FIRST: It feels like Jason Kipnis has been right in the middle of a majority of Cleveland’s offensive rallies in this first half. Things were no different on Sunday, when the Tribe’s All-Star second baseman went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks to go along with two RBI.
It was a nice send-off for Kipnis, who was packing his bags after the game for his trip to New York for his first Midsummer Classic.
“I’m getting real excited now,” Kipnis said. “I hadn’t really given it too much thought yet. Hasn’t really clicked in yet. Probably will once I land in New York, but at the same time, it’s still going to be a break for me a little bit. I’ll be able to see my family, get some friends that are going down there.
“It’s going to be such a neat experience, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
As the season’s first “half” rolls to a close, Kipnis heads to Citi Field sporting a .301/.383/.514 slash line to go along with .13 home runs, 23 doubles, three triples, 57 RBI, 53 runs, 45 walks and 21 stolen bases in 84 games played. With that first-half showing, Kipnis finds himself in elite company in Cleveland history.
Kipnis joins Kenny Lofton (1994) as the only Indians players since 1916 to boast at least a .300 average, 20 stolen bases and 39 extra-base hits in a first half. In ’94, Lofton hit .374 with 45 stolen bases and 41 extra-base hits in 83 games. Kipnis also joins Roberto Alomar (1999) as the only Tribe hitters since 1916 to have at least 20 stolen bases, 35 extra-base hits, 45 walks and 55 RBI. In ’99, Alomar had 21 stolen bases, 36 extra-base hits, 55 walks and 60 RBI in 86 games.
“He’s been awesome,” Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. “That’s why he’s an All-Star. He’s done such a great job for us. He’s stepped up when we needed him, and I could not be more happy that he’s representing us in the All-Star Game.
“It seems like if he rolls, we roll. He’s kind of table-setting our lineup and it’s a lot of fun to hit behind him.”
The numbers back up Swisher’s comment, too. When Kipnis has at least one hit this season, the Indians have a 39-23 record. When Kipnis scores at least one run, Cleveland is 31-9. When the second baseman steals at least one base, the Tribe is 13-6.
SECOND: The way Indians manager Terry Francona sees it, the way his club has performed in the first half has set the team up for an exciting second half.
“I feel like we’ve played, up to this point, well enough where every game starting on Friday counts a lot,” Francona said. “That’s exciting. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs. … We’re coming back, and every game we play is so meaningful, and that’s a fun way to play baseball.”
You could call this Cleveland squad Team Streak.
They opened the season with an 8-13 record, then went 18-4, followed by 15-5, 0-4 and 6-2 (or, 6-6, to roll into the break, if you’d rather view it that way). I only split the 0-4 and 6-2 stretch to show the slump and response. That recent four-game losing streak ended with a pair of routs at the hands of the Tigers, and was followed by a closed-door meeting by the players.
The Indians got back to their brand of ball before the break.
“It was nice that we could help the city of Cleveland kind of step back off the ledge after the Detroit series,” Kipnis said. “So, that’s good. No, we knew that we had this break coming up and four days to rest for a bunch of guys that could use it, both physically and mentally.”
The Tribe offense ends the first half with a .258/.330/.418 slash line with 73 stolen bases, 104 homers, 292 extra-base hits, 334 walks, 454 runs (4.8 per game), 782 strikeouts and 1,339 total bases. This is the first time since 1999 that an Indians team had a slash line at least that good to go along with at least the same marks in stolen bases, homers and walks.
The pitching staff is 51-44 with a 4.31 ERA overall. The rotation has gone 34-34 with a 4.42 ERA and the bullpen is 17-10 with a 4.10 ERA. The team’s overall rate of 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings is the best mark in a first half in team history, well ahead of the second-best rate of 7.8 in 2000. The team’s 2.21:1 strikeout-to-walk ration is the fourth-best mark in club history for a first half.
The Indians have 51 wins in a first half for only the seventh time since 1916, though it is worth noting that the team also played more games (95) than in those previous six occurrences. The team’s .537 winning percentage is the 39th-best mark in a first half for the team, and is seventh among the seasons that included at least 51 first-half wins.
It should be an entertaining and interesting second half.
“We’ve got a good team,” Kipnis said. “We got a lot of depth and a lot of guys here that I think is going to prevent [a collapse] from happening. Not necessarily guaranteeing we’re going to win games, but I think we’re going to be a lot more consistent with our schedule coming up, and I think we’re going to go out and put some good, tough AB’s out there and win some games.”
