hello again, Brantley fans! thank you to everyone who read my Brantley's August 2015 #s blog and Brantley's 2015 #s Through August blog. i know that the August blog was lengthy (albeit not compared to this one), but i trust you forgave me once you discovered how exciting Michael's incredible month was to read about. i also want to welcome some viewers from Sweden who recently visited my blog for the first time. i'm happy you found my blogspot and hope you continue to come back and read all about Michael!
well here we are again, at the end of another baseball season. the Indians gave it a valiant effort, but it wasn't quite enough to land a wild card spot. don't let yourself get too upset though because i will be writing a plethora of blogs throughout this month of October. so make sure you keep checking back for those, or you can simply subscribe to my emailing list (over on the right side of this page) to always be notified whenever a new post goes live! before we get to all that however, it is time for the final monthly blog of 2015.
note: i want to make it clear that September and October are combined
to be 1 month. this is what all the baseball sites do when baseball
season runs into October. it wouldn't make much sense to give October its
own month for stats when not that many games are actually played. so whenever you see "the/this month" written in this blog, know that i am referring to (both) September/October as one even though Michael did not play in any of the October games.
i don't know what happened here, guys. after Michael's August sizzle, i never saw this September fizzle coming. he just had one of the best months in his career in August and appeared to be headed for a hot finish. but as soon as the calendar flipped over to September, his bat cooled way down and it was like all the steam had been let out. maybe that last game in August (when he went 0-for-4) was a
foreshadowing of things to come and i overlooked it based on how
amazing he did in all his previous August games.
Michael went hitless in more games this month than any other month this season and
the number of poor at bats he had was startling. he also left many guys on base, rarely coming through in the clutch with runners in scoring position. he did have a few good games, but overall he was very inconsistent and unreliable at the plate. then the unthinkable happened.
in what was surely the pivotal point of the month for him, Michael jammed his right shoulder while trying to make a diving catch in a game against the Minnesota Twins, about 2 weeks before the season's end. that really did him in and there would be no chance for redemption. he sat out 4 full games and when
he returned to game action, he still was not fully healthy. but you know Michael, he
wanted to get back so badly and help the Indians whether he was ailing or not. his willingness to
play hurt, while admirable, was not good. it wasn't good for the Tribe
nor was it good for his stats. needless to say, it was difficult to see Michael conclude his season this way, yet somehow it was disturbingly appropriate that he went out in the same manner in which he began his 2015 campaign--hurt.
in Michael's first 11 games, he bat .295
(13-for-44) from September 1-14. conversely, in his last 9 games, he bat only .156 (5-for-32) from September 15-28. he had 6 hitless games in that group, including the first 3 games--which contributed to his longest slump of the year, an 0-for-13 skid in 14 plate appearances--and his final 3 games. baseball season ended on October 4, but Michael was officially shut down on September 30 because of his right shoulder soreness and inflammation. unfortunately, during the time that he was sitting on the bench watching everyone else wrap up their seasons, some of the categories he held team leads in disappeared.
it should be no surprise then that Michael had a September/October batting average of .237, which pulled his season BA down to .310, a 12 point decrease from the end of August. that's not how i wanted Michael to go out this year but, all things considered, he did the best he could despite all the injuries he had to battle since day 1 of spring. i have to give him props for that. i honestly don't know how he managed to stay in the lineup as much as he did. he's tough. but this was a melancholy ending to a season that is still going to be one of the best in his career irrespective of the September slump and shoulder injury.
Michael did not have a good road trip to start the month. it began with 2 games against the Toronto Blue Jays, with Michael going 2-for-8. then the Indians traveled back to the U.S. to play the Detroit Tigers for 3 games. Michael usually hits Detroit's pitching well, but only went 3-for-13 in this series. on the bright side, he did acquire his 150th hit of the season during this time, giving him 4 straight seasons with at least 150 hits.
the final 3 games the Indians played away from home on this trip were against the Chicago White Sox. Michael played in 2 full games and was a late inning pinch hitter in 1--the game Chris Sale started. yes, at long last Terry Francona showed some mercy on Michael and didn't start him that day. he put up an overall 3-for-10 showing, easily his best series of the trip, which was very good to add into his total 2015 numbers against the ChiSox as well.
when the Tribe came home, their opponents were the Tigers again. originally a 4-game series, it got shortened to 3. two games were postponed due to rain, one of which would be made up in a traditional doubleheader during the series, and the other being postponed until after the end of the season (only to be played if the game was going to affect playoff standings). Michael sat out Game 2 of the DH, therefore playing just 2 of the rain-shortened 3-game series, going 2-for-8. both those hits came in the first game of the series, and both were go-ahead home runs. however, after having 2 consecutive games off due to poor weather, there was no plausible excuse for such a mediocre overall performance.
the Kansas City Royals were the next team the Tribe faced at Progressive Field. what started out as a potential big series for Michael ended as anything
but. in 4 games, Michael went 3-for-16. yikes. he endured three 0-fer games in a row after going 3-for-5 in the first one. that marked the first time all
year where he had 3 straight hitless games. it really became apparent at that time that he'd lost
himself at the plate and was undergoing his first real slump of 2015 that was not caused by playing with an injury.
after the Royals left town, the White Sox arrived, and of course the Indians had to go against tough lefty Chris Sale yet again. but for this meeting, Francona made Michael start because he gave Jason Kipnis off and didn't want both of those guys sitting out. facepalm. something must have been in the air that night though, as Michael got not 1, but 2 hits off Sale. in total, he put up a 5-for-13 performance in this 3-game series, a huge improvement for him against this team. once again, this really helped bump up his overall #s against this AL Central rival, too, because he came into September with a very low season average. he also hit his 45th double of the year, giving him back-to-back seasons of 45 doubles--a career first--to become the 4th Indians player with consecutive seasons of 45 doubles as well.
next the Indians had their final off day of the regular season, which was spent traveling to their 2nd to last road city on their very last road trip of 2015. Michael had not faced the Twins since early August because the last time the Indians played in Minneapolis, he sat out the entire series due to his left shoulder inflammation. prior to that, he had done extremely well, so i was hoping for more of the same in this series. it was almost like deja vu because this is when Michael injured his right shoulder on a diving catch attempt and couldn't even complete the first game. he went on to miss the next 2 games, giving him a total series showing of 0-for-2 and 3 innings in left field. ouch.
when the Tribe moved on to Kansas City for their closing road series of the year, Michael was still feeling pain in the extension after his swings and was only able to play in 1 of the 3 games, the finale of the road trip, which maybe he should have sat out also. he went 0-for-2 with 2 walks. whether that was a result of rust, just his continued slump, or his shoulder still bothering him, i can't definitively say. what a crappy way to close out his final road trip, playing 2 games and going 0-for-4. that did absolutely nothing to boost his road stats for either this month or the season.
with the away games in the rearview mirror, the Indians returned to Cleveland for their final homestand, with 4 games versus the Twins and 3 versus the Boston Red Sox. Michael played the first game of the Twins series and went 0-for-4 before being shut down for the remainder of the season due to right shoulder inflammation. talk about a devastating way to go out.
nonetheless, he did manage to set one last record for himself once his season was over and all his numbers became official. in his last game at home versus the Twins, Michael added his final strikeout to his 2015 stats. and with that, he set a new career low in strikeouts with 51.
going from the best month of his season to his worst was tough to watch. he went from having a real shot at the American League batting title to basically eliminating himself while enduring an atypical slump before becoming injured and then needing to end his year early. however, Michael did everything in his power to play as much as he could despite all the adversities he faced and i know he did the absolute best that he could. for that, i am very proud of him.
Areas Of Concern
just about every area of Michael's game was a concern for me this month. to be blunt, he was not getting many hits, as will be reflected when you scroll down and see what some of Michael's September/October situational numbers are.
it became clear to me early on this month that Michael lost his ability to hit with RISP. forget about how many outs were in an inning, he wasn't hitting regardless. between September 9-17, he went 0-for-9 in 10 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
with RISP and 1 out in an inning, Michael went 0-for-6 in 7 plate appearances from September 5-15, and with RISP and 2 outs in an inning, he was 0-for-7 in 8 plate appearances from August 21 - September 17. those are some rough slumps for a player to bear.
Michael had trouble in September/October with runners on in general, too. he went through an 0-for-7 skid from September 14-17, which is enormously bad for such a short period of time.
then of course there was the usual struggle with 2 outs in an inning. he didn't necessarily suffer any lengthy slumps, but his overall performance for the month with 2 outs was still not up to the standards that people have come to expect from Michael at this juncture of his career.
Who's Behind Michael in the Order Now?
the first 4 in the order mostly consisted of Jason Kipnis-Francisco Lindor-Brantley-Carlos Santana, except where noted.
on September 1, Lonnie Chisenhall bat 5th and Yan Gomes bat 6th against a right-handed starter.
it was the opposite on September 2, with Gomes batting 5th and Chiz 6th against a righty.
on September 4, Gomes was 5th and Chris Johnson was 6th in the game against a left-hander.
Yan Gomes got the September 5 game off, so Chiz bat 5th and Jerry Sands bat 6th with a righty on the mound.
Gomes was back and batting 6th on September 6, while Chiz was 5th against another right-hander.
Michael didn't start the game on September 7, but he did come in to pinch hit late. he bat in the 7th spot for the first time this year in place of Sands. the whole lineup was different on this particular day: Lindor was 1st, Mike Aviles was 2nd, Santana was 3rd, Ryan Raburn was 4th, Gomes was 5th, and Johnson was 6th against the southpaw Chris Sale. once Sale got taken out, Chiz PH for Raburn and Kip PH for Johnson late in the game as well.
Lindor got the September 8 game off because he had been feeling a bit ill. so Aviles was batting 2nd again, while Raburn was 4th, Santana was 5th, and Gomes was 6th against a lefty starter.
on September 9, the Tribe faced a right-handed pitcher. Gomes had off, leaving Chiz to bat 5th and Almonte 6th.
another righty went against the Indians on September 10. again, Chiz was 5th in the order and Almonte was 6th. Gomes was back in the lineup, but he was down to batting 7th.
the next 2 games got postponed due to a ton of rainfall. when the Indians finally got back to game action on September 13, Michael only played in the 1st game of a traditional doubleheader. Chiz was 5th and Gomes was 6th with a righty on the mound. this lineup also held true for the games on September 14 and 15.
with a left-hander starting on September 16, Gomes bat 5th and Johnson bat 6th. (Chiz got the day off.)
the 5-6-7 part of the lineup for September 17 was the same as in the September 10 game (against a righty).
the Indians faced all lefty starters from September 18-20. Kipnis did not start on September 18, so the lineup had Lindor leading off, Aviles batting 2nd, Michael 3rd, Raburn 4th, Santana 5th, and Johnson 6th. (Gomes also had off.)
in the game on September 19, Raburn was 4th and Santana was 5th again, with Gomes batting 6th, but on September 20, Aviles was 6th and Gomes was pushed down to 7th.
on September 22, Chiz was batting 5th and Gomes was 6th against a righty.
Michael missed the next 4 games from September 23-26. when he returned on September 27, Chiz was 5th and Almonte was 6th against a right-hander. (Gomes had off.)
the Indians faced a lefty in the game on September 28, so Raburn was 5th and Gomes was 6th.
