The saying for the month of March goes “in like a lion and out like a lamb." This, of course, is referring to the weather pattern that is often seen during that part of the year. For the Cleveland Indians, however, it wasn’t March that came in like a lion and out like a lamb, it was May.
The second half of the month saw the Indians slowing down a bit—save for the four-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners—taking only seven of the last 14.
Some people will point fingers at the Tribe bullpen, while others claim the starting lineup is losing its pop.
Looking back at the month of April and comparing it to the month of May should paint a better picture of who is performing well for the Indians and who needs to pick it up.
Matt Albers had what some might consider a mediocre April. After posting a 3.52 ERA in just seven appearances, it looked like things could only go up for Albers.
And up they went.
His ERA shot up to 4.19 in only nine appearances in May. Worse than his ERA, his WHIP had sailed to 2.19. Giving credit where credit is due, he did up his strikeout totals to 12, but that hardly makes up for the other two numbers.
Until he nails down his consistency—and shows he is a reliable reliever—he will remain a below average pitching option.
Cody Allen was picked by the Indians in the 23rd round of the 2011 draft. It has been rather impressive to see this young man go through the minors so quickly and be effective at the highest level. Perhaps Terry Francona said it best in an article for the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"The scout that found him should get a bonus."
What’s more impressive than his road to the majors is his WHIP (0.55) during the month of May. If a pitcher can get his WHIP to a number around 1.00, it is considered lights out. A 0.55 WHIP?
Couple that with the fact that this late-inning reliever led all relievers in strikeouts in both April (15) and May (16), there is only one grade he deserves.
Aviles had a slightly above-average April (.262/.283/.429) because of his 11 RBI. During May, there was an increase in batting average and on-base percentage but a decline in RBI. It’s like the Facts of Life:
"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have..."
Normally this would constitute a strong B grade, but since his fielding percentage (.973) is lowest on the team, he gets a minus.
It really isn’t fair to assess a grade for Scott Barnes' performance in May because he has only played in four games this season. We really can’t accurately grade a player’s performance when it's for such a short period of time.
But who said things had to be fair?
Barnes has posted a 2.57 ERA in the four games he has played in. He also recorded a save in the 12-3 blowout of the Red Sox when he threw three shutout innings.
Talk about working for it.
In addition to the low ERA, Barnes has also posted eight strikeouts, one walk and three hits in his 6.2 innings of work.
It is early for Barnes, but if he can keep eating innings and saving the bullpen, he can expect to have a lot more games under his belt by the end of June.
Michael Bourn is another player that is a little tougher to assess than others. The fact that he missed a chunk of April due to a laceration in his finger really skews his numbers (.333/.375/.600) a bit. While those numbers are great, you must keep in mind those are for 10 games.
In May, his numbers slipped slightly (.292/.346/.319), but only as expected for playing in twice as many games. What was sorely missed during his absence in April was his presence on the basepath. He swiped seven bags in May compared to only one in April.
In addition to being a terror on the basepath, many Tribe fans breathe a little easier when they see Bourn in center. Even after his injury and time missed, he is only trailing Michael Brantley by three in putouts (67) so far this season.
The doctor will see you now.
Michael Brantley, aka Dr. Smooth, brought his average up to a very stellar .310 during the month of May, up nearly 25 points from the first month of the season.
Not only did he raise his average, but he has become more selective—as if that was possible for him—when it comes to his pitches. Cutting his strikeout numbers in half during the second month is one of the reasons his batting average is up, and he has almost doubled his RBI production.
No prescription for the doctor.
Asdrubal Cabrera started out the season a little stiff. I’m sure I wasn’t the only Cleveland fan scratching my head at his .226 batting average in April.
But seemingly like the rest of the team, once May hit, Cabrera began to see the ball better and better. He raised his batting average to a respectable .287 while also raising his RBI.
In addition to raising those stats, he also raised his strikeouts from 20 to 29. Unfortunate, but the Indians have plenty of hitters who strike out a lot. What is more worrisome is Cabrera is batting .167 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
One of the Indians' biggest playmakers has been falling silent when it counts. If that average goes up, so will his grade.
No one expected Jason Giambi to come in and hit 20 home runs and 20 doubles—or anything close to that. What they did expect was team leadership from a proven veteran, and no one on this team has shown more leadership than Jason Giambi.
His head-first slide into first when the Indians were up 14-2 on the Phillies in the eighth inning is what made me a believer. Hopefully this big lug has tugged at your heart strings.
