Sunday, May 1, 2016

Brantley's April 2016 #s

Michael Brantley spent most of the month of April on the DL, as he was still trying to make his way back from offseason right shoulder surgery. during his rehab, he played seven games with minor league teams in advance of finally being activated by the Indians on April 25. despite him not playing very much with the big league team this month, the blog must go on. this one will be shorter than usual though, something i think everyone will appreciate after the previous two LONG blogs i posted about his rehabilitation. (if you have not read those yet, they can be found here and here.)

before i get into Michael's April, let me provide a quick rundown of how i do these monthly blogs, just in case you're a new or recent reader of my blogspot. last year, i began sectioning out specific topics of discussion so they'd be easier to see and allow you the option to skim through certain parts or skip to the sections you were most interested in. i'm going to continue doing that, and the divisions generally include:

--a monthly overview
--areas of concern
--lineup changes
--health ailments affecting Michael's performance
--team batting title competition
--HR:RBI ratio, LOB, K Rate, and Outs
--streaks and situational statistics (ie. hit in/reached in, RHP/LHP, home/away, RISP, runners on, bases loaded, bases empty, multi-hit games, multi-RBI games, go-ahead hits/RBI)

--#s versus AL Central Division teams
--interleague play (new section this year!)
--team leads, career highs, and league rankings
--standout games, spotlights, and quotes (all quotes from Michael are italicized)
--in Indians history
--in the field
--break downs of Brantley's #s (monthly, BOPs, OF/DH/PH)
--game-by-game numbers and notes

due to Michael's lack of games in April, however, some of the above sections may be limited or not appear at all in this month's blog.

also, after the month of May has been completed, i will once again be posting two blogs at the end of every month--one with Michael's monthly #s and one with his cumulative season #s so far.

now that you're more familiar or have been re-familiarized with what you can expect to see here, let's get into the first official Brantley blog of the 2016 regular season.

April Overview

Michael missed the first 16 games of the Indians' 2016 regular season. he joined the team on April 25, during their 9-game, 10-day road trip. he met up with the Tribe in Minneapolis, then concluded the month with some interleague play in Philadelphia. overall, he played in just five games, went hitless in three, and put together an April 'he's definitely searching to find himself after being down for so long from shoulder surgery' .118 batting average. that's tied for the lowest BA he's ever had (that wasn't .000) at any point in his Major League career, which previously occurred all the way back on July 11, 2010 during his rookie season! even though i wish he would have gotten a few more hits, i can't reasonably criticize his performance. hopefully now there's nowhere to go but up!

the Indians' schedule in the final week of April did Michael no favors. he ironically made his debut in the exact same place where he hurt his shoulder last season, and then he played in interleague games--an area he hasn't done well in in the past. combine that with not getting that many at bats during his rehab, and there's no question why Michael's April numbers aren't up to par with the normal standards.

Michael saw his game action this month in three games against the Minnesota Twins and two games against the Philadelphia Phillies. after an 0-for-7 start to 2016, he finished his series in Minny going a rough 1-for-8, while securing an even worse 1-for-9 showing in Philly. and he's going to begin his month of May on an 0-for-5 skid.

needless to say, the adversity was real for Michael right out of the gate and these were some very arduous conditions for him to begin his season under. because he played in only two series in April, i can break things down more than i ordinarily do for you in this section and discuss further how they went.

Michael played in all three games against the Twins, but he did not start the first one. he made his season debut in a difficult situation when Terry Francona opted to pinch hit him late in a tie game. it was not the most ideal way for him to return to the big leagues and he predictably went 0-for-1, leaving two men on base.

Michael's first start of the year came in the second game of the series, and he faced a starter he hasn't had much success against in his career. visibly still fighting off rust, Michael was held hitless, going 0-for-4.

in the third and final game, Michael was up against the Twins' top pitching prospect, who just happened to be making his Major League debut. it was another challenge for him to take on so soon after being activated, but he eventually prevailed once a pitching change was made. by the end of the night, Michael had acquired his first hit (single), RBI, run, walk, and stolen base of 2016 to give him a 1-for-3 game line. (i go into more details about some of his at bats in the April Standout Games, Spotlights, and Quotes section of this blog down below.)

after an off day (on April 28) allowed Michael a day of rest, he was back in the starting lineup for the last two games of the month and the first two of a 3-game series against the Phillies. talk about a really bad time for interleague play. knowing that Michael has a mediocre track record when playing National League teams, and that the search for his smooth groove at the plate would be ongoing, i didn't expect much.

in his first game, he was tested with facing a left-handed starter who was making his 2016 debut. of course. later, Michael saw three different relievers in the game and managed to hit a double. once the Indians lost in the bottom of the 11th inning, Michael had concluded his night with a 1-for-5 showing.

