Before his short reign as Major League Baseball commissioner, Bart Giamatti had one of the best quotes regarding baseball, “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.”
As they head into the 2016 postseason, they remain in a less than optimal position. Their fourth starter, Trevor Bauer, is starting Game One of the ALDS and their rotation has been rid of its prized depth thanks to injuries to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. Several key offensive players also slumped their way through September including Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis and Francisco Lindor.
Yet counting this team out feels incredibly premature. They’ve made a habit of overcoming struggles and charging back when they were counted out.
The 2016 season seemed almost exclusively designed to break the Indians heart. Michael Brantley’s inability to return from a shoulder injury, Yan Gomes’ struggles & multiple injuries combined with several maladies to the team’s starting rotation would have destroyed lesser teams. Yet the Cleveland Indians won 94 games and endured all of this season’s slings and arrows.
Trevor Bauer Is The Key To A Long Postseason Run– With Terry Francona’s decision to start Bauer in Game One of the ALDS, a long held suspicion of mine became apparent. The Indians will go as far in these playoffs as Trevor Bauer can carry them. That’s a bit of pressure for a kid known to spend a lot of time in his own head and who will be making his postseason debut.
Bauer improved on innings, ERA & peripheral stats this year including FIP & WAR. Yet he struggled in the second half and produced just 2 of his last 7 outings which qualified as quality starts.
While he certainly deserves CY Young consideration this year, Ace Corey Kluber is just one pitcher. For the Indians to advance past this round, they will need at least one other starter to break out in a big way. With the positioning he’s being given, that makes Bauer the guy.
If Bauer can provide consistency throughout these playoffs, it would be a nice sign that he’s finally paying off the potential he’s teased since being acquired 4 years ago.
What Can Yan Gomes Give You- Credit Indians Catcher Yan Gomes for one of the biggest “feel good” moments of the year at the end of the season.
2 separate injuries kept Gomer out since mid-July and he wasn’t supposed to come back this year.
The Indians surprisingly activated Gomes before the end of the season and he rewarded them in his first at bat back in the big leagues with a 2-run home run.
While Gomes 2016 regular season produced a .167 batting average he is an obvious weapon in the playoffs. His defensive abilities and right handed pop could be an asset to the Indians should their playoff run be extended.
Dreaming About Danny Salazar- No player represented the torrent of ups and downs Indians fans had to endure this season than Danny Salazar.
The young righty was a legitimate CY Young contender through the first half of the season. Starting at the All Star break though, he was plagued by arm issues and ended up being shut down late in the year.
While Salazar’s impact on the rotation will likely be nil in the postseason, he offers the Indians an enticing option out of the bullpen.
The Tribe’s pen headed by Cody Allen and Andrew Miller is already phenomenal but considering the rotation will need to rely on Josh Tomlin and other unknowns, Salazar offers a tantalizing option.
Could the Indians deploy him in a similar fashion as Andrew Miller? Should a starter be forced out of the game in less than 6 innings, Salazar could pitch 1-2 high leverage innings bridging the gap to the rest of the pen.
While this is likely a one or two time occurrence in each series that could easily be enough to swing momentum in a series. It’s hard to ignore that Salazar could still be the key to the Indians attempts at a World Series run.