Month in review: August

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox

Pitching has helped Cleveland maintain its position in the postseason picture. Without their rotation renaissance or reliable relief corps, the Indians would currently be bemoaning the lack of consistency from their bats.

Following a 7-0 rout of the Tigers on Wednesday night, Tribe catcher Yan Gomes was asked where his team would be right now without the performance of the pitchers.

“You guys tell me,” Gomes said. “These guys have been stepping it up. Now, it’s time for the hitters to step it up for them.”

It’s Sept. 3 for another half hour, but I’ll use this space tonight to do my monthly look back at the most recent four-week segment on the calendar. You’ll have to forgive me for not posting this a couple days ago. The family and I were celebrating the fifth birthday of MLBastian Jr. over the holiday weekend. But I digress…

As Gomes mentioned in the wake of Danny Salazar’s first career shutout, the offense has been sporadic in terms of support. That said, the Indians enjoyed a 17-win August and pulled closer in the playoff chase thanks to some historically-strong pitching.

Corey Kluber continued to lead the charge, but the best development in August was arguably the return to  starting role for Carlos Carrasco. Combined with his first outing in September, the righty has gone 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in 30 innings within five starts since rejoining the starting staff. Combined with continued growth from youngsters Trevor Bauer, T.J. House and Salazar, Cleveland surprised plenty of critic by fielding the American League’s best rotation last month.

If you slice the schedule back to Aug. 9 — that arbitrary starting point is hand-picked due to the four-game stretch (with three starts of fewer than five innings) that preceded it — the Indians’ rotation has turned in a 1.92 ERA (28 ER/131.1 IP) with 141 strikeouts against 36 walks in 22 games. In August overall, Carrasco (1.82 ERA), Kluber (2.10), Salazar (2.77), House (2.89) and Bauer (3.34) did most of the heavy lifting.

The Indians need more of the same through the rest of September if they plan on repeating last year’s miracle run to the playoffs.

Here is a look back at the month that was for the Tribe…

Overall: 17-9
Record at home: 9-4
Record on road: 8-5

Offense (AL rank)

.250 AVG (7)
.308 OBP (8)
.376 SLG (9)
.683 OPS (9)
101 R (14)
221 H (10)
47 2B (t-7)
3 3B (t-9)
21 HR (t-9)
97 RBI (t-12)
21 SB (5)
72 BB (11)
217 K (10)
347 TB (10)

Notes: Not a stellar month by Cleveland’s offense, which featured plenty of youth and operated short-handed at times due to a variety of injuries. The Indians stole 21 bases, but the last time they had at least that many to go along with no more than 101 runs scored was August 2012 (that horrendous 5-24 month). There must be something about August. In each of the past three Augusts (’12, ’13, ’14), the Tribe has posted 101 runs or fewer with an OPS of .683 or less. Thank the baseball gods for good pitching.

Pitching (AL rank)

17 wins (t-4)
2.39 ERA (1)
2.57 rot. ERA (1)
2.07 rel. ERA (1)
6 saves (t-9)
249 IP (9)
204 H (1)
79 R (1)
66 ER (1)
14 HR (1)
72 BB (7)
244 K (3)
.220 AVG (1)
1.11 WHIP (2)

Notes: Scan those stats one more time. You’re looking at one of the best months by a staff in American League history. This marked the first time in the past 100 years that an AL team had at least 240 innings, 244 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.39 or better. Only two National League teams (Dodgers in Aug. 2013 and Giants in Sept/Oct. 2010) have accomplished the feat. The 2.39 ERA was the best in any month by a Cleveland team since May 1972. Remove the strikeouts and May 1968, Aug. 1954, Sept/Oct. 1948, July 1918 and June 1917 are the only other months in which a Cleveland team had at least 240 innings and an ERA of 2.39 or better.

