Tribe 9: Tribe defense is elite, but also bad

Indians D is top-two in MLB, still finding ways to lose games

Alex Hooper
May 12, 2018 - 12:50 am
May 11, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23) cases after a double hit by Kansas City Royals left fielder Jon Jay (25) in the second inning at Progressive Field.

David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports


Baseball moves at its own pace, at least to this point in time, so let us pace ourselves through nine innings of takeaways from the Indians’ 10-9 loss to the Royals.

Top 1: You know how sometimes you sit at work all week just waiting on Miller Time, then you wake up in a fog the next day with a headache, feeling sick to your stomach?

Miller Time came for the first time in two weeks for Indians fans on Friday in the 7th inning against the Royals, but a hangover set in soon thereafter. Andrew Miller made his first appearance since April 25th, but quickly surrendered the Indians’ one-run lead on a two-run home run to catcher Salvador Perez

Bottom 1: "He walked the first hitter (Jon Jay),” Manager Terry Francona said. “Then after that I thought he threw the ball really well. He just hung a breaking ball to Salvy. All things considered, the cold, the way the game was anyway, I actually thought he threw the ball pretty well.”

Top 2: In truth, the Indians gave the game away. Michael Brantley’s second career grand slam in the 4th capped off a six-run inning for the home team, building a 9-4 lead.

Slowly, that lead bled away with one run scoring in the 5th on a single up the middle by former Indians Abraham Almonte that shortstop Francisco Lindor was able to glove but not make a play on. A throwing error by Lindor in the 6th led to one earned run and two more unearned before Perez’s homer in the 7th won the game.

Bottom 2: Despite being 1st in UZR/UZR150, 2nd in defensive WAR, 4th in defensive runs saved, the Indians have made 26 errors in their last 30 games including Greg Allen’s error in the 3rd. Essentially, the translation is that while the team has probably more range than any other team in baseball, they have failed to convert some easier balls to get to.

It cost them in New York over the weekend, and it cost them Friday against Kansas City.

Top 3: “Seems like we’ve been in a lot of these crazy games,” Francona said. “We don’t have the margin for error right now. It seems like when we make an error, it costs us. That’s the way the game is.”

Bottom 3: “Ultimately, I think just as a team we're not really playing winning baseball right now,” Starter Trevor Bauer said. “We're not making winning pitches. We're not making winning defensive plays. The offense came through big tonight and we still weren't able to win, because we beat ourselves in two other aspects of the game. It takes a lot of attention to detail and a very high focus and intensity to win at this level no matter who you're playing. And we're not bringing that on each and every night right now.”

Top 4: Bauer was plenty culpable in the loss, which he did admit despite rightfully indicting the entire team. The righty had his first non-quality start since April 1st, his first start of the year, lasting just 4 2/3 innings while allowing four earned on 11 hits and two walks.

Bottom 4: “If they put a ball in play, I feel like it was -- whether it was to someone or not to someone or hard hit or soft hit or whatever -- it felt like they ended up on base,” he said. “It's tough on nights like that. Shoot, in the second inning, I gave up two or three hits on balls that weren't even strikes. So, I probably could've made some better pitches.”

Top 5: The 27-year-old has taken things to another level performance-wise since the 2017 All-Star break, and all of 2018 to date. He took things to the next level with his velocity against the Royals, as his fastball reached 97.8 mph in the game, his hardest pitch of the season.

Of the 12 fastballs Bauer threw above 96 mph, only 3 were strikes – 2 of them called near the edge of the zone. His average fastball velocity has never ended up above 94.0 mph for a full season, where it currently sits in 2018.

Bottom 5: “Man, his stuff was so good,” Francona said. “It was coming out of his hand so well. But, he got in throw mode as opposed to pitch. I think he felt so good. He just lost his command.”

Top 6: Despite the bullpen’s struggles of late, righty Zach McAllister has righted the ship, at least for the past two games. McAllister had perhaps the worst start of any one bullpen member, but retired all seven Royals he faced Friday, spanning three innings.

The righty faced one batter against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, a bases-loaded, two-out, 15-pitch strikeout of Manny Pina.

Bottom 6: “He was really good. That was good to see,” Francona said. “We’re looking for bright spots and that was certainly one of them.”

Top 7: Brantley’s 4th inning grand slam was the second of his season, and second of his career, the first coming on a game-tying slam against the Texas Rangers on May 1st at Progressive Field.

Bottom 7: The left fielder is the third batter in baseball this season to hit multiple grand slams, joining Boston’s Xander Bogaerts and Houston’s Josh Reddick. He is also the first Indian with multiple slams in a season since Travis Hafner in 2010.

Top 8: Friday marked the 2018 debut of Brantley in the two-hole of the lineup, a move many fans have been clamoring for on Twitter. At least, the move clamored for was the removal of Jason Kipnis.

This writer sees Brantley as the optimal two-hitter due to his high contact% and ability to split up switch-hitters Lindor and Jose Ramirez.

Bottom 8: “I think Brantley's certainly one guy that, because he hits the ball through the hole so well, would be the logical choice,” Francona said pre-game. “But, I wanted to talk to him, too. So, I talked to both guys and me and Kip talked for a while the other day. We kind of did it together.”

Top 9: Right fielder Tyler Naquin is on a tear right now, batting .417 (10-24) during his eight-game hit streak, with a homer and two doubles. He was also lifted from the game in the 4th inning with left hamstring tightness.

Bottom 9: “He went and got an MRI tonight and won’t be able to have it read until the morning,” Francona said. “He thought it was a cramp. But then as the inning progressed, he was getting tighter and tighter. The hope is that it was a cramp. We’ve all had them and you know how it feels. But we won’t have it read until the morning. We’ll see how it goes.”