THIRD: The Indians rotation had posted a 1.81 ERA over the team’s past seven games, heading into Sunday’s first-half finale with the Royals. Ubaldo Jimenez ended that impressive run by allowing four runs on eight hits in four innings of a no-decision for the Tribe.
I recently detailed the enigmatic first half turned in by The Big U, and Sunday’s effort only added to the curious nature of his performance this season.
Jimenez entered the afternoon with a 4-1 record and a 2.88 ERA over his last nine starts, which included 45 strikeouts and 29 walks across 50 innings. With the All-Star break looming, Francona decided to turn the ballgame over to the bullpen when Jimenez reached 76 pitches. That’s the fewest he’s thrown in a start since April 21.
“Tough day,” Francona said. “We battled back, and [against James] Shields, you don’t want to give an inch. And on a normal day, you probably have to stay with him a little longer. But, because we have four days off, we knew we could empty the bullpen, and that ended up helping us win a game.”
It also allowed for the Major League debut of C.C. Lee, who turned in 1.1 shutout innings for the Indians.
“I wanted to get him in the game before the break,” Francona said. “The game was, it wasn’t one of those where it’s a blowout either way. His stuff is exceptional. He looked a little nervous, which I think is to be expected. But I thought he handled himself really well, and I know everybody was excited for him.”
HOME: Indians closer Chris Perez isn’t heading to his third straight All-Star Game, but the right-hander has pitched like an All-Star heading into the break. In 10 appearances since coming off the disabled list, Perez has posted a 0.90 ERA (1 ER/10 IP) and a 1.10 WHIP with eight strikeouts, eight hits allowed and three walks for the Tribe.
If Perez can again bring some stability to the ninth inning, that would be a godsend for a Cleveland club that has had its share of issues late in games this season.
“I think he feels good,” Francona said. “He should feel good about himself. He’s bounced back now and pitched a bunch. He’s maintained his stuff, location. He’s done really well.”
American League (38-43-2) at National League (43-38-2)
84th All-Star Game on FOX at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Citi Field
FIRST: Lonnie Chisenhall has been back with the Indians for the past month. The question right now is whether Lonnie Baseball is here to stay?
After his early-season woes at the plate, Chisenhall was sent down to Triple-A to take a deep breath (to steal manager Terry Francona’s phrasing) and find the sweet swing he displayed in the spring. Chisenhall abused Minor League pitching, got some confidence going and he’s been on a roll since rejoining Cleveland.
“I think actually the timing was probably pretty good,” Francona said. “I think he admitted that it was probably good for him to be able to take a breather and kind of get his swing together and everything.”
Chisenhall figured it was only a matter of time before he starting hitting the way he feels he can.
“Nobody wants to go down,” Chisenhall said of being sent to Triple-A. “But I knew at some point I was going to start hitting the ball. That was their decision. I did all I could to work hard and continue to have good at-bats in Triple-A, and do what I could so I could help the Major League team when I got back.”
Chisenhall did plenty of damage while wearing Cleveland’s 1902 throwback uniform on Saturday night.
The third baseman finished 2-for-4 with a pair of extra-base hits, including a game-changing grand slam in the sixth inning. With two outs, Chisenhall stepped up to the plate with his previous at-bat in mind. In that meeting with Royals righty Jeremy Guthrie, Chisenhall could not do anything with the pitcher’s curve and went on to strike out.
In the sixth, Chisenhall looked for that curveball on the first pitch.
“I saw the same curveball. I took it,” said Chisenhall, referring to his at-bat in the fourth. “The at-bat before was a little bit of overshadowed now, but it was a good at-bat. I took what I saw there and I used it to my advantage. I just got a pitch over the plate and put the barrel on it.”
Over his last 19 games, all Chisenhall has done is put up a .323 (21-for-65) average to go along with three home runs, seven doubles, seven runs and 14 RBI. He has 11 strikeouts and five walks, or a 2.2: 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his first 28 games with the Indians, that ratio was 7.7:1. Over that span, Chisenhall hit .198 (20-for-101) with three homers, four doubles, seven runs and 11 RBI.
In his 27-game stay at Triple-A, Chisenhall hit .390 (1.132 OPS) with six homers, 16 extra-base hits, 26 RBI and a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“Sitting down there in that eight-hole,” Francona said, “if he starts swinging it like that, that makes our batting order look a little different.”
What’s been the difference for Chisenhall now compared to the beginning of the season?