Player of the Month: OF Michael Brantley
Stats: .286/.327/.467/.794, 3 HR, 10 2B, 19 RBI, 10 R, 5 SB, 26 games

Notes: It was a down month overall for the Tribe, but Brantley — Cleveland’s steadiest bat all year — provided a solid showing. He became only the fifth player in the past decade to have at least five stolen bases, 10 runs, 13 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs in a month. The others: Jason Kipnis (May and June in 2013), Asdrubal Cabrera (May 2011), Shin-Soo Choo (Sept/Oct. 2010) and Grady Sizemore (May 2006).

Previous ’14 winners: OF David Murphy (April), Brantley (May), 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (June), 1B Carlos Santana (July)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Corey Kluber
Stats: 2-2, 2.10 ERA, 34.1 IP, 43 K, 11 BB, .227 AVG, 1.19 WHIP, 5 starts

Notes: With apologies to Carrasco, who easily was the best story of the month for the Indians, Kluber logged more innings and continued on as Cleveland’s rotation leader. This marked the third month this season (also July and August) that Kluber had at least 34 innings and 40 strikeouts with an ERA of 2.10 or better. The last Cleveland pitcher to have three such months in a single year was Gaylord Perry in 1972. Since 1980, the only Indians pitchers beyond Kluber to have that type of line for a single month are Ubaldo Jimenez (2013), CC Sabathia (once each in the ’05, ’06 and ’08 seasons), Bartolo Colon (2000) and Len Barker (once in ’80 and once in ’81).

Previous ’14 winners: RHP Zach McAllister (April), Kluber (May, June, July)

Reliever of the Month: RHP Bryan Shaw
Stats: 1-0, 0.55 ERA, 16.1 IP, 12 K, 1 BB, .169 AVG, 0.67 WHIP, 1 save, 17 games

Notes: It should not surprise you that Shaw leads the Indians’ bullpen in innings (141.2) and pitches (2,308) over the 2013-14 seasons combined. In August, he joined Bobby Howry (2005), Jerry Dipoto (1993), Sid Monge (1979), Eddie Fisher (1968) and Ted Abernathy (1963) as the only pitchers in Cleveland history to appear in at least 17 games in a month. Fisher has the previous low for ERA (1.50) among that group. In fact, in terms of MLB history, Shaw joined JC Romero (2007), Salomon Torres (2005), Julian Tavarez (1997) and Rich Rodriguez (1997) as the only pitchers in the past 100 seasons to have at least 17 games and an ERA of 0.55 or better in a single month.

Previous ’14 winners: Shaw (April, May), Allen (June, July)

Game of the Month (hitter): CF Michael Bourn
Aug. 28 at White Sox: 3-for-5, 2 3B, 1 R, 7 total bases

Notes: This game stood out on its own, but it also was notable due to the fact that it marked Bourn’s second two-triple game of the season. Since 1941, Bourn and Kenny Lofton (three such games in 1995) are the only Cleveland batters with at least two two-triple games in the same season. Bourn is the first to achieve the feat in the Majors since 2011 (Jose Reyes, three; Austin Jackson, two).

Game of the Month (pitcher): RHP Cody Allen
Aug. 28 at White Sox: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R/ER, 0 BB, 4 K, save

Notes: I typically reserve this category for a starter, but Allen’s save in Chicago was extremely unique. With this performance, Allen became only the second Indians pitcher in the past 100 seasons to turn in a four-out, four-strikeout save. The only other Cleveland hurler to achieve the feat was Dave LaRoche on July 28, 1976.