Michael's second game against Philly and fifth and final game of April was nothing to write home about. having to face yet another starter who Michael had no former history against was almost the worst way he could wrap up his 5-game April debut. sadly, he was unable to find any holes and went 0-for-4 at the plate.

if Michael wasn't coming back from shoulder surgery and had a five game stretch like this during a month, we'd all assume something was wrong with him and that he was probably hiding/playing with an injury. that shows you just how abnormal this performance is for him. it's almost crazy that Michael did better last April while playing with his lower back strain. so, for as much as people think spring training is tedious and too long, it's an imperative necessity.

i'm gonna give everyone a different perspective on where Michael is as far as still being behind. he routinely starts his offseason training sometime in the month of November. this year, Michael didn't even pick up a bat after his surgery until the middle of February. so think of February as his usual November. his swinging increased in March, and he later began playing in a few games. a setback required him to take some time off before he was able to participate in batting practice again. then, at long last, he played seven rehab games in mid-April.

if you try to add all that up, i'm not sure Michael has even had enough repetitions to this point to say he's gotten to the February mark of his traditional offseason preparations yet. maybe he's just getting to when the players start reporting to spring training. but here we actually are, already at the beginning of the month of May. so i recognize the reasoning behind his struggles. granted, my guesstimated timeline might be a bit off. all the same, this should provide a general idea of how much time he really lost out on in regards to his typical offseason training regimen and spring baseball activities.

essentially, Michael's doing extended rehab work right now during the Major League regular season, which kind of sucks because it's negatively affecting his total numbers so far. being fully aware that he's not playing like his regular self is a hard pill to swallow and this is one of the main reasons i said i didn't feel Michael was ready to rejoin the ballclub at this juncture. having him back with the Indians when he clearly needed more practice at the plate is immediately putting a burden on his 2016 stats.

on top of that, he's not exactly an asset to the team at the moment either. since he's come back, the Indians have gone 1-4 while Michael's just 2-for-17 at the plate with 1 RBI. is this a case of as Michael Brantley goes, so goes the Tribe? it's unfortunate to see, but at the same time, this slow start is not surprising. i remain hopeful that things will pick up for him next month. all it's gonna take is a few good games and multiple hits to right the ship. so get your sails up, Michael, because the journey this season is far from over!

Areas Of Concern

from a purely statistical standpoint, Michael has not played enough for me to be really concerned about his numbers in any specific area right now. i will say, however, that to see Michael already with four strikeouts in only five games (four complete) and 19 plate appearances is quite unusual. i surmise it's simply a case of him persistently trying to get comfortable in the batter's box and/or him being unfamiliar with some of the pitchers he faced. because otherwise, i don't know why a shoulder surgery would have an effect on his contact rate all of a sudden.

there are two main things i do have worries about though. in the back of my mind, i harbor a fear that something will occur in a future game that potentially irks his shoulder and then Michael will be back at square one. while this fear might be unjustified, it is there. and it most likely won't go away until we get more into the season and further removed from his surgery, and Michael is playing regularly as the every day starting left fielder with no issues or need for excess time off.

secondly, i'm concerned that because Michael came into the season behind, he's not going to be a real standout player this year. i feel the amount of preparation he does and batting practice he takes in an offseason is a large reason for why he's been so successful in recent seasons. not having that under his belt and starting the year in late April after just a handful of rehab games may mean we don't see the Michael we're used to. while understandable if it became true, that would be such a shame. no one's going to put an asterisk next to his 2016 season stats to remind everyone the circumstances in which he played under, and i'd hate to see a middle-of-the-road year induce negative ramifications on his career numbers.

A New Lineup, But Familiar Role For Michael

it used to be Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, and Michael Brantley at the top of the lineup. then the Indians acquired several new names during the offseason, and suddenly that top three was no longer an exclusive trio.

many, many, many different combinations of lineups were used in spring training, but it was assumed Michael would return to the 3 hole once he rejoined the team. when the Indians' season started without him, Rajai Davis took over the leadoff duties against left-handed starters, while Kip and Lindor were 1 and 2 as usual against right-handers. i figured the Davis thing was only temporary until Michael came back, but that turned out not to be the case. and that ended up also being the least of Michael's BOP problems.

just prior to Michael's activation from the DL, the team had some struggles at home versus the Seattle Mariners. following that, Terry Francona decided to make a move he tried in spring and apparently always wanted to implement in the regular season. he let Carlos Santana lead off for the entire series against the Detroit Tigers from April 22-24, and the result was the Indians sweeping Detroit out of town. coincidence?

while this was happening, Michael was playing in his first set of back-to-back rehab games with the Columbus Clippers, and rumors of him joining the Tribe once he completed that loomed. after the sweep, i pretty much knew Michael would not be batting 3rd upon his return and that his BOP was no longer going to be strictly in one spot (3rd) this year.

so when Michael's name was in the Tribe's starting lineup for the first time on April 26 in the game against the Minnesota Twins, i was not surprised to see him batting 4th. but i admit, it kind of disheartened me. i liked him batting in the 3rd spot and coming to bat in the 1st inning every game. now, if at least one of the new top three--Santana/Davis, Kipnis, and Lindor--can't get on base in their first at bat, then we won't see Michael at the plate until the 2nd inning. although, there's also the possibility that he'll now be seeing a lot of ABs with 2 outs in the 1st inning with someone on base (unlike last year when obviously if he came up to the plate with 2 outs, then no one was on base for him).

another thought that went through my mind regarding this lineup change was if Michael's batting lower now, he potentially could lose out on an extra plate appearance per game. and with Michael starting off the season already behind everyone else, he needs as many PA as he can get or he might not even end up a qualifying player when 2016 is done. (i explain more about this in the Team Leads, Career Highs, and League Rankings section of the blog below.)

as Michael was making his debut in the cleanup spot in the April 26 game, Tom Hamilton, the Indians radio broadcaster for WTAM 1100, made it a point to tell listeners that Michael would rather hit 3rd in the lineup. apparently Francona talked to him about batting cleanup beforehand and Michael said he'd bat wherever the skipper wanted. he's such an unselfish team-first player.