No matter how dark and brittle they may be from years of Cleveland sports.
He’s doing his job. His numbers aren’t pretty, but he’s doing his job.
Yan Gomes—or "the Yanimal" as he has been affectionately referred to as on Twitter—has been proving every game that he belongs with the Indians.
What started as a replacement backup catcher in April for the injured Lou Marson has become a glimpse of the future for Indians fans. Even though his numbers were borderline abysmal in April (.200/.200/.600), he turned it completely around in May, hitting .350/.372/.650 with a 1.022 OPS.
He has also turned in three home runs and nine RBI while throwing out eight would-be base stealers.
Not bad for a backup.
Nick Hagadone hasn’t really been the same since he had a screw inserted into his wrist after injuring himself when he lost his temper. Even though he showed signs that he may be turning a corner in April, May came crashing down hard on Hagadone.
He appeared in eight games in April and posted a 2.45 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with a very impressive opponent batting average of .091.
All good things come to an end, right?
May slapped Hagadone in the face to the tune of an 18.00 ERA (not a typo) and 2.75 WHIP. Oh, and remember those batters that couldn’t catch up to him?
His opponent batting average soared to a .389!
More like “Hagadon’t.”
Rich Hill hasn’t done much right in May. He has been called on 13 times to help the Indians out, and it has resulted in a 6.52 ERA.
He is one of the few Indians players that have regressed since Opening Day. His inconsistency is scary no matter what lead is left in his hands.
Until he regains his composure and control, Tito might want to send him to Columbus to work out the kinks.
After the first couple starts from Ubaldo Jimenez, a lot of Indians fans—including myself—would dread his turn in the rotation. It was expected that he wouldn’t go long and end up over-extending the Tribe bullpen.
That was April.
May was not only good to the team as a whole, but also to Jimenez. After posting a 7.13 ERA in 24.0 innings of work during April, he turned it all around with a 4.23 ERA in 27.2 innings during May.
Perhaps more importantly was a stretch of starts where he began to look like the Ubaldo the Indians thought they traded for back in 2011.
Although showing signs of life in May, a lot more needs to be done to be called consistent.
Keep working, Ubaldo.
Comeback story Scott Kazmir had a rocky first month for the Tribe. While he started the season on the DL, he did record two starts in April, and the results weren’t pretty (0-1, 8.64 ERA).
May brought more turns in the rotation for Kazmir, who turned out a pretty good month with a 3-1 record and a 4.22 ERA.
His command has been coming back to him, and his confidence is growing. Not much more could be asked for from Kazmir in May.
Jason Kipnis had a lot of Tribe fans worried sick during the first month of the season, but the young man took his misfortunes (.200/.269/.286) in stride, and his hard work is now paying off.
Hitting .261/.331/.550 in May is a pretty impressive jump in production. However, if you look closer at his splits from April to May, his averages aren’t the only thing jumping off the paper.
In his sluggish start to the season, Kipnis recorded one home run and four RBI.
You read that right.
Fast forward to the wonderful month of May, and Kipnis has seven home runs and 22 RBI!
Kipnis has done everything right this month, and Indians fans can only hope it spills over into the summer months.
Cory Kluber enjoyed a 2-0 start during the month of April but was rudely awakened from his dream during May, giving up 18 runs in five starts.
All of which were earned.
Kluber has flashed signs of brilliance, but the flashes are coming too far apart. When Tribe fans watch him, they never know what they are going to get.
Think Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You keep picking the piece that tastes good at first, but it turns out it is filled with some kind of nasty sludge.
Justin Masterson started off the season firing on all cylinders with a 4-2 record and a 3.12 ERA to go along with his 39 strikeouts. When May rolled around, it was hard to imagine him topping the month he had prior. In fact, to hope for the same kind of results would be lofty expectations.
Well, he ended up making his expectations for June ridiculous.
May saw Nasty Masty go 4-1 and lower his ERA to 3.02. He also bettered his strikeout totals from April by five and brought his WHIP down to a stellar 1.03.
Not much more could have been asked for from Masterson in May.
The other half of the starting pitching dynamic duo for the Tribe has been Zach McAllister. After going .500 in April (2-2), he finished May at 2-1.
He could have easily been 3-0, but the wheels on the Z-Mac bus seemingly fell off during his start in Cincinnati.
This is one of those times where the old cliché “he has been a lot better than his 4-4 record indicates” could be used.
