and 3 stolen bases (tied). he also had the 2nd least amount of strikeouts on the team out of the regulars with 13.
additionally, he was 3rd with 17 RBI, 10 walks, 108 plate appearances, and 96 at bats.
since Michael missed some extra time this month with his shoulder issue, i assumed he wouldn't have many career highs for August. wrong! lol after i checked out his past stats, i found that he set career highs for himself in August with 39 hits, 26 singles, 19 runs, 10 walks, 3 intentional walks, 58 total bases, .406 batting average, .463 OBP, .604 SLG, and 1.067 OPS. (those last 4 are remarkable!!!)
now it's time to compare Michael's August numbers around the league and let me just say, a lot of them ranked in the top 10 this month!!!
among qualifying players in the American League, Michael ranked 1st in OBP (.463), 2nd in batting average (.406), tied for 2nd in intentional walks (3), tied for 3rd in doubles (10), 4th in hits (39), 5th in singles (26), 6th in OPS (1.067), tied for 9th in total bases (58), and 10th in SLG (.604). he also ranked tied for 75th in strikeouts (13) out of 93 players.
among qualifying outfielders in the American League, his hits, batting average, and OBP ranked 1st; his doubles and intentional walks ranked tied for 1st; his singles ranked tied for 2nd; his OPS ranked 3rd; his total bases ranked tied for 3rd; his SLG ranked 5th; his sac flies (1) ranked tied for 5th; his runs (19) ranked 6th; his extra base hits (13) ranked tied for 7th; and his RBI (17) ranked tied for 8th. his strikeouts also ranked tied for 30th out of 36 players.
among qualifying left fielders in the American League, Michael was 1st in hits, total bases, batting average, and OBP; tied for 1st in doubles and intentional walks; 2nd in singles, runs, SLG, and OPS; tied for 2nd in stolen bases (3); 3rd in extra base hits; tied for 3rd in RBI, sac flies, and walks (10); tied for 4th in hit by pitches (1); 6th in plate appearances (108); 7th in at bats (96); tied for 7th in home runs (3); and tied for 10th in games played (24). he was also tied for 9th out of 11 players in strikeouts.
among all major league left fielders, Michael ranked 1st in hits, batting average, and OBP; tied for 1st in doubles and intentional walks; 2nd in total bases, SLG, and OPS; tied for 2nd in singles; tied for 4th in runs; tied for 5th in extra base hits; tied for 6th in sac flies and walks; tied for 7th in RBI and stolen bases; tied for 9th in hit by pitches; and tied for 10th in plate appearances. in addition, he ranked tied for 20th out of 25 players in strikeouts.
among all major league outfielders, Michael was 1st in batting average; tied for 1st in doubles; 2nd in hits and OBP; tied for 2nd in intentional walks; 4th in OPS; 6th in SLG; tied for 6th in singles; and tied for 8th in total bases. he was tied for 54th out of 65 players in strikeouts, too.
among all major league qualifying players, Michael's .406 batting average ranked 2nd, his .463 OBP ranked 3rd, his 10 doubles ranked tied for 4th, his 39 hits ranked 5th, and his 1.067 OPS ranked 8th in the month of August.
August Standout Games, Spotlights, and Quotes
regretfully, i do not have a positive story to start out this section with this month. in the game against the Oakland Athletics on August 1, Michael came to bat in the top of the 8th inning to face former Indians farmhand Drew Pomeranz with 2 outs, Michael Bourn at 2nd base, and Jason Kipnis at 1st. the Tribe was down, 4-1, and after a 1-2 count, Michael swung and missed on a foul tip, stranding the runners. normally one to keep his composure, Michael was so unhappy with himself that he yelled in the batter's box and flipped his bat in disgust. while i was also displeased with his at bat, i have to admit i appreciated his emotion there.
when the game concluded, i noticed Michael was 0-for-5 in 7 plate appearances with 2 outs and RISP since July 18, with his last hit coming back on July 10. he didn't yet appear to be on the verge of improving in this situation, playing on a major concern of mine about Michael from my July blog.
on August 3, the day Kipnis went on the disabled list for his sore shoulder and Jose Ramirez took over his leadoff spot in the lineup, Michael was the DH in the game against the Los Angeles Angels. and he got his first multi-hit game of the month, going 2-for-4. his first hit came in the top of the 1st inning with Ramirez at 2nd base, 1 out, and no score. Garrett Richards was pitching for LA and after a 2-2 count, Michael hit an RBI single through the hole and into right field for his first go-ahead hit and go-ahead RBI of August. it was also his first hit with RISP since July 22, after previously going 0-for-5 with 2 strikeouts since July 25.
Michael's second hit of the game came in the top of the 8th inning against left-handed pitcher Cesar Ramos, who had just come on in relief of Richards. Ramirez was at 1st base with 1 out and the Indians down, 5-3. after running the count full, Michael hit a "gift single" to the pitcher. it looked like it was going to be a double play ball, but Angels 2nd baseman Johnny Giavotella botched the ball when Ramos threw it to him. in actuality, Michael should have already been at 1st base before this on a walk. with the count at 3-0, Ramos' 4th pitch was inside for ball 4, but home plate umpire Cory Blaser called it a strike. so i gladly accepted that hit, which broke his 0-for-11 slump in 13 plate appearances against lefties between July 25 - August 2.
the other newsworthy thing to report about this game is that Michael lost his team lead in stolen bases, as Bourn stole his 12th base while Michael had just 11. Bourn had been running on the base paths and stealing like crazy over the past couple weeks to quickly take over the top spot almost out of nowhere. but he wouldn't hold the record long.
Michael had his 2nd multi-hit game in a row on August 4 against the Angels. he led off the top of the 4th inning against Matt Shoemaker with the game still scoreless. after a 2-0 count, Michael hit one to deep right field. he thought that was going to be a home run, so he went into a home run trot and didn't run to 1st base very hard. turns out, the ball hit high off the wall. once Michael realized it wasn't leaving the ballpark, he sped up and tried to get to 2nd base for a double. but he ended up being thrown out at 2nd by LA's right fielder Kole Calhoun. he still got credit for a single though, which extended his hitting streak to 9 games and his road hitting streak to 12.
in Dennis Manoloff's DMan's Report on cleveland.com, he broke down this at bat and provided some commentary from the Fox SportsTime Ohio announcers, which i am otherwise not privy to because i don't have STO where i live. Shoemaker threw Michael 3 consecutive fastballs, clocking in at 91 mph, 91 mph, and 93 mph. when Michael hit that last fastball to deep right, Calhoun had already begun his "crow-hop before he secured the carom." according to DMan, that gave him the "extra-half second needed to erase Brantley."