Jordan Bastian posted an article on during the game that included some information about the new top of the order. Francona justified it by saying, "it's just i kind of like the idea of Carlos leading off, getting on base the way he can. it should create some scoring opportunities for Kip and Lindor and Brant, and you move [Mike Napoli] back one. i just think it's got a chance to work. but we'll see."

later, Paul Hoynes' article on provided more. "if Santana leads off, somebody has to hit fourth," Tito remarked. "you could hit Kipnis and Brantley back to back, but you're not doing them any service (because they're both left-handed hitters)."

the manager also stated that he's not married to this lineup and if Michael felt uncomfortable, a change could be made. "we're trying to take each guy's strength and use them the most. if we hit or we don't hit, that's what is really important."

that last statement got me thinking again. if your cleanup hitter is still on a quest to "find it" at the plate, then can you really continue to bat him in the cleanup spot in your lineup? really, i don't think it matters where he hits right now because he's not going to hit very much until he accumulates more at bats. that said, it might almost be better for Michael to be hitting lower in the order for a bit, to maybe take some of the pressure off. speaking of that, i wouldn't be shocked if someday Francona decided to bat Michael 9th because there are 8 other hitters he just has to have in the first 8 spots. facepalm. okay, i'm reaching there, but don't let me give the skipper any ideas lol

in a move i didn't see coming, Tito "divorced" the Santana leadoff strategy when he went back to Kip-Lindor-Brantley-Santana at 1, 2, 3, and 4 for the final game of the month. i know Francona was desperate to get Santana's bat in the lineup despite him now being relegated to a DH role and the Tribe playing in a National League park at the time. but that didn't explain why Santana was back batting cleanup. nevertheless, i was happy to see Michael in his regular spot, even if i suspected it would be a short-lived homecoming.

since Michael's return, we've seen Napoli, Yan Gomes, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jose Ramirez, and Marlon Byrd in the 5-6-7 spots behind him. and on April 30, Santana, Juan Uribe, and Tyler Naquin followed him at the 4-5-6 spots in the order. they all have the potential to be good hitters and drive Michael in if he gets on base before them. on the contrary, they all have the potential to leave him on base as well.

batting Napoli directly behind Michael could cut down on Michael's runs scored this year because Nap strikes out a ton. and if Michael does bat in the 1st inning and get on base, there could be several missed opportunities there. i'm just saying. Napoli will hit homers, but he's undoubtedly gonna strike out a whole lot more. this could be a gift as much as it could be a curse.

in April, Michael reached base a total of 4 times via hits, walks, and fielding errors. he scored just 1 run as a result of someone (Napoli) batting behind him. it's a tiny sample size, but i do think Michael will be stranded fairly often this season (once he gets himself going and manages to get on the basepaths more, that is).

Team Batting Title Competition

Michael did not acquire enough plate appearances this month to be considered a qualifying player. therefore, i can't compare his April batting average with anyone else on the team. i will be able to next month, however, as long as he plays the majority of May.

let the record show, for future reference, that Francisco Lindor had the highest batting average out of all the qualifiers on the team (.293) for the month of April.

Home Runs, RBI, LOB, K Rate, and Outs

Michael did not hit any home runs this month in what little time he played.

he only produced 1 RBI for the Indians in April, while leaving a total of 8 men on base. i know he's not going to drive in every player who's on base when he comes up to bat, but it would have been nice for him to collect a few more ribbies. although i can certainly comprehend why he didn't. the team leader in RBI right now is Jason Kipnis. i was not expecting that. he has 13, which really isn't that many. if Michael starts feeling it at the plate again, he could possibly get in on this race later in the year. stay tuned.

Michael's K rate in April was 21.1% (4 K/19 PA). more plate appearances would have made his strikeout rate lower and look more like we're used to seeing. so this isn't something to be alarmed about. nonetheless, i can't believe he struck out this much in such a short period of time. who is this man and what have you done with the real Michael Brantley?! lol

Daren Willman posted something on twitter prior to Michael's first start of 2016 on April 26. he tweeted that from 2013-2015, Michael had only swung and missed 272 times, while 43 players in 2015 alone swung and missed at least 272 times. maybe Willman should have updated that after Michael's four strikeouts this month lol BUT, it remains impressive evidence that Michael is mainly a contact hitter. and hopefully he continues to be as the year goes on!

Michael had 3 groundouts versus 4 flyouts* this month. in addition, he had 4 lineouts and 4 strikeouts. i was happy to see that more of his outs came by way of getting the ball up in the air because during his rehab appearances, he wasn't getting much lift off the ball after making contact. and as usual, Michael was also robbed of a few hits when he whacked line drives right at opposing position players.

