Cleveland Indians Winning Big

The Cleveland Indians have been on a tear lately and they are slowly gaining momentum in the AL Central and they are becoming contenders. Being in the same division as the defending champions the Kansas City Royals is a challenge, but the Indians are looking like the team to beat right now. Cleveland has great run support for their pitching staff which is a key to any team’s success.

If they can keep up this great pace and continue to put multiple runs on the board they will be able to extend their lead in their division. They are only up by half a game, but they can continue to climb and gain a healthy lead before the all-star break.

In their last six wins only two of those games were decided by 1 run. Their hitting has been great that is why the other four games of those six wins were not in question.

Their division rivals the Royals have been battling with them all season. In their 2 most recent series Cleveland swept the Royals in 4 games, but the Royals would return the favor with a 3 game series sweep of their own. Both of these teams will give problems to each other throughout the remainder of the season, and it will be a battle to the end.

Cleveland swept a series against the Chicago White Sox and they showed that they are a great offensive team in a couple of different ways. In game 1 they held on to the lead till the 9th inning and then won on a walk off hit. In game 2 they outscored the White Sox by 11 runs, and in game 3 another walk off win.

There is one player that has been coming up big for the Indians and that is Mike Napoli. He had 4 RBI’s in those 3 games. He has been producing in his role as DH this season. Napoli is hitting .229 and he seems to be in a great rhythm as his team continues to win.

Stating pitching for Cleveland has been another key to their success. In their last 3 games all starting pitchers have worked through 6 innings. That efficiency can preserve the bullpen and keep everyone healthy which is important especially with the second half of the season coming up.

I think this team has the potential to be one of the best teams in baseball, but they need to continue win more of the series they play. Each series is different and Cleveland has made adjustments to keep winning, but Terry Francona and his coaching staff need to find a way to not get swept as often.

Cleveland is 8 games over .500 and they are trying to pull away from the rest of the pack in the AL Central. They are playing like a team with a purpose and they do have playoff aspirations.

Now that the Cleveland curse has been broken due to the recent NBA Finals victory, the Indians want to bring a pennant back to their fans. If they keep winning they will put themselves in a better spot to become World Series champions.

Back In The New York Groove: The Yankees Are Rolling

This six game winning streak the Yankees have put together is building momentum for the team to be contenders in the AL east. This next series can put them over the .500 mark if they win 2 out of 3, so it is important that they take an aggressive approach to this series and they have.

At the beginning of the season the Yankees were not playing like this because of injuries and the suspension of Aroldis Chapman. Now that the bullpen is together and starting pitching has been solid the team is making their competition look rather easy.

Now that the team is playing as one they can help each other out on offense and defense and win big.

Great starting pitching has been a big help in their recent success and that has been supplemented by a high powered offense. In the past six games they have been scoring an average of 5 runs per game. 5 runs should be more than enough with the way the Yankees have been pitching. Making the load lighter on starting pitchers is paying off because they are allowed to have more efficient innings while they have a comfortable lead. The defense is feeding off of the offense and that strategy is the key to keeping a good balance on the field.

The Yankees have also been capitalizing with runners in scoring position. Earlier in the season they would strand runners on second and third, and sometimes with the bases loaded. That was a problem that could not continue or they would have remained in their losing rut.

At some point during the season all of the players will have a drought because it is hard and impossible to stay hot all 162 games. Other teammates are there to pick up the slack and get runs in.

Opposing pitchers should stay away from walking batters because the Yankees have been driving in those runs.

Another reason the run production has been so high is because of capitalization on errors. Errors don’t happen often maybe one or two a game, but when they do the Yankees have taken them and turned them into runs. During the series against the Oakland Athletics they had a total of 6 errors. They Yankees swept and that was a big reason why. Turning mistakes into runs is a different dynamic the Yankees have used that has given them insurmountable leads and helped them win games. Scoring opportunities are important and the Yankees are taking them every chance they get.