“When he’s getting balls to hit, he’s not fouling them,” Francona said. “He was fouling those balls earlier. … Sometimes, you get one good pitch to hit an at-bat. Now, he’s getting it and he’s hitting it.”
SECOND: Left-hander Scott Kazmir has pieced together five solid starts in a row for the Indians. This begs the question: has he finally turned a corner in what has been an up-and-down season?
“I think so,” Kazmir said. “I feel like my delivery is more consistent, therefore my outings have been a little more consistent. I’m just going to keep at it.”
Over his past five starts, Kazmir has gone 2-0 with a 2.32 ERA with a 0.87 WHIP, with 20 hits allowed, 25 strikeouts and seven walks in 31 innings. It is his best five-start stretch since Sept. 8-Oct. 3, 2009, when he had a 1.80 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 30 innings for the Angels.
Kazmir’s ERA over his most recent five starts could be lower, too. He exited with one out and two runners on in the seventh inning, and reliever Matt Albers allowed both runners to score. Kazmir ended with six strikeouts, three walks and 108 pitches.
“When he takes the mound, we feel like we’re going to win,” Francona said. “He’s been really good, and he looks like he’s getting stronger. That’s what’s impressive.”
THIRD: Francona made it known recently that reliever Vinnie Pestano was no longer going to be the designated eighth-inning arm. Given some of his recent struggles, Pestano was going to be eased back into that full-time role, while arms such as Cody Allen and Joe Smith help tackle the setup duties.
With the Tribe holding a 5-3 lead in the eighth on Saturday, Francona sent Pestano to the mound to try to lock things down. Francona also gave the right-hander two outs in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays. This time around, Pestano allowed two hits, but he struck out one and escaped unscathed when first baseman Carlos Santana made a potentially game-saving diving catch on a liner from Miguel Tejada.
“I thought it was a really good chance [to use Pestano],” Francona said. “Again, we had used [Smith] a bunch and Cody. I thought it was a great night for [Pestano] to pitch there. We don’t want to run from our guys. We just want to help him get hot.”
HOME: Indians closer Chris Perez is letting his arm do the talking for him these days. Since returning from the disabled list, Cleveland’s stopper has performed well, going 6-for-6 in save chances with a 1.00 ERA to go along with a 1.11 WHIP. In his nine appearances since rejoining the bullpen, Perez has given up seven hits, struck out six and walked three. He worked a one-two-three ninth on Saturday.
“He’s really staying down in the zone extremely well,” Francona said. “So, when they hit the ball, you’re not getting it in the air with much authority. He looks really good. He’s pitched, I think, six out of eight days. He’s done a really good job.”
Royals (43-48) at Indians (50-44)
at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday at Progressive Field
FIRST: Cool Corey Kluber has received two consecutive standing ovations from the Progressive Field faithful. He walked off to rousing cheers after his outing against the Tigers on Sunday and he did so again on Friday night after blanking the Royals.
As Kluber walked to the dugout in the eighth inning, the cheers grew louder and the young pitcher kept his composure. No smile, hat tip or wave. Just another trip back to the bench to watch the bullpen attempt to nail down the victory.
“He’s a pretty composed kid,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Cool, calm and collected. That describes Kluber in the clubhouse (Klubhouse?) and lately it sums up his performance on the mound. The best example on Friday came in the fifth inning, when Kansas City loaded the bases with one out for Alex Gordon.
Three outings ago, Kluber slipped into a bases-loaded jam with one out in the fifth inning for Gordon, and then fell behind the batter, 3-0. The next pitch, which everyone figured would be a fastball, was promptly placed over the wall for a grand slam. Kluber had that experience in mind this time around after working ahead, 2-0, and then throwing three balls to run the count full.
“I had a pretty good idea he was looking for a fastball away,” Kluber explained, “because that’s pretty much what we had stuck with to that point. So, my thinking is kind of, ‘If I can throw the curveball for a strike, great, but make it look like a fastball so he might recognize that early.’ I guess, I learned from the last time I faced him with the bases loaded.”
Kluber spun an 84-mph curve, which Gordon swung through for a strikeout. Eric Hosmer followed by beating a 2-2 curve into the ground for an inning-ending out, which Kluber retired himself with a scoop of the grounder and a sprint to first base. Overall, Kluber logged 7.2 innings, during which he allowed no runs on three hits with eight strikeouts and three walks.
Over his past dozen starts, Kluber has gone 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA (16th among American League starters in that span), a 1.16 WHIP (tied-16th), a 4.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio (10th), 9.17 strikeouts per nine innings (seventh), 74 strikeouts (fifth), 16 walks and 72.2 innings (tied-sixth).