*i write all of Michael's outs down every game in my own Brantley stats notebook and base them on the final results of MLB's online GameDays. that said, i generally use the stats section of to compare my count of groundouts versus flyouts to their count, and i am already noticing some differences between what i counted and what they have. the website specifically states that line drive outs are NOT included in their flyouts count, but i think they are including some of them. for example, when i checked the page after Michael had his first pinch hit at bat of the season, it had one flyout recorded even though Michael hit a line drive out (as confirmed on the GameDay play-by-play). then after three games, the site claimed he had four flyouts already while i documented only two. so there might be a little discrepancy here in that category, and i wanted you to be aware of that. the count here will go by the outs that i've written down, not what's on either way, i can assure you that the groundouts, lineouts, and strikeouts counts are fully accurate.

Situational Statistics

Michael had a hit in 2 of the 5 games he played in April and reached base safely in 2 games. he had 3 hitless games and did not reach base in any of them. Michael also did not have any multi-hit games, three+ hit games, multi-RBI games, go-ahead hits, or go-ahead RBI this month. he had at least one RBI in 1 game. the Indians were 1-4 in games that Michael played in and 9-7 in the games he missed while still on the DL.

for the month of April, Michael bat .077 (1-for-13) against right-handed pitchers and .250 (1-for-4) against left-handed pitchers. these should both even out and improve as he continues to pile on the at bats this year.

Michael bat .118 (2-for-17) with 1 RBI in 5 of 13 games away from Progressive Field. he did not play any of the 8 games at home this month. he hit safely in 2 of the 5 road games he played in and safely reached base in 2 of them. he was hitless in 3 road games, reaching base in none.

Michael hit .000 (0-for-5) with runners in scoring position, producing 1 RBI in April. breaking that down, he hit .000 (0-for-2) with RISP and 1 out and .000 (0-for-3) with RISP and 2 outs. he did not come to the plate at all in April with RISP and 0 outs.

with 2 outs in an inning, Michael bat .125 (1-for-8). he hit 1 double, drew 1 intentional walk, and struck out swinging twice.

additionally, he bat .000 (0-for-6) with 1 RBI with runners on base and he did not come to bat at all with the bases loaded in April.

Michael also bat .182 (2-for-11) with the bases empty. one of his hits was a double.

moreover, in April, Michael had a -0.2 fWAR (wins above replacement), a -41 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus--the ability to create runs compared to the league average), and a 0.2 BsR (baserunning runs above average with stolen bases and caught stealings). he does not have a value for his UZR (ultimate zone rating) in April, which i assume is due to lack of play in left field. [these stats all came courtesy of] poor numbers across the board here but i know as the year progresses and he adds more games to his 2016 season resume, these will improve.

Versus AL Central Division Teams

when the Indians played the Chicago White Sox, Michael was still on the DL. however, he only missed 2 games of the original 3-game April series because the third game was postponed due to rain.

when the Indians played the Detroit Tigers, Michael was out on a minor league rehab assignment, playing with the Columbus Clippers, and not activated from the DL yet. he missed all 3 games of the April series.

vs. the Minnesota Twins, Michael bat .125 (1-for-8) in 3 games in April. his only hit was a single, but he also had 1 RBI, 1 sac fly, 1 run, 1 intentional walk, 1 stolen base (3rd), and 1 total base. he struck out twice (1 swinging, 1 looking) and left 4 men on base. defensively, he played 18.1 innings, all in left field, and recorded 5 putouts. since this was his first series back after being activated, i'm optimistic that his future numbers against this team will be much better. (he was a PH in 1 game, then played 1 inning in LF after a defensive switch.)

the Indians did not face the Kansas City Royals in April.

Interleague Play

aside from last season, Michael does not have strong career numbers during interleague play. so this year, i decided to add a section into my blogs and keep track of his IL performances myself. in April, he only played two games against one National League opponent, going 1-for-9 and batting .111 overall.

when the Indians played the New York Mets at Progressive Field, Michael was out on a minor league rehab assignment, playing with the Akron RubberDucks, and not activated from the DL yet. he missed all 3 games of the April series.

vs. the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park (no designated hitter allowed), Michael bat .111 (1-for-9) in 2 games in April. he had 1 double, good for 2 total bases. he also struck out twice (1 swinging, 1 looking) and stranded 4 runners. in the field, Michael played 18 innings in left and recorded 5 putouts.

Team Leads, Career Highs, & League Rankings and Not Being a Qualifier

Michael only played in five games this month, so this section is going to be pretty bare. he does not have any career highs for April.

Michael tied for the team lead with 1 intentional walk in April. he was tied for 2nd with 1 sac fly as well. not very flashy, but it's something.

to my surprise, he actually does also rank around the league with his intentional walk and sacrifice fly. the specifics are as follows:

among players in the American League, Michael ranked tied for 9th in intentional walks (1).

among outfielders in the American League, Michael ranked tied for 5th in intentional walks and tied for 6th in sac flies (1).

among left fielders in the American League, Michael ranked tied for 2nd in intentional walks and tied for 3rd in sac flies.

among all major league outfielders, Michael ranked tied for 10th in intentional walks.

among all major league left fielders, Michael ranked tied for 2nd in intentional walks and tied for 6th in sac flies.

in addition, it's important to note that due to all the games he missed, Michael is not a qualifying player and he won't be for a while. in case you're not familiar with the qualifier requirements, let me explain. a player needs 3.1 plate appearances per game, or 502 PA by the end of the year, to be considered a qualifying player and be eligible for the batting title competition. right now, at the conclusion of April, Michael currently has 0.9 PA per game.

because Michael did not play for the first three weeks of the 2016 season and is seemingly going to play sparing in the first few weeks that he's back, i'd venture to guess that he won't become a qualifier until around mid- to late August. and, as i pointed out above in the A New Lineup... section of the blog, if Michael's main BOP remains more towards the middle of the order now as opposed to solely 3rd, there is a slight chance he might not qualify this year at all.

on the other hand, starting next month, Michael will be a qualifier per month, as long as he plays most of the team's games. so i should be able to do comparisons of more of his numbers around the league in my May #s blog. (unless he continues to struggle at the plate and doesn't attain many numbers.)