Joe Girardi deserves credit for this winning streak and the Yankees getting back to .500. The way he has been managing the pitching staff has helped the starting rotation and the bullpen. He has been using the big 3 when they are needed, but he has given them a chance to rest due to great starting pitching and run support. The Yankees have made winning look easy, but it all starts with the manager and Girardi has found what works for his team.

The Yankees will try to continue their winning streak tonight in game 2 of the Blue Jays series. They will have to be as great as they have been because Toronto can be dangerous with their power hitting lineup.

Teams That Should Buy or Sell

(Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

New York Yankees (Buyers): The Yankees are playing winning baseball behind the resurrection of A-Rod, the clutch and power hitting of Mark Teixeira, the ability to score, averaging 4.6 runs a game which ranks 2nd in the American League, the team is 7th in average(.254), 4th in OBP(.323), and 3rd in SLG(.425). The team is 25-16 at home and is 23-24 on the road and only Tampa Bay plays better away(22-18), but worse at home(24-27) in the AL East.

What They Need: Another arm to back up the starting rotation or to come out in long relief, and an outfielder that can stay on the field with any sort of production, between Beltran, Ellsbury, and Young; they need a player that doesn’t know the bench as well as the outfield grass.

Minnesota Twins (Buyers): It’s really refreshing to be talking about WINNING Minnesota baseball. The pitching staff hasn’t been spectacular, but they have been solid, the arise of Kyle Gibson has been very eye opening. Posting a 2.85 ERA over 18 games and even with the really rough month of June, he is still under 3. The twins get Ervin Santana back from suspension, they called up Miguel Sano, who in 11 games so far has hit .378 with a 1.138 OPS 2 HR and 8 RBI’s. The offense is right where it needs to be to win; Ranking 7th in Runs, Hits, Average and Slugging. All Star Glen Perkins is perfect in save situations (28/28) and is posting a 1.21 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and a 2.25 FIP.

What They Need: The Twins are already trending up within their own dugout, the team is getting healthy and the players seeing playing time are producing. They don’t really need to acquire any heavy talent, the team is very balanced, but I could see them picking up an extra bat to put in the outfield. Plenty at bats for outfielders in Minnesota, and with how good Torii Hunter is in the field, you would like to keep him healthy for the post season push.

Texas Rangers (Sellers): It’s probably head scratching to think of the Rangers being a seller when sitting in 3rd place in the AL West, but the team can’t win at home(16-26) and could move some pieces to make the future more bright. If the team can find ways to stay competitive now, without their ace, 40 moves with the DL, and only 2 hitters batting over .270. The Rangers would benefit now by letting the young talent get experience, get Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar back next year, make a few trades, and have a solid free agency, the Rangers could be playing for a title next year.

New York Mets (Buyers): The team has been sliding, health isn’t on their side either, but they really have no choice. If they don’t make any kind of push the Nationals will win the NL East in their sleep. The Met’s have an outstanding record at home(32-14) and is pitching absolutely lights out; ranking 3rd in ERA(3.23), 2nd in Walks and hits allowed, 5th in HR, 6th in Strike Outs, and batters are only hitting .239 against them. Jeurys Famila has been the prince of the bullpen; posting a 1.25 ERA, 0.9 WHIP, with an astounding 1.42 ground ball to fly ball ratio. If the Mets can win on the road they will contend as they are only 2 games behind Washington.

What They Need: Hitters, whatever kind of offense that can be plugged in on the corners and make up for the lack of production from the infield. Outside of Duda and Murphy, the Mets are getting really low production from their infielders. It’s not a good sign when 4% of the runs driven in comes from the pitchers. If the Mets make a move, expect them to move an arm for a utility player that can hit and would ideally be able to play 3rd or 2nd.