Considering one of the stats I posted in my previous entry on Kluber, I looked to see how many sinkers he logged, according to the PitchFX data. Naturally, he hit the magic 48 on the nose. So, to update my stat from the last post, Kluber is now 4-2 with a 2.49 in nine starts featuring 48 or more sinkers, and he’s 2-3 with a 7.76 ERA in the five starts with fewer than 48 sinkers. That excludes his relief and rain-shortened games.
SECOND: Kluber got all the support he needed when the Indians pieced together a three-run rally in the seventh inning (after Royals lefty Bruce Chen bowed out following six shutout innings of one-hit ball). Cleveland had five straight hits, including a two-run, pinch-hit double from Michael Bourn.
Within the rally was a stunning contribution from Mark Reynolds.
With runners on first and second base with no outs, Reynolds squared up at the last second and bunted a pitch from reliever Aaron Crow. It was perfectly placed to the left of the mound and bounced into no-man’s land. Reynolds reached with an unlikely infield single to set the stage for Bourn.
When did Reynolds think to bunt?
“Right as he was in his wind-up,” Reynolds said. “I was thinking about it. I was like, ‘What the heck? I’ll try it.’ And then it worked out for me. I just wanted to do something positive. I figured worst case, I get the guys to second and third and we get the chance to score some more runs.”
Reynolds said it felt good to come through like that given his recent struggles. When he stepped up to the plate for that at-bat, he was mired in droughts of 2-for-35 (.057), 14-for-89 (.157), 23-for-143 (.161), 32-for-189 (.169) and 37-for-210 (.176). That last sample dates back to May 4. Reynolds might be the Tribesman in most need of the All-Star break.
THIRD: With closer Chris Perez unavailable due to his recent work load, Cody Allen got the nod with a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning. Sidearmer Joe Smith escaped a one-on, two-out jam with one pitch in the eighth that created a groundout from Billy Butler. Allen notched the save after escaping a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the ninth.
Between the two hits and one walk he allowed, Allen struck out the side in his second save of the season. That upped his first-half total to 52 strikeouts in just 39.2 innings. That puts Allen in some rare company in terms of first-half performances by Indians relievers.
Most strikeouts in a first half by an Indians reliever since 1916
1. Sid Monge (1979): 64 in 76 innings (7.6 K/9)
2. Paul Shuey (2001): 57 in 41 innings (12.5 K/9)
3. Jim Kern (1977): 54 in 57.2 innings (8.4 K/9)
4. Don McMahon (1964): 53 in 48.1 innings (9.9 K/9)
5. Cody Allen (2013): 52 in 39.2 innings (11.8 K/9)
5. Steve Karsat (1999): 52 in 54.2 innings (8.6 K/9)
5. Eric Plunk (1994): 52 in 53.1 innings (8.8 K/9)
Best K/9 rate by Indians an reliever in a first half since 1916 (min. 15 innings)
1. Vinnie Pestano (2011): 12.7
2. Ed Glynn (1982): 12.6
3. Paul Shuey (2001): 12.5
4. David Riske (2002): 12.0
5. Cody Allen (2013): 11.8
HOME: The Indians kept Kansas City off the scoreboard to chalk up their American League-leading 12th shutout of the first half. The dozen blanks are the most in an entire season for the Tribe since the club had 13 in 2008. Only the Pirates (13) currently have more than the Indians this season. Cleveland’s 12 shutouts are the most for the team in a first half since collecting 17 shutouts prior to the All-Star break in 1968. Only that ’68 squad and the 1948 Indians (13) had more in a first half in team history, dating back to the first All-Star Game in 1933. Nine of Cleveland shutouts have come at home, marking the most home shutouts in the Majors this season. It’s the most at home in a season since the Indians had 10 in the entire 2006 campaign.
Royals (43-47) at Indians (49-44)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Progressive Field
Given some of the incredible numbers being put up around baseball in this season’s first half — Miguel Cabrera’s quest for a second Triple Crown, Chris Davis’ power onslaught, Manny Machado’s quest for the all-time double mark, Yasiel Puig’s incredible rookie debut, etc; — I got to thinking about which players might make up an all-time All-Star team for the Indians.
Now, All-Star teams are generally compiled bases on the first-half performance of players. So, what I was contemplating wasn’t a Mount Rushmore of all-time Cleveland greats (that would include someone like Larry Doby, who didn’t make the cut for this list), or the best lineup based on the top overall seasons in Tribe history. This little project was based on the best first-half showings in the history of the Indians franchise.