April Standout Games, Spotlights, and Quotes

on April 24, the day before Michael came off the disabled list, the 2016 All Star ballots were released. to my amazement and relief, there was a slot on there for Michael. (i had worried that he may need to be a write-in candidate until his activation from the DL, but luckily that wasn't the case.) so i wrote a brief blog encouraging fans to vote for Michael. to see that and read up on the new voting rules, click here.

Michael was activated from the DL on April 25, but was not in the starting lineup against the Minnesota Twins, which was very disappointing considering he'd just had off the day before. Jordan Bastian tweeted Terry Francona's reasoning, saying he felt with the team having off on Thursday (April 28), it made sense to play Michael on Tuesday and Wednesday, then Friday and Saturday, and maybe Sunday because the team had off on Monday. Bastian's article on later revealed, however, that Michael did try to talk his way into the lineup, but he was very understanding and willing to do whatever was best for the team.

still, Michael was set to make his debut in the same ballpark where his shoulder injury occurred--Target Field. according to a pregame article on by Paul Hoynes, Michael found no irony in the situation. "hey, i'm back. that's all that matters. it doesn't matter where it is as long as i'm back healthy and able to help the team."

Michael also made it known that he was quite happy the team was doing well in his absence. "they've done great. i made a little joke. i said, 'don't let me put a little wrinkle in this. let's keep going boys.' they're swinging the bats really well. everybody is pulling for each other right now. it's a great all-around team effort."

in the April 25 game, the Indians had started a rally with 2 outs in the top of the 8th inning. Tyler Naquin was at 3rd base and Jose Ramirez was at 1st with the contest tied at 3. i knew what Tom Hamilton was going to say on WTAM 1100 before he said it: Michael was coming to the plate to pinch hit (in the leadoff spot!) for Rajai Davis. the Twins had Ryan Pressly on the mound, and after a 1-2 count, Michael fouled a pitch off. then, on the next offering, he swung and hit a hard liner to left field to end the inning. not exactly how i wanted to see Michael make his 2016 season debut, which can be found at 1:35 in this game recap video from

Michael then remained in the game to man left field in the bottom of the 8th inning, returning to the "scene of the crime." all i could do was pray he didn't need to dive for anything. fortunately, no balls were hit his way. Michael was not as scared as i was though. from Hoynsie's earlier article, he'd said, "whatever happens, i hope i catch it. that's the whole point."

Michael got his first official start of his 2016 campaign in the game against the Twins on April 26. Francona had him batting cleanup for the Tribe. it didn't take Michael long to record his first putout of the season, as he caught a fly ball for the 1st out in the bottom of the 1st inning while playing left at Target Field.

it was a big night of firsts for Michael in the game against the Twins on April 27. be that as it may, the first particular i want to acknowledge was not a pleasant one. it was the top of the 3rd inning, Francisco Lindor was at 2nd base with 1 out, and the Tribe trailed, 3-2. in Michael's second at bat, he had the count even at 2 when he fouled off the next pitch from righty Jose Berrios. then the next pitch was called strike 3, which Michael did not agree with. from what i saw on the GameDay, that ball was more outside the strike zone than the third pitch to Michael, which had been a ball. oh and btw, the home plate umpire was Laz Diaz, a guy who i recall has given the Indians (and Michael specifically) problems in the past regarding his calls. add another BS strikeout looking to Michael's long list of unwarranted backward Ks. you can see it for yourself at 0:44 in the video from here.

Michael's third plate appearance of the night might have been one of the longest he will have all year. the Indians had just taken the lead, 4-3, Jason Kipnis was at 3rd base, and there was 1 out in the top of the 5th inning. left-hander Fernando Abad was pitching then for the Twins. after a 1-2 count, Michael fouled off four straight pitches. the 8th pitch was a ball, and then Michael fouled off another. on the 10th pitch of a 2-2 count, Michael made contact with a 91 mph fastball (per Dennis Manoloff's DMan Report article on and hit a fly ball to left field. it should have been a sacrifice fly, nothing more, except the Twins' left fielder, Eddie Rosario, couldn't make the catch. Kipnis scored from 3rd to extend the Tribe's lead to 5-3, while Michael reached 2nd base on a fielding error. lost in the chaos was the fact that Michael had just acquired his first RBI of the 2016 campaign!

but that was merely the beginning of his firsts. after the Twins made a pitching change and righty Michael Tonkin took the mound, Michael stole 3rd base on the first pitch (a called strike) of Mike Napoli's at bat. it's not often that your first stolen base of the year is 3rd base, but i commend him for going for it. then, on a 2-2 count, Napoli hit a line drive single into center field allowing Michael to score his first run in 2016.

in his fourth plate appearance of the game, yet another first occurred for Michael. it was in the top of 7th inning with 1 out, and right-handed reliever Casey Fien towing the rubber. the Indians held a tight 6-5 lead. after a 2-1 count, Michael got his first hit of 2016 by smacking a line drive single into left field! that ended his 0-for-7 start.