Michael did not play any more games from September 29-October 4.
once again, it was more of the same musical chair lineups. this month, as opposed to August, the 4-5-6 guys did not do much to help Michael touch home plate. granted, Michael did not have the greatest month himself, reaching base just 24 total times by way of hits, walks, fielder's choices, and reaching on errors in September/October. that said, he still only scored 8 runs, 4 of which ensued from his own home runs. so his teammates batting behind him left him on base 20 times. that's not good. the need for the Indians to find some other middle of the order guys who are capable of hitting when Michael is on base is palpable.
First Comes The Slump, Then Comes A New Injury
from my Brantley's August 2015 #s blog: "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!" i forgot that my wishes never come true.
i worried all season that Michael's lower back strain
would negatively affect his numbers/cause him to slump. every player goes through a slump or two during the course of a year but Michael never really did. when he played poorly, it was a result of his back acting up. and it never lasted too long. flash forward to the start of September and he's as healthy as he can be for this time of year. so i have to deduce that most of his poor play this month was just him finally experiencing a slump. but let me examine the details of some strange happenstances that could have been side effects of his injuries anyway.
the Indians opened up September by finishing a series against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto, playing on AstroTurf. after playing Game 1 in left field on August 31, i assumed a DH day was coming shortly thereafter. i honestly thought there was no way Michael would play all 3 games as the left fielder, not just because of the back strain he's had since spring training, but also for the reason that playing on 'turf has caused Michael back tightness in previous years. yet he did indeed find himself in left on both September 1 and 2, going hitless in the last game. coincidence? you decide.
Michael was subbed out of the game on September 4 against the Detroit Tigers after 8 innings because the Tribe had a large enough lead to allow for him to "clock out" early. it's nothing new, Terry Francona's been doing this all season whenever he can give Michael any extra break in action. but i'm looking forward to next year when he can play full games no matter the score just like most of the other regular starters do.
in the finale game against the Tigers on September 6, Michael was assigned the role of DH for the first time this month. (on September 10, Francona admitted that Michael [and Jason Kipnis] "aren't crazy about DHing," which i already knew, but he tries to do it when they can use rest.) in spite of not loving it, Michael ordinarily does well as a DH, but went 0-for-4 on this night. Justin Verlander was pitching for the Tigers and while many players find him tough to hit, Michael's never been intimidated by him and has had success against him overall in his career. so i was disappointed that he couldn't muster a hit off him this time.
after the September 10 game in which Michael hit 2 go-ahead home runs versus the Tigers, Francona shared this with the media. "i do think he feels better. i think when you get into this many games and they play a lot, they're all kind of banged up, but he's managed to fight through it. but i do think he probably feels a little bit better. like i said, he's intelligent, not just in hitting, he's a pro. he knows how to take care of himself, he prepares, and like i said, i'm glad he's on our side."
Michael got 2 unexpected games off on September 11 and 12 because of nonstop rain in Cleveland. as annoying as that weather was, i assumed the additional time off would be very advantageous for both his back and throwing shoulder. so when Michael went 0-for-3 in Game 1 of a traditional doubleheader versus the Tigers on September 13, i was concerned. Verlander pitched again for the Tigers, and much like the last time he started against the Tribe, Michael did not get a hit.
this didn't make sense to me. he just had 2 days off and was facing a guy he can normally hit; the odds were in his favor to do well. the fact that he did not had me suspicious that one of his injuries was the cause. either that, or else maybe he was going through a slump. i kinda didn't buy that his injuries were responsible after, again, recently having had 2 full days off. and although i can never be sure because Michael never complains about his ailments, i had an inkling that the culprit here was a September slump.
there was also an incident in this game where Michael made a diving catch for the 1st out in the top of the 7th inning and appeared to land awkwardly on his right shoulder. he definitely felt some kind of pain and you can see that at 0:11 seconds into the video. Abraham Almonte showed concern, but Michael quickly dismissed him. sorry, but i was gonna need more convincing than that to believe he was truly okay...
knowing on September 11 that 2 games would be played on September 13, i figured Michael would definitely DH in one of them. and since he played left field in Game 1, and possibly irked something in his shoulder, i expected the Game 2 lineup to list Michael as the DH. so when the lineup came out and Michael's name wasn't in it, i was perplexed. true, he just had an 0-fer game, but why Francona would sit him in an important game was confusing to me. the Tigers had left-hander Randy Wolf starting, but this was not a guy of Chris Sale or CC Sabathia's caliber. was Tito resting him because that diving catch from earlier gave him another "hot" shoulder? i didn't quite understand the thought process and i was let down because i wanted Michael to get another chance right away to redeem himself from the first game, rack up a few hits, and get his momentum going again. alas, that was not meant to be.
Michael looked all good on September 14 after his 3-hit game versus the Kansas City Royals. so i thought, cool, that dive didn't affect him after all. my relief didn't last long however because following that, Michael suffered 3 consecutive hitless games between September 15-17. it was discouraging that he had more time off this month than he even should have had, with the 2 straight
rainout games and then only playing 1 game of that doubleheader, yet he still couldn't pull it
together at the plate. this is when i felt pretty confident that he was slumping, playing hurt, or both.
he atypically had a bad outing on September 16 against Danny Duffy, another pitcher he has favorable career numbers against, and was quickly becoming a liability for the team in the lineup, which broke my heart. and for whatever reason, Francona subbed him out of the game on September 17 after the 8th inning. the Indians were losing by 5, but Michael was supposed to lead off the bottom of the 9th inning. he possibly could have gotten a hit and not suffered another 0-fer game. giving him one seemingly pointless inning off scared me that he'd for sure be playing in the next night's game, which you'll comprehend in a minute.
but first, i wanna rewind back to September 16, when Terry Pluto posted an article on cleveland.com talking about certain Indians players. Terry spoke with Indians former catcher and current 1st base coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. about Michael, and in one word, Alomar had him all summed up. "phenomenal."
when talking about how Michael's been playing all season with a back strain, Alomar commended him. "what's he's done this year is not easy. when you're hurting, it's hard to stay in the middle of the lineup and drive in runs like he's doing." Alomar was the perfect person to speak on this since he suffered many injuries during his own career.
he also praised Michael for being "such a smart player. he does what's needed to stay in the lineup. as a hitter, he knows how to stay out of slumps." okay, well that last part might be a bit of a stretch, as he clearly was going through a slump when this article got posted. bad timing there lol
additionally, there was a quote from Francona about Michael in Terry's post. he noted that "he could have missed a lot more games and no one would have said a word. his year is just as impressive as last season."
now let's get back to game specifics. once the KC series was over, all i could do is hope that he'd somehow get back on track in the next series versus the Chicago White Sox--a team he's done poorly against this season. but i recognized that would not be easy because the ChiSox were throwing 3 southpaws at us.
Chris Sale got the first start for Chicago on September 18, and when i saw Michael was in that lineup, i literally wanted to throw shit at the wall and scream. this was the complete opposite of Francona's game plan against Sale on
September 7. he happily went with an all righty lineup then, and we won that
game. why not stick to that strategy? WTF?
according to Jordan Bastian, Francona was trying to "strike a balance" with the lineup vs. Sale. he didn't want to sit both Kipnis and Brantley, and Kip was starting the game on the bench. you know, i'm so sick of Kipnis getting certain games off against tough
left-handed pitchers while Michael has to grin and bear it and fight to
try and be a productive part of the lineup against them.
the explanation for the change of approach versus Sale this time was somewhat contradictory. "the last time we went in there, we sat [both], but we had a day game after we traveled," Tito justified. "i'm not real comfortable having them both out of the lineup." i've about had it with the "can't sit them both" excuse. if lefty hitters don't fare well against specific left-handed pitchers, then you definitely can sit both of your lefty hitters. where's your logic, Tito?
seriously, how could he feel good about letting Michael, who'd not only been struggling as of late but who also can't
hit Sale, play in this game? going into it, Michael was riding a 3-game
hitless streak and had gone hitless in 4 of his last 5 games. but let's
start him against Sale cause this is a great opportunity for him to turn
things around. F outta here. stuff like this is why i can justifiably say that apart from his 2 World
Series wins, Tito still leaves certain things to be desired as a
manager. sorry, not sorry.
you can imagine my astonishment when Michael actually went 2-for-4 against Sale. that doesn't mean i co-signed Francona's call to play him or that Francona was smart for putting his name in the lineup. i think Michael just got lucky and Sale was a bit shaken that the team as a whole was uncharacteristically stringing together some hits (and runs) off him.
no matter how the hits came, they were very timely for Michael. he broke the following slumps during this game:
--0-for-13 in his last 14 plate appearances
--0-for-7 with runners on base, first hit since September 14
--0-for-9 in 10 plate appearances with RISP, first hit since September 8
--0-for-6 in 7 plate appearances with RISP and 1 out, first hit since September 4
--0-for-7 in 8 plate appearances with RISP and 2 outs, first hit since August 20
(more game details can be found in the September/October Standout Games, Spotlights, and Quotes section of the blog below.)
so what do you think? were those just the typical slumps that every player goes through at some point in the year, or were his injuries to blame? that might not be a question that ever gets answered, but i can throw out some theories.
played poorly earlier in the season, that was purely because he was playing
through his back strain and that affected his performance at the plate. and his more recent left shoulder inflammation might have been the cause for any bad games he had in August. but in September, i felt like the injuries were under control, or as under control as
they could be this late in the year. so i've concluded that his struggles
were the result of a slump. and what an unfavorable time for a slump when trying to close out your season in a strong manner and on a high note.
moving on...since Michael had just started against Sale, one might assume that he would get to rest against Chicago's next day's starter, Carlos Rodon. it seemed like an obvious decision, what with Michael being 1-for-11 lifetime versus this lefty and all. plus, with Kipnis getting
the previous game off against Sale, i thought Tito would do a little trade off and give Michael the game off against Rodon. i
thought wrong as Michael was batting in his usual 3rd spot in the lineup, which didn't shock me as much as it straight pissed me
off. Michael didn't record a hit off Rodon on September 8 when the Tribe
played in Chicago, but you know that Francona rationale--let's just keep playing
Michael and hope for the best. he got 1 lucky hit and was able to avoid another 0-fer game.
after the game, however, i counted that Michael had a total of 8 pop outs in his last 12 games. that's extremely unusual for Michael and it only adds fuel to the fire that something was not right with him. pop ups are widely considered poor at bats, and Michael, when healthy and not slumping, doesn't have many of those.
because the Indians had their final off day before the offseason on September 21, i figured Francona would do the "give Michael 2 consecutive days off" thing that he's done so much this year by giving him the September 20 game off. it would have been a smart plan because the Tribe was facing a 3rd left-handed starter in a row, and with Michael's recent struggles, he could have used that game off and another 2-day break before going into the stretch run. but Tito did not give Michael off, and he put up some non-quality at bats before finally notching a hit in his last AB of the day.