I established a few ground rules for my search. I’d try to find the best first-half by a player at each position, and no player could make the All-Star team twice. For example, just because Tris Speaker had a handful of incredible first-half showings, I couldn’t name him as the starting center fielder and left fielder. Only one Speaker could make the cut. And, as it happens, Speaker only made the all-time All-Star bench.
That leads me to the next ground rule, which dealt with the construction of the roster. I wasn’t going to compile a 30-plus player team here. What I did instead was went with a more traditional 25-man roster. The roster would include a starting nine, including a designated hitter, a five-man rotation and a seven-man bullpen. The bench required a backup catcher, outfielder and infielder, and a fourth player. For hitters, I limited the search to those with at least 250 at-bats, with one exception (Sandy Alomar Jr.’s 1997 first-half of 240 at-bats).
To find the all-time Indians All-Star team, I used baseball-reference.com, which includes first-half split data dating back to 1916. Under the circumstances, someone like Nap Lajoie (with Cleveland from 1902-1914) didn’t make the cut. I tried to select as many players as I could from different eras, but the 1990s (obviously) dominated this list in the end.
That is how I went about this, and here are my picks, which you can surely debate.
1. Kenny Lofton, CF
Slash line: .378/.443/.578/1.021
Other stats: 10 HR, 24 2B, 7 3B, 43 RBI, 45 SB, 82 R, 129 H, 42 BB, 40 K
2. Roberto Alomar, 2B
Slash line: .324/.420/.517/.937
Other stats: 12 HR, 22 2B, 2 3B, 60 RBI, 21 SB, 78 R, 104 H, 55 BB, 49 K
3. Albert Belle, LF
Slash line: .357/.445/.692/1.137
Other stats: 25 HR, 32 2B, 1 3B, 76 RBI, 8 SB, 70 R, 116 H, 50 BB, 52 K
4. Jim Thome, 1B
Slash line: .326/.435/.655/1.090
Other stats: 23 HR, 29 2B, 1 3B, 73 RBI, 66 R, 99 H, 62 BB, 93 K
5. Manny Ramirez, RF
Slash line: .333/.423/.640/1.063
Other stats: 25 HR, 14 2B, 2 3B, 96 RBI, 71 R, 101 H, 46 BB, 69 K
6. Travis Hafner, DH
Slash line: .322/.461/.650/1.112
Other stats: 25 HR, 17 2B, 1 3B, 74 RBI, 68 R, 92 H, 71 BB, 60 K
7. Al Rosen, 3B
Slash line: .302/.404/.639/1.043
Other stats: 25 HR, 13 2B, 4 3B, 74 RBI, 62 R, 86 H, 46 BB, 34 K
8. Victor Martinez, C
Slash line: .324/.382/.553/.936
Other stats: 16 HR, 23 2B, 68 RBI, 44 R, 100 H, 28 BB, 40 K
9. Lou Boudreau, SS
Slash line: .355/.463/.527/.991
Other stats: 8 HR, 19 2B, 2 3B, 54 RBI, 55 R, 97 H, 53 BB, 4 K
1. Tris Speaker, OF
Slash line: .408/.500/.578/1.078
Other stats: 5 HR, 25 2B, 6 3B, 77 RBI, 5 SB, 72 R, 125 H, 53 BB, 6 K
2. Juan Gonzalez, OF/DH
Slash line: .347/.391/.640/1.031
Other stats: 23 HR, 21 2B, 83 RBI, 61 R, 107 H, 25 BB, 49 K
3. Joe Sewell, INF
Slash line: .347/.464/.458/.923
Other stats: 2 HR, 21 2B, 2 3B, 44 RBI, 7 SB, 52 R, 96 H, 57 BB, 8 K
4. Sandy Alomar Jr., C
Slash line: .375/.408/.608/1.016
Other stats: 11 HR, 23 2B, 44 RBI, 40 R, 90 H, 13 BB, 26 K
1. Bob Feller, RHP
Win-loss/ERA: 15-5, 1.90
Other stats: 180 IP, 19 CG, 190 K, 65 BB, 1.14 WHIP, .215 AVG
2. Gaylord Perry, RHP
Win-loss/ERA: 15-3, 1.47
Other stats: 189.1 IP, 17 CG, 140 K, 55 BB, 0.88 WHIP, .175 AVG
3. Luis Tiant, RHP
Win-loss/ERA: 14-5, 1.24
Other stats: 152.2 IP, 14 CG, 157 K, 44 BB, 0.87 WHIP, .166 AVG
4. Sam McDowell, LHP
Win-loss/ERA: 8-8, 1.55
Other stats: 145.1 IP, 8 CG, 168 K, 59 BB, 1.06 WHIP, .183 AVG
5. Cliff Lee, LHP
Win-loss/ERA: 12-2, 2.31
Other stats: 124.2 IP, 1 CG, 106 K, 20 BB, 1.04 WHIP, .234 AVG
1. Doug Jones, RHP
Win-loss/ERA: 4-2, 1.41
Other stats: 23 saves, 44.2 IP, 27 K, 9 BB, 1.01 WHIP, .225 AVG
2. Jose Mesa, RHP
Win-loss/ERA: 1-0, 1.84
