The Cleveland Indians have not been firing on all cylinders to the season (at least by the standards of last season) with a 20-19 record heading into their weekend series in Texas with the Houston Astros, who own the best record in baseball at 29-12. There have been a few issues that the Indians have had in their first 39 games to start the season but which of their issues is the biggest concern for the Indians going forward?
One of the issues that has arisen is a problem that the Indians and most of their fans didn’t see coming: starting rotation issues. The starting pitchers’ ERA is currently second to last in all of baseball at 5.15 (the Cincinnati Reds are the only team worse at 5.57). That’s nearly a full run higher than the average in the American League (4.18) and a bit more than eight-tenths of a run higher than the MLB average (4.32). Danny Salazar has a 2-4 record with an ERA of 5.66 in eight starts, Josh Tomlin has a record of 2-5 with an ERA of 6.86 in eight starts, Trevor Bauer is 3-4 with a 6.92 ERA in seven starts, and Corey Kluber is 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA in only six starts. Kluber has only had six starts because another issue that the Indians have had this season: injuries.
The Indians, as of May 19, have six players that are day-to-day or on the disabled list. Kluber has been out since May 2 with a lower back strain. He’s hoping to return to the team by the end of May or early June. Carlos Carrasco, who has been the one consistent starting pitcher for Cleveland, with left pectoral tightness on May 15. The Indians are hoping to get him back on either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Outfielder Abraham Almonte was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a severe strain of the biceps tendon. He’s hoping to return in late June or early July. Outfielder Brandon Guyer is hoping for a return around the time of Almonte as he was put on the 10-day DL on May 14 with a left wrist injury. Outfielder Austin Jackson has been out since May 1 with a hyper-extended left big toe and he’s hoping to return by the end of the month. Pitcher Cody Anderson has been out since spring training and will be out until part way through the season next year with Tommy John surgery. Second basemen Jason Kipnis also was out for most of spring training and the first month of the season with a nagging shoulder injury. Since he has returned, he has struggled as he only has a .205/.237/.318 slashline which is part of another problem for the Indians: the lack of offense.
The Indians offense has performed poorly to start the season. They are 22nd in baseball in runs, 27th in hits, 14th in doubles, 22nd in home-runs, 20th in average, and 17th in on-base percentage. First basemen and designated hitter Carlos Santana has played in every single game this season and is only hitting .226 (he hit .259 in 2016). Abraham Almonte, before he got injured, was only hitting .221 in 33 games and the Indians biggest off-season pickup, Edwin Encarnacion, is only hitting .203 with six home runs in 39 games.
Of these three main issues with the Indians, the biggest is health and injuries. After all, the Indians had a bevy of injuries last season (Yan Gomes, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer all had injuries that impacted Cleveland in their post-season run last year). The Indians went all the way to the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series last year. If they are healthy, the starting pitching and the offense will figure out their problems and Cleveland will win the American League Central and they definitely will have a shot at the elusive World Championship.
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