in the game against the Minnesota Twins on September 22, i was ready for Michael to have a big night and overall series, as he went into it batting .395 (15-for-38) so far this season. instead, Michael suffered an injury early on in the game and ended up missing the next 4 games. it all started in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Indians starter Danny Salazar had 2 outs and nobody on base when Eduardo Escobar came to the plate. the count was even at 2 before Escobar fouled off the next 2 pitches. then Salazar threw him ball 3. the 8th pitch of the at bat was strike 3, but home plate umpire Tom Hallion called it ball 4. does THIS look like ball 4 to you? no. but that's what it was, and it set up what turned out to be a catastrophic inning for the Indians.
with Escobar on at 1st, Aaron Hicks came to the plate. after a 3-1 count, he hit Salazar's pitch to center field. on WTAM 1100, Tom Hamilton exclaimed "this is all kinds of trouble" after he hit it. Michael ran a long way over to left-center field and made a diving attempt. he caught the ball but when he hit the grass, it came out of his glove, and became an RBI triple for Hicks.
after the Twins took a 1-0 lead, Salazar really lost it. by the time the 3rd inning ended, the Indians were down 3-0. and it all came to be with a bullshit ball 4 call. it's like the ump had money on the game and the fix was in. classic Tribe.
in the top of the 4th inning, Michael got his 2nd at bat of the game against Ervin Santana. it was very quick, resulting in a groundout to short after an 0-1 count for the 1st out of the inning. i was dismayed, but didn't think much of it. then when my GameDay updated and went to the bottom of the 4th inning, i saw it said there was a defensive substitution made: Michael Martinez for left fielder Michael Brantley. i knew he was hurt. he must have felt it when he had his AB in the top of the inning, told Francona, and then was removed from the game. it must have been really bothering him because Michael always wants to play and always tries to play through injuries as much as possible. either that, or Tito took him out as a precaution.
it didn't become clear until a few innings later, when Hammy broke the news first on the radio that Michael left the game with a right shoulder injury and was being evaluated. so he was hurt. the only questions left were how badly was he injured and would he be done for the year?
nobody said anything at the time, but when you watch the video, you can
see Michael sitting up and grabbing his arm afterwards, much like he did
after making that diving catch on September 13. except nothing ever came
of that. although looking back, it's possible he tweaked something in that
shoulder that day but decided to play through it, and then this dive really
messed it up. that's what i'm guessing. yes, he got up, seemingly brushed it off, and even cut off another ball hit to left field and threw it in later in the same inning. and no, this isn't his throwing shoulder. but it obviously hurt enough that it affected his ability to swing the bat and was serious enough that he could not finish the next 5-6 innings of the game in the field.
Francona pretty much confirmed all this during his postgame interview with the media. "on the play where he dove in left field, he jammed his shoulder. so it was hard for him to get extended when he was hitting. so we got him in, got him iced, and stuff."
"he's already talking about playing tomorrow," Tito relayed. "so we'll see. we'll see how he shows up at the park." now that's the Michael i know lol but i wasn't getting my hopes up about that.
as i expected, Michael was not in Francona's lineup on September 23. Paul Hoynes reported that Michael's shoulder wasn't any worse than it was the night before and he hadn't gone for an MRI, which Francona cited as a good sign. had his shoulder been worse, he was probably going to go back to Cleveland to have an MRI done.
"the plan is to let him work with the trainers during the afternoon and see where that leads him," explained Francona. "if he's able to go down to the cages and take a few swings, we'll see how that goes. we'll just kind of play it by ear. i think the good news was that he didn't show up and he was really stiff."
i presumed he'd be missing the September 24 game as well. Tito did an interview with MLB Network Radio in the afternoon and gave an update on Michael, saying he wasn't in that night's starting lineup. he was going to hit in the cage, with hopes that he could possibly be available off the bench, and then maybe he would start in the September 25 game. but during the game, Hammy announced that Francona said Michael would most likely be ready to play September 26.
then later in an article posted by Hoynsie, more details came out. "he's doing better," Francona revealed. "he hit in the cage today. he still feels it when he finishes his swing. i don't know if he'll play Friday, but i guess the fact that we're even thinking about it means he's getting closer. the good news is he's getting better. that was what we were really hoping for." so, a little conflicting info there between what Tito told MLB Network Radio, Hammy, and Hoynsie, but the prognosis sounded positive overall.
still, it was more ill-fated timing because, as i stated
earlier, the Twins were one team that Michael had great numbers against
this season. had he not gotten injured and been forced to miss the whole
rest of the series, he potentially could have increased his batting
average and added onto his stats. or he might have continued to slump
and brought his averages down more. guess we'll never know.
to my amazement, when the lineup came out on September 25, Michael was in it and listed as the left fielder. i was caught off guard because i genuinely believed he was gonna get this game off. and plus, i figured when he did come back, he'd be eased in as the DH.
call it woman's intuition but a half hour before game time, it was announced that Michael had been scratched from the lineup after taking batting practice. Bastian reassured everyone that the change in plans was not due to any setbacks, and that the Indians innocently decided to give Michael one more day off to rest his shoulder.
before the game, Tito continued singing Michael's praises
regarding his willingness and ability to play despite having injuries
all season. "one, you appreciate the fact that he's staying on the field.
two, he's been able to still be productive. that's not always easy, and i
know it's been hard for him at times. but, i just think with [however
many games] we have left, seeing how bad he wants to play, that's a
really good thing."
early on during the top of the 1st inning of the game, Hammy provided his listeners with some contradicting Michael health information, much like the day before, this time saying Michael took some extra swings in the cage and his shoulder acted up again. growing tired of getting different updates from people within the Indians organization lately, i took matters into my own hands and contacted my boy Bastian directly on twitter, informing him about Hammy's news and inquiring what the truth was. his reply was that it was possible Hammy received different information than the rest of the media. i was hoping Hammy was flat-out wrong, because he has been about things such as this in the past, but deep down i didn't have a good feeling about it at all.
about 40 minutes into the game, Hoynsie posted an article on cleveland.com about Michael knowing how to deal with injuries. again, a club spokesman said the Indians wanted Michael to have more time to rehab and work with the trainers before returning to the lineup.
Michael also finally spoke with reporters (prior to the game) and shed some light on his latest injury. "i knew it wasn't broken when it happened, but you still don't know the extent of the injury. but it's all about how you feel after that. after you're done icing and all that and it calms down."
the day after his diving catch attempt, his shoulder was not hurting as much as he'd anticipated it would, which he took as a good sign. "that's when i knew it wasn't as serious as it could have been. it's something where the more you play, the more years you have, you learn to start dealing with stuff."
"extension is a big part of swinging a baseball bat," Michael went on. "i needed to get that extension back and be comfortable getting that extension back." he never, however, divulged whether or not he actually did get his extension back and if he no longer felt pain at the end of his swing. conceivably, that might be why he was taken out of the lineup and, due to the lack of detail, you could interpret this as backing up Hammy's allegation.
Francona appreciated how Michael was making such an effort to get back into the lineup. "you keep seeing teams shutting all these guys down. it happens at this time of the season. but from the minute he got hurt, he was in the training room trying to find a way to make himself available. he was just willing himself (to play). that's probably why we feel the way we do, among other things, about him. he didn't have to do this. he feels responsible. it makes you glad he's in our uniform."
the truth concerning all the conflicting information was unveiled after the September 25 game concluded. Bastian tweeted how Tito disclosed that Michael did in fact feel something in his shoulder during bp, that he was unlikely to play on September 26, but maybe would play in the Tribe's final road game on September 27.
i had a few thoughts on this. first, the club spokesman who spit that BULLSHIT at us about there not being a setback and just wanting to give Michael one more day should be fired. DO NOT LIE to me about Michael's health. and second, i was so angry at the timing of this because i did not want Michael to miss the opportunity to add to his final road numbers of the season. then again, if he did come back to play in the last road game and was rusty and lowered his road BA, i was gonna be even more angry. besides that, Michael was losing out on what little chances he still had to come out of his slump, increase his stats, and finish his season in a respectable manner. this was basically a no-win situation.
never one to worry about his personal stats (unlike me), Michael wasn't exactly thrilled that he had to miss all these games simply because he wants to play every game he can. when it was suggested to him that this had been a physically trying season, Michael agreed. "i agree with that, yeah. but at the same time, it's about getting out there and, when you're there, just staying focused on the task at hand. i pride myself on trying to play as many games as possible, going out there and battling through anything and everything, if i can."
after the September 26 lineup came out without Michael's name, which we already knew, Bastian informed us that Francona was pushing back Michael's return even further. he said Michael might be cleared to play September 27, but September 28 was most realistic.
as per usual, Hoynsie's mid-game article was posted on cleveland.com and it contained more Michael news. he wrote how Francona admitted, "i probably put him in a predicament Friday by telling the media he was playing. he's really doing well. he was swinging Friday night and got to a point where he wasn't real comfortable. he came in to tell me and you would have thought he'd lost his best friend. i told him for this to work he has to be honest. and now that you're honest, it's not right for you to feel bad. most guys wouldn't even try to play."
the lineup for the September 27 game came out later than usual because Francona wanted the Tribe to finish batting practice first in order to gauge how Michael felt. evidently, he no longer had pain in his extension because Michael was back in the lineup. during his first at bat, Hammy said that Tito said that nobody's spent more time in the trainer's room trying to get back to games than Michael. later in the game, Hammy also made public that Michael was not close to 100% but wants to be in the lineup every day. so it's probable that some pain was lingering, but he wanted to play through it...and his 0-for-2 showing on the day could support that theory. yes, he drew 2 walks in the game, but it still counted as another 0-fer overall. not the ideal way to wrap up your road numbers for the season.
Michael's 0-for-4 performance on September 28 proved to me that he was unquestionably still playing with pain. his desire to help the team is a great quality for a professional ballplayer to possess, but sometimes a player has to know his limits. if you know you're not going to do well because you're injured, i'm not sure why you'd allow yourself to play and essentially be an onus every time you come to the plate.
when the September 29 lineup didn't feature Michael's name, i knew i was right about my suspicions that his shoulder remained a problem. a little while later, Bastian tweeted that he was still dealing with shoulder soreness and was being checked by a doctor, specifically an orthopedic specialist.
would the Indians shut him down? "if we need to," Francona answered. "i don't think you do it unless you need to. i think our guys have done a really good job these last two months of playing through a lot of adversity and challenges. there has to be common sense when it comes to injuries. we'll get him looked at and see how it goes from there. let's just see how he does today."
Tito also informed the media that Michael "was probably fighting more things than people realize, too. he's pretty beat up." then why was he permitted to play in the previous 2 games? smh.
Francona surely valued Michael's hard work and dedication to staying healthy enough to remain in the lineup. "he's done such a good job of trying to play. we appreciate it so much." yeah, so much that now they decide it might be time to play it safe and shut him down.
Michael definitely should not have played in the last 2 games. had they continued to sit him out, he might have gotten better and been able to play in the final series. instead, he played hurt, played poorly, and all his numbers decreased. and that is how he would close out his season.
on September 30, it came out that Michael's MRI showed inflammation in his right shoulder and the Indians elected to shut him down."the cortisone shot will effectively shut him down for the season," Francona reported. "what he's going to do is, when the rest period (from the cortisone shot) is over, he'll ramp it back up just to make sure everything feels good going into his offseason. that will be a week, 10 days away, just so that we know going into the offseason [that] he's not fighting that and can go back into his normal program.