Other stats: 21 saves, 29.1 IP, 25 K, 8 BB, 1.06 WHIP, .223 AVG
3. Don McMahon, RHP
Win-loss/ERA: 3-1, 1.68
Other stats: 5 saves, 48.1 IP, 53 K, 25 BB, 1.14 WHIP, .179 WHIP
4. Rafael Betancourt, RHP
Win-loss/ERA: 1-0, 1.13
Other stats: 39.2 IP, 36 K, 3 BB, 0.66 WHIP, .169 AVG
5. Dave LaRoche, LHP
Win-loss/ERA: 3-1, 2.05
Other stats: 7 saves, 44 IP, 50 K, 33 BB, 1.25 WHIP, .152 AVG
6. Julian Tavarez, RHP
Win-loss/ERA: 5-0, 1.18
Other stats: 45.2 IP, 34 K, 10 BB, 1.01 WHIP, .217
7. Vinnie Pestano, RHP
Win-loss/ERA: 1-0, 2.97
Other stats: 1 save, 33.1 IP, 47 K, 13 BB, 1.05 WHIP, .185 AVG
Ubaldo Jimenez is not the same pitcher he was with the Rockies in 2010. It’s not even close. And, yet, there are certain statistical marks being put up by Jimenez that are his best since that season, which played a major role in his perceived value at the Trade Deadline in 2011.
Jimenez is not the same pitcher he was for the Indians in 2012. It’s not even close. And, yet, there are certain statistical marks being put up by the pitcher that are nearly identical to a handful of areas that led to Jimenez’s worst season in the Majors.
That is an odd mixture: recreating some of the successes of 2010, while working around some of the failures of 2012. It is an approach that — at least for this first half — has helped Jimenez turn into a more reliable pitcher for Cleveland. He isn’t an ace like he once was, but he is keeping the Tribe in ballgames on a consistent basis.
As Jimenez’s pitch velocity decreased over the past three years, it was imperative that he learned how to adapt to working with diminished stuff. Other pitchers have made the successful transition from “thrower” to “pitcher” and that is what Jimenez needed to go through, too. What we are seeing in this first half is the result of a pitcher (finally) learning how to accept who he is now, and adjusting accordingly.
Let’s take a run through some of the numbers…
Overall through 18 starts: 7-4, 4.37 ERA, 94.2 IP, 92 K, 51 BB, 1.45 WHIP, .242 AVG (.738 OPS)
That is not the prettiest season line, but Jimenez is making it work. Maybe it’s a case of bending without breaking, and perhaps that is not sustainable over an entire season. For now, Jimenez has lived with the walks and home runs (13), while limiting the damage. It is also worth noting that his overall line is skewed by his first three outings, during which he went 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA in only 12 innings.
Since those first three turns, Jimenez has gone 7-2 with a 3.38 ERA over 82.2 innings, in which he has 81 strikeouts, 41 walks and a .231 average against in 15 starts. The right-hander has been even better in his most recent nine starts, during which he’s gone 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA across 50 innings, which include 45 strikeouts, 29 walks and a .241 opponents’ average. He’s been consistent throughout in terms of BABIP: .290 in 1st 3 starts, .286 in 15 starts since then, and .284 in his latest nine outings.
This would be a good time, out of fairness, to point out a couple of things that have worked in Jimenez’s favor to this point. The Indians have averaged 5.2 runs of support per start, representing the 14th-best rate of support among qualifying American League starting pitchers. The Indians, as a result of that support and his improvement, have a .667 (12-6) winning percentage (ninth-best in AL) on days the Big U takes the hill. Also, it’s worth noting that Jimenez is 2-0 with a 3.02 ERA (eight starts) against sub-.500 teams and 5-4 with a 5.58 ERA (10 starts) against clubs with a winning record (as of this writing).