Michael's final first came during his fifth plate appearance in the top of the 9th inning. Lindor was at 2nd base with 2 outs and the Tribe still up, 6-5. right-hander Trevor May swiftly decided to give Michael his first intentional walk of the year in 4 pitches. all-in-all, it was a pretty active night for Michael, who saw an unusual 26 total pitches.

after the game, Andre Knott, in-game reporter for SportsTime Ohio, interviewed Michael on the field. here's a little of what Michael had to say about his at bats, his first hit, and the adjustment period he's going through now that he's back. (the full video can be found on the FOX Sports Ohio youtube channel here.)

"it felt great," Michael replied smiling when asked how good it felt to see a ball land in the green. "i hope it's the first of many."

Knott followed that up by asking how much the at bat before that helped him [in the 5th inning when he fouled off some pitches from a left-handed pitcher]. "yeah it really helped a lot, just trying to get, you know seeing pitches and kind of getting comfortable in the batter's box again. it's an adjustment period, it's gonna take some time but i'm ready for it."

does he feel like he's behind at all with at bats because of what he had to go through in the spring? "maybe a little bit but, you know, it's part of a challenge. i love being out here playing baseball especially with this great group of guys that we got and i'm excited to play each and every day."

regarding Michael's third PA of the game, Bastian shared Francona's postgame thoughts on his Major League Bastian blog ( "that was some kind of at bat. Abad had not given up a run yet, and i know technically he still hasn't, but that was a pretty good at bat. we've seen that from Brantley so many times. he's not going to get beat the wrong way. that was good for him probably to see a lefty."

an excerpt from a Hoynsie article on added, "he's shaking some of the rust off."

the game against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 29 was his first 2-strikeout game--always an oddity any time it happens. to me, that continued to verify that he was simply nowhere near being in "mid-season form." no, Michael does not normally perform well in interleague play as noted above. even so, any day that he strikes out twice is not good no matter who he's facing. the first strikeout came in the top of the 1st inning with Lindor at 1st base, 2 outs, and no score. Phillies southpaw Adam Moore was making his 2016 season debut, and on the 7th pitch of a 3-2 count, Michael swung and missed to end the top half of the inning.

Michael's second strikeout took place when he led off the top of the 6th inning with the game tied at 3. right-hander Andrew Bailey was pitching at that time for Philly, and after a 1-2 count, strike 3 was called--and that strikeout looking was legit. but it accounted for Michael's fourth strikeout in only 13 total plate appearances. you may never see that from Michael Brantley ever again. (and this is another reason why i wanted him to play more rehab games prior to being activated.)

finally, Michael's fourth AB of the night yielded a good result. left-hander Elvis Araujo was pitching in the top of the 8th inning. Michael came to the plate with 2 outs and the game still tied at 3. after a 3-1 count, Michael slapped a line drive to right field for his first double of 2016! that also represented his first extra base hit of the campaign!

defensively, this marked Michael's first extra innings game of the season. he didn't play that much extra in left field, however. he was out there for three outs in the bottom of the 10th, but shortly after he took his position there in the bottom of the 11th, the Phillies got a leadoff walk-off homer to end the game. i had been concerned that if the game went really long, would Michael be able to play the following day as originally planned. and i wondered whether Tito would make a defensive substitution at some point because he wouldn't want Michael playing that much in two days so soon after coming back. but they never played long enough for any of that to come into question.

the only thing of note about the April 30 game against the Phillies was that Michael was back to batting 3rd in the lineup. a familiar role indeed, yet he could not manage a hit in any of his four at bats.

Spotlight On 2-Baggers**

at the start of 2016, Michael, despite being on the DL, boasted the most doubles in the American League since 2014. he had 90, while Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros was behind him with 87 and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers was 3rd with 80 doubles. the next player in line, if you include the National League, was Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets with 78.

on April 14, with Michael still not playing with the Indians yet, Altuve finally passed him by acquiring double #91 during his game.

through the month of April, the new doubles leader board from 2014 to the present is as follows:
Jose Altuve - 98
Michael Brantley - 91
Miguel Cabrera - 86
Yoenis Cespedes - 82

(i was first alerted to this information by Paul Hoynes on May 12, 2015, and then Jordan Bastian took it to an overall MLB scale on September 25. i will continue to monitor and document this throughout the 2016 season.)

