The Indians are four games into the season, which means it is time for me to overreact to what I’ve seen thus far and make some bold predictions for the remainder of this month.
So here are five of them for the month of April. As an added bonus, I actually hid a total of eight predictions in here, so look out for them.
Talk about a bold prediction right?
In the last two seasons (2010-2011) there have been nine no-hit performances. Prior to that you have to go back seven years (2004-2009) to find an interval where nine no-hitters took place. Of the nine no-hitters/perfect games that were thrown from 2010-2011, five of them occurred in the months of April or May.
The only reason I bring up the months is because just this past weekend we saw one of the lowest scoring opening weeks of baseball. There’s a correlation between the two. (You’ll see in slide two.)
While the Indians might not necessarily have the best rotation in baseball, they may just have the most no-hitter potential in baseball. When you have a solid starting rotation made up of ground ball inducers who are backed up by an infield of Casey Kotchman, Jack Hanahan and a exponentially improving Jason Kipnis, you’ve got an advantage over every other team. You know...if your goal is to see a no-hitter.
The one Tribe pitcher who predominantly pitches to contact and gives up a high number of fly balls is Josh Tomlin. But did you know? Last season, from a per start basis (26 starts), Josh Tomlin threw the fourth most no-hit innings, 27, in all of baseball?
As a measure of comparison Justin Verlander was first in that department, starting 34 games and throwing 56 innings of no hit ball. The Tribe’s Justin Masterson threw 24 innings of no-hit ball in 33 starts, and he’s the dominant one on the staff.
As for Ubaldo Jimenez, he nearly threw one on Saturday as he went six innings without allowing a base runner and 6.2 innings without allowing a hit.
Bold Prediction I: Jeanmar Gomez throws a no-hitter this month.
In four games they’ve already managed to earn this honor. This team just had one of the weirder, ‘pull your hair out’ opening weeks in baseball. Here’s all that happened:
Their starters in the first two games allowed a combined total of three hits. The Tribe lost both of those games.
Those two games they lost went to extra innings with the first game, setting the all time record for longest opening day game in Major League History (16 innings). The second game went 12 innings as the Indians could only manage two hits through the first 11 innings. Both of those hits were home runs.
They lost both games by a score of 7-4.
In the opener, their ‘just rushed back from injury’ closer Chris Perez blew a three-run ninth-inning lead and prompted Jonah Kerri to write a dissertation regarding the abolishment of the closer and the save stat in baseball.
The very next game (Game 2 of 162) the Indians prospective future closer and the new fan favorite to take over the job, Vinnie Pestano, gave up a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning.
In the third and final game of the home-stand, Chris Perez retired Jose Bautista in a bases loaded situation to redeem his opening day performance as the Indians avoided a sweep with a 4-3 victory. This nail-biter of an ending occurred only because Asdrubal Cabrera botched a game-ending double-play ball. Somehow, some way, Perez found away to escape with the victory.
Then on Monday night they made Chris Sale, who was making his first career start, look like, well, like the Blue Jays Brandon Morrow on Saturday; they made him look really good.
So yes, already four games into the season the Cleveland Indians are the most frustrating team to watch. Anytime you play four games' worth of innings in three days and lose two of three, your fans aren’t going to be happy.
Unfortunately for Tribe fans, this will probably continue in the month of April. That’s what happens when you combine dominant pitching with a lineup that is well below average. But I don’t want to knock the Indians' lineup just yet; they certainly aren’t as bad as they’ve looked through the first four games.
For all we know Toronto is the team to beat in the AL East this year. Most likely though, the lack of production from the lineup is due to the mild temperatures this April. As Manny Acta said following Sunday’s game, “When the weather heats up the bats will begin to heat up.”
This isn’t anything new. Historically the Indians' bats have never been hot in April. At least not in the past several years. What will be hot, though, is the Indians' pitching. It’s going to be hot, in part, because they’ve got a good staff, but also because the teams they play will be dealing with the same April forecast as the Indians' hitters. Hence, why I predicted a no-hitter.
Bold Prediction II: At the end of April, the Indians will have a 9-12 record.
Through four games, they’ve already played 46 innings of baseball. That’s the equivalent of five games (and some change). If there were one prediction I feel most confident in, this would be it.
I expect a fair share more of extra innings games to come, and that’s because the Indians have plenty of holes in their lineup. Their biggest hole is in the middle of the lineup where Casey Kotchman is batting sixth in the order. That leads us to my next prediction.
Bold Prediction III: We're in for some extra innings.
The Indians knew what they were getting when they signed Casey Kotchman this offseason. They knew they were getting one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball history, and they understood that anything he gave them from the plate was essentially an added bonus.
With Kotchman batting an uncharacteristic .308 average last season, deep down the Indians were probably hoping he could somewhat stay up with that pace, and they would strike the bargain lottery again. That doesn’t appear to be the case thus far.
Right now Kotchman is batting 1-16 for the season. So far each and every one of his at bats has gone something like, take a pitch, swing and miss, swing and foul tip, take a pitch, swing and foul tip, swing and miss, or swing and dribble the ball to an infielder for an easy out.
If Kotchman continues to struggle as bad as he has, the Indians might have to get their spreadsheets out and determine how much value, if any, he gives this team over Matt LaPorta. The way things stand now, LaPorta’s career .238 batting average isn’t looking as bad as it once did.
Bold Prediction IV: Matt LaPorta is back playing first base for the Indians by June, and he’ll play better than we expect.
Having Kotchman and Hanahan at the two corner infield positions looks really good on paper. And it will make for a nice second installment of Moneyball if the Indians go on to win the World Series. But unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen.
Defense will only take a team so far, at some point the camel's back is going to break. That point might be (Bonus Bold Prediction) at the end of this month when Jack Hanahan and Casey Kotchamn are hitting a for a combined .150 average.
If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball, you might recall that the whole idea behind it is “to buy runs.” With Hanahan and Kotchman playing the field, the Indians aren’t “buying” much of any runs, they’re simply hoping to save some. Key word: hoping.
The good news is that they will, and already have, saved some runs. The bad news...it hasn’t won them any games. The terrible news...they make an Indians lineup that is below average to begin with worse. Way worse.
Bold Prediction V: Lonnie Chisnehall is promoted from Triple A and Jack Hanahan takes turns playing first base and relieving Chisenhall of his third-base duties late in close games for defensive purposes.