Matt Underwood, the STO play-by-play man said, "Brantley really never had a chance, unless Calhoun muffs the throw." STO analyst Rick Manning countered, "he had a chance. i didn't see him bust out of the box. it looked like he thought it was going to be a home run. he didn't break out like it was a double. he thought it was a home run. i tell you, Calhoun played it beautifully. Brantley kicks it into gear after he gets to 1st base. it's way too late. that cost him a double." i never saw or read any postgame with Michael for his own explanation, but i think it was abundantly clear he did believe that ball was gone.
moving on to the top of the 8th inning, Michael was intentionally walked by former teammate Joe Smith with 2 outs and Francisco Lindor at 2nd base. the game was still tied at 0 at this point. i thought the intent walk was unnecessary considering Michael's Achilles heel this season has been hitting with RISP and 2 outs. coming into this game, Michael was 0-for-5 since July 18 in those instances. the Angels could have taken their chances.
Michael got another at bat in the top of the 11th inning with the game still scoreless. he led off the inning and on the first pitch from Jose Alvarez--a fastball--he laid a bunt down the 3rd baseline for a single. he never came around to score, but i liked his thinking there.
in essence, he would have had 3 hits in the game had his liner in the top of the 6th inning not been caught. he led off that inning against Shoemaker and was first thrown a 90 mph fastball inside. after that, Michael hit a 91 mph fastball to deep right field that Calhoun caught in front of the track.
Michael did not get to start in the August 5 game that Angels' Hector Santiago was starting, a pitcher he's batting .375 (3-for-8) against in his career. while some may ponder that this was a "punishment" for not hustling out of the box the night before, Francona simply said it was a scheduled day off to give him 2 straight days of rest. (i went into details and speculated more about that in the Add Another Ailment to the Mix section of the blog up above.)
unfortunately, Tito did not hold true to his plan because in the top of the 8th inning, Michael came in to pinch hit in place of Ryan Raburn. Raburn was the DH batting 5th in the lineup, signifying Michael's first time all season batting 5th after playing 97 games in a row in the 3rd spot. it was a hell of a run, and i should have known that Michael would not spend all year batting 3rd; a situation like this was bound to come up sooner or later.
but i did not really grasp the meaning of this PH appearance when Michael was supposed to be getting the day off to rest. i didn't understand it even more seeing as how the Indians were up, 3-1. Tito ordinarily pinch hits Michael on his day off when the Indians are down to the final inning/one of their last outs and losing a close game. so i didn't care for this decision, particularly because A.) Michael took a 9-game hitting streak into this ONE at bat, B.) Michael took a 12-game road hitting streak/12-game road on-base streak into this ONE at bat, and C.) Michael does not hit well with RISP and 2 outs in an inning. i feared that his streaks would all end in a quick and seemingly pointless plate appearance. and i hate that i was correct.
with Ramirez at 2nd base, Carlos Santana at 1st, and 2 outs in the inning, Michael stepped into the batter's box. Cesar Ramos was just brought in to pitch because the Angels thought left-handed hitter Raburn, who doesn't hit lefties well, was going to bat. now remember, Michael faced Ramos only 2 days prior and got that lucky single which should have been an inning-ending double play. so that was really a 4th reason to be worried about this at bat. after a 1-0 count, Michael grounded out to 2nd baseman Carlos Sanchez, who threw the ball to shortstop Erick Aybar to force out Santana at 2nd and end the inning. it was over so fast and i was upset. until the bottom of the 9th, that is.
Cody Allen came on to nail down the save for the Tribe, who were still up, 3-1. without getting into all the specifics, Allen just didn't have it in this game. the Angels loaded the bases against him and before i knew it the game was tied at 3. then i thought, if this goes to extras, Michael will get to bat again and maybe extend his streaks after all. no such luck because Allen threw a wild pitch to the next LA batter and then they won. and i was still very angry about Tito's choice to play Michael that i honestly felt like he deserved this loss. there was no sympathy from me whatsoever.
while Michael may not care about streaks, i do, and this was such a shitty way to have to try and keep them alive. i stand by my earlier claim that Michael should have started this game and gotten his off day on August 7. even though i cannot say for sure that Michael would have had a hit against Santiago, i think his shot at continuing his streaks was much better getting at least 4 PAs in a game as opposed to solely this 1.
and honestly, was this even technically a day "off" for him? i mean, don't hitters usually have to prepare for a PH appearance by swinging in the cage at some point during the game? that's not really resting then. and, if for some reason Michael didn't get to practice in the cage first, that could be why he got such a quick out when he came into the game to bat. so what would be the purpose of that? how could anyone think he'd realistically be effective at the plate?!? GRRR!!!
(besides all of that, this PH appearance made things difficult for me because i was initially uncertain how to include his 0-for-1 in the break downs of his statistics. i have to thank my stats man, Jordan Bastian, for assisting me when i reached out to him for help to ensure that i had correct numbers for you guys this month. he alerted me to the fact that when a batter pinch hits for a designated hitter, his AB counts in both the PH stats AND DH stats. Michael had never done this before in his career, at least not while i have been tallying up his numbers, so this was unfamiliar territory for me. and my original assumption was not to include the 0-for-1 in his DH numbers, so again i'm very grateful i was able to go to Bastian for his expertise. there is also something called PH for DH stats, which are included in this blog as well. when you get down to the monthly break downs, you'll see exactly what i'm talking about.)
wanna know what else? Jerry Sands was batting 3rd in Michael's place for this game, and he literally whiffed an opportunity in the top of the 1st inning. Ramirez was at 3rd base and Lindor was at 1st when Sands' AB against Santiago began. Lindor got picked off 1st after an 0-2 count, so then there was 1 out. after Santiago threw his 3rd pitch for a ball, Sands swung and missed for the 2nd out of the inning. i'd like to believe that had Michael been up to bat here, he would have at least made some kind of contact and gotten that runner home from 3rd. talk about a great possibility for Michael to get an RBI and potentially a hit right then and there so soon into the game and add to his streaks. sigh. but i digress.
once that nonsense played out and ended, Michael had a pretty extraordinary series versus the Minnesota Twins. in the game on August 7, he went 2-for-5, and those 2 hits were big for him. the first came in the bottom of the 3rd inning with the bases loaded and 1 out. the Indians were already losing, 6-0, thanks to a poor start from Cody Anderson. Giovanny Urshela was at 3rd base, Tyler Holt was at 2nd, and Lindor was at 1st. Michael was facing Mike Pelfrey and after a 1-0 count, he hit a ground ball single into left field. it was his first hit with the bases loaded since July 10!
Michael's second hit impressed me much more than the first. in the bottom of the 4th inning, the Indians had Urshela on 2nd base and Lindor on 1st with 2 outs. they were only behind 7-4 at this point and had an excellent chance to get the score even closer here. however, Michael has struggled in this area for most of the season, so i wasn't sure if he could deliver. but after a 1-0 count, he hit a line drive down the right field line and into the corner. that double allowed both Urshela and Lindor to score and chased Pelfrey out of the game. and the Indians were right back in it, down just 7-6. it was a monster hit for Michael, as it was his first hit with RISP and 2 outs since July 10, breaking an 0-for-6 skid in 9 plate appearances. it also gave him 3 RBI for the night.