**in the future, this section will be included in my "#s Through..." blogs only.

In The Field

there's not much to talk about here since Michael didn't play a lot in the field in April. rumor has it Michael will exclusively be playing left field this season, and that is where he played his five games this month. in total, he recorded 10 putouts and had a 1.000 fielding percentage. i'm hoping we'll see Michael execute some perfect throws from left to obtain a couple outfield assists next month when he plays in more games.

coming into 2016, Michael had played 19 straight games in the outfield without committing an error. add the five games he appeared in this month to that and he's got a 24-game errorless streak going. i mention this only because Michael set an Indians franchise record back in 2014 with 247 errorless games and until his first error last season, it looked probable that he might break his own record. it would take more than one season to achieve that now, but he's gotta start somewhere. while i may not document this here every month, i will be keeping track of it on my own, and i'll let you know if he gets close again.

now let's break down the numbers. i am going to document his April #s, the leadoff #s vs. the non-leadoff #s combined, the 4th spot #s, the 3rd spot #s, and the PH #s, as well as the left field #s, the BOP + left field #s, and overall outfield #s.

April batting average: .118

OBP: .158

SLG: .176

OPS: .334

Michael played in 5 (of 21) games, 4 complete, in April.

he started and played left in 4 games, completing 4 of those games, appearing in 5 total. he was a defensive switch in 1 game for 1 inning after a PH appearance.

he came in to PH in the top of the 8th inning for 1 game.

he missed 16 games because he was still on the DL and rehabbing from right shoulder surgery/out on a minor league rehab assignment.

Michael bat leadoff in 1 game. (PH)

Michael bat 4th in 3 games.

Michael bat 3rd in 1 game.

Michael played left field in 5 games. (4 complete, 1 defensive switch: 1 inning)

Michael was the PH in 1 game.

Michael played in 4 complete games.

in April, Michael had a total of 19 plate appearances and 17 at bats. here is how he fared:

2 hits

1 extra base hit

1 single

1 double


1 sac fly

1 run

1 walk

1 intentional walk

1 stolen base (3rd)

4 strikeouts (2 swinging, 2 looking)

3 total bases

8 left on base

10 putouts

36.1 innings, 5 games

(4 complete games)

April batting average: .118 (2-17) (5 games)

now let's break down his numbers based on where he hit in the lineup.

when Michael bat leadoff in April, he had a total of 1 plate appearance and 1 at bat in 1 game. breaking down the numbers are as follows:

0 hits

2 left on base

1 inning, 1 game

April batting average in the leadoff spot: .000 (0-1) (1 game)

when Michael bat leadoff and played left in April, he had no plate appearances and no at bats in 1 game. breaking down the numbers are as follows:

1 inning, 1 game

April batting average in the leadoff spot while playing left: N/A (1 game)

when Michael bat leadoff, he was a PH in April for 1 game. he had a total of 1 plate appearance and 1 at bat. breaking down the numbers are as follows:

0 hits

2 left on base

1 game

April batting average as a PH in the leadoff spot: .000 (0-1) (1 game)

when Michael came in to PH in April, he had a total of 1 plate appearance and 1 at bat in 1 game. breaking down the numbers are as follows:

0 hits

2 left on base

1 game

April batting average as a PH: .000 (0-1) (1 game)

when Michael bat everywhere other than leadoff in April, he had a total of 18 plate appearances and 16 at bats in 4 games. breaking down the numbers are as follows:

2 hits

1 extra base hit

1 single

1 double


1 sac fly

1 run

1 walk

1 intentional walk

1 stolen base (3rd)

4 strikeouts (2 swinging, 2 looking)

3 total bases

6 left on base

10 putouts

35.1 innings, 4 games

(4 complete games)

April batting average everywhere other than leadoff: .125 (2-16) (4 games)
April batting average everywhere other than leadoff while playing left: .125 (2-16) (4 games)

now let's break down the numbers when he was not leading off.

when Michael bat 4th in April, he had a total of 14 plate appearances and 12 at bats in 3 games. breaking down the numbers are as follows:

2 hits

1 extra base hit

1 single

1 double


1 sac fly

1 run

1 walk

1 intentional walk

1 stolen base (3rd)

4 strikeouts (2 swinging, 2 looking)

3 total bases

3 left on base

8 putouts

27.1 innings, 3 games

(3 complete games)

April batting average in the 4th spot: .167 (2-12) (3 games)
April batting average in the 4th spot while playing left: .167 (2-12) (3 games)

when Michael bat 3rd in April, he had a total of 4 plate appearances and 4 at bats in 1 game. breaking down the numbers are as follows:

0 hits

3 left on base

2 putouts

8 innings, 1 game

(1 complete game)

April batting average in the 3rd spot: .000 (0-4) (1 game)
April batting average in the 3rd spot while playing left: .000 (0-4) (1 game)

when Michael played the outfield in April, he had a total of 18 plate appearances and 16 at bats in 5 games. breaking down the numbers are as follows:

2 hits

1 extra base hit

1 single

1 double


1 sac fly

1 run

1 walk

1 intentional walk

1 stolen base (3rd)

4 strikeouts (2 swinging, 2 looking)

3 total bases

6 left on base

10 putouts

36.1 innings, 5 games

(4 complete games)

April batting average while playing the outfield: .125 (2-16) (5 games)

now let's break down his numbers specific to where he played in the outfield.

when Michael played left in April, he had a total of 18 plate appearances and 16 at bats in 5 games. breaking down the numbers are as follows:

2 hits

1 extra base hit

1 single

1 double


1 sac fly

1 run

1 walk

1 intentional walk

1 stolen base (3rd)

4 strikeouts (2 swinging, 2 looking)

3 total bases

6 left on base

10 putouts

36.1 innings, 5 games

(4 complete games)

April batting average while playing left: .125 (2-16) (5 games)

April #s while playing left: 10 putouts, 0 assists, 0 errors, 1.000 fielding percentage (36.1 innings, 5 games)

April #s while playing the outfield: 10 putouts, 0 assists, 0 errors, 1.000 fielding percentage (36.1 innings, 5 games)

now here are my game-by-game numbers and notes.