Jimenez’s success this year comes amidst some continued struggles in some key areas:
- He has given up 1.2 homers per nine innings and issued 4.8 walks per nine innings. Last season, when Jimenez ended 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA, those rates were 1.3 HR/9 and 4.8 BB/9, so almost exactly the same. His 12.4-percent walk rate is the highest percentage among American League starting pitchers.
- Jimenez is actually averaging fewer innings per start (5.3 innings, ranking 61st among AL starters) this season than he did in 2012 (5.7). His average of 4.21 pitches per plate appearance (second-highest in AL) is the highest mark of his career. He’s averaging 23 plate appearances per start, 96.8 pitches per outing and he’s needing 6.1 pitches on average to record an out.
- Jimenez’s fastball velocity over the past four years is as follows, with MLB rank among qualifying pitchers included: 96.1 mph in 2010 (first), 93.5 mph in 2011 (10th), 92.5 mph in 2012 (23rd), 91.4 mph in 2013 (42nd).
- Jimenez has only logged a quality start (at least six innings and three earned runs or fewer) in 33-percent of his starts, a rate that ranks 63rd among qualifying AL starters.
So, how then, is Jimenez achieving his recent success?
The right-hander has most notably experienced a drastic improvement against left-handed hitters. Last year, lefties posted a .271/.375/.479 slash line against Jimenez, who has altered his approach some this year. He is relying more heavily on a splitter, which he didn’t use at his peak with the Rockies. Jimenez has reduced the number of two-strike sinkers to lefties, leaning more on that split and a four-seamer (according to brooksbaseball.net) when ahead in the count or looking to put the hitter away. The result so far has been a .229/.298/.414 slash line for left-handed hitters.
Right-handed hitters have dropped to .252/.380/.388 this year from .270/.354/.424 a year ago. Jimenez has increased his slider usage early in counts and reduced sinker usage with two strikes. Remember, that sinker was Jimenez’s main weapon back in his prime with Colorado. With its diminished velocity, he’s worked other pitches in more often. Jimenez has also cut down the number of curveballs he’s thrown this season.
Per fangraphs.com, here are Jimenez’s pitch use percentages from 2012 compared to 2013: fastball (two/four) — 57.5 (2012)/53.7 (2013); slider — 15.8/22.3; curveball — 8.8/3.4; changeup — 13.0/10.2; splitter — 4.9/10.3.
With all of that in mind, here’s a glace at some of the results:
- Jimenez is striking out an average of 8.7 hitters per nine innings, which is his best rate since 2010.
- His 22.3 strikeout percentage is also his best mark since 2010 (23.9), and 10th-best in the American League
- Jimenez’s extra-base hit percentage of 7.3 is his best since 2010 (6.2)
- The pitcher’s 62-percent balls-in-play rate is the best of his career, which has a 65-percent rate overall.
- His strike percentage (61) is better than his career rate (60).
- Jimenez’s 31-percent called strike rate is the best of his career (29 percent overall).
- Hitters are fouling off 29-percent of his pitches, marking the best rate of his career and 12th-best rate in the AL.
- Jimenez’s 29-percent 0-2-count rate is best of his career and 10th in the American League.
- Jimenez has given up 13 home runs, but 10 of the blasts have been solo shots.
- He is inducing swings at pitches outside the strike zone 25.8 percent of the time (23.2 percent in 2012).
- Contact rate inside the strike zone is down to 86.2 percent from 88.9 percent in 2012.
- Jimenez’s contact rate overall is down to 80.4 percent from 82.4 percent in 2012.
- Hitters have a .269 average vs. Jimenez’s fastball compared to .319 a year ago.
- Hitters have a .171 average vs. the pitcher’s slider compared to .273 in 2012.
- Jimenez’s 8 percent swing-and-miss rate is his best since 2010, and up from 7 percent in 2012.
- His 57 percent first-pitch strike rate is the best of his career, and up from 52.4 in 2012.
That’s a whole lot of good mixed in with the bad. By cleaning up, and speeding up, his delivery, and altering his pitch selection, Jimenez is getting more swings and misses, and forcing hitters to chase more pitches, even though his average pitch velocity is at a career low. The walk rate remains high, but chalk it up to a case of being effectively wild for now. As Indians manager Terry Francona said on Tuesday, hitters have a hard time honing in on anything with the way Jimenez has pitched to this point.