Michael had another big game on August 8 versus the Twins, going 3-for-4 before being lifted for a pinch runner because the Indians were completely annihilating Minnesota. after hitting a 1-out RBI single to right field in the bottom of the 1st inning against Ervin Santana on a 3-1 count which scored Ramirez from 2nd base and tied the game at 1, Michael stole 2nd base. that gave him 12 total stolen bases on the season, most on the team then because Bourn had just been traded the day before (on August 7 along with Nick Swisher--see this blog for more). he later scored on a Lonnie Chisenhall single and the Indians took a 2-1 lead.
his next hit came in the bottom of the 2nd inning. with 2 outs and the Tribe up, 4-1, Michael was down in the count 1-2 before fouling off the 4th pitch. Santana then threw him ball 2 to even the count. Michael connected with the 6th pitch, hitting a ball down the right field line that bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double, thereafter seizing a league leading 32 doubles!
Michael's 4th plate appearance of this game was a grind that eventually bore a favorable result. he drew an 11-pitch walk off left-hander Ryan O'Rourke in the bottom of the 5th inning with 2 outs and the Indians ahead, 8-3. Lindor was initially on at 1st base but advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. here's the break down of the pitches: called strike, swinging strike, ball, foul, foul, ball (the wild pitch that allowed Lindor to go to 2nd), foul, foul, ball, foul, ball 4--a good offspeed pitch that rode just low. Michael would later score when Sands hit a grand slam that really got Progressive Field rockin'. (i was there, it was epic lol)
the third and final hit for Michael came in the bottom of the 7th inning. he led it off against Kevin Jepsen and after a 1-2 count, hit a ground ball single through the hole and into center field. he was then lifted for a pinch runner--Mike Aviles--because the Indians had a commanding 13-4 lead and this was an opportunity for Tito to give Michael a little rest. okay cool, no qualms by me. he did his job. so once his night was officially done, Michael's season batting average was .309, an average he hadn't been at since May 28!
maybe his big day at the plate was brought on by the fact that it was Michael Brantley bobblehead day. the first 15,000 fans to enter the gates for the August 8 game received his bobble courtesy of Progressive Insurance. it was a great honor for Michael and it was one of the better Michael bobbles to this point. i analyzed it already in a blog i wrote earlier this month here.
also while this game was going on, it was revealed in an article by Paul Hoynes that Michael had moved into Swisher's locker in the clubhouse. that came out of left field (haha) because last year after Justin Masterson was traded, Michael took over that locker vacancy, and i was under the impression that he really liked it there since it was kind of hidden in the back corner. from what i recall about Swish's locker, it's right up front. actually, when he was here he had a double or dual locker. maybe that was by design for the golden boy, but most players only get 1 space for their stuff. so i'm not sure if Michael currently occupies both or just one. still, i'm surprised he wanted that spot. maybe he's finally embracing his role on the team as a leader by becoming more accessible.
in the last game versus the Twins on August 9, Michael had his 2nd straight 3-hit game, this time going 3-for-5. the 2 outs he recorded came in his first and last ABs. his first hit happened in the bottom of the 3rd inning with Lindor at 1st base and the Tribe up, 3-0. Phil Hughes was pitching for Minnesota and after a 1-0 count, Michael sent a line drive down the right field line for a double, advancing Lindor to 3rd. Michael later came around to score when Yan Gomes hit a double of his own off Hughes.
his next 2 hits were both 2-out singles, the first occurring in the bottom of the 4th inning against lefty Brian Duensing after a 2-2 count, and the other coming in the bottom of the 6th on Casey Fien's first pitch with Ramirez at 1st base, both with the Tribe up, 7-0.
after the game, Francona was talking to the media about if he thought Corey Kluber would end up with a no-hitter, and he indicated that "Mauer's got a lot of [Michael] Brantley in him where he takes what the pitcher gives you, and hits the ball the other way and is pretty smart." i absolutely loved hearing a guy who's been playing in the majors a lot longer than Michael being said to have a lot of Michael in him. loved it.
on August 10, a Tribe off day, Statcast released the route efficiency leaders among outfielders with a minimum of 50 occurrences this season on twitter. Michael had the highest route efficiency of all OFs at 93.85%. Miami Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich was a close 2nd at 93.61%. Angels center fielder Mike Trout was 3rd at 93.54%, Houston Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick was 4th at 93.47%, and San Francisco Giants center fielder Angel Pagan was 5th at 93.32%.
when the New York Yankees came to town on August 11, Michael secured his 3rd straight 3-hit game with a 3-for-6 performance including 2 doubles. this also represented his 4th straight game with a double, by the way. his first double was a leadoff 2-bagger down the right field line on the first pitch from Luis Severino in the bottom of the 3rd inning with the Tribe up, 2-0. his second double occurred on an 0-1 count in the bottom of the 10th inning off southpaw Andrew Miller with Lindor at 1st base and the Indians losing, 4-2. but they managed to tie the game up with a sac fly from Santana and RBI single by Gomes (scoring Michael).
Michael's shot at being the game's hero was taken away from him in the bottom of the 14th inning when Ramirez was at 2nd base with 2 outs because Yankees' Bryan Mitchell intentionally walked him. but when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 16th inning with Ramirez at 2nd, Lindor at 1st, 1 out, and the game still tied at 4, Branden Pinder pitched to him. after a 1-0 count, Michael hit a ground ball single off the 1st baseman into right field for his first walk-off hit of the year and 4th walk-off in his career! when he was interviewed by Tom Hamilton on WTAM 1100 after the game, he mentioned how it was hard to get away from his teammates after a win like this because they attack you. "you do something good and you get beat up for it." (lol) i wrote a blog with more quotes, details, and pictures of the occasion here.
this game marked Michael's 6th straight start with multi-hits, 6th out of his last 7. not only that, but Michael also obtained at least 1 hit in his last 13 consecutive starts.
his reward for a job well done was an off day on August 12. after that, he lamentably went 0-for-4 with just an RBI sac fly (and 2 swinging strikeouts) on August 13, effectively ending his multi-hit streak. on a night when every hitter in the lineup had 1 hit except Michael, it made me blue. what irony that he was pummeled by his teammates 2 days before, then couldn't get a hit in this game. turns out that may have been a result of the left shoulder inflammation the Indians announced he had on August 14. (all those details can be found in my aforementioned Add Another Ailment to the Mix section of this blog.) the timing sucked because with Kipnis still out with his sore shoulder, Michael lost out on an opening to inch up closer to Kip's stats and take over some team leads.
when Michael returned to game action on August 17 against the Boston Red Sox after a 3 day rest, he went into it with the 2nd best batting average in the American League with runners in scoring position at .366 (37-for-101). Boston's shortstop Xander Bogaerts was #1, putting some extra excitement into this series.
