Even when a team plays well, sometimes it’s impossible to gain ground, and that was unfortunately the case for the Cleveland Indians this past week.
The Tribe went 4-2 this week and is currently riding a four-game win streak, including a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers. With their record at 56-48, the Indians trail the Detroit Tigers by three games in the American League Central.
The one negative is that while the Indians had a successful week, the Tigers had an even better one as they went 6-1, and actually gained ground on the Indians.
Regardless, the most positive takeaway from the week is that the Indians did play well, so hopefully that trend carries over into this week. With that being said, let’s take a look at the week that was for the Indians…
July 22 at Seattle, L 2-1 (WP: Harang, LP: Jimenez)
July 23 at Seattle, L 4-3 (WP: Ramirez, LP: McAllister)
July 24 at Seattle, W 10-1 (WP: Kazmir, LP: Saunders)
July 26 vs. Texas, W 11-8 (WP: Shaw, LP: Frasor)
July 27 vs. Texas, W 1-0 (WP: Masterson, LP: Darvish)
July 28 vs. Texas, W 6-0 (WP: Jimenez, LP: Ogando)
Player of the Week
Ubaldo Jimenez — Starting pitcher
2 GS, 1-1, 13.2 IP, 2 R/ER, 2 HR, 7 BB, 12 K.
Jimenez only got the win in one of the two contests that he started, but he was still outstanding in both games. While Jimenez has really exceeded pretty much everyone’s expectations for him this season, the one knock on him has been that he’s been unable to pitch deep into games. Tribe pitching coach Mickey Callaway has reportedly been working hard to fix that situation, and Jimenez showed some tangible evidence of that work on Sunday as the right-hander dazzled as he needed just 110 pitches to throw eight shutout innings against a very potent Texas Rangers offense. The strong outing helped lead the Indians to a 6-0 win and ensured that the Tribe would complete a three-game sweep of the Rangers. Many Tribe fans remain skeptical of Jimenez, and it’s easy to see why. However, aside from his second and third starts of the season where he allowed seven earned runs in each outing, Jimenez has a 3.22 ERA on the season. It seems unlikely that the Indians and Jimenez will agree to pick up his mutual option after the season, but if Jimenez continues to perform this way, then it should be something that the Indians start to consider. Slowly but surely, the right-hander continues to gain the faith of both the front office and the Indians fanbase.
Minor League Player of the Week
Danny Salazar — Starting pitcher, Columbus
2 GS, 9 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 17 K.
What more can be said here other than “Wow?” After two more stellar outings, Salazar has lowered his ERA all the way down to 2.98. We have already seen what he can do earlier this month when he made a quick spot start in Cleveland, but it’s quickly becoming evident that Salazar could be a special player. Go ahead and think of your top two players in the entire Indians farm system. My guess is that you will immediately first say shortstop Francisco Lindor, but who would you put as the next best prospect? Given his 2013 season, it does indeed appear as if that honor may belong to Salazar. So, just exactly how good is Salazar? Well, to start it appears as if he may now be the best starting pitching prospect in the entire system as some seem to believe that he has legitimately surpassed Trevor Bauer in that regard. Also, an argument can be made that Salazar is the best homegrown starting pitching prospect that the Indians have had since Fausto Carmona. While the Indians have had difficulty with homegrown arms in the past, Carmona was still very well regarded years ago, so that is quite an honor. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how Salazar finishes up the season because he has been on an absolute tear.
A rough week
Mark Reynolds — Designated hitter
2 G, 2-for-7, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K.
The stats above may not be too awful, but they seem to be indicative of something else: The Indians are growing tired of Mark Reynolds. The slugger played in just a total of two games, which seems to prove that the Indians no longer trust him in their lineup. There seems to be good reason for concern too as Reynolds has not hit a double since May 15. For a player that is known for his power, that’s pretty awful. The Tribe does not need Reynolds to hit home runs all the time, but it would be nice if he could at least collect some extra-base hits, and he has unfortunately been unable to do that. As usual, Reynolds has also been terrible in regard to plate discipline as he has drawn 41 walks and struck out 117 times. Remember back in May when there used to be stories about Reynolds’ improved plate discipline? Clearly, that notion was a tad premature as it seems as if Reynolds is back to his old self. The trade deadline is at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, and while the Tribe does have a few needs, perhaps the biggest need is a professional hitter who can replace Reynolds as a regular in the lineup. Only time will tell if the Indians actually make a move, but it’s quite evident that the team is less than satisfied with Reynolds as a regular offensive player.
Ubaldo Jimenez’s ERA if you factor out his two starts on April 8 and April 16. In both starts, the right-hander allowed seven earned runs.