San Diego Padres (Sellers): A wild card contender after the huge trades made in the off season, the Padres have made no noise and has let a lot of fans down. With the firing of Bud Black, the lack of run support with good pitching and poor pitching during times the offense is hitting, the Padres are ready to move some pieces and use the big trades to try and build something for the future. The division isn’t lost quite yet, but playing behind the 8 ball with the Giants and Dodgers, the Padres should try to cut the suffering down to a minimum and let the team regroup for next year. Upton won’t be a Padre next year, and Matt Kemp is playing almost Robinson Cano like in the first half. It wouldn’t make much sense for San Diego to make a push given their division and how well teams like, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and St. Louis are playing, the wild card seems to be drifting further away down the river.


Pleading the 5th with AL Rotations and Taijuan Walker

Seattle Mariners

Taijuan Walker, whose first name I still can’t properly spell without double-checking, has been perfect this spring in his attempt to lay claim to the 5th spot in the Mariners’ rotation. The 22-year-old has made five starts and struck out 19 over 18 scoreless innings, allowing just six hits and four walks. His competition this spring was Roenis Elias who has posted a 6.75 ERA over 14.2 IPs. Walker’s final start of the spring will come this Monday against the Angels and barring anything unforeseen he should break camp with the Mariners as a part of their rotation.

Walker was a 1st round pick of the Mariners in 2010 and debuted with Seattle in 2013 making three productive 5-inning starts between August 30th-September 9th. The right-hander was rated as a Top 10 MLB prospect with the potential to be a big part of the Mariners’ rotation in 2014, but shoulder soreness wiped out his spring training a year ago and delayed a return trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Walker first made it to the mound for the Mariners during 2014 for a three start stint that spanned June 30th through July 23rd. He was returned to the minors, but was recalled to make five appearances last September, which included three starts. The last of which was an 8 inning, 6 K, 1 ER effort on September 24th when the Mariners were making a late, but unsuccessful push for a playoff spot. His final line was a 2-3 mark with a 2.61 ERA over 38 innings. He had a 34/18 K/BB ratio.

Walker will join a rotation currently configured to include Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ, Not too shabby even if you aren’t very hip on Happ.

Meanwhile the back end of other American League rotations kind of looks like this as we enter the spring’s final week. A thumbnail sketch if you will as anything involving pitching is subject to change.

Los Angeles Angels

Andrew Heaney vs Nick Tropeano vs Drew Rucinski? Tropeano (3.48 ERA over 10.1 IP) could relieve/start as could Rucinski (1.50 ERA) who’s been a pleasant surprise in his 12 innings this spring. Andrew Heaney, acquired from the Marlins through the Dodgers this offseason is the prospect who should eventually hold this job. He’s not had a good spring by allowing 13 runs and 3 home runs over 14 innings pitched. If Heaney doesn’t lock into the rotation for April then he figures he to get sent down to Triple-A so he can continue to make starts until called upon by the big league Angels.

Houston Astros

Asher Wojciechowski has allowed 2 runs in 16.2 IP this spring. Performance and his name make him deserving of the 5-hole, but the nod will probably go to 34-year-old veteran Roberto Hernandez who allowed a run on three hits over five innings Saturday vs the Marlins. Roberto Hernandez is versatile. He masqueraded as Fausto Carmona from 2006 through 2011.

Oakland Athletics

Please make it be Barry Zito. He hasn’t been scored upon over his last 11 innings and has a 2.30 ERA over 15.2 IP this spring. Zito probably makes the A’s in some capacity. Gray and Kaz and pray for rain. Well that strategy won’t work so the Athletics will then most likely trot out Jesse Hahn and either Drew Pomeranz, Kendall Graveman or Jesse Chavez. Keep in mind the TJS recoveries from Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin are progressing. Those two could be factors around mid-season or later. It’s the A’s, they’ll figure something out and it will probably work just fine.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Marcus Stroman injury has opened the door for 22-year-old Aaron Sanchez and 21-year-old Daniel Norris to occupy the final two spots in the Blue Jays rotation. Norris (2.41 ERA over 18.2 IP) is one of those Van People , as in enjoying spring training life with his 1978 VW Microbus. He most recently fanned seven while holding the Orioles to one run over six innings in a victory this past Wednesday. Marco Estrada is competing with Norris for the 5th spot and got his ERA under 8 with a 3-inning outing by allowing only one run with three strikeouts on Saturday.