Michael went 2-for-5 in the game, giving him multi-hit games in 7 of his last 8 starts. as the DH, he hit a single and double, stole a base, scored a run, and drove in a runner. he also reached base with 2 fielder's choices.
here's a wrap up of some of his ABs. his first hit came with 1 out in the top of the 4th inning against Matt Barnes and the Indians down, 1-0. after a 1-0 count, Michael sent a line drive to deep right field that ended up bouncing out of play for a ground-rule double. he later scored on Abraham Almonte's bunt, which tied the game. then in the top of the 7th inning, Michael hit a 1-out single against Heath Hembree after a 1-2 count with the Tribe leading, 7-1. his sole RBI of the night occurred in the top of the 9th inning when he hit into a fielder's choice off Tommy Layne on an 0-1 count, scoring Aviles from 3rd base to extend the Tribe's lead to 8-1. Lindor, who'd been on at 1st, was forced out at 2nd but Michael successfully reached 1st and was credited with a ribbie. we'll take it. and in case you were wondering, Michael safely stole 2nd base in the top of the 1st inning with 1 out after reaching on his first fielder's choice of the game.
on August 18, Michael hit his first home run of the month, and his first since July 29, in the game against the Red Sox. the Indians were down 7-0 when he came to bat in the top of the 7th inning to face left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. after a 1-0 count, Michael stayed back on a changeup on the inner part of the plate and sent it to deep right field. it was his only hit of the game and while it didn't mean all that much for the team, i was more than pleased to see him hit one out of the park after just having missed time with an inflammed shoulder.
in the third game against the BoSox on August 19, Michael had another 3-hit game, going 3-for-4 with 2 singles and a double. his first hit was a 1-out single in the top of the 4th inning against Joe Kelly with Lindor at 1st base and the Tribe down, 2-0. after swinging at Kelly's first pitch, Michael sent a liner to left-center field.
Michael's double came in the top of the 6th inning against Kelly after a 2-2 count. with 1 out and the Indians losing, 6-1, he hit a line drive double down the right field line.
then in the top of the 8th inning, Michael hit another 1-out single. the count was 2-2 and the Tribe was still down, 6-1, when Michael hit Tommy Layne's 5th pitch through the hole and into center field. he later scored on Gomes' 3-run home run, but the Indians would get the score no closer than 6-4 before the game was over.
as thrilling as Michael's 3-hit game was, he also ended the night batting .317, only 4 points behind Kipnis. that's the closest Michael had been to catching Kip's BA since he lost the team lead to him all the way back in May.
on August 20, Michael put together his 2nd consecutive multi-hit game when he went 2-for-4 against the New York Yankees. in the top of the 3rd inning, Kipnis was at 2nd base with 2 outs and the Indians ahead, 1-0. after a 1-1 count, Michael sent Ivan Nova's 3rd pitch to left-center field for an RBI single, then advanced to 2nd base on Brett Gardner's throw home. that was Michael's first hit with RISP and 2 outs since August 7 and only his 2nd 2-out RISP hit all month. the single brought his overall batting average with RISP and 2 outs up to .227, a significant statistic because the last time Michael was batting over .220 under these circumstances was on July 18!
his other hit in the game was a 1-out double to deep right field off Chris Capuano in the top of the 8th inning on an 0-2 count with the Tribe up, 3-1. that gave him a season BA of .319, an average he hadn't seen since May 22!
also of note, Michael grounded into a double play his first time up against Nova in this game. Kip was at 1st base with 1 out when Michael hit a ground ball to the 1st baseman on an 0-2 pitch to set up the DP that ended the top of the 1st inning. it was his first GIDP all month.
after 4 straight games as the Tribe's designated hitter, Michael got back to playing left field in the game on August 21 against the Yankees. almost predictably, he was tested right away when he made a superb sliding catch to keep the game tied at 1 in the top of the 4th inning.
offensively, Michael amassed his 3rd multi-hit game in a row with 2 RBI singles. the first took place in the top of the 7th inning with Ramirez at 3rd, Lindor at 1st, 1 out, and the Indians up, 3-1. lefty Chasen Shreve was on the mound and after a 1-2 count, Michael fouled it off. then on the 5th pitch of the at bat, Michael hit a line drive single to left-center field, scoring Ramirez and giving the Indians a 4-1 lead.
his second RBI single occurred in the top of the 9th inning with the Indians clinging to a 4-3 lead. Ramirez was at 3rd base and Kipnis was on at 2nd. southpaw Justin Wilson had the count at 0-2 on Michael before throwing him 2 balls. then Michael fouled the next 2 pitches off before hitting another 1-out line drive single to left-center field that scored Ramirez. additionally, it gave him his first multi-RBI game in 2 weeks (since August 7).
some people were dumbfounded that the Yankees opted not to intentionally walk Michael with 1st base open, including STO analyst Rick Manning. "they had a chance to walk him; they chose not to. i can't believe they didn't do it." in reference to an earlier comment made by Matt Underwood, Manning added, "like you said: 'you play with fire, you get burned.' the next time, i think they'll walk Michael Brantley and take their chances with somebody else."
furthermore, according to Hammy on the radio during one of Michael's at bats, he came into this game with the best American League batting average on the road at .327. all the more reason they should have walked him, but i'm thankful they didn't lol
take a minute now and put your thinking caps on. when was the last time you heard the "neighborhood play" enforced in baseball? yeah, i couldn't recall either until it was on August 22 in the game against the Yankees. and unfortunately, it was a fiasco. the Indians were down, 5-1, in the top of the 3rd inning. Kipnis was at 3rd and Lindor was at 1st base with 1 out. Michael stepped up to the plate to face Luis Severino. after a 2-2 count, he hit a grounder to 1st baseman Gregory Bird, who threw the ball to shortstop Didi Gregorius, who then threw back to Bird, but Michael was safe at 1st. Dan Iassogna, the 2nd base umpire, called Lindor out at 2nd, except Gregorius was nowhere near the 2nd base bag because Bird's high throw forced him off it. therefore, the neighborhood play shouldn't have been in effect and Lindor should have been safe. (as for why Kipnis didn't score, i don't know, but that's not even the issue i'm having here right now.) but the umpires did indeed cite the neighborhood play.