What will be interesting to see is whether Jimenez can keep this up over a 30-35 start season, or if the high pitch counts, short outings and bloated walk rate will come back to bite him, and the Tribe, in the second half.
For now, it seems like Jimenez has accepted who he is these days as a pitcher, and he has found a way to make it work.
FIRST: We’ll get to the career night for Michael Brantley, and the bullpen that he bailed out, but let’s kick off the latest CTB by taking a look at the outing turned in by Indians righty Corey Kluber.
After all, before the bullpen meltdown, and before Brantley’s second home run of the afternoon, Kluber was in line to dominate the stories and headlines in Cleveland.
Kluber pitched into the seventh inning, holding the Tigers to one Miguel Cabrera solo home run and tying a career high with 10 strikeouts. When the pitcher walked off the field with one out in the seventh, and the Indians holding a 6-1 lead, the Progressive Field crowd gave him a standing ovation.
The drama over the final few innings robbed Kluber of a well-deserved win.
“Hey, the team got a win,” Kluber said. “That’s what’s important.”
It was Kluber’s best start since June 16, when he blanked the Nationals over eight innings. In this no-decision, the pitcher was charged with two runs (one scored following his exit) on five hits in 6 1/3 innings. Early on in the outing, Kluber relied heavily on his sinker, especially early in the count, to establish the inside corner and set up situations to mix in his breaking ball and changeup.
“That was what Carlos [Santana] and I talked about beforehand,” Kluber said. “I think it was big for us during and after that first inning. They came out aggressive, but [we didn't] shy away from being aggressive just because they were.”
Case in point: Cabrera drilled a first-pitch sinker out to left for a no-doubt homer in the first inning. That didn’t deter Kluber from sticking with the plan.
“He threw a fastball in to Cabrera that was probably in off the plate, and he hit it a long way,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And to Corey’s credit, he didn’t vary from being in attack mode. Because of that, he got a lot of broken bats, he stayed ahead in the count. He was aggressive. He was really good.”
As for that Cabrera long ball, Kluber said: “I made a good pitch. I put it where I wanted to. He’s a great hitter. You just tip your cap to him and move on.”
Kluber logged 53 sinkers in the game. The right-hander has enjoyed much better success this season when similarly leaning on that pitch.
If you exclude his two relief outings, and his rain-shortened start on ay 31, Kluber has thrown 48 or more sinkers in eight starts, going 3-2 with a 2.85 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 10 walks in 53.2 innings. In the five starts in which he has thrown fewer than 48 sinkers, Kluber has gone 2-3 with a 7.76 ERA, 22 strikeouts and eight walks in 26.2 innings.
According to brooksbaseball.net, Kluber averaged 95.6 mph (topping out at 98.1 mph) with his sinker. On the season, Kluber was averaging 92.8 mph with his fastball (four-seam/two-seam) heading into Sunday’s start, according to fangraphs.com. Among American League starters with at least 70 innings, that was tied for the fifth-fastest fastball.
Highest fastball velocity among AL starters (min. 70 innings)
1. Derek Holland, Texas, 93.6
2. Max Scherzer, Detroit, 93.2
3. Yu Darvish, Texas, 93.1
4. Chris Sale, Chicago, 92.9
5. Corey Kluber, Cleveland, 92.8
5. Justin Verlander, Detroit, 92.8
5. Jason Hammel, Baltimore, 92.8
Over his past 11 starts (since his May 10 disaster in Detroit), Kluber has gone 4-3 with a 3.74 ERA over 65 innings, in which he has 66 strikeouts and 13 walks. His 9.13 strikeouts per nine innings over that span rank ninth among American League starters. Others on that list include Sale (11.68), Darvish (10.4), Scherzer (10.13), Felix Hernandez (10.07), Justin Masterson (9.73), Holland (9.37), Joe Blanton (9.26) and Verlander (9.2).
SECOND: There is a reason that Michael Brantley was dubbed “Dr. Smooth” by the Plain Dealer’s Dennis Manoloff a few seasons ago. Brantley is about as stoic as they come, and calm, cool and collected under pressure.
Side note: “Dr. Smooth” appeared on the back of Brantley’s 2013 Topps baseball card and has since been used on the Progressive Field scoreboard when the left fielder comes through big.
In Sunday’s victory, Brantley came through when it mattered most. In the eighth inning, following a three-run collapse by setup man Vinnie Pestano that pulled the game into a 6-6 tie