———————————————————————————–

Minor League standouts for August

Triple-A Columbus

Player of the Month: 1B Jesus Aguilar
Stats: .365/.441/.615/1.056, 5 HR, 14 XBH, 13 RBI, 14 BB, 19 R, 25 games

Previous ’14 winners: Aguilar (April), OF Matt Carson (May), C Roberto Perez (June), 3B Giovanny Urshela (July)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Bryan Price
Stats: 1.35 ERA, 13.1 IP, 18 K, 0 BB, .109 AVG, 0.38 WHIP, 9 games

Previous ’14 winners: RHP Trevor Bauer (April), LHP Nick Hagadone (May), RHP Austin Adams (June), RHP Tyler Cloyd (July)

Double-A Akron

Player of the Month: OF Anthony Gallas
Stats: .269/.310/.481/.791, 6 HR, 10 XBH, 19 RBI, 11 R, 28 H, 27 games

Previous ’14 winners: 3B Giovanny Urshela (April), OF Tyler Naquin (May, June), Gallas (July)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Louis Head
Stats: 0.00 ERA, 14.1 IP, 18 K, 3 BB, .180 AVG, 0.84 WHIP, 9 games

Previous ’14 winners: LHP Kyle Crockett (April), RHP Tyler Sturdevant (May), RHP Bryan Price (June), LHP Giovanni Soto (July)

Class A (high) Carolina

Player of the Month: 3B Yandy Diaz
Stats: .290/.431/.409/.840, 1 HR, 6 XBH, 10 RBI, 15 R, 21 BB, 27 games

Previous ’14 winners: SS Erik Gonzalez (April), OF Anthony Gallas (May), OF Luigi Rodriguez (June), INF Yhoxian Medina (July)

Pitcher of the Month: LHP Ryan Merritt
Stats: 3-0, 2.53 ERA, 32 IP, 24 K, 2 BB, .250 AVG, 1.03 WHIP, 5 starts

Previous ’14 winners: Merritt (April, May, June), RHP Jacob Lee (July)

Class A (low) Lake County

Player of the Month: 1B Nellie Rodriguez
Stats: .308/.403/.561/.964, 5 HR, 17 XBH, 28 RBI, 19 R, 17 BB, 28 games

Previous ’14 winners: OF Cody Farrell (April), INF Paul Hendrix (May), INF Claudio Bautista (June), OF Clint Frazier (July)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Mitch Brown
Stats: 5-0, 0.78 ERA, 34.2 IP, 35 K, 7 BB, .195 AVG, 0.89 WHIP, 6 starts

Previous ’14 winners: RHP Jordan Milbrath (April), RHP Robbie Aviles (May), RHP Ben Heller (June), LHP Wander Beras (July)

Class A (short season) Mahoning Valley

Player of the Month: OF Bradley Zimmer
Stats: .346/.477/.538/1.015, 2 HR, 5 XBH, 12 RBI, 11 R, 6 SB, 15 games

Previous ’14 winners: OF Jorge Martinez (June), Zimmer (July)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP J.P. Feyereisen
Stats: 0.00 ERA, 7.2 IP, 11 K, 0 BB, .115 AVG, 0.39 WHIP, 2 saves, 8 games

Previous ’14 winners: RHP Justin Garcia (June), LHP Sean Brady (July)

Arizona (Rookie) League

Player of the Month: 1B Bobby Bradley
Stats: .346/.368/.692/1.061, 3 HR, 9 XBH, 19 RBI, 17 R, 14 games

Previous ’14 winners: 1B Emmanuel Tapia (June), Bradley (July)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Jared Robinson
Stats: 0.90 ERA, 10 IP, 9 K, 1 BB, .184 AVG, 0.80 WHIP, 4 games

Previous ’14 winners: LHP Thomas Pannone (June), RHP Cortland Cox (July)

Dominican Summer League

Player of the Month: INF Jorma Rodriguez
Stats: .386/.526/.491/1.018, 5 XBH, 10 RBI, 11 R, 18 BB, 22 H, 18 games

Previous ’14 winners: OF Gabriel Mejia (June, July)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Daniel Gomez
Stats: 3-0, 0.00 ERA, 23 IP, 24 K, 1 BB, .107 AVG, 0.39 WHIP, 4 starts

Previous ’14 winners: RHP  Cesar Ventura (June), RHP Luis Jimenez

———————————

Month in review: April
Month in review: May
Month in review: June
Month in review: July

–JB

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