The Cleveland Indians have been a very interesting team this season. They have a couple of MVP candidates, some stud starting pitchers, and one of the best managers in baseball. Recently however, the Tribe has been slumping pretty hard. The offense is stalling out on a regular basis, the starting pitchers have been less efficient, and Jason Kipnis is still on the team.
Many people are blaming Terry Francona for his loyalty to Kipnis, Cody Allen, and Josh Tomlin. Those people couldn’t be any more wrong. I believe this is Tito’s finest managing yet. Last season, the Indians were the hottest team in baseball down the stretch, winning 22 in a row in September. What was their prize for this? A first round exit in the playoffs. Regular season hot steaks rarely equate to postseason success.
This time around, Francona is ensuring that the Indians don’t get too full of themselves by allowing Kipnis to stay in the everyday batting order. Anytime the Tribe starts to make a run, the manager can rest easy knowing that Kip will be grabbing his batting helmet any minute. On the rare occasions that the plan has failed, the veteran manager has had the awareness to slip Allen or Tomlin into the contest to promptly give away the game.
The theory is that if the Indians get all of their clumsy losing out of the way in September, they should be better prepared for October. In the playoffs, Francona will have the luxury of slipping newly acquired, Josh Donaldson into 3rd base and sliding Jose Ramirez to his natural position of 2nd. Josh Tomlin probably won’t be on the postseason roster and Cody Allen shouldn’t have to pitch in many high leverage situations. Brad Hand and (hopefully) Andrew Miller could carry the load for a couple weeks, much like Allen and Miller did in 2016.
Regular season wins don’t matter this season, Cleveland isn’t going to catch the Red Sox for the #1 seed and the Twins aren’t going to catch the Tribe in the division. The only real concern I have is the slumping of Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, but all stats and trends lead me to believe that they will return to form soon. The Wahoos are set and are definitely looking ahead to the playoffs rather than concerning themselves with September games. I don’t know if the Tribe will win it all this year, but baseball playoffs are so wacky and they have some major star power so nothing leads me to think that they can’t.