"he has given everything he has, and it's the right thing to do now. i think he knows it. i don't think he likes it, but i think he understands it. from where i sit, it's the right thing to do, and i appreciate how much he tried to play. you also have a responsibility to take care of your guys, too."
"i think Brantley has grown by leaps and bounds this year, as far as leadership goes, things like that," Tito added. "i already thought he was good. because of all of the things he had to face this year physically, i think he handled himself like a pro and he's getting better. that's exciting."
Michael was given a 2-week recovery program to follow before he heads back to Florida for his offseason. he said he was hopeful that surgery could be avoided. my response: surgery for what? inflammation? is that common? don't you just need to rest and let the steroids do their thing? even the mention of surgery had me worried...
before the Indians played their game that night, Michael was interviewed by Andre Knott. what was supposed to be a serious conversation turned non-serious very quickly because they were interrupted by Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin squirting their water guns and Carlos Carrasco throwing sunflower seeds at Michael and Andre lol Andre did manage to ask Michael how disappointing it was for him that he can't play in the final 4 games of the year. "very disappointing for me," Michael replied. "as a competitor, i love this game of baseball so much and just not being out there with my teammates this last week, it's frustrating but i gotta take the necessary steps."
"everybody plays through nicks and injuries," said Michael according to an article posted on October 2. "i'll never make an excuse or use that to lean on anything. i'll always push to play. i played through a couple things [this year], but at the same time, you have to block that out mentally. you have to stay mentally tough and just keep grinding away. you have to be out there with your team as much as possible. that's the most important thing."
he's undoubtedly a team player, first and foremost, and that's highly respectable. i don't think an offseason has ever been as necessary for him as this one is now. i truthfully can't believe this shoulder injury caused Michael more pain and made him miss more games than his back strain did all season. i never saw this coming and it's certainly not how i wanted his year to end.
having to watch Michael miss 10 of the Tribe's final 12 games after his injury was
upsetting. he lost out on setting a few more career highs and increasing
some of his stats. plus, he possibly could have won that AL batting title had he never gotten hurt and
performed at his usual caliber in September/October. it made me sad [for him] on almost a nightly basis, even
when the team was winning without his contribution. this was nothing
like how he concluded 2014, and i couldn't help but be a little disheartened. i'm just really sorry that this all happened to him and i wish things would have worked out differently so he could have finished up the season on his own terms instead of being forced to sit out due to injury.
Team Batting Title Competition
the slump, the shoulder injury, and the early shut down almost destroyed Michael's chances of finishing with the highest team batting average. almost. let me start with the September/October BAs. as poor as Michael's month was, Jason Kipnis' was not much better; he too struggled in a lot of games. it was almost like they were both emulating the other's troubles or something. Michael only played 20 games while Kip played 27. no, Michael did not play enough to be considered a qualifying player for September/October, but i'm gonna compare his BA to Kip's anyway. the monthly battle could not have been any closer--Michael literally beat Kipnis by 1 point. that gives Michael 4 months with the higher average this year versus Kip's 2 (May and June). so Michael obviously won that competition.
now to the big battle. with Michael slumping in September and then being out of commission for the last 6 games of the season, the opportunity for Kipnis to take over the team lead in batting average was right there. but he couldn't do it. Michael ended his 2015 season batting .310, while Kipnis ended his batting .303. that means Michael had the highest batting average on the team out of all qualifying players for the 4th year in a row. wow. that's one hell of a run!
i can't let this section go by without mentioning someone else who will indubitably be more competition for Michael and Kip in the future. it's been a real shocker how unstoppable Francisco Lindor has become. he actually passed Michael's (team high) BA during the September 16 game and he did finish with the highest overall BA at .313. however, Lindor was neither a qualifier then, nor was he at the season's conclusion due to being called up in mid-June. i knew this kid was going to be good, but i had no idea he'd be able to put up some of the numbers that he has so soon into his Major League debut. he will be fun to watch for years to come. but yeah, i am a little sad that Michael didn't have the highest BA out of everyone, qualifiers and non. if he wants that title for a 5th straight year, he's really gonna have to work for it lol not like he cares, but i love the bragging rights!
Home Runs, RBI, K Rate, and Outs
it's a bit disturbing how a player can hit 4 home runs yet still have an overall disappointing month, but that's what happened with Michael. those homers all came within his first 9 games in September, 2 of which once again occurred in the same game on September 10--both being go-ahead homers after the Tribe bullpen blew the lead. following that, he would not go yard anymore this season. be that as it may, Michael's multiple-homer game guaranteed he would finish the month with a new career high in that category.
Michael had his chances to rattle off a ton of RBI, but he was unable to come through in the clutch more often than not in September/October. he left 36 guys on base versus driving in just 11. his problems with both runners on and RISP this month really killed his overall average in both those categories. it was very difficult for me to watch them drop further and further down practically every night.
Michael's HR:RBI ratio for the month is as follows. 2 of Michael's 4 home runs were solo and the other 2 were 2-run bombs. therefore, 2 of his 11 RBI for September/October (18.2%) came from his solo homers,
while 6 of his 11 RBI (54.5%) came from all 4 of his home runs.
missing out on a large portion of games this month hurt Michael as far as his K rate was concerned. at least, that's what i believe. his K rate in September/October was 10.0% (8 K/80 PA). while not as high as last month, his strikeout rate would have assuredly been lower had he played more and acquired more plate appearances.
in September/October, Michael hit into 23 groundouts versus 29 flyouts. he also lined out 8 times, including lining into 1 double play. uncharacteristically, Michael got jammed a lot this month, popping out 8 times.
Streaks and Situational Statistics
Michael had a hit in 11 of the 20 games he played in September/October
and reached base safely in 15 games. he had 9
hitless games, but reached base in 4 of those. Michael had 5
multi-hit games, 2 3+ hit games, and 3 multi-RBI games. he had at least 1
RBI in 7 games. in addition, he had 2 go-ahead hits and 3 go-ahead RBI
this month. the Indians were 10-10 in games that Michael
played in and 7-4 in games that he sat out.
due to Michael's struggles, injury, and consequential early shut down, he had no significant hitting streaks for me to report for the first month this season.
he did however have a very modest 7-game on-base streak from September 7-15.
in September/October, Michael bat .239 (11-for-46) against right-handed pitchers and .233 (7-for-30)
against left-handed pitchers. he really wasn't hitting anybody this month, but even in spite of that, it's no surprise to me that he finally put up more similar numbers against righties and southpaws. it's just too bad they weren't better numbers.
Michael hit .244 (10-for-41) with 6 RBI at home and .229 (8-for-35)
with 5 RBI on the road in September/October. he hit safely in 5 of the 10 home games
he played and safely reached base in 8 of them. he was hitless in 5 home games, reaching base in 3. he also hit safely in 6 of 10 road games and safely got on base in 7 games as well. he was hitless in 4 road games, reaching base in 1.
this month, Michael bat .190 (4-for-21) with runners in scoring position, manufacturing 6 RBI. that's the worst he's done all year. breaking it down, he bat .333 (1-for-3) with RISP
and 0 outs, .167 (2-for-12) with RISP and 1 out, and .167 (1-for-6)
with RISP and 2 outs. normally a very productive hitter in these circumstances, he simply could not deliver in September/October as a result of his slump and his injuries.
with 2 outs in an inning in September/October, Michael hit a paltry .240 (6-for-25).
Michael bat .189 (7-for-37) with 9 RBI with runners on base and 1.000 (1-for-1) with 1 RBI with bases loaded
in September/October. he also bat .282 (11-for-39) with bases empty, with 3 doubles, 2 home runs, 2 RBI, and 2 walks.
finally, Michael had a 0.1 fWAR (wins above replacement), a 99 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus--the ability to create runs compared to the league average), and a 0.0 BsR
(baserunning runs above average with stolen bases and caught
stealings) in September/October. these numbers do not rank among American League left fielders because he did not have enough plate appearances this month to be considered a qualifier. [these stats are courtesy of fangraphs.com.]
Versus AL Central Division Teams
this was a bad month for Michael to slump and play injured in because the Indians faced all of their AL Central division opponents in two separate series.
vs. the Detroit Tigers,
Michael bat .238 (5-for-21) in 5 games in September/October. (he sat out 1 game. also, 1 game was postponed and not made up.) he had 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 4
RBI, 4 runs, 1 walk, and 13 total
bases. he had 1 swinging strikeout and left 11 men on base as well. in 34 innings in left field, Michael recorded 9 putouts. (he was the DH for 1 game.)
vs. the Chicago White Sox,
Michael bat .348 (8-for-23) in 6 games in September/October. he had 2 doubles, 1 home run, 5 RBI, 2 runs, 1 first at bat hit, and 13 total bases. he had 3 strikeouts (2 swinging, 1 looking), and left 9 men on base.
in 5 games as the left fielder, Michael played 43 innings, recording 8 putouts and 1 assist. (he was a PH for 1 game.)
vs. the Kansas City Royals,
Michael bat .167 (3-for-18) in 5 games in September/October. (he missed 2 games due to right shoulder soreness.) he had 1 double, 1
run, 3 walks, 1 stolen base, 1 first at bat
hit, and 4 total bases. he also had 1 GIDP, 3 strikeouts (2 swinging, 1 looking), 10 runners left on
base, and recorded 7 putouts in 43 innings in left field.
vs. the Minnesota Twins,
Michael bat .000 (0-for-6) in 2 games in September/October, one of which he left early with a right shoulder injury. (he missed 5 games--2
due to right shoulder soreness and 3 after he was shut down with right shoulder inflammation.) he had 1 swinging strikeout and stranded 2 runners.
defensively, he recorded 2 putouts in 12 innings as the left fielder.
September/October Team Leads, Career Highs, and League Rankings
there's not going to be much in this section of my blog for a change. due to Michael's slump and injuries, he did not have enough total plate appearances for the month of September/October to be considered a qualifier. therefore, in order to compare his stats to other players, i used a filter of 80 minimum plate appearances.
Michael did not lead
the team with any stats in September/October.
was tied for 2nd on the team with 4 home runs. he also had the 2nd least amount of strikeouts on the team out of the regulars with 8.
additionally, he was 3rd with 5 doubles and 11 RBI (tied).
after re-familiarizing myself with Michael's past September/October stats, and being well aware that he had a phenomenal September just last year, i knew he would not have many career highs now. in fact, he only set a career high for himself in September/October with 4 home runs.
unlike last month, most of Michael's September/October numbers did not rank in the top 10 around the league, even with the 80 minimum plate appearances filter.
among players in the American
League, Michael ranked tied for 107th in strikeouts (8) out of 110 players.
among outfielders in the American League,
his strikeouts ranked 45th out of 45
among left fielders in the American League, Michael
was tied for 5th in home runs (4), and tied for 10th in doubles (5) and RBI (11). he was also 18th out of 18 players in strikeouts.
among all major league left fielders,
Michael ranked 40th out of 40 players in
among all major league outfielders,
Michael was 86th out
of 86 players in strikeouts.