News & Notes
— Think of all the Indians’ big signings this past offseason. Some have paid dividends (Michael Bourn) while others have been disappointing (Brett Myers), but one of the team’s best moves was the under-the-radar signing of Ryan Raburn. Raburn’s stock could not be any lower coming into the season as he was coming off a 2012 campaign with the Detroit Tigers where he hit just .171 in 66 games and 222 plate appearances. The right-handed hitting Raburn also hit just one home run during that span. Nonetheless, the Indians took a chance on him this offseason by signing him to a minor league deal, and along with the signing of Scott Kazmir, it may just be the best move the Tribe did all offseason. So far, Raburn is hitting .268 with 11 home runs in just 59 games and 190 plate appearances. He continues to come through in clutch situations and that was perhaps no more evident than it was on Friday night when Raburn launched a walk-off, three-run home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to clinch an 11-8 win for the Indians. Raburn has hit plenty of homers this year, and his OPS of .911 actually leads the entire squad. The Indians have used Raburn well this year in a fourth outfielder and a utility man, and they certainly do not want to overexpose him, but it does appear as if he is deserving of more playing time. Mark Reynolds has had just an awful season, and it might make sense for the Indians to start supplanting Reynolds with Raburn on a more permanent basis.
— Michael Bourn may have arguably been the Indians’ biggest signing of the offseason, and he’s certainly had some great moments so far for the Tribe. In this past week alone, the left-handed hitter drove in eight runs in three straight games, and his leadoff home run Saturday proved to be the difference in a 1-0 victory against the Rangers. However, while Bourn has certainly had some good moments, he also has been a bit underwhelming in many ways. As a leadoff man, Bourn is expected to be the catalyst at the top of the lineup, and his speed was supposed to help him wreck havoc on the basepaths. However, Bourn has drawn just 20 walks this season, and he’s also struck out 74 times. Perhaps the most disappointing thing though is that when Bourn does manage to get on base, he just is not stealing bases as he has in the past. On the season, Bourn has 13 stolen bases, but he’s also been caught stealing eight times, including two times in the past week alone. This may seem as if it’s nitpicking a bit too much because his .290 average is still very nice for a leadoff hitter, but the bottom line is that the Indians probably expected a bit more when they made the decision to sign Bourn to a four-year, $48 million deal.
— Left-hander Scott Kazmir had an absolute dominant outing this past week as he allowed no earned runs in eight innings of work to salvage the Seattle series and lead the Tribe to a 10-1 win Wednesday. Kazmir has just been an absolute shot in the arm to the Indians rotation this year as he now has a 3.96 ERA in 100 innings of work. As the Indians continue to push toward a possible postseason berth, it’s evident that Kazmir is going to be a very important player. The left-hander’s stuff is still plenty good, but what’s most encouraging is how he seems to be getting better and better with each outing. Since a June 15 outing in which he allowed five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings of work, Kazmir has not allowed any more than three earned runs in seven starts since. He’s becoming the model of consistency, and one could even argue that he may be the closest thing to an ace that the Indians have. Just over a month ago, it appeared as if the Indians would need at least one more starting pitcher if they were to have any realistic aspirations of competing in the American League Central. However, Kazmir’s continued development seems to have been one of the main reasons as to why starting pitching no longer seems to be a team need. In actuality, what the Tribe really needs is for Kazmir to stay healthy and continue to chug along, so hopefully he can do just that.
— Asdrubal Cabrera had a very nice week at the plate as the switch-hitting shortstop went 8-for-25 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI. However, while Cabrera did have a very nice week, these types of weeks have unfortunately been the exception and not the rule for the two-time All Star this season. Cabrera has been one of the team’s most consistent performers in each of the last two seasons, but his numbers are down across the board in 2013. So far, Cabrera has hit eight home runs and driven in only 39 RBI. Perhaps the most discouraging thing with Cabrera is how his plate discipline has taken such a hit. Just last season, Cabrera drew 52 walks while striking out 99 times and in 2011, he drew 44 walks while striking out 119 times. This season, Cabrera’s numbers are noticeably worse in that department as he has drawn only 22 walks but struck out 75 times. That type of ratio might be more forgivable if we were seeing more power from the infielder, but that also is not the case as his current OPS of .725 is noticeably lower than his 2011 (.792) and 2012 (.762) numbers. For now, Cabrera is entrenched as the everyday shortstop, but everyone knows the writing is on the wall and Francisco Lindor will eventually assume that role. Until then, the Tribe will need Cabrera to get back to performing like he has during the past two seasons, so hopefully this past week was a step in the right direction.
— The Indians have been excellent at home this season as they own a 33-19 record at Progressive Field. Unfortunately, the team has struggled on the road and has just a 23-29 record away from home. If the team is to contend, then they will have to find ways to win when they’re not playing at the familiar territory that is Progressive Field.
— Yan Gomes continues to prove his worth to the Indians. So far, the right-handed hitting catcher has gone 41-for-145 (.283), and he also currently has a streak of three straight multi-hit games. Tribe manager Terry Francona said earlier this week that Gomes one day will be an every day catcher. Now, the only question that remains is when that day will come.