Francona wasn't happy with the call so he went out to talk with the umpires about said play. after the umps convened, they decided not to ask for an umpire review--this play was NOT eligible for a manager's challenge--and when Iassogna told Francona that, Tito justifiably blew up and was ejected from the game. after the game was over, Francona enlightened us with what Iassogna told him and quite frankly why Iassogna was dead wrong.
had things gone the way they should have, the Indians would have had bases loaded with 1 out. now, would Michael have gotten credit for a hit? that i'm not 100% positive on. he may have reached on a throwing error. regardless, this was his only real shot at getting a hit in this game because his 3 other ABs were legit outs--flyout to left, swinging strikeout, and groundout to the pitcher. and it was peculiar timing once again because the Indians had been very vocal about how Michael was still not ready to play left field, yet there he was playing in left the night before, and all the sudden he can't hit in the following night's game as the DH. his 0-for-4 box score stopped a small 5-game hitting streak, his 7th such streak of 5 or more games on the year.
what's more, Michael began this game as the best clutch hitter in the American League, batting .374 (40-for-107). had Kipnis gone home like he should have, Michael could at least have gotten an RBI fielder's choice. like come on, man, you need to be smarter than that. smh. nevertheless, from this point forward, Michael's troubles with RISP commenced, as he went 7 games without a hit with men in scoring position. needless to say, he didn't stay at the top of the AL RISP category very long.
anyways, video of all this insanity can be found here, and a clear cut photo showing that this obviously was NOT the neighborhood play can be found here. check 'em out if you're so inclined and try not to get enraged. it was the wrong call and changed the entire complexion of the inning, if not the game, which the Indians lost, 6-2. i can't with this, i just can't.
Michael's best game of the month came on August 25 versus the Milwaukee Brewers. he went 3-for-4 with a single, 2 home runs, 4 RBI, 3 runs, 1 walk, 1 stolen base, and 9 total bases. he tied his single-game season high with the 4 RBI, set a new single-game season high with his 3 runs, and set a new single-game career high with his 9 total bases. at this time, Michael was also the only player in the American League with a minimum of 35 doubles, 10 home runs, and 70 RBI so far in 2015!
so let me get into the home runs. they were both 2-run dingers, one off a righty and one off a lefty. he hit the first bomb in the bottom of the 4th inning with Kipnis at 1st base, 1 out, and the Indians up, 4-2. right-hander Kyle Lohse was pitching for the Brewers. he had the count even at 2 before Michael fouled off his 5th pitch. then Michael sent the next pitch--a fastball over the plate and above the belt--to deep right-center field for his 10th home run of 2015! the DMan Report breaks down the AB by Lohse's pitch selection as follows. pitch 1: 77 mph changeup, foul. Michael got out in front and fouled it near the 3rd baseline. pitch 2: 87 mph fastball, inside. pitch 3: 76 mph changeup, foul. pitch 4: 83 mph slider, down and away. pitch 5: 84 mph slider, foul. Michael really spoiled that slider, which led to pitch 6: 87 mph fastball, home run.
Michael's second 2-run home run came on lefty Will Smith's first pitch in the bottom of the 8th inning with Lindor at 1st base and 1 out. the Indians had a 9-6 lead before Michael sent a breaking ball 393 feet high and deep to right field for his 11th home run of 2015! those 2 home runs denoted the 3rd multi-homer game in Michael's career. he last hit 2 homers in 1 game back on July 7, 2013. preceding that, he also had 2 homers in the game on June 19, 2013.
in some fun fact news, Michael has different home run handshakes for different players. if you've been watching the Tribe for a while, then i'm sure you're familiar with the routine he does with Kipnis after a home run. i recently learned that was called the "Hulk Smash." conversely, the one he does with Lindor is simply dubbed the "professional handshake." must be part of the rookie treatment that Frankie gets something more on the formal side lol
when Michael was interviewed on the field after the game by Andre Knott, he noted how Kipnis and Lindor are "doing a great job getting on base, creating havoc and basically getting in scoring position on the regular. you got to tip your hat. it's fun to play right now. we're having a great group of guys in that locker room that's fun to be around every day and just finish it up strong."
of his 2 homers, Michael proclaimed hitting the one off the lefty makes him feel better to do. "that means my swing's staying inside the ball, i'm not pulling off, and i'm finishing through it, so anytime you can face a tough lefty like that, especially a late inning guy that has great stuff, to put a good swing on the baseball early is very important."
"i'm just really trying to learn. i still think i need to learn and kind of grow. throughout the season you have ups and downs, good and bad, and i try to learn from all of them. the longer you play this game, you go out there each and every day, i think it's a blessing but if you learn and continue to learn each and every day, it makes you a better hitter."
Michael was again asked about having traffic on base for him during his interview with the media in front of his locker. "it's just creating more opportunities to score runs. obviously, the more runs you score, the better chance you're gonna have of winning a baseball game. the two guys in front of me are doing a great job, so is the bottom of the order, getting on base for them as well. hitting's contagious so if they keep swinging the bats well, hopefully this keeps trickling down the order."
"it's fun," he persisted. "we swing the bats well, guys are getting on base at the top of the lineup, creating havoc, it's just fun to be a part of."
in the August 26 game versus the Brewers, Michael slumped a bit with simply a 1-for-3 performance, hitting just a single lol but, he did draw 2 walks in the game, setting a new career high with 54 walks on the season. the first walk he drew tied his old record of 53 walks from back in 2012. the second walk, which came in the bottom of the 4th inning with 1 out and Lindor at 1st base (and later 2nd after he stole it), came against Jimmy Nelson on a 3-1 count. that walk broke his record and gave him his first new career high of 2015. oddly enough, this was one of a very few categories that he did not set a record in last season. and i'm proud he was able to achieve this particular record even with the aggressive mental approach he's adopted at the plate since last year as well. for more details about this accomplishment, you can read the blog i wrote here.
the weather conditions for this game sucked, plain and simple. they started playing in rain and it seemed to get harder as the innings went on. case in point, Michael actually fell while trying to run out of the batter's box on his groundout in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Kipnis was at 3rd base and Lindor was at 2nd with 2 outs and after a 1-1 count, Michael chopped Nelson's pitch to the 1st baseman to end the inning. after it happened he just kinda looked at the dirt around home, threw off his helmet in defeat, and dejectedly walked back to the dugout. maybe they should have stopped play for a bit. i'm so relieved Michael didn't twist an ankle or something. that'd be all he needed, right?
on August 28, Michael began his series at home versus the Los Angeles Angels going 1-for-3 with a double and walk. that one hit was all he needed to establish the 8th time he's hit in 5 or more straight games this season.
this is not typically a game i would spotlight but i want to take a minute to discuss a few of his plate appearances, his first AB in the bottom of the 1st inning specifically. he was facing left-handed starter Andrew Heaney with 2 outs and no score. he turned the at bat into an 11-pitch battle, one which Heaney ultimately won. pitch 1: 92 mph fastball, called strike, 0-1 count. pitch 2: 93 mph fastball outside, ball, 1-1 count. pitch 3: 92 mph fastball, fouled, 1-2 count. pitch 4: 93 mph fastball, fouled, 1-2 count. pitch 5: 94 mph fastball down and away, ball, 2-2 count. pitch 6: 80 mph breaking ball, fouled, 2-2 count. pitch 7: 91 mph fastball, fouled, 2-2 count. pitch 8: 93 mph fastball, fouled, 2-2 count. pitch 9: 93 mph fastball low, ball, 3-2 count. pitch 10: 92 mph fastball, fouled, 3-2 count. pitch 11: 92 mph fastball, hard-hit liner to left field, caught by former Indian David Murphy. it was an impressive, quality at bat that just didn't go Michael's way. (thanks to Dennis Manoloff for the extensive break down of this AB.)
next, Michael led off the bottom of the 4th inning with the game still scoreless and swung at Heaney's first pitch--a fastball on the inner half at the thighs--which he sent into the right field corner for a double. and with that, Michael regained the major league lead in doubles with 39 because Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds still had only 38.
then in the bottom of the 7th inning, the Indians were up, 2-1, with Kipnis at 1st base and 2 outs when Angels reliever Trevor Gott walked Michael. Gott threw him 4 straight fastballs outside, at 95 mph, 96 mph, 95 mph, and 94 mph. it was safe to assume that this was an unintentional intentional walk. that was Michael's final trip to the plate, giving him a game high 20 pitches seen (thanks largely in part to his first AB).