September/October Standout Games, Spotlights, and Quotes
Michael started September off with a multi-hit game against the Toronto Blue Jays, one hit being his first homer of the month. he was facing Marco Estrada in the top of the 4th inning with 1 out and the Indians down, 2-0. after a 2-0 count, Michael pounded a high fastball to deep right field and into the Tribe bullpen. Estrada tried to sneak that pitch inside, but he was not fooling Michael.
then in the top of the 6th inning, Michael hit a 1-out, ground ball single through the hole and into right field off Estrada on a 1-2 count with the Indians still losing, 2-1. and while he did not come around to score, he at least finished with a decent 2-for-5 night at the plate on September 1.
unfortunately, that would not carry over into the next game against Toronto on September 2 because he went 0-for-3 with 2 flyouts and a GIDP when facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. prior to his start, Michael was 2-for-7 lifetime against him, claiming luck has a lot to do with being able to hit a knuckleball. "you just play and hope you get lucky because i don't know where it's going, you don't know where it's going, and he doesn't know where it's going." clearly.
before the Indians game on September 4 against the Detroit Tigers, i read an excerpt from an ESPN Insider article online. now i'm not one to normally read anything from ESPN, and my readers (should) know that i pretty much despise anything and everything ESPN. but i came across this interesting piece by Buster Olney from someone's retweet on twitter, which states how left-handed hitters are at a disadvantage regarding how umpires call balls and strikes, particularly with called strikes. if you are a subscriber to ESPN Insider, which i'm proudly not, then you can read the article in its entirety. i wouldn't care to anyway because i already know all too well how true that is, and i think Michael does also.
getting back to game stories now, Michael was 2-for-5 with another multi-hit game on this night. he got his first hit in his 3rd at bat in the top of the 5th inning against Kyle Lobstein. the Indians had a 2-0 lead, Giovanny Urshela at 3rd base, and Francisco Lindor at 2nd with 1 out. after an 0-1 count, Michael sent a line drive double to deep center field, which scored Urshela, moved Lindor to 3rd, and gave the Tribe a 3-0 lead. (Michael later scored on a bases-loaded walk to Abraham Almonte by Drew VerHagen.) this was an important hit for Michael because it ended an 0-for-6 skid in 7 plate appearances with runners in scoring position between August 30 and his 2nd at bat during this September 4 game, in which he recorded a (swinging) strikeout.
Michael's second hit was a significant one for him as well. he led off the top of the 9th inning against Jose Valdez and after a 2-1 count, hit a line drive single to short right field. because the Indians were winning 8-1 at that point, Michael was lifted for pinch runner, Michael Martinez. but that single was all Michael needed to notch his 150th hit of 2015. and with that, Michael officially had 4 straight seasons with 150 hits or more (2012-2015). according to Jordan Bastian's research,
no Indians player has done that since Grady Sizemore did during his
2005-2008 seasons with the Tribe.
coming into the September 5 game against the Tigers, Michael had the highest American League batting average in the 2nd half of the season (among qualifying players), batting .379 (61-for-161). following the game, Michael's season average was .321, giving him a 10 point lead on Jason Kipnis (.311) in the team high batting race, his largest lead since early May.
an 0-for-4 performance as the DH in the final game against the Tigers on September 6 represented Michael's 3rd hitless game in his last 6 (going back to August 31). in addition, he'd already left 10 men on base in the first 5 games of September while only acquiring 2 RBI. Michael was batting just .143 (1-for-7) with RISP so far in the month, causing his overall RISP batting average to drop 11 points since the end of August. this is when my wheels started turning and i began to wonder if playing all year with injuries was finally catching up to him.
the Indians had the pleasure of going up against the dominating Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox on September 7. to my surprise and delight, Michael was not in Terry Francona's lineup. hallelujah! "this guy's tough on everybody," Francona declared. "i just thought, with a quick turnaround, especially with Kipnis and Brantley, just give them the beginning of the game off. i just thought this made sense strategically for them, for rest, and to say, 'let's put every righty in there and battle as hard as we can.'"
i don't think anyone needed to question whether or not i was ecstatic over the decision. Michael and his sad .138 (4-for-29) average vs. Sale did not need to be playing in this game. plus, having just had a DH "half-day" and now getting this day off could be nothing but beneficial for his lower back, left shoulder, and any other part of him that might have needed a break.
when Sale was taken out of the game in the top of the 8th inning with the Indians ahead, 3-2, i knew what was coming. first, left-handed hitter Lonnie Chisenhall came in the game as a pinch hitter (for Ryan Raburn). then in the top of the 9th inning, Kipnis got his turn as a pinch hitter (for Chris Johnson). you know who was next.
with 1 out in the top of the 9th inning and the Tribe still on top, 3-2, Michael came on to pinch hit for Jerry Sands. the White Sox had former Indians reliever Matt Albers on the mound, but once they saw Michael in that on-deck circle, they decided to make a pitching change and get lefty reliever Dan Jennings out there instead. no matter. after a 2-2 count, Michael hit a ground ball single through the hole and into center field, good for his first hit as a PH this year. Tito felt Michael's job for the day was done and lifted him for pinch runner, Jose Ramirez. this appearance also marked Michael's first time batting 7th in the order all season, giving him 3 total BOPs through this point.
Michael only went 1-for-4 in the September 8 game against the White Sox, but that 1 hit was a pretty major one for him. the Indians were behind, 7-1, when Mike Aviles led off the top of the 8th inning with a double against Nate Jones. then Michael came to bat and sent a line drive to deep right field for a 2-run home run. the 0-1 pitch from Jones was down and in, and Michael smoked it for his 13th home run of the season! more notably, that homer gave Michael his first hit with RISP and 0 outs since July 22, breaking an 0-for-9 slump in 9 plate appearances between July 25 - September 6!
oh yeah, and he did this right after obtaining his 8th outfield assist of the year--7th as the left fielder--in the bottom of the 7th inning. (all of that information can be found in detail in the In The Field section of this blog down below.)
the final game against the White Sox on September 9 wasn't one for the record books for Michael. he was 0-for-4 with runners on base and 0-for-3 with RISP in this game, only managing an RBI groundout in the top of the 1st inning and a 2-out double in the top of the 5th inning. he had one at bat against a lefty in the game and grounded out, giving him a season batting average under .300 (.299 to be exact) against left-handed pitching for the first time since August 19.
after the game, Lindor credited Michael with some of the success he's had as a rookie this season. "part of my success up here is because of [Jason] Kipnis and [Michael] Brantley. they've been protecting me. i've been learning from them. i've been learning from all the guys, too, as well. but, those two especially, having them in front of me and behind me is helping me a lot." that's nice.
the Indians were back at Progressive Field to face Alfredo Simon and the Tigers on September 10. despite a 2-for-5 showing, Michael didn't do very well to start. coming into the game, he was batting .550 (11-for-20) against Simon, but he went 0-for-3 against him in his first 3 at bats. he reached base on a forceout in the bottom of the 1st inning, popped out in the bottom of the 3rd, and grounded out in the bottom of the 5th.
in his 4th and final AB against Simon, he finally broke out of his funk. the game was tied at 3 when Michael led off the bottom of the 7th inning. he sent a 1-0 pitch high and deep to right-center field for his 14th home run of 2015! Simon threw him a fastball, middle-in because Michael popped that up in his 2nd at bat of the game. this time, Michael whacked it out of the ballpark. best part was, the Indians took the lead back, which, for the record, Bryan Shaw blew in the top of the 7th inning.
that didn't deter Francona from letting Shaw go out there for the top of the 8th inning, though. and guess what happened? he blew it again. eye roll. apparently Michael didn't like it too much that Shaw ruined his heroics, and he was just gonna have to do it once more.
with the score tied at 5 in the bottom of the 8th inning, Michael came to bat against left-hander Blaine Hardy with 2 outs and Lindor at 1st base. after running the count full, Michael hit a fastball down the middle to deep right field for his 2nd go-ahead home run of the game and 15th home run of 2015! (and that tied him with Carlos Santana for the team lead in homers!) that gave the Tribe a 7-5 lead, one they would not relinquish. it's rare that not only does the same pitcher blow a lead twice, but also that the same hitter would bail him out twice. so hey Shaw, you're welcome! times 2! lol
preceding this hit, Michael had gone 0-for-6 with runners on base in his last 6 PA (since the day before on September 9!) and his BA with runners on for the month was a horrid .118 (2-for-17). plus, he'd stranded 19 guys through this point in September. the struggle was real.
this 2-home run game established his 2nd of the year, having previously hit 2 homers just 16 days earlier on August 25. it gave him 4 multi-homer games overall in his career as well, with the other 2 coming on June 19, 2013 and July 7, 2013. not only that, but this was also the first time this year that Michael had 2 go-ahead hits and 2 go-ahead RBI in 1 game.
those 2 home runs gave Michael 3 homers in his last 3 games/days and 4 home runs so far in the month of September, a new career high. additionally, Michael became only the 5th Indians player in club history to have multiple game-tying or go-ahead home runs in the 7th inning or later of one game. (refer to the In Indians History section of this blog down below for more information.)
naturally, you can't hit 2 go-ahead bombs in 1 game without your presence being requested for interviews lol Michael was the KeyBank conversation guest on WTAM 1100 with Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus after the game. when Hammy asked him if he felt like the game was a must win, he simply replied, "it was a grind. every time we scored, they scored. it was all around a good win for us tonight, a team win all the way around."
he had been struggling against Simon prior to his (first) go-ahead home run, so Hammy inquired about what he did differently against him. "it's a game of adjustments. i was rolling over balls, trying to do too much at times. i went back to ground zero to make sure i got a pitch i could hit and put a good swing on it."
never one to dwell on his own stats, Michael also spoke of the current state of the team in another postgame interivew. "the energy in this locker room, especially with all the young guys and how much fun we've had as a team, i think it's very important. it's September. it's a grind to get here where we're at right now. so, we have to stay focused on one game at a time, not looking to who's in front of us or who's behind us."
when Chisenhall was asked about Michael's 2 go-ahead homers, he pronounced, "he did it twice tonight. he gave us the lead and then he gave it to us again when we needed it. he's done that all year."
the September 11 game versus the Tigers was postponed due to rain, as was the September 12 game. it was a rainy weekend, upsetting me greatly because i went to the game on the 12th and waited around in the rain for close to 5 hours before they announced they wouldn't be playing that night. but therein lied the dilemma. the game from the 11th would be made up in a traditional DH on September 13, but when would the game from the 12th be made up? the Indians and Tigers didn't have any more meetings coming up, nor did they have any mutual off days.
after several days, Major League Baseball finally decided that the game would be rescheduled for the day after the regular season ended, on October 5. however, the stipulation was it would only be played if there were any postseason implications attached to it. so, if both teams found themselves eliminated from the playoff picture before then, they would simply have 161 total games played for their 2015 seasons. aside from that, it was potentially one less game for Michael to build up his overall stats for the year. considering all the games he had to sit out this season due to injury, i was absolutely gonna hate it if he had to get screwed a game because of weather/no other rescheduling options. little did i know, this game wasn't going to have any affect on Michael's numbers regardless.
as for these 2 unplanned days off, my feelings were mixed. on the one hand, they should have been great for Michael's back and shoulder, giving him bonus time to rest them. but on the other hand, i disliked that he had to sit 2 whole days after having that fantastic, 2-home run game. i worried his momentum would be lost. although, once i realized that the Indians had to face Justin Verlander yet again in the first game on September 13, i calmed myself. i knew Michael typically hits him well, so i presumed he'd be able to pick things up quickly.
sadly, the only notable thing from this game for Michael was that he drew his first walk of the month and first since August 30. it happened in the bottom of the 7th inning off Tom Gorzelanny's 3-1 pitch after Verlander was pulled with 1 out, Lindor at 2nd base, and the Tribe leading, 4-2. similar to a week ago, Michael was unable to record any hits off Verly, which i found peculiar. how, after having 2 extra off days, could he not get a hit? it was disappointing. defensively, however, he made a big backhanded diving catch in the top half of the 7th inning, but looked to possibly hurt himself in doing so. (more on that in the In The Field section below.)
