CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Expectations are a funny thing, and they usually lead to disappointment. Though, in some cases, leaving expectations low can leave the door open for a runaway train of positive surprises.
Sometimes, no matter the expectations, someone (or something) can go so far above and beyond that there is no room for criticism. That may apply to one certain All-Star starter from the first place Cleveland Indians.
Let’s hand out some Mid-Season grades for everyone who has seen time with the team.
Jose Ramirez – There was legitimate concern for a regression after Ramirez posted a breakout 2016 campaign, or maybe that is what sportswriters tell themselves after a prediction goes completely wrong.
Not only did Ramirez not regress, he improved exponentially, sitting 7th among position players in fWAR at 3.9. If not for Aaron Judge’s shoo-in MVP season thus far, the Tribe third baseman would be in the thick of the discussion.
Corey Kluber – The Indians ace seemingly had no way to improve beyond “top-5 pitcher in baseball,” so naturally, he has been a top-5 pitcher in baseball. The right-hander missed almost a month with a strained lower back, yet finds himself right on the tail of Chris Sale for the AL Cy Young Race.
Carlos Carrasco – In the absence of Kluber, and in the struggles of the other three members of the team’s rotation, Carrasco has been a second ace. Comparing the #2 starter to Kluber may skew his value, but Carrasco is 12th among all starters in fWAR. His consistency has been much needed, and could be as key a reason for the Indians being in first place as any.
Francisco Lindor – The 2017 season has been a disappointment for Lindor, all-in-all, but that is where those pesky expectations cloud things.
Lindor has regressed to this point in almost all major categories outside of power numbers, which are largely the explanation for his other numbers dropping. Lindor began using the rest of the field closer to the All-Star break and there is reason to believe he will continue to return to form.
Andrew Miller – The ALCS MVP has not quite been world beater that he was in the playoffs, at least not for the entirety. That being said, Miller has the third-highest WAR among relievers, but has thrown seven more innings than the two pitchers (Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen) ahead of him.
We know that relievers are largely judged only by their failures, and Miller has been equally good in more time.
Lonnie Chisenhall – The reason Chisenhall is appearing so early on this list is because he sits sixth on the team in fWAR. That should say all that needs to be said.
The right fielder is bordering on career highs in all statistical categories and is second on the team in most. His final arbitration year is coming up this off-season, and as it stands now, Chisenhall is setting himself up for quite a jump in salary.
Bradley Zimmer – The organization’s top prospect was a surprise call up, but in 49 games has put himself in a position to hold down center field for the foreseeable future.
The speed is a game-changer, but Zimmer has shown above average aptitude at the plate and in the field. There is plenty of room for growth, but the rookie will also have to adjust to his opponents’ adjustments.
Trevor Bauer – After a start that put him statistically as the worst pitcher in baseball, Bauer has bounced back to even out his season. The ERA has come back to earth, but the right-hander is posting a solid 25.8 K% and a 47.3 groundball%.
If Bauer continues at this rate, people will have long forgotten about his rough start and begin talking about the 26-year old finally reaching his potential. As for now, the year has still been somewhat disappointing in terms of results, and Bauer would likely be the first to tell you that.
Edwin Encarnacion – When a team makes a big signing, and there are not instant results, there will be a general rush to judgement. This was the case with Edwin Encarnacion.
In order to correctly assess the slugger’s production, there has to be an understanding of how he operates, and a mid-season grade will almost always be inaccurate in describing Encarnacion.
He had a slow start, per usual, then was baseball’s best hitter for much of June. The beginning of July has seen Encarnacion come back to earth, but fans can count on another extended breakout to even out the numbers.
As of now, the veteran cleanup hitter’s numbers are ever slightly below his average production by the mid-way point.
Michael Brantley – Judging a .300 hitter nowadays has become difficult, with the emergence of weighted metrics, but the All-Star has fought through adversity to have another solid season.
As the team’s three-hitter, his job description changes based on each at-bat, and the left-hander always delivers a competitive approach. His defensive metrics are not groundbreaking, but he has also shown effectiveness with his arm.
Josh Tomlin – The much maligned right-hander has had his ups and downs, like always, and his numbers are only just worse than last year. The home runs are down but the batting average on balls in play are at an unsustainable .347, ballooning his ERA to 5.90.
Mike Clevinger – The young right-hander has taken a giant step forward this season, and has filled in the gap at the back end of the rotation left by Danny Salazar. For the time he has been on the mound, Clevinger has rarely struggled, but his downfall has been laboring through innings and walks.
The results have been good, but the peripheral numbers have been similar to Bauer’s. That means both will most likely even out. For now, Clevinger has proven to be a capable Major Leaguer.