Michael recorded his 6th 3-hit game of the month on August 29 versus the Angels with his 3-for-4 showing, and i was lucky to be there to see it for myself. the first of his 3 singles occurred in the bottom of the 3rd inning with Lindor at 1st base, 1 out, and the game tied at 1. Michael ran the count to 3-1 against Garrett Richards before lining a single to short right field. he later scored on Chisenhall's 2-out single.
Michael's second single of the game came in the bottom of the 5th inning against Richards with 2 outs and the game tied at 3. he had a full count after 5 pitches, then fouled off Richards' next 3 pitches to him before hitting a line drive single to center field. it was Michael's first 2-out hit since August 20, stopping an 0-for-8 slide in his last 10 plate appearances.
in his next at bat, Michael hit his third single of the night. former Indians' reliever Joe Smith had just replaced Richards on the mound to start the bottom of the 8th inning. the game was still tied at 3, but this inning looked promising as Lindor led off against Smith with a single. then Michael jumped on Smitty's 88 mph first-pitch fastball on the inner half of the plate and sent a ground ball single through the hole and into right field. after a Santana double scored Lindor and advanced Michael to 3rd, Chisenhall was intentionally walked to load the bases. Michael was the first to touch home plate after Gomes hit his first career grand slam. rough outing for Smith lol
the one out Michael recorded took place in the bottom of the 1st inning, when he hit a liner to 3rd base on the 4th pitch of a 1-2 count. realistically, he could have gone 4-for-4. the lone dark spot on this game was the fielding error Michael committed in the top of the 4th inning, which initially tied the game at 3. (i describe that mistake in detail in the In The Field section of this blog below.)
once the night ended and the Indians won, 8-3, Michael found himself at the top of the Indians leaderboard in several categories. the most obvious was Michael took over the team lead in batting average, having finished the game batting .324 compared to Kipnis' .321, after starting it at .320 to Kip's .324. chasing Kip and then surpassing him was a long, hard journey; this was the first time Michael owned the highest BA on the team since May 18! not only that, but Michael also boasted the team's highest OBP, SLG, and OPS, passing Kipnis in those categories as well, AND his 3-hit night also gave him more total hits on the year than Kipnis (144 vs. 143).
if not for Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, Michael correspondingly would have owned the highest batting average in the American League. Cabrera, after missing about 6 weeks with a calf strain, hadn't had enough plate appearances to be a qualifier anymore until right after this August 29 game. his batting average? a whopping .361. what perfect timing, of course. everyone had been talking about how Kipnis had the highest BA throughout much of August. then Michael finally tops him and Cabrera's qualifying again. sigh.
Lindor had some nice words to say about Michael's impact in the lineup during his postgame interview. "i've got to find a way to get on base, to get something going. whenever i'm on base, Michael Brantley is one of the biggest threats in the game. him by himself and nobody on base is a big threat, but with somebody on base, i mean, that guy is unbelievable."
Michael had another multi-hit game on August 30 versus the Halos, going 2-for-4 and scoring 3 runs. his first hit came in his first at bat in the bottom of the 1st inning against Jered Weaver with 1 out and Kipnis on 3rd base. after a 1-2 count, Michael drilled a 75 mph curveball down the right field line for a double, giving the Tribe a 1-0 lead and Michael his first go-ahead hit and go-ahead RBI since August 11. that hit also ended his 0-for-8 slump with RISP in Michael's last 11 plate appearances since August 22. in addition, that double represented Michael's 40th 2-bagger of the year, making him the first Indians player since Travis Hafner (2004-2005) to put together back-to-back seasons of 40 doubles or more. and believe it or not, he's just the 10th player in club history to be able to claim this feat.
later in the inning, Michael scored the first of his 3 runs on a Santana double after Mike Trout lost the ball in the sun. then with 1 out in the bottom of the 5th inning and the Tribe up 2-0, Michael hit a 65 mph curveball to center field on a 3-2 count off Weaver for his second hit, scoring soon after on Almonte's first career grand slam. Michael was intentionally walked in the bottom of the 6th inning with 2 outs, Lindor at 2nd base, and the Indians ahead, 6-1. both base runners moved up when Weaver threw Santana a wild pitch, and then they both scored on Santana's single to right field.
one more thing: coming into the August 30 game, Hammy told listeners on WTAM that Michael owned the best batting average in Major League Baseball since the All Star break. his 2nd half BA at the time was .393 (55-for-140). no big deal lol
Michael was kept in check on August 31 in the game against the Toronto Blue Jays. he was 0-for-4 with a GIDP and swinging strikeout. on the contrary, after the game ended, Michael's official August averages were .406 batting, .463 OBP, .604 SLG, and 1.067 OPS. those were all career highs for him in the month of August. besides that, his SLG and OPS were the highest he's EVER had in one month in his entire big league career! it was close when comparing those stats to his numbers from September of 2014, which were also legendary in their own right (42 hits in 26 games, .416/.468/.554), but Michael did beat out the SLG and OPS from back then this month.
going into this final game of August, Michael led the major leagues with a .429 batting average for the month. when it was all said and done, his .406 BA fell 2nd only to the Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion, who just barely beat him with a .407 BA. if only the Indians could have rendered him hitless in this damn game!!! Michael's break was right there!!! lol
Michael's 0-fer performance also brought his 2nd half BA down to .385 (57-for-148), 2nd in the majors to Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, and 1st in the American League among qualifying players.
