Tag: Jason Kipnis

Francisco Lindor

Looking ahead to the second half: The Indians are a good bet to improve


The top of the AL Central is not terribly surprising. There the Royals sit with the biggest lead of any of the division leaders, four and a half games over the Minnesota Twins. Many people, of course, figured that the Twins wouldn’t be anyplace close to the top of the division and many suspect that they’ll falter as the second half wears on.

I can’t say I agree with that completely as the Twins have a lot of young talent and young talent has a way of not adhering to the expectations, both good and bad, people have for it. They’re not aware they’re supposed to falter, so maybe they won’t?

However the Twins shake out, it’s safe to say that no one expected the Indians to be in last place. Indeed, with their excellent rotation and big bats in Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall, they were thought to be a favorite to win the Central or, at the very least, give the Tigers and Royals a run for their money.

Except of that group, only Kipnis has been a big bat this year, getting a lot of help from David Murphy. Brantley has been OK, but far less of a threat than last year. Gomes and Chisenhall have fallen into the abyss, in part due to injuries. Carlos Santana has struggled mightily. While the rotation has continued to pitch well —-Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer all notched 100+ strikeouts in the first half — the Indians defense has been about the worst in the game, betraying its pitchers over and over again. That’s how a promising team winds up 11 games back and tied for last place.

But that really doesn’t seem sustainable for me. For one thing, the teams above Cleveland look to falter. Perhaps the Royals won’t collapse — there’s far too much talent there — but the Tigers are already in something of a freefall and will be without Miguel Cabrera for weeks. Those Twins, again, have overachieved and could very well slip. The team with which Cleveland is tied for last place, the Chicago White Sox, has been rumored to be in sell mode at the trade deadline and could be punting 2015, creating an opening for the Tribe.

More fundamentally, however, the Indians have to get better because they can’t be worse.

There has apparently been nothing wrong physically with Carlos Santana. He’s a streaky hitter and always has been, and in the final two series before the All-Star break, went 9-for-23 (.391) with a double, triple, home run and four RBIs over seven games. If he carries that momentum into the the second half, the Indians will have another weapon on offense.

The biggest challenge will be to right the ship defensively. And even a little ship-righting will be huge, because the Indians pitchers are just dandy at run prevention. Fortunately for Cleveland, that process has already begun.

Shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Giovanny Urshela were called up in June and, while they haven’t done much at the plate, they have totally revamped the left side of the Indians’ previously porous infield. Both have been dynamite with the glove and have drastically improved the Indians’ defensive efficiency in their short time. Perhaps that’s an anomaly and perhaps, with more time in the game, they’ll come back down to earth a bit. But both have good defensive pedigrees and couldn’t possibly be worse than what came before. Also, one or both of them could start hitting a little too to help even things out.

All of which brings us back to where we were before. The Indians are a wildly talented team with a great rotation and a couple of big stars on offense. On paper, it’s a team that should challenge for a playoff spot. Given the weakness of the non-Royals members of this division, they still may very well be able to in the second half, an 11-game deficit notwithstanding.

Brian Dozier goes deep, extends the American League’s lead to 6-2 in the eighth

Brian Dozier

CINCINNATI — It’s not dark yet for the National League, but it’s getting there.

Brian Dozier, pinch-hitting for Jason Kipnis against Pirates reliever Mark Melancon, homered to denter field on the fourth pitch he saw. That made it 6-2, A.L.

Reminder: though some men named Altuve and Kipnis may take issue with this, there are some in the world who think that Brian Dozier is the best second baseman in baseball right now. Not sure I buy that, but on this night he gave the A.L. some breathing room and continued his torrid July.

deGrom dominates, Andrew McCucthen homers as the N.L. makes it 3-2 in the sixth

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CINCINNATI — The NL got a dominating new pitcher in the top of the sixth and began to claw back in the bottom half.

In the top of the sixth Jacob deGrom took over and, unlike Clayton Kershaw, had NO PROBLEM whatsoever. He was throwing straight nasty gas, striking out Steven Vogt on three pitches, Jason Kipnis on four pitches and Jose Iglesias on three. It was . . . impressive, to say the least.

Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the sixth and, on the first pitch from Chris Archer, launched a long homer to left field, bringing it to 3-2, National League. Archer was allowed to pitch to one more batter, retiring Todd Frazier, after which he was pulled for Zach Britton. Britton struck out Bryce Harper for out number two but then struggled a bit to close out the inning, allowing Paul Goldschmidt to reach when he fielded a ball and misfired, pulling Mark Texieria off the bag. Then Yadier Molina singled. Britton escaped, however, getting Troy Tulowitzki on a 4-6 grounder.

It’s the time of the game where the American League is out of its marquee pitchers and into its relatively anonymous relievers which Ned Yost chose, presumably to make this more like a real game. We’ll soon see if that pays off and if the AL can hold on.

Brian Dozier replaces Jose Bautista on the American League All-Star roster

Brian Dozier

Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is now officially an All-Star, as he’s replacing injured Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, MLB has announced.

Dozier’s initial omission from the American League All-Star roster caused some consternation, as he’s been at least the second-best second baseman in the league (behind Jason Kipnis) and arguably the best depending on which metrics strike your fancy. He has 19 home runs, 49 RBI, nine stolen bases, and a .259/.331/.521 triple-slash line.

Bautista has been nursing a shoulder injury since the end of May. To his credit, he has mostly been a productive bat in the Blue Jays’ lineup, currently hitting .239/.385/.496 with 17 home runs and 59 RBI. But he’s hitting a meager .158/.319/.316 in 72 plate appearances dating back to June 23. Rather than risk exacerbating the condition, Bautista will use the few days off afforded by the All-Star break to rest and receive treatment for his shoulder.

Looking at the All-Star team snubs and surprises

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For all of the complaining people like to do about All-Star teams, the voting process and all of that, the fact is that All-Star squads of the past several years have been pretty good. Part of that is that the rosters are so big now that it’s hard to truly “snub” someone. Also operating here is the unspoken fact that a good many guys beg out because of injuries — or “injuries” and ultimately most of the guys who truly want to be there and deserve to be there are actually there.

Still, there are always some weird things and oddities with All-Star rosters so, in the wake of last night’s announcement of the rosters and the Final Vote guys, let’s look at a couple of them.

Most interesting thing: None of the specific players chosen or not chosen is the most interesting thing to me. No, the most interesting thing is what seems to be Ned Yost’s desire to actually win this game and manage it like a regular game. His selection of relievers Darren O’Day, Brad Boxberger and Kelvin Herrera, along with choosing Brock Holt, who is basically a utility guy, as his Red Sox representative makes his roster look more like an actual baseball team than an All-Star team. Mixing and matching, hard-throwing relievers and a super-sub give Yost flexibility to manage the heck out of the game, for better or for worse.

Biggest Snubs: Like I said above, there are no shockers or atrocities here. Brian Dozier not making it stinks — some people think he’s the best second baseman in the game — but with Jose Altuve and Jason Kipnis in the AL, it’s hard to add him. Bruce Bochy picked his guy Madison Bumgarner over Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez and Johnny Cueto, even though all three of them are having better seasons than Bumgarner is, Cueto and Martinez by a decent margin. Justin Turner could be the NL equivalent of Brock Holt — someone who can play many positions — and is hitting the daylights out of the ball, but Bochy is looking at things differently than Yost, apparently.

The Final Vote: A-Rod and Joey Votto not even making the Final Vote thing is lame, but (a) A-Rod isn’t winning any final vote unless I’m 51% of the electorate; and (b) both of them are either old or fragile enough to where they could use some time off. The same excuse doesn’t hold for Carlos Correa, who may be one of the most exciting young players in baseball and plays short at a time when shortstop is a wasteland. He should be on there, but the remaining guys are more famous, so that’s how it goes. The NL has only one position player in the Final Vote — Troy Tulowitzki — which means that there’s a good chance that the NL All-Star team is going to have 14 pitchers. Wheeee!

The Upshot: This is the All-Star Game we have now. It’s geared toward not having ties, not running out of players, especially pitchers, and not showcasing the biggest names in the game for more than a couple of innings. Everyone gets a representative, almost everyone gets to play and it resembles baseball as we know it far less than anything else that happens during the season. In light of that we don’t have a lot of snubs — almost everyone gets to come! — but we likewise don’t get to truly see a clash of the Best vs. Best, and that’s a little sad.