Michael got Game 2 off against left-hander Randy Wolf. i thought he'd at least be the game's designated hitter, but no. and it bummed me out especially after he just went 0-for-3 in Game 1 and now wouldn't get a chance to salvage the day. the Indians lost, 9-2; a real embarrassment since Detroit didn't even have one of their better starters out there.
this being the final series of the year with Detroit, Michael's 2-for-8 showing in 2 (of 3) games was not a strong finish. therefore at this time, i was really hoping they needed to play that game on October 5, so he could attempt to redeem himself against a team he usually scorches.
prior to the September 14 game versus the Kansas City Royals, Daren Willman tweeted that since 2013, Michael had 263 total swings and misses, while 33 players had at least that many swings and misses in 2015 alone. if you believe in jinxes, you might blame what happened later in the game on Daren.
it was an odd game because even though Michael went 3-for-5, he also acquired 2 strikeouts--1 looking and 1 swinging. (damnit, Daren! lol) as everyone knows by now, Michael is not a big strikeout guy, so for him to get K'd twice in one game is always a shock. and you can't even fully fault Michael for it because, and stop me if you've heard this one, that strikeout looking was another BS call. sigh. thankfully, he still managed to tally 3 hits. let's break down the ABs.
the game was already tied at 1 when Michael came to bat in the bottom of the 1st inning with 1 out. he was facing Edinson Volquez and on a 3-1 count, sent a line drive single to short left-center field. that made Michael 5-for-6 against Volquez in his career.
his second at bat was not as kind to him. in the bottom of the 3rd inning, Michael came to the plate with Lindor at 1st base, 1 out, and the game still tied at 1. the count was 2-1 when Volquez threw Michael ball 3, on which Lindor stole 2nd base. Michael fouled off the 5th pitch to run the count full. Volquez's next pitch was high, but home plate umpire Jeff Nelson called it as strike 3. i don't think so. GameDay clearly showed it as a ball, as does this photo from Indians Strike Zone on twitter. Michael was not pleased, shaking his head and mouthing "wow" as he walked back to the dugout. that Nelson guy needs glasses. there's no reason Michael shouldn't be getting that (ball) call with the reputation he's now rightfully earned in the league. i was just as pissed as Michael. (this ump's janky strike zone would also affect how Michael approached another AB later in the game.)
Michael's third at bat bore his second hit of the game, as he swung at Volquez's first pitch in the bottom of the 5th inning with the Indians ahead, 3-1, and sent a line drive to left-center field for a single. Lindor, who was already on at 1st base after drawing a leadoff walk, advanced to 2nd base.
then in the bottom of the 7th inning, Michael faced Kelvin Herrera with 1 out and the Tribe up, 4-3. after a 1-0 count, he hit a line drive to deep center field for a double, giving him his third hit of the game. he would later score on a Chisenhall single.
in his final at bat, Michael got his second strikeout of the game, this time swinging. it was the bottom of the 8th inning, there was 1 out, and Lindor was at 3rd base with lefty reliever Franklin Morales on the mound for KC. the Indians were leading now, 8-3. after a 1-1 count, home plate umpire Nelson was at it again, calling a low ball as a strike. so with the count then at 1-2, Michael was almost forced to swing at the next pitch. and he missed, giving him 2 Ks on the night to go along with his 3 hits.
Michael should have had a nice game on September 16 versus KC because Danny Duffy was pitching and Michael has good numbers against him. instead, combined with his 0-fer game on September 15, Michael was 0-for-7 with 1 walk and had back-to-back hitless games for only the 3rd time all season. when the game was over, Michael's 2015 batting average was down to .315. meanwhile, Lindor passed him, as he finished the night with 3 hits, batting .317. Michael still boasted the highest team BA though because Lindor was not a qualifying player due to being called up in mid-June. nevertheless, it made me sad that Michael was struggling as much as he was while Lindor, a rookie no less, was having no troubles with the tough pitching he was facing.
on September 17, Michael went 0-for-4 in the last game of the 4-gamer versus the Royals, but did reach base twice on 2 fielding errors. he would have gotten an additional plate appearance, except Francona subbed him out of the game defensively for the top of the 9th inning, robbing Michael of his last shot at getting a hit in the bottom of the 9th. sigh. because of that, Michael had 3 straight 0-fer games for the first time all year. and it potentially could have been avoided. thanks, Tito.
i want to spotlight one specific at bat from this game. it occurred in the bottom of the 3rd inning with 2 outs, Ramirez at 2nd base, Lindor at 1st, and the Tribe down, 3-2. this was a critical point in the game, and because i was well aware of Michael's difficulties with RISP and 2 outs, i was nervous for him. he had Yordano Ventura behind the count 3-0 before he swung at a fastball above the belt on the outer third, a "pitcher's pitch" in the words of Dennis Manoloff, and popped out to 3rd base to end the rally. it was not a satisfactory at bat, and an infrequent one for Michael at that.
according to Zack Meisel, that was merely the second time this season that Michael's even put a 3-0 pitch in play. the first time he did, the at bat resulted in a double. Jordan Bastian further noted that Michael had 16 walks in 17 plate appearances after 3-0 counts before his pop up in this game.
in his postgame interview, Francona defended his player. "i like the fact that he's confident enough to swing there, to be ready to swing, because that's a situation we're looking for."
so after Michael's night was officially done, he'd acquired 4 0-fer games in his last 5. in September, this was also his 6th 0-fer game already out of 14 and the 7th 0-fer game in his last 15 going back to August 31. but that's not all. additionally, Michael left a total of 30 men on base through his first 14 games this month. ugh. ironically, that's the perfect segue into the next subject i want to discuss.
due to his numerous 0-fer performances, a lot of his situational batting averages dropped down on a nightly basis because he continued to leave runners on base in clutch game moments. here are where a few of Michael's season BAs fell to after the conclusion of September 17's game:
--with runners on: .329 BA. that's the first time he'd been batting that low since after Game 1 on June 28 (when his BA was .328). he'd been regularly batting in between the .340-.355 range prior to his September slump.
--with RISP: .319 BA. first time batting that low since after the June 13 game (.317). he'd been batting between .345-.360 in this category prior to his slump.
--with RISP and 2 outs: .196 BA. first time batting that low since after the August 5 game (.195). one of his weakest categories this year, he'd still been batting at least over .200 for most of the season.
seeing these numbers do nothing but decrease this month was very hard to watch and made me very glum.
let's call Michael's game on September 18 versus the White Sox his slump-busting game because he broke out of a lot of slumps with his 3-for-5 performance. Chris Sale toed the rubber for the Sox this night and i stupidly hoped Michael would get the game off. but there he was, batting in his usual 3rd spot in the order because Francona had Kipnis on the bench and didn't want Michael on the bench, too. the fact that he sat both of them earlier in the month had no bearing on his decision for this game. he wanted to "strike a balance," as he put it. cue my annoyance.
i never could have predicted the game Michael'd end up having and i doubt anyone else did either. after his first at bat when he weakly grounded out to 1st base after a 2-1 count to end the bottom of the 1st inning, i let out an exasperated sigh and thought, "and so it begins, his 4th 0-fer game in a row." oh me of little faith lol
Michael got his first hit off Sale in the bottom of the 3rd inning. the Indians had a 1-0 lead with Ramirez at 2nd base, Aviles at 1st, and 2 outs. Michael swung at Sale's first offering--a 97 mph low fastball that darted towards the outer half--and clobbered a line drive down the left field line, scoring Ramirez and moving Aviles up to 2nd base. they would all later score (along with Raburn) on Santana's grand slam, which by the way untied him with Michael for the team lead in home runs, as Santana took the lead outright again with 16.
Michael's RBI single against Sale was completely unexpected because he was 4-for-30 lifetime coming into this AB, and it put an end to several slumps he had at the time. first, this hit broke Michael's 0-for-13 skid in his last 14 plate appearances, his longest slump of the season. as for situational hitting, he broke an 0-for-7 slump with runners on base (first hit since September 14); an 0-for-9 slump in his last 10 plate appearances with RISP (first hit since September 8); and an 0-for-7 slump in his last 8 plate appearances with RISP and 2 outs (first hit since August 20!), including an 0-for-4 skid so far in September. there's all your evidence that Michael was really having difficulty delivering in the clutch. in addition, the RBI single gave him his first RBI since his multi-home run game on September 10.
in his third at bat, Michael grounded out again, this time to 2nd base, with 1 out in the bottom of the 5th inning on an 0-1 count. that's when i thought, "and we're back." lol however, Michael's fourth at bat yielded a much better result.
in the bottom of the 7th inning, the Indians were up, 7-1, yet the White Sox still had Sale out there. he had Michael behind in the count, 1-2, until Michael hit a ground ball single through the hole and into center field. i couldn't believe Michael got 2 hits off this guy and i was SO happy! but Michael would not end the night going just 2-for-4...
when Michael came to bat in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Indians had the bases loaded--Ramirez at 3rd, Lindor at 2nd, and Aviles at 1st base--and an 8-1 lead. left-hander Dan Jennings had just come on to face Michael and on the first pitch, Michael hit a 1-out, RBI single to the pitcher. it was deflected off Jennings' glove and by the time the 2nd baseman, Carlos Sanchez, got to it, he had no play. Ramirez scored and Michael was safe at 1st. he was lifted for pinch runner, Martinez, or else he would have ended up scoring later on a single by Johnson.
that 2nd RBI single was Michael's first hit with the bases loaded since August 7! to be fair, i should also mention that between then and this at bat, Michael only had 1 other AB. the clutch hit broke an 0-for-6 skid in his last 7 plate appearances with RISP and 1 out as well, with his last hit taking place on September 4.
with his night formally over after being subbed out, that meant he had no men left on base for the game. in 14 starts to this point in the month, this was the first game where Michael didn't leave any runners on base.
ahead of the September 20 game versus the White Sox, Michael still had an American League best .349
batting average since the All Star break, which amazed me considering
some of his recent struggles. Michael went 1-for-4 on the day, with an RBI double emerging in his last AB of the game. he also had his 2nd 2-strikeout game of the month and 3rd overall in 134 games this season.
in the bottom of the 6th inning, Kipnis was at 1st base with 2 outs and the Tribe up, 5-0. Michael was facing former Indian Zach Putnam and after a 1-0 count, smacked a double off the deep center field wall to plate Kipnis. it was Michael's 45th double on the year, tying his career high from last season and also giving him back-to-back seasons of 45 doubles for the first time in his career. he's only the 4th Indians player in club history to hit 45 doubles in 2 consecutive seasons, and the 1st to do it in over 70 years! the first 3 Indians players to accomplish this were Lou
Boudreau (1940-1941), George Burns (1926-1927), and Tris Speaker
regarding the 2 Ks Michael had in this game, the first occurred in the bottom of the 1st inning with 1 out, no score, and Kip at 1st base. Michael had the count even at 2 against ChiSox southpaw John Danks before swinging and missing at the 5th pitch for the 2nd out of the inning. his second strikeout came when he led off the bottom of the 5th inning with the Indians winning, 3-0. the count was 2-2 when Michael fought off and fouled Danks' 5th pitch. then the 6th pitch to Michael was called strike 3. and this time there was no argument; that was the right call and Michael knew it.