In The Field
as i inferred at the end of July, Michael saw no time in center field in August and only played in left. what i didn't know then is that he wouldn't be playing the field as much this month because of his inflammed left shoulder. therefore he only recorded 36 putouts, which is down some from his usual amount. moreover, i never would have predicted that Michael would be charged with yet another error. combine that with his lessened number of putouts, and he yielded an abnormally low .973 fielding percentage for August.
his sore shoulder also could have been the reason he didn't have any outfield assists for the second month in a row. his last assist came on June 19. this is very uncharacteristic of him, but it certainly made sense in August.
despite his MIA assists, he still displayed some stellar defense in the field. in the game on August 21 against the New York Yankees, Michael played his first game in left field since August 13, and recorded his first putout in left since August 13. with the game tied at 1 and 2 outs in the bottom of the 4th inning, the Yankees had Carlos Beltran on 1st base with Chris Young at the plate. Indians starter Carlos Carrasco got behind in the count 2-0 when Young hit a sinking line drive to left field. Michael ran over towards where the ball was quickly dropping, dove and made the catch, then slid and sprawled out on the grass before getting himself back up on his feet. inning over, no biggie lol it was a terrific diving catch.
Michael made another standout catch on August 25 in the game versus the Milwaukee Brewers. the Indians led 9-6 with 1 out and Bryan Shaw on the mound in the top of the 8th inning. Ryan Braun was at the plate and on an 0-2 count, he sent a liner to left field. Michael came in, slid down, and caught the sinking liner in the pocket of his glove. then he stayed on the grass for a second to take in the fact that he did catch the ball. it was a cute moment and i loved the smile on his face afterwards. that putout gave him a total of 4 for the game, which is worth noting because prior to this, Michael hadn't recorded at least 4 putouts in one game since July 18!
now the sad part. Michael committed a fielding error during the game versus the Los Angeles Angels on August 29, his 2nd fielding error this season and 2nd in left field as well. sigh. it happened in the top of the 4th inning with 2 outs, Erick Aybar at 1st base, and the Indians leading, 3-2. Corey Kluber had Kaleb Cowart in an 0-1 count before Cowart hit the ball just inside the left field line. Michael ran over to cut the ball off as it bounced into foul territory, but as he put his glove out for it, the ball got past him and he slammed his shoulder into the rail while the ball went back into fair ground inside the line. (but it was not the same shoulder that he'd experienced soreness in earlier this month.) meanwhile, Aybar scored from 1st and tied the game at 3.
i was at this game, sitting in the row right behind the tarp, watching as this all unfolded. (if you know where to look, you can even spot me in the video i linked.) it was so fast i didn't even realize at first that Michael would consequently be charged with an error on the play. unlike the last error he committed on June 29 however, i wasn't as depressed about it. he wasn't close to re-setting his franchise record errorless streak again so there was no reason to be overly upset. i thought that was very mature of me lol he went a mere 39 games/367.1 innings in between the 2 errors this year, and 31 straight games in left field. oh well, shit happens. while the older lady sitting next to me bitched about Michael getting paid millions of dollars to catch the ball, all i cared about was that he didn't hurt himself again. thankfully, he appeared to be fine.
it would be nice if Michael could put together one final strong month defensively as this season ends. let's get another errorless streak started, make a few web gem catches, and maybe throw out another runner or two. i have faith that he can do it.
now let's break down the numbers. i am going to document his August #s, the 3rd spot #s, the 5th spot #s, the DH #s, the PH #s, and the PH for DH #s**, as well as the left field #s and overall outfield #s.
**i have to include a note here because something occurred this month that made Michael's numbers a bit confusing. because Michael came into a game to PH for the DH, there is a new category added into these stats, aptly named "PH for DH." therefore, his appearance in that one game counts for both his PH stats AND overall DH stats. (major shout out to Jordan Bastian for helping me discover this.)
so, if you were to add up Michael's August #s like this: OF #s + DH #s + PH #s, the sum is NOT going to equal his total numbers; you will be one at bat over his actual total and have an incorrect overall BA. i often add up Michael's #s like that to cross check my calculations. since that doesn't work anymore, you can simply use his BOP #s (3rd #s + 5th #s) for the total. OR, because Michael only had this one PH appearance, and that PH appearance is included in his total DH #s, you could just combine his OF #s + DH #s to get his overall August stats. this could seem a bit complicated, especially if you aren't familiar with PHing for the DH, like i initially wasn't. so i definitely felt the need to address this and explain why things won't come out right if you tally up Michael's stats using all those categories.**
August batting average: .406
Michael played in 24 (of 28) games, 22 complete, in August.
he started and played left in 16 games, completing 15 of those games, appearing in 16 total. he was lifted for a PR in 1 game after 7 innings because the Indians were winning a blowout and he had done more than enough in the game.
he started and was the DH for 7 games, completing 7 of those games, appearing in 8 total.
he came in to PH in the top of the 8th inning for 1 game. and since he PH for the DH, he was also the PH for DH in 1 game.
he missed 3 games due to left shoulder inflammation.
he got 1 other game off.
Michael bat 3rd in 23 games.
Michael bat 5th in 1 game. (PH/PH for DH)
Michael played left field in 16 games. (15 complete, 1 lifted for PR: 7 innings)
Michael was the DH in 8 games. (7 complete, 1 PH for DH)
Michael was a PH in 1 game. (PH for DH)
Michael was the PH for DH in 1 game.
Michael played in 22 complete games.
in August, Michael had a total of 108 plate appearances and 96 at bats. here is how he fared:
13 extra base hits
3 home runs
1 sac fly
3 intentional walks
1 hit by pitch
3 stolen bases (2nd)
13 strikeouts (12 swinging, 1 looking)
4 first at bat hits
58 total bases
38 left on base
151.1 innings, 24 games
(22 complete games)
August batting average: .406 (39-96) (24 games)
now let's break down his numbers based on where he hit in the lineup.