McAllister has been strong in most of his starts, and his mishap against the Reds shouldn’t induce any panic. His control and velocity are holding steady, and he should—even with the rough schedule—have a solid June.
The bane of every Tribe fan’s existence—Chris Perez—needed to be included on this list, even though he is on the DL.
Perez will never understand why fans find themselves in a love/hate relationship with the volatile closer, even though he has been more sporadic in these first two months of baseball than in the last couple seasons.
Arguments could have been raised that while he was putting everyone on the edge of their seats each and every time he came out to slam the door, he was still getting his saves.
His ERA went from 1.13 in April to 7.27 in May. That right there should be enough to give him his F, but it can be argued that he has only had eight save opportunities—converting six—in the first two months of the season, so maybe he was a bit rusty?
The Indians have shut him down and put him on the DL since his last debacle in Boston when he left the game (blew a three-run lead) with soreness in his shoulder, which turned out to be mild tendonitis in his rotator cuff.
Although he did give up a leadoff home run.
His ERA is way up in May to a lofty 10.80, but he is showing signs of improvement. It will be a transition for him to become the everyday closer during Perez’s rehab, but there is no reason to think he can’t do the job.
If we only knew what May would bring.
During a three-game stretch at the beginning of May, Raburn went 11-for-13 with four home runs and was named the AL Player of the Week. He should be credited with the spark that ignited the Tribe as they went on a tear, winning 17 of 21 games.
Although he has cooled off toward the end of May, the beginning should not be forgotten.
After starting the season hitting at a .301 clip, Mark Reynolds has cooled down quite a bit.
And by quite a bit, I mean almost 100 points to a batting average of .214. That stat can probably be attributed to his 34 strikeouts in 98 at-bats during May, which shouldn’t really surprise any Indians fans.
Interestingly enough though, his RBI in May (19) are right on par with the 22 he batted in during the first month of the season.
Reynolds always gives the Indians a chance when he is at the plate, but his increased time at third since Chisenhall was shipped to Columbus might be playing a part in his decline.
If Mike Aviles is given a bigger share of the duties at third base, Reynolds' numbers should improve in June.
With the April that Carlos Santana had (.389/.476/.722), it was a pipe dream to believe he would keep those numbers at that level through May.
As expected, May didn’t go as well for Santana as he saw his splits drop to .206/.339/.340.
But, just like the elevator business, baseball players have their ups and downs—just ask Ryan Raburn. It isn’t wild to think that Santana can bounce back in June, especially with Yan Gomes getting more playing time, allowing Santana to get some rest.
Bryan Shaw started the season as a silent assassin. I say that because most Indians fans would probably draw a blank stare if I asked them who he was. However, during April he posted a 0.89 ERA in nine games with a sick 0.87 WHIP.
Pitchers whose WHIP and ERA are below one do not grow on trees.
However, much like the trend we have seen throughout this article, May wasn’t as kind to Shaw. He doubled his WHIP, and his ERA reached 4.80 in 12 appearances.
Joe Smith’s ERA for May was 1.80.
Well, that ERA is exactly 1.80 higher than it was in April. But let’s not split hairs, just stats.
Even with his ERA up a nudge, Smith also recorded two wins during May. It was unrealistic to think that his zero walks and 0.50 WHIP would carry over to May, but Tribe fans can’t really be mad at five walks, 10 strikeouts and a 1.30 WHIP.
Smith is in his zone and comes out ready to contribute to the team. The submariner gives batters a different look and has thus far been effective. Look for his momentum from the first two months to carry him into June without a hitch.
Drew Stubbs is perhaps the most consistent player the Indians have. By that, I’m not saying he has been playing lights out, but Tribe fans know what to expect each and every time he comes to the plate.
In April, Stubbs hit .241/.307/.354, and in May he hit .236/.284/.382.
See what I mean?
His home run totals and RBI totals are within one of each other too.
He might not be tearing the cover off the ball, but he is playing average baseball. Sometimes that’s all you can hope for.
Perhaps the happiest of any of the players on the Tribe’s roster, Nick Swisher brings energy to the dugout that is unmatched.
And why shouldn’t he be happy?
He saw his batting average (.278), slugging PCT (.556) and home runs (5) all surpass the numbers from April. It should also be pointed out that he missed a few games because of the birth of his daughter (congratulations Nick, I know you're reading this).
Not enough can be said about Swisher’s influence on this Indians team. Look for him to continue to improve his numbers through the tough June schedule.