Michael notched his 7th 0-fer game of the month after going 0-for-2 on September 22 in the game against the Minnesota Twins. he made a diving catch attempt in the bottom of the 3rd inning and jammed his right shoulder, but he really didn't feel it until he came to bat in the top of the 4th inning and quickly grounded out to short on an 0-1 count from Ervin Santana. (more details can be found in the First Comes The Slump, Then Comes A New Injury section of my blog up above.) he may not have played a complete game, but that 0-fer performance still counted as yet another hitless game in Michael's records.
undesirably, Michael had to sit out the next 4 games because he felt pain in the extension of his swings, but he didn't have to do anything to get himself in the Indians record books once again. when Kipnis hit his 40th
double of the 2015 season in the game against the Royals on
September 25, he joined Michael in the 40+ doubles club. Kip's 40 doubles and Michael's 45 (at the time) marked the 15th time in club history when at least two players acquired 40 or more doubles in a season. per the SportsTime Ohio
twitter account, the last time this happened on an Indians team was 10
years ago, when both Coco Crisp and Travis Hafner totaled 42 doubles in
Michael returned on September 27 to play the final road game of the year against the Royals. i don't know how much anyone could have expected of him, seeing as he was out for so long. he predictably went 0-for-2 in two official at bats, giving him his 8th 0-fer game of the month. combine this 0-for-2 with his previous 0-for-2 game and that gave him 4 sets of back-to-back hitless games this season.
on the contrary, the one positive i can pull from this game came after Michael drew a 2-out walk on the payoff pitch from Chris Young with no score in the top of the 4th inning. Santana was the next batter and Michael took off for 2nd base as the first pitch--a strike--was thrown. initially, Michael was called out by 2nd base umpire and crew chief, Dana DeMuth. Michael jumped up immediately and signaled to the dugout for Tito to challenge the call. Francona agreed. the video clearly showed Michael got his foot in before Alcides Escobar's tag, so the call was overturned. that successful steal was Michael's first stolen base (and first attempt) since August 25! it was also his 15th of the year, making him the 2nd Indians player in club history (the first being Roberto Alomar in 1999 and 2000) with 150 hits, 45 doubles, 15 home runs, and 15 stolen bases in back-to-back seasons! the last ballplayer to possess these minimum numbers in consecutive seasons was Boston Red Sox 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia in 2008 and 2009.
and if you add Michael's batting average into the mix, then he further became the first player in Major League history to bat at least .300 with 150 hits, 45 doubles, 15 home runs, and 15 stolen bases in back-to-back seasons!
now the sad news: Michael lost his team lead in hits on this date. coming in, he and Kipnis were tied for the lead with 164 total hits. Kipnis had been hitless until he got his 1 and only hit of the game in his last at bat in the top of the 9th inning--a 1-out double off Wade Davis. that actually gave Michael another opportunity to bat and possibly re-tie Kip, but he flew out to left field to end the ballgame. sigh. Michael worked so hard last month to pass Kipnis in this and several other categories, but his September slump followed by his shoulder injury allowed for Kip to not only catch Michael, but exceed him. truth be told, i wish Michael would have just sat out this finale game.
all it ended up doing was lowering his season road numbers and his overall numbers vs.
in the September 28 game versus the Twins, Michael achieved his 9th 0-fer game of the month, giving him 3 consecutive hitless games for the 2nd time this month. he was 0-for-4 on the night, and 0-for-8 in his last 8 at bats. his BA against lefties dropped from .300 down to .294 after this game; Michael hadn't been batting under .295 against southpaws since August 18. at this point, i honestly didn't think he was going to get another hit for the rest of the season. i was becoming angry that i kept watching his season BA drop, and his runners on base BA drop, and his RISP BA drop. i understood that his inadequate play was a result of him not being healthy, and that made me more mad. i would have rather he sit out a few more games than play hurt and literally do nothing other than hit into outs. i'm sure i wasn't the only one frustrated but FUCK! it was SO tough to watch.
i began having flashbacks to when Michael played for like a month and a half with a broken hamate in 2011, just long enough to kill his numbers before the Indians finally decided to shut him down. Michael also finished his 2012 season playing off and on with a sports hernia. so he's no stranger to playing hurt, but he hasn't always flourished at it. when he's really hurt, he can't help the team no matter how much he wants to, and i could tell that this shoulder injury was worse than his left shoulder inflammation and lower back strain had been. he was at least able to get those injuries under control. this one needed more time to heal, but with the time crunch in the Indians schedule and the desperation for wins, Michael probably rushed back before he was ready and this hurt version of Michael was not a productive Michael.
before gaining the knowledge that Michael was not playing in the September 29 game and might potentially be shut down for the remainder of the year, i discovered that he went to visit Crestwood Middle School in Mantua, Ohio earlier in the day. he helped Learning Heroes--a national program that helps parents navigate the changes happening in classrooms across the country--present the school with a $5,000 prize and signed autographs for students.
Michael said he was happy to be able to give back to the community and talk to the kids. "basically the same way i was raised. education came first, sports came second. As and Bs were what we shoot for, C we had to work harder," Michael explained. "we always aimed high in the house and that's what i expect out of my kids as well and to push each other, to push each student to work harder each and every day."
the night was not as cheery for Michael, as it marked his official shut down date. the MRI on his right shoulder revealed inflammation and he received a cortisone shot. but with the season about to come to a close, the Indians made the choice to shut him down for the remainder of the homestand. i wrote a blog about it here.
with Michael's overall numbers now being his final numbers for the 2015 season, he had officially set one more record. he ended 2015 with a total of 51 strikeouts, a new career low for him. his previous career low was 56 strikeouts, which he established in both 2012 and 2014. his last strikeout this year occurred in what ended up being his last game of the season, on September 28 versus the Twins. the Tribe was losing, 3-1, when Michael came to bat with 1 out in the bottom of the 1st inning against Tommy Milone. Michael was behind in the count 1-2 before swinging and missing, giving him what would be his final K this year. more details about this record can be found in the blog i wrote here.
even after being restricted to the bench for the rest of the year, Michael continued to be part of history thanks to Kipnis. when Kip hit his 43rd double of the season in the game on October 1 versus the Twins, he and Michael became the first duo with 43+ doubles in one season since 1936. as Bastian specified, the last 2 Indians with at least 43 doubles in a season were Odell Hale and Hal Trosky.
a few articles were posted over October 1-2 detailing how Michael has become a leader this season despite his injury-riddled campaign. "if i can play, i'm playing," Michael said. "i don't like days off if i don't need them."
his biggest realization this season was that he has a voice. "i'm pretty quiet," he admitted. "they make fun of me because i don't smile too much in the dugout, i'm really focused. when i'm in the field, i try to zone in and try to get to a bit of a different mindset. but sometimes i need to talk a little more to make sure i'm helping out my teammates, if i see something, a pitcher or a situation that's coming up, just to make sure that we're all on the same page. i have a voice. i have an obligation to make sure that we're going out there ready to go and we're prepared as a team.
"i just want to be the best teammate i can to everybody. any questions they have, or i have to pick up a teammate, whatever i have to do at that time, that's what i'm there for. i think that's what leadership and a leader does for the team."
Francona firmly thinks Michael grew into his role as a team leader this year. "for a guy that we already hold in high regard, what he has done [this
season] has probably surpassed that. i think it's helped him grow as a
leader. he's always been a really good player, a really good teammate and [was] probably trying to figure out where he falls as far as the leadership goes. because he's so respectful that he's probably thinking, 'i'm not that guy yet. i shouldn't be that guy.' but as he's looking around and we're encouraging him, i think he did understand that, 'it's okay for me to do that.' i think he grew into that this year by his own admission. he did a good job."
"there is a lot of responsibility on him," Tito went on. "and he knows that. i think he embraces it. and guys like that, we want to have responsibility. i want to be able to tell our young players, 'watch how he plays the game.' when you can do that, it helps."
Michael greatly appreciates that Francona looks at him in that way. "i'm just really glad i got that compliment. it means a lot."
coming into the October 3 game versus the Boston Red Sox, Michael and Santana were tied for the team lead in RBI with 84. i knew Santana was gonna take the sole lead before the year ended and sure enough he did so in his first at bat of this game. he led off the top of the 2nd inning facing Craig Breslow and after an 0-1 count, he sent a bomb to the left field bleachers. that officially gave Santana the team lead with 85 RBI. if only Michael hadn't been hurt or shut down in September, this never would have happened. that i can guarantee.
luckily, Michael's overall .310 batting average remained a team high after the regular season came to its conclusion on October 4. Lindor finished with a .313 BA, but as mentioned above, he did not have enough plate appearances to be a qualifier. Michael had the highest OBP, SLG, and OPS on the team as well.
In Indians History
when Michael hit 2 go-ahead home runs in the game versus the Detroit Tigers on September 10, he joined a very small group of Cleveland Indians who've also done it in the 7th inning or later.
his first go-ahead home run came in the bottom of the 7th inning with the game tied at 3. Michael faced Alfredo Simon and after a 1-0 count, he hit a leadoff home run to deep right-center field.
then in his next at bat in the bottom of the 8th inning, the game was tied again, this time at 5. Michael came to the plate against LHP Blaine Hardy with 2 outs and Francisco Lindor at 1st base. he sent a 3-2 pitch to deep right field for his 2nd (go-ahead) home run of the game.
in doing so, Michael launched himself into the Indians history books yet again as the 5th franchise player to hit multiple game-tying or go-ahead home runs in the same game in the 7th inning or later, per Jordan Bastian. Yan Gomes recently did it this season as well, on September 1. who accomplished this feat first? the one and only Larry Doby on August 30, 1958. now that's some good company. after him, there was also Willie Kirkland on June 14, 1963 and Ben Broussard on September 13, 2005.
In The Field
for the second month in a row, Michael's outfield duties were confined to left field only. he didn't play nearly as many games as were on the schedule, however, because he suffered a right shoulder injury (as described in the aforementioned First Comes The Slump, Then Comes A New Injury section of the blog). after giving a noble effort to come back and play through it, Michael had to be shut down to prevent any further damage. that said, in his time in left, he recorded 31 putouts and played perfect defense to give him a 1.000 fielding percentage for September/October.