Yan Gomes – The song remains the same for Gomes: the defense has been tremendous, while the offense has been virtually non-existent.
The view on Gomes steers one of two ways. The offense is either redeemed by the defense, or the albatross at the plate is more of a liability than the defense is an advantage. Both could be right, but Gomes still carries a 0.7 fWAR in part time duties.
Carlos Santana – After a career year in 2016, Santana is having the worst offensive year of his career. Santana must supplement his offensive game with walks and power to make up for his low average. While the home runs are about on par with the rest of his career, the walk rate is the lowest it has ever been.
For a player who lives on walks, that makes for a bad career year.
Bryan Shaw – Terry Francona’s dependable setup man is two different people when pitching with runners on and when he enters without traffic. He has the most appearances of any pitcher on the team and has respectable metrics.
Cody Allen – Allen has been more than apt this season, even winning a Reliever of the Month to start the year. He has had ups and downs, but has largely been successful and is also another pitcher suffering from a high BABIP. Surges in that category normally indicate bad luck or bad defense.
Austin Jackson – Injuries have been a struggle for Jackson in his career, and this year is no different, but the veteran has filled a gap in an oft-injured outfield this season. He has only played 37 games, but in that time has had the third highest wOBA on the team.
Danny Salazar – Salazar was poor when he was on the mound, and that was not long. The strikeout numbers were incredible, but the walks and home runs made for trouble. He has been missed most of the season on the DL, but is close to returning. Don’t read too much into his rehab numbers.
Nick Goody – The off-season acquisition has been a great surprise for Terry Francona, providing another reliable arm from the pen. The righty has taken the Bryan Shaw role when Shaw is either unavailable or is filling up for Allen or Miller, and Goody has been consistent in that time.
Jason Kipnis – The former All-Star has a number of reasons to explain his poor start. He has been injured in three separate ways this year, missed the majority of Spring Training and the early part of the season, and is sporting a .252 BABIP.
Kipnis was putting things together before his most recent injury, and there are reasons to believe his BABIP will migrate closer to his .315 career mark.
Erik Gonzalez – The young utility man has played himself into a role as the team’s top utility man, but he also may have played himself into a starting role on another team who covets him come deadline time. In 23 games, the 25-year old has been positive on offense and defense.
Boone Logan – The matchup lefty’s appearances have been sparse as of late, but it hasn’t been for lack of performance. Logan is third on the team in FIP, despite a .375 BABIP.
Zack McAllister – The former starter has been streaky, but has been largely effective against righties. As the season has carried on, his numbers have evened out, and he has been a middle of the road reliever overall.
Dan Otero – “O.T.” has been good in long relief situations, and has been dependable when needed. Typical ups and downs for a reliever.
Michael Martinez – Everybody’s favorite utility man was solid in his first stint with the club, relatively speaking, putting up a .364 average and 153 wRC+ in 14 plate appearances. Martinez’s job was to be a defensive replacement for Yandy Diaz early, and he also appeared on the mound. The 34-year old was designated for assignment, traded to the Rays, and then returned on a minor league contract.
Ryan Merritt – Merritt went four innings in his only start, giving up two runs in a win over the Twins.
Tyler Naquin – The intriguing prospect amassed only 18 plate appearances before being demoted, and poster below-replacement numbers, though barely. He injured his back in Columbus and missed time, but has played well in Triple-A
Shawn Armstrong – Armstrong has been below average at the major league level in low-leverage situations, and has been above average at Triple-A. Something can be said for his constant state of flux, but the prospect still has growing to do.
Giovanny Urshela – The defensive specialist is hitless in five plate appearances.
Brandon Guyer – The platoon outfielder struggled in the early going before missing the majority of the year with a sprained wrist. In 74 plate appearances, he is below the Mendoza-line, but has been a plus defender.
Abraham Almonte – The switch hitter has played well when not injured, but has only appeared in 37 games. Almonte has shown an improved eye at the plate, which has given a boost to his offensive game.
Roberto Perez – The backup catcher’s numbers are deceiving, offensively. Gomes’ backup is among the best defensive catchers in the game, even ahead of Gomes because of his pitch-framing abilities. The offensive numbers at the plate are atrocious in a vacuum, but Perez has shown a knack for hitting in the clutch so far this year. Those numbers are generally fluky, but Perez’s clutch dates back to the playoffs.
Daniel Robertson – The sparkplug brought some needed aspects to the team as a fill-in outfielder, but his performance was largely sub-par. Negative at the plate and in the field, Robertson did not put many hard-hit balls in play.
Yandy Diaz – After exploding in Spring Training, Diaz’s weaknesses were exposed in the early going. Most of the weaknesses have been correctable issues with his swing, as the young third baseman/corner outfielder is now destroying the ball in Triple-A. He will be back.