when Michael bat 3rd in August, he had a total of 107 plate appearances and 95 at bats in 23 games. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
13 extra base hits
3 home runs
1 sac fly
3 intentional walks
1 hit by pitch
3 stolen bases (2nd)
13 strikeouts (12 swinging, 1 looking)
4 first at bat hits
58 total bases
36 left on base
151.1 innings, 23 games
(22 complete games)
August batting average in the 3rd spot: .411 (39-95) (23 games)
when Michael bat 3rd and played left in August, he had a total of 77 plate appearances and 66 at bats in 16 games. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
8 extra base hits
2 home runs
1 sac fly
2 intentional walks
1 hit by pitch
2 stolen bases (2nd)
11 strikeouts (10 swinging, 1 looking)
2 first at bat hits
39 total bases
25 left on base
151.1 innings, 16 games
(15 complete games)
August batting average in the 3rd spot while playing left: .409 (27-66) (16 games)
when Michael bat 3rd, he was the DH in August for 7 games. he had a total of 30 plate appearances and 29 at bats. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
5 extra base hits
1 home run
1 intentional walk
1 stolen base (2nd)
2 strikeouts (swinging)
2 first at bat hits
19 total bases
11 left on base
August batting average in the 3rd spot as the DH: .414 (12-29) (7 games)
when Michael bat 5th in August, he had a total of 1 plate appearance and 1 at bat in 1 game. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
2 left on base
(0 complete games)
August batting average in the 5th spot: .000 (0-1) (1 game)
when Michael bat 5th, he was a PH in August for 1 game. he had a total of 1 plate appearance and 1 at bat. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
2 left on base
August batting average as a PH in the 5th spot: .000 (0-1) (1 game)
overall August batting average as a PH: .000 (0-1) (1 game)
when Michael bat 5th, he was the PH for DH in August for 1 game. he had a total of 1 plate appearance and 1 at bat. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
2 left on base
August batting average in the 5th spot as the PH for DH: .000 (0-1) (1 game)
overall August batting average as the PH for DH: .000 (0-1) (1 game)
when Michael bat 5th, he was the DH in August for 1 game. he had a total of 1 plate appearance and 1 at bat. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
2 left on base
August batting average in the 5th spot as the DH: .000 (0-1) (1 game)
when Michael was the DH in August, he had a total of 31 plate appearances and 30 at bats in 8 games. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
5 extra base hits
1 home run
1 intentional walk
1 stolen base (2nd)
2 strikeouts (swinging)
2 first at bat hits
19 total bases
13 left on base
(7 complete games)
August batting average as the DH: .400 (12-30) (8 games)
when Michael played the outfield in August, he had a total of 77 plate appearances and 66 at bats in 16 games. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
8 extra base hits
2 home runs
1 sac fly
2 intentional walks
1 hit by pitch
2 stolen bases (2nd)
11 strikeouts (10 swinging, 1 looking)
2 first at bat hits
39 total bases
25 left on base
151.1 innings, 16 games
(15 complete games)
August batting average while playing the outfield: .409 (27-66) (16 games)
now let's break down his numbers specific to where he played in the outfield.
when Michael played left in August, he had a total of 77 plate appearances and 66 at bats in 16 games. breaking down the numbers are as follows:
8 extra base hits
2 home runs
1 sac fly
2 intentional walks
1 hit by pitch
2 stolen bases (2nd)
11 strikeouts (10 swinging, 1 looking)
2 first at bat hits
39 total bases
25 left on base
151.1 innings, 16 games
(15 complete games)
August batting average while playing left: .409 (27-66) (16 games)
August #s while playing left: 36 putouts, 0 assists, 1 error, .973 fielding percentage (151.1 innings, 16 games)
August #s while playing the outfield: 36 putouts, 0 assists, 1 error, .973 fielding percentage (151.1 innings, 16 games)
now my game-by-game numbers and notes.
Game 94/Game 1, August 1: 1-4, single (first at bat). AVG: .299
Game 95/Game 2, August 2: 1-3, walk (first at bat), single. AVG: .299
Game 96/Game 3, August 3: 2-4, RBI single (first at bat), run, single. AVG: .302
Game 97/Game 4, August 4: 2-4, single, intentional walk, bunt single. AVG: .304
**Michael's 9-game hitting streak, 9-game on-base streak, 12-game hitting streak on the road, and 12-game on-base streak on the road end**
Game 98/Game 5, August 5: 0-1. AVG: .303
Game 99/Game 6, August 7: 2-5, RBI single, run, 2-run double, run. AVG: .304
Game 100/Game 7, August 8: 3-4, RBI single (first at bat), stolen base, run, double, walk, run, single. AVG: .309
Game 101/Game 8, August 9: 3-5, double, run, single, single. AVG: .313
Game 102/Game 9, August 11: 3-6, hit by pitch (first at bat), double, double, run, intentional walk, RBI single. AVG: .316
^^Michael's first walk-off of the season^^
August 12: not in lineup.
**Michael's 3-game, 3-hit streak and 6 consecutive starts with multi-hits end**
Game 103/Game 10, August 13: 0-4, RBI sac fly. AVG: .312
August 14: out with left shoulder inflammation, currently day-to-day. was bothering him some lately and intensified on August 13. had MRI in Cleveland, came back clear but still received cortisone injection. will miss next 2-3 games, but no DL.
August 15: with team in Minnesota, but still out. doubtful for August 16, possible for August 17. likely needs to DH upon return.
August 16: resumed swinging a bat, likely to DH tomorrow.
August 17: played catch at 90 feet, not ready to play left field yet.
Game 104/Game 11, August 17: 2-5, reached on fielder's choice (first at bat), stolen base, double, run, single, RBI fielder's choice. AVG: .313
August 18: needs another day or two as DH before returning to outfield.
Game 105/Game 12, August 18: 1-4, reached on forceout, home run, run. AVG: .313
August 19: played catch and felt good, but is not ready to return to left field.
Game 106/Game 13, August 19: 3-4, single, double, single, run. AVG: .317
August 20: the Indians do not plan on rushing him back to left field.
Game 107/Game 14, August 20: 2-4, RBI single, double. AVG: .319
Game 108/Game 15, August 21: 2-5, RBI single, RBI single. AVG: .320
Game 109/Game 16, August 22: 0-4, reached on forceout. AVG: .317
Game 110/Game 17, August 23: 1-4, single, run, walk. AVG: .316
Game 111/Game 18, August 24: 1-4, single. AVG: .316
Game 112/Game 19, August 25: 3-4, walk (first at bat), run, 2-run home run, run, single, stolen base, 2-run home run, run. AVG: .320
Game 113/Game 20, August 26: 1-3, walk (first at bat), walk, single. AVG: .320
^^Michael sets new career high in walks with 54^^
Game 114/Game 21, August 28: 1-3, double, walk. AVG: .320
Game 115/Game 22, August 29: 3-4, single, run, single, single, run. AVG: .324
Game 116/Game 23, August 30: 2-4, RBI double (first at bat), run, single, run, intentional walk, run. AVG: .325
**Michael's 7-game hitting streak, 13-game reached base streak, and 8-game reached base streak on the road end**
Game 117/Game 24, August 31: 0-4. AVG: .322
so far in 2015, Michael has a total of 516 plate appearances and 453 at bats in 117 games (885.1 innings). in total, he has 146 hits, 51 extra base hits, 95 singles, 40 doubles, 11 home runs, 73 RBI, 5 sac flies, 60 runs, 56 walks, 8 intentional walks, 2 hit by pitches, 14 stolen bases (13 - 2nd, 1 - 3rd), 1 caught stealing (3rd), 12 GIDP, 43 strikeouts (31 swinging, 12 looking), 32 first at bat hits, 219 total bases, 187 left on base, 181 putouts, 7 assists, 2 errors, and 1 double play.
2015 season batting average: .322 (146-453)
if you'd like to see Michael's 2015 #s through August, please refer to my Brantley's 2015 #s Through August blog.
and for daily updates about Michael's health and any records he may set as the season comes to its conclusion, be sure to follow @clevelandgirl23 on twitter!
note: even though the Indians are scheduled to play 4 games in the month of October, those numbers will be integrated with September's. September/October numbers are considered to be one month's worth of stats according to every baseball website out there. consequently, there will be just 1 more Brantley's monthly numbers blog coming up.