April 4: Indians Home Opener game postponed due to snow/rain & cold, to be made up April 5 at 1:10 pm.

Game 0/1, April 5: still on DL.

Game 0/2, April 6: still on DL.

April 7: game postponed, to be made up August 15 at 1:10 pm.

Game 0/3, April 8: still on DL.

Game 0/4, April 9: still on DL.

April 10: game postponed, to be made up May 23 at 5:10 pm in a traditional DH.

Game 0/5, April 12: still on DL, on a minor league rehab assignment with the Columbus Clippers.

Game 0/6, April 13: still on DL, scheduled off day.

Game 0/7, April 14: still on DL, on a minor league rehab assignment with the Akron RubberDucks.

Game 0/8, April 15: still on DL, scheduled off day.

Game 0/9, April 16: still on DL, on a minor league rehab assignment with the RubberDucks.

Game 0/10, April 17: still on DL, scheduled off day.

April 18: still on DL, on a minor league rehab assignment with the RubberDucks.

Game 0/11, April 19: still on DL, scheduled off day.

Game 0/12, April 20: still on DL, on a minor league rehab assignment with the RubberDucks.

Game 0/13, April 21: still on DL, scheduled off day.

Game 0/14, April 22: still on DL, on a minor league rehab assignment with the Clippers.

Game 0/15, April 23: still on DL, on a minor league rehab assignment with the Clippers.

Game 0/16, April 24: still on DL, scheduled off day.

**this is when Michael was activated from the DL, but he was not in the starting lineup.**

Game 1/17, April 25: 0-1. AVG: .000

^^Michael did not start this game, but came in to pinch hit in the top of the 8th inning. then he stayed in the game as a defensive switch for the bottom of the 8th and 9th innings. however, no out was recorded in the bottom of the 9th, so he technically only played 1 inning on the night.^^

Game 2/18, April 26: 0-4. AVG: .000

Game 3/19, April 27: 1-3, RBI sac fly/reached 2nd on fielding error, stolen base (3rd), run, single, intentional walk. AVG: .125

Game 4/20, April 29: 1-5, double. AVG: .154

Game 5/21, April 30: 0-4. AVG: .118

Looking Ahead to May

in all likelihood, Michael is not going to play a "full" month of May because he's not physically ready for that yet. he will have to sit out some days. it's probable he'll continue on a 2 days on, 1 day off type of schedule going into the next month for the first few weeks. ultimately, he could be forced into a part-time/platoon-type role as he builds up his strength and conditioning as well as the ability to tolerate playing multiple complete games in a row on a consistent basis. if that's what is best for him and will keep him from suffering a serious setback, then we'll just have to accept it.

one last thing before i leave you until next month. it's feasible that Michael will endure more struggles in the first part of May. (and please go easy on the guy if he does!) i know that until Michael gets himself going again, his minimal numbers and stats won't provide much to be excited about. but that's not going to stop me from doing all the usual calculations. i will support him and stick with him no matter what. he's gonna come out of this, it just might take several more games. and i bet you that we never see another season where Michael ends his April batting .118 ever again!

in the meantime, while we're waiting for Dr. Smooth to reemerge, we should all lend a hand and vote for Michael to go this year's All Star Game in San Diego. details on how to vote can be found here. i don't want him to get left out of this simply because he began the season on the DL and then had a slow start upon his return. please vote! i know Michael will appreciate it!

if you missed any of the Brantley blogs i wrote during the offseason, i will list and link them all here.

Surgery and Rehab:
Brantley Has Right Shoulder Surgery, Will Miss Start of 2016 Season
What Is Labral Tear Shoulder Surgery?
Brantley News From the 2015 Winter Meetings
Brantley Confirmed For Tribe Fest 2016 + Health Updates
Brantley News & Shoulder Rehab Progression Through January 2016
Brantley's February 2016 Shoulder Updates & Hitting Program News
Brantley's March 2016 Hitting Advancements (Soft Toss to ON THE FIELD BP!)
Brantley To Open Indians' 2016 Season On 15-Day DL
Brantley's 2016 Spring Training & In-Season Rehab Details
Brantley's 2016 Cactus League & Minor League Rehab #s and My Expectations

Brantley Wins 2015 Bob Feller Man Of The Year Award
Brantley Finishes T28 For BBWAA's 2015 AL MVP Award

Brantley Ranked 1st in MLB Network's Top 10 Left Fielders Right Now
Brantley Ranked 31st in MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now
Brantley Ranked 80th in Baseball Tonight's Top 100 Players
Brantley Ranked 4th in Baseball Tonight's Top 10 Left Fielders

Vote Brantley For MLB's 2016 All Star Game!

don't forget to follow me on twitter @clevelandgirl23 for daily updates and information about Michael all throughout this season! and make sure you've signed up for my email subscription list on the right side of this blog to receive email alerts whenever a new blog is posted!

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