Month in review: April
April wasn’t kind to the Tribe, which heads into the season’s second month in last place. This has led to plenty of “It’s early” comments from the men in uniform and, with five months to go, we’re still within the grace period for such reaction.
That said, Indians manager Terry Francona hasn’t been leaning too hard on that idea.
“We have to go fix it,” Francona said on Wednesday night. “And we’ll do that.”
Every team each season is different, even if the cast is mostly the same. That said, in the aftermath of Cleveland’s subpar April and six-game losing streak, it seems fair to remember that we called this club “Team Streak” throughout most of 2013. When push came to shove (and the schedule eased up a bit down the stretch), the Indians went streaking right into the playoffs.
Remember, the Indians opened up 8-13 last year with similar issues that have hurt the team this April. Of course, last year’s Tribe started to enjoy its first hot streak by now. After those first 21 games in ’13, Cleveland then had the following stretches in order: 18-4, 4-16, 15-5, 7-10, 10-1, 9-15, 21-6 and 0-1. That last one was the American League Wild Card Game. Ah, well.
The point here is that, well, yeah, it’s early. We can look at the April numbers and see both anomalies and early trends. It usually takes May, and sometimes into June, to determine which rates are holding up and which ones are being corrected in either direction. Remember when Mark Reynolds was going to hit 50 homers? Remember when the Indians were in first place in late May in 2012? Good or bad, give it time.
“You know the ups and downs that come with this team,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “You know that we’re streaky. We can get as hot as cold with anybody. Yeah, we’re going through a little rough patch right now. We went through worse rough patches last year. Fortunately, it’s early right now.”
April certainly had its moments. Tony Plush filled in admirably for Michael Bourn, who missed the first portion of the month while on the disabled list. Corey Kluber spun an absolute gem against the Royals on April 24. A squirrel entertained everybody at Progressive Field one evening. Trevor Bauer finally flashed his promise on the big league stage. The good Lord started swinging the bat for David Murphy. The Ax Man arrived. We now have the Elliot Johnson Rule.
April definitely had its letdowns. Kipnis was recently sidelined with injury. Carlos Santana’s struggles reached worrisome levels before a brief resurgence in Anaheim. Justin Masterson’s velocity had dropped. Carlos Carrasco struggled and lost his rotation job. Vinnie Pestano made the Opening Day bullpen, but woes sent him back to Triple-A. The defense has been the worst in the American League.
Here is a glance at the month that was for the Tribe…
AL Central standings heading into May:
1. Tigers 14-9 (–)
2. Royals 14-12 (1.5)
3. Twins 12-12 (2.5)
4. White Sox 14-15 (3)
5. Indians 11-17 (5.5)
Record at home: 7-6
Record on road: 4-11
Offense (AL rank)
.232 AVG (13)
.313 OBP (13)
.354 SLG (15)
.668 OPS (13)
106 R (11)
213 H (t-11)
45 2B (t-10)
19 HR (11)
101 RBI (t-10)
21 SB (t-2)
104 BB (5)
197 K (8)
325 TB (13)
Note: Statistically, this was an odd month for the Indians. Cleveland found ways to get on base and advance, as evidenced by its 104 walks and 21 stolen bases, but only scored 106 runs. How rare are those benchmarks? Consider that the Indians haven’t had a month with at least that many walks and stolen bases and no more than 106 runs since May 1918 (100 runs). The Tribe’s 19 homers were the least for any month for the team since April of 2012. Only one other Indians team since 1914 had a month with at least 45 doubles and 104 walks, with no more than 106 runs. That was in May of 1943.
Pitching (AL rank)
11 wins (t-12)
4.28 ERA (t-8)
4.82 rot. ERA (13)
3.24 rel. ERA (2)
8 saves (t-2)
242 IP (7)
241 H (t-9)
132 R (12)
115 R (9)
18 HR (t-1)
100 BB (11)
244 K (1)
.259 AVG (9)
1.41 WHIP (10)
3.46 FIP (t-2)
Note: This marked the first time since June 2010 that an Indians team allowed no more than 18 home runs, but had an ERA of at least 4.28. This was the first month in Indians history (since 1914) in which the club had at least 244 strikeouts with no more than 18 homers allowed. If you change the cut-offs to at least 240 strikeouts and no more than 20 homers, it’s only happened two other times: April and September last season.
Player of the Month: David Murphy
Stats: .282/.360/.436/795, 2 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B, 18 RBI, 10 BB, 10 K, 9 R, 26 games
Note: This was only the sixth time since 1914 that an Indians hitter had at least 18 RBIs and a .795 OPS with no more than 10 strikeouts in April. That list also includes Victor Martinez (2006), David Justice (1997), Albert Belle (1994), Andre Thornton (1983) and Earl Averill (1932). Murphy also hit .529 (9-for-17) with runners in scoring position.
Pitcher of the Month: Zach McAllister
Stats: 3-2, 3.82 ERA, 33 IP, 28 K, 12 BB, .240 AVG, 1.27 WHIP, 6 starts,
Reliever of the Month: Bryan Shaw
Stats: 1.98 ERA, 13.2 IP, 14 K, 4 BB, .200 AVG, 0.95 WHIP, 14 games
Game of the Month (hitter): David Murphy
April 8 against San Diego: 2-for-3, 1 HR, 1 2B, 1 BB, 3 R, 4 RBI, 7 TB
Game of the Month (pitcher): Corey Kluber
April 24 against Kansas City: 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 88 game score
Minor League standouts for April
Player of the Month: 1B Jesus Aguilar
Stats: .356/.440/.667/1.107, 7 HR, 6 2B, 16 RBI, 13 BB, 13 R, 24 games
Pitcher of the Month: RHP Trevor Bauer
Stats: 3-0, 1.40 ERA, 25.2 IP, 28 K, 7 BB, .196 AVG, 0.97 WHIP, 4 starts
Player of the Month: 3B Giovanny Urshela
Stats: .302/.344/.570/.914, 5 HR, 8 2B, 19 RBI, 15 R, 23 games
Pitcher of the Month: LHP Kyle Crockett
Stats: 0.00 ERA, 9.1 IP, 9 K, 1 BB, .094 AVG, 0.43 WHIP, 2 saves, 9 games
Class A (high) Carolina
Player of the Month: SS Erik Gonzalez
Stats: .341/.368/.495/.863, 1 HR, 5 2B, 3 3B, 11 RBI, 13 R, 5 SB, 22 games
Pitcher of the Month: LHP Ryan Merritt
Stats: 3-0, 0.37 ERA, 4.1 IP, 18 K, 6 BB, .165 AVG, 0.82 WHIP, 4 starts
Class A (low) Lake County
Player of the Month: OF Cody Farrell
Stats: .261/.386/.449/.835, 3 HR, 4 2B, 9 RBI, 10 R, 23 games
Pitcher of the Month: RHP Jordan Milbrath
Stats: 1-1, 1.52 ERA, 23.2 IP, 23 K, 8 BB, .159 AVG, 0.89 WHIP, 5 games (2 starts)