Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Went Wrong for the Cleveland Indians in the 2017 ALDS

it's all over but the crying. i think i've already used that as a lede in one of my older blogs, but it sure is appropriate again now. last night, the Cleveland Indians lost to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series and were eliminated from postseason play. so what's next? the grieving period.😭 before anyone can look ahead, we must accept the reality and mourn what just happened if need be. part of that process for me involves going back over everything in my head and wondering why certain moves were or were not made.

typically, when things don't go the way we want them to, there's gonna be a scapegoat. and i know a lot of people are currently pointing their finger at the guy leading the charge, much to the players' dismay. the most i've ever criticized Terry Francona since he's been the manager here is by conceding that he can be too loyal to his players at times, particularly when they are struggling. i've never harshly gone in on him before, but i'm going in on him now.😠

photo courtesy of John Kuntz via The Plain Dealer

Tito had all the
starting pitching he needed this year, but he didn't use it!

so let's start here. the Indians played five games. Francona had six starters on his 25-man roster, but only three were actually used as starters. something is wrong with that math. 

Josh Tomlin should have started Game 4. when Tito used him out of the bullpen, he pitched 3.0 innings and yielded four strikeouts in two games. but Tomlin never should have been part of the bullpen; we needed that arm in the rotation.

Trevor Bauer volunteered to pitch Game 4 because he felt he didn't need a full four days of rest in between starts. Francona should have said thanks, but no thanks. that's cute Bauer wanted to pitch, but i wouldn't mess around with trying that experiment out in a freakin' playoff setting. like i wrote last night, who's really running this show, Tito? you or the players?

Corey Kluber was not right. we may never learn the full truth, but Francona revealed Kluber was "fighting a lot," which everyone took to mean he was either dealing with his back issue again or another problem that had him rattled. but for the guy who's likely going to win the 2017 AL Cy Young Award to pitch only 6.1 innings and give up nine earned runs in two starts in a playoff series, you can't tell me nothing was going on. and if Tito was aware of it, maybe he should have considered using another starter for Game 5, such as Bauer (had he not pitched Game 4) or Danny Salazar, especially knowing Klubes did not pitch well in Game 2 and the Tribe was very lucky to walk away from that contest with a W. i don't get how Kluber was "hurt" in October after being named AL Pitcher of the Month for September.🤷

The Catcher Dilemma

Francona really stressed over which catcher to use in Game 5 to catch and call pitches for Kluber. ultimately, he settled on Roberto Perez. the reasoning behind that was he felt Perez was better at making in-game adjustments, referencing back to the game he caught in the American League Championship Series last year when Bauer left early with his bloody finger and Perez caught what turned into a bullpen game. Tito also cited wanting Perez's bat in the lineup because he'd been getting hot. but Yan Gomes was Kluber's usual catcher for 2017, with the exception of a few games towards the end of the regular season. i think many fans would like to know how Gomes would have planned to pitch to Didi Gregorius and if that would have made any difference in the outcome of the game and the series.

Where's the Rest of Our Bullpen?

poor guys like Nick Goody, Dan Otero, and Zach McAllister didn't even make the 25-man because Francona insisted on stuffing both Mike Clevinger and barely used Salazar on there. Salazar pitched 1.2 innings in Game 4, btw, and that was it. geez, thanks for coming! it was like Tito didn't even trust him to take the ball. then why'd he make the postseason roster?

as for using Clevinger out of the bullpen, i didn't like it. he always walks people and then gives up hits as a reliever. case in point, in 1.1 innings in this series, he allowed one home run and four walks. it seems like he's best utilized when he can do his full starting routine. so if Francona felt like he didn't need Clev as a starter, then he shouldn't have put him on the roster either.

i don't know why you mess with what worked well for you all season. trust and have faith in the bullpen that had the lowest ERA in baseball this year. i understand the point of having an extra starter in the pen for length in case anything goes wrong, but we didn't need three. starters should be starters and relievers should be relievers. don't change it. 

Thank God Brantley's Out of There!😲

i am appalled by the number of fans who think putting Michael Brantley in the lineup was a large reason for the Indians' elimination. i saw the rants stating he had no business being on the roster and Yandy Diaz should have replaced him. um, do you really think Yandy was going to be able to hit the likes of Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, and Dellin Betances? okay. sure, Jan.

first off, Michael only played in three of the five games. early on, he was swinging and missing at balls outside the zone, but so were A LOT of other guys, including Francisco Lindor AND Jose Ramirez (who went a combined 4-for-38 with 13 strikeouts in the series, fyi). aside from the fact that the strike zone was very questionable, some swings that our guys took were completely unnecessary. Michael was simply rusty; what was everyone else's excuse?