Cleveland Indians

Danny Salazar was sent down to the minors this past week. Salazar has that “upside” which makes fantasy baseball owners draft him. 15 Ks in 11 innings this spring, but he’s allowed 10 runs. He will work on things in Triple-A before returning the Indians. This leaves Trevor Bauer, T.J, House and Zach McAllister to fill out those 3-5 spots behind super cool Cy Young Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Baltimore Orioles

Kevin Gausman vs Ubaldo Jimenez for the 5th spot. The 24-year-old Gausman could fall victim to Buck Showalter needing Gausman’s flexibility to start or relieve which means all of us could fall victim to watching Jimenez work in the areas around the strike zone which are usually called balls and not strikes.

Chicago White Sox

Chris Sale plans to return from his foot injury on April 12th. Don’t believe what a player says about his health. Newly acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana assist Sale in the the Sox rotation, but then there’s a drop-off. The unexciting John Danks is proof left-handers are like cats, while the less than stellar Hector Noesi, as the 5th starter, suggests it’s just a matter of time before we get to enjoy Carlos Rodon. The 22-year-old Rodon struck out nine batters over four scoreless innings this past Wednesday against the Royals. Rodon has 19 Ks over 12.1 IP this spring.

Texas Rangers

Nick Martinez (0.84 ERA over 10.2 IP) vs Nick Tepesch (8.56 ERA over 13.2 IP).

Tampa Bay Rays

Do they have 5 healthy starters? Not really. Alex Cobb (forearm) and Drew Smyly (shoulder) will still be on the mend in early April so the Rays only two experienced starters with health are opening day starter Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi. Nate Karns and Matt Andriese appear to be the ones filling the 3rd and 4th spots early on this season. Karns gave up six runs over four innings to the Red Sox on Saturday. Andriese shut out the Twins for five innings with six strikeouts last Wednesday. Matt Moore’s pretty good, but he’s another TJS recovery story who won’t be an option for the Rays until late-May or June.

Boston Red Sox

Steven Wright figures to get the 5th starter honor if Joe Kelly begins the season on the DL. Wright allowed five unearned runs in 3.2 IP on Saturday against the Rays, but maintains a 1.32 ERA this spring over 13.2 IP. Kelly maintains minor biceps tightness after batters hit .436 against him in his 7.1 IP this spring.

Kansas City Royals

Edinson Volquez has been consistently bad in his four spring starts allowing a run an inning, but he’s in the 5-hole. Kris Medlen – yep TJS recovery – is another potential mid-season chip the Royals might be able to play.

Detroit Tigers

Shane Greene has the ERA below 4 over 13.2 IP after striking out six in five innings on Saturday against the Cardinals. He and 2014 Reds’ standout Alfredo Simon currently possess the 4-5 spots behind David Price, Justin Verlander’s tricep and Anibal Sanchez.

Minnesota Twins

It was supposed to be Mike Pelfrey (1.32 ERA over 13.2 IP) vs Tommy Milone (4.50 ERA over 14 IP). Milone wins this one. Pelfrey’s WHIP is 1.24 so that ERA doesn’t say much. The Twins have said he will work out of the pen. Saturday, Pelfrey told Twins beat writer Mike Berardino he’s “kind of disappointed, frustrated, a little upset” about the decision. All words Mets’ fans have used to describe Pelfrey’s 2006-2012 tenure in Queens.

New York Yankees

Adam Warren is the Yankees’ 5th starter even if CC has pitched like one in his two brief starts this spring. Warren was pretty good in relief last season. His 76/24 K/BB ratio came over 78.2 IP. Opponents hit .219 against him. The ERA was a shade under 3 as he picked up 3 wins and 3 saves. His contributions may have been overlooked as Betances and Robertson were all the rage. This spring Warren has a 2.70 ERA over 16.2 IP with 11 strikeouts and only one free pass.

Later this week, a round up of the National League 5th starters.