Michael finally got himself 1 outfield assist this month, breaking a drought of 53 straight games in the outfield from June 20 - September 5 without one. it came on September 8 in the game against the Chicago White Sox in the bottom of the 8th inning. the Sox were up, 5-1, and had Alexei Ramirez at 3rd base and Jose Abreu at 2nd when Trayce Thompson stepped to the plate against Indians reliever Ryan Webb. after a 1-1 count, Thompson hit a 2-out, ground ball single that got by diving 3rd baseman Giovanny Urshela and into left field, allowing both Ramirez and Abreu to score. Michael got to the ball quickly and fired in a strong throw from foul territory to 2nd baseman Jason Kipnis. Thompson tried to stretch his single into a double, but Kip applied the tag on his leg before he slid into the bag to end the inning.
i want to also highlight one spectacular diving catch Michael made this month. on September 13, the Indians and Detroit Tigers squared off at Progressive Field. the Tribe had a 4-2 lead in the top of the 7th inning when Ian Kinsler led off against Jeff Manship. Kinsler swung at the first pitch and sent a sinking liner to left field. Michael raced straight in and backhanded that ball to make the catch. he landed awkwardly on his right shoulder as he hit the grass and sprawled out, and you can see him negatively react to that for a few seconds after he sat upright. but he got back up on his feet hastily and appeared to be just fine. more importantly, he was able to record the 1st out of the inning thanks to the good read and good jump he had on the ball. this is one of those times when i say screw the sabermetrics cause Michael can display top notch defense when it matters.
let's break down the numbers. i am going to document his September/October #s, the
3rd spot #s, the 7th spot #s, the DH #s, and the PH #s, as well as the left field #s and overall
September/October batting average: .237
Michael played in 20 (of 31*) games, 15 complete, in September/October. (*the Indians originally had 32 games scheduled, but 1 game was postponed due to rain. MLB rescheduled it for the day after the regular season ended, but it was only to be played if the game would have any postseason implications. the Indians were eliminated from postseason play after the games on October 1 played out, therefore the PPD game was officially cancelled.)
he started and played left in 18
games, completing 14 of those games, appearing in 18 total. he was lifted for a PR in 2 games after 16 innings (8 innings/8 innings per game) because the Indians were winning a blowout
and he had done more than enough in the game, and subbed out of 1 game after 8 innings because the Indians were losing by a lot and he didn't have a hit. he also left 1 game early after 3 innings because of a right shoulder injury.
he started and was the DH for 1 complete game.
he came in to PH in the top of the 9th inning for 1 game, then was lifted for a pinch runner.
he got 1 game off.
he missed 4 games due to a jammed right shoulder.
he was shut down for the final 6 games of the season due to right shoulder inflammation.
Michael bat 3rd in 19 games.
Michael bat 7th in 1 game. (PH)
played left field in 18 games. (14 complete, 2 lifted for PR: 16 innings, 1 subbed out: 8 innings, 1 left early w/ injury: 3 innings)
Michael was the DH in 1 complete game.
Michael was a PH in 1 game. (lifted for PR)
Michael played in 15 complete games.
in September/October, Michael had a total of 80
plate appearances and 76
at bats. here is how he fared:
9 extra base hits
4 home runs
1 stolen base (2nd)
8 strikeouts (6 swinging, 2 looking)
2 first at bat hits
35 total bases
36 left on base
149.1 innings, 20 games
(15 complete games)
September/October batting average: .237 (18-76) (20 games)
now let's break down his numbers based on where he hit in the lineup.
when Michael bat 3rd in September/October, he had a total of 79 plate appearances
and 75 at bats in 19 games. breaking
down the numbers are as follows:
9 extra base hits
4 home runs
1 stolen base (2nd)
8 strikeouts (6 swinging, 2 looking)
1 first at bat hit
34 total bases
36 left on base
149.1 innings, 19 games
(15 complete games)
September/October batting average in the 3rd spot: .227 (17-75) (19 games)
when Michael bat 3rd and played left in September/October, he had a total of 75
plate appearances and 71 at bats in 18 games.
breaking down the numbers are as follows:
9 extra base hits
4 home runs
1 stolen base (2nd)
8 strikeouts (6 swinging, 2 looking)
1 first at bat hit
34 total bases
35 left on base
149.1 innings, 18 games
(14 complete games)
September/October batting average in the 3rd spot while playing left: .239 (17-71) (18
when Michael bat 3rd, he was the DH in September/October
for 1 game. he had a total of 4 plate appearances and 4 at bats. breaking down the numbers are as
1 left on base
September/October batting average in the 3rd spot as the DH: .000 (0-4) (1 game)
overall September/October batting average as the DH: .000 (0-4) (1 game)
when Michael bat 7th in August, he had a total of 1 plate appearance
and 1 at bat in 1 game. breaking
down the numbers are as follows:
1 first at bat hit
1 total base
(0 complete games)
September/October batting average in the 7th spot: 1.000 (1-1) (1 game)
when Michael bat 7th, he was a PH in September/October for 1 game. he had a
total of 1 plate appearance and 1 at bat. breaking down the
numbers are as follows:
1 first at bat hit
1 total base
September/October batting average as a PH in the 7th spot: 1.000 (1-1) (1 game)
overall September/October batting average as a PH: 1.000 (1-1) (1 game)
when Michael played the outfield in September/October, he had a total of 75 plate appearances
and 71 at bats in 18 games. breaking
down the numbers are as follows:
9 extra base hits
4 home runs
1 stolen base (2nd)
8 strikeouts (6 swinging, 2 looking)
1 first at bat hit
34 total bases
35 left on base
149.1 innings, 18 games
(14 complete games)
September/October batting average while playing the outfield: .239 (17-71) (18
now let's break down his numbers specific to where he played in the
when Michael played left in September/October, he had a total of 75 plate appearances
and 71 at bats in 18 games. breaking
down the numbers are as follows:
9 extra base hits
4 home runs
1 stolen base (2nd)
8 strikeouts (6 swinging, 2 looking)
1 first at bat hit
34 total bases
35 left on base
149.1 innings, 18 games
(14 complete games)
September/October batting average while playing left: .239 (17-71) (18 games)
September/October #s while playing left: 31 putouts, 1 assist, 0 errors, 1.000 fielding percentage (149.1 innings, 18 games)
September/October #s while playing the outfield: 31 putouts, 1 assist, 0 errors, 1.000 fielding percentage (149.1 innings, 18 games)
now my game-by-game numbers and notes.
Game 118/Game 1, September 1: 2-5, home run, run, single. AVG: .323
Game 119/Game 2, September 2: 0-3. AVG: .321
Game 120/Game 3, September 4: 2-5, RBI double, run, single. AVG: .322
Game 121/Game 4, September 5: 1-4, double. AVG: .321
Game 122/Game 5, September 6: 0-4. AVG: .319
Game 123/Game 6, September 7: 1-1, single (first at bat). AVG: .320
Game 124/Game 7, September 8: 1-4, 2-run home run, run. AVG: .319
Game 125/Game 8, September 9: 1-5, RBI groundout (first at bat), double. AVG: .318
Game 126/Game 9, September 10: 2-5, reached on forceout (first at bat), home run, run, 2-run home run, run. AVG: .319
September 11: game postponed, to be made up September 13 in a traditional DH.
September 12: game postponed, to be made up October 5 only if game has postseason implications**.
Game 127/Game 10, September 13 (Game 1): 0-3, walk, run. AVG: .317
September 13 (Game 2): not in lineup.
Game 128/Game 11, September 14: 3-5, single (first at bat), single, double, run. AVG: .320
Game 129/Game 12, September 15: 0-3, walk. AVG: .318
**Michael's 7-game on-base streak ends**
Game 130/Game 13, September 16: 0-4. AVG: .315
Game 131/Game 14, September 17: 0-4, reached on fielding error (first at bat), reached on fielding error. AVG: .313
Game 132/Game 15, September 18: 3-5, RBI single, run, single, RBI single. AVG: .316
Game 133/Game 16, September 19: 1-4, single. AVG: .315
Game 134/Game 17, September 20: 1-4, RBI double. AVG: .315
Game 135/Game 18, September 22: 0-2. AVG: .314
^^Michael left the game after the top of the 4th inning with a right shoulder injury after a diving attempt in the bottom of the 3rd inning^^
September 23: shoulder no worse than last night, no need for MRI. worked with trainers, could take some swings in cage.
September 24: getting better, but not starting. hit in cage, still feels it when he finishes his swing. chance he starts September 25, but most likely to return September 26.
September 25: scratched after taking bp. felt something in his shoulder. unlikely to play September 26, maybe September 27.
September 26: doing really well. might be cleared to play September 27, but September 28 most realistic.
Game 136/Game 19, September 27: 0-2, walk, stolen base, walk. AVG: .312
Game 137/Game 20, September 28: 0-4. AVG: .310
**Michael sets new career low with 51 strikeouts**
September 29: still dealing with right shoulder soreness. being examined by orthopedic specialist, could potentially be shut down for rest of the season.
^^game postponed, to be made up September 30 in a traditional DH.
September 30 (Game 1): MRI showed inflammation in right shoulder. getting cortisone shot, shut down for the season. after the rest period is over, will ramp up his activities to make sure he's okay heading into the offseason.
September 30 (Game 2): shut down.
October 1: given 2-week recovery plan to do before his offseason. hopeful surgery can be avoided.
October 2: shut down.
October 3: shut down.
October 4: shut down.
**October 5: game not played because it was not necessary.
in 2015, Michael had a total of 596 plate appearances and 529 at bats in 137 games
(1034.2 innings). in total, he had 164
hits, 60 extra base hits, 104 singles, 45 doubles, 15 home runs, 84 RBI, 5
sac flies, 68 runs, 60 walks, 8 intentional walks, 2 hit by pitches, 15 stolen bases
(14 - 2nd, 1 - 3rd), 1 caught stealing (3rd), 14 GIDP, 51 strikeouts (37 swinging, 14
looking), 34 first at bat hits, 254 total bases, 223 left on
putouts, 8 assists, 2 errors, and 1 double play.
2015 season batting average: .310 (164-529)
as i mentioned previously, i will not be doing a "Brantley's 2015 #s Through September/October" blog because i am going to be writing several season wrap up blogs. it'll be a little bit like i've done in the past, but also include some changes. i plan to write separate blogs for his Game-by-Game Numbers & Notes and his BOP & LF/OF/DH/PH #s, as usual. and i will be writing a Brantley's Final 2015 #s blog, which will be similar to how a "Through..." blog is structured, but shorter since it won't include BOP break downs. there's also gonna be a 2nd Half #s blog along with an overall wrap up blog, so be on the lookout for those. i will get them posted as soon as all the calculations are done.
don't forget to follow me on twitter @clevelandgirl23 if you don't already because i will be tweeting any and all updates/news i read about Michael during the offseason. those might include health updates, any awards he is nominated for, any baseball lists he makes prior to 2016, and possible information about his offseason activities. plus, i will tweet out links to all my new blogs after i post them.
like i always say, there really is no offseason in baseball, so expect my blog to stay somewhat active in the winter lol