yes, Michael was using the ALDS as a rehab assignment. he took over the DH role when Edwin Encarnacion left Game 2 after the 1st inning with a right ankle sprain. Francona revealed Michael was going to play left field in Game 3, but when EE was ruled out for that game, it was easier to just use Michael as the DH. in his third game of the series, which was Game 4, Michael was already improving at the plate, having better at bats and starting to get back to his regular self. and then he doesn't play at all in Game 5. i was fine with the decision to keep him on the bench against lefty Yankees starter CC Sabathia because he's never hit him in his career. but why Francona didn't even bother to try him as a pinch hitter later in the game when the Tribe was down, i have no idea. in three games, Michael went 1-for-11 with one single, one walk, and four strikeouts. (much more info on this can be found in my Brantley's 2017 ALDS #s blog.) if the Indians had advanced to the Championship Series, i'm confident we would have seen more of the ballplayer that Michael really is when he's healthy.

Encarnacion came back to start Game 5, and numerous fans were so happy that Brantley was outta there. what'd EE do in the contest? he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. and in his three total games, he finished 0-for-7 with a walk and hit by pitch. Michael got the one and only hit by an Indians designated hitter in the ALDS. so technically, Michael did better.

funny thing is, had Michael been left off the 25-man roster, and had this series still ended in a loss, those fans calling for his head right now would be the same ones saying Michael should have been on the roster and in the lineup and we probably would have won if he had been. there's just no making some people happy.😒

and let's get one thing straight--Michael Brantley did not "struggle" in the ALDS, he was merely "out of practice" due to missing 50 games in August and September. there's a difference, get it right.😛

i want to touch on one more thing from Game 4 real quick. Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael shouldn't have bat back-to-back. you cannot have two guys coming back from injury batting together in the lineup like that. split 'em up or don't play them both. overall, Chiz played in four games and went 0-for-5. he did have that now infamous hit-by-pitch, which in hindsight is why the series even went five games, but still. if you want to argue that Michael should have been left off the roster, the exact same thing could be said for Chiz.

Is Jason Kipnis Trade Bait Now?

now let's talk about our center fielder, Jason Kipnis. he was 4-for-22 with eight strikeouts in all five games. that's not great either, especially from your #2 hitter. combine that with Frankie and Josey and our Top 3 guys went 8-for-60 with 21 strikeouts. you can't win a series with a lack of production like that from the first three guys in the order, plain and simple.

i read that people had a problem with Kip batting 2nd, but i didn't like him playing in center. there were a couple of balls hit out there that he didn't catch, and they made me curious: would Greg Allen or even Bradley Zimmer (if he was healthy) have dove for and gotten to them? this is the perfect segue for another topic that's been on my mind as of late.

truth be told, i don't see how/where Kippy fits on this team next year unless the Indians are planning on declining Brantley's club option and then putting Kip over in left field. because if you have Zimmer back in center, Chiz in right, and Tito wants to keep Ramirez and Lindor in the middle of the diamond with a combo of Diaz/Giovanny Urshela/Erik Gonzalez over at 3rd base, where does Kip go? if they don't bring back free agent Carlos Santana to play 1st base, and do pick up Michael's option, would Brant play 1st in order for Kip to have a place to play in left?

my thoughts on Michael potentially playing 1st: i realize fans hate him in left, but if you're afraid that his shoulder and (now) ankle are fragile, do you really want to see him having to exhibit more and quicker footwork over at 1st base and make more dives to try and keep balls from going into right field? really? i think there's just as much a risk of him hurting himself again there than in left, so just leave him in left. and for the record, a player is not "injury-prone" when he's only had serious injuries in two of his nine total seasons. please enlighten me: if y'all think Brant is injury-prone, what does that make Kipnis?🙄

i will address more about the future of this roster in a blog i plan to write next month. but beware, i think the make-up of the Indians could be shockingly different by 2019, starting as soon as next year.

so that's about all i can come up with right now. i know i went a little off-topic, but my head is spinning. leave your thoughts in a comment below about what you would have done in regards to the 25-man roster, starting rotation, and bullpen if you were the manager of this team. and let me know who you're rooting for in the postseason now that the Indians are out of it, or if you don't care anymore. i'm probably not going to watch any games, but i'll likely be rooting for the Dodgers to win.💩

if you're not already following me on twitter, please do @clevelandgirl23. i'll be on high alert for any and all Michael Brantley news, including whether or not the Indians pick up his option. i, for one, am certainly not ready to say goodbye to Dr. Smooth yet.😰

don't forget you can also join my subscription list to get email alerts when i post all my upcoming wrap up and offseason blogs. just enter your address in the box underneath the Blog Archive sidebar over on the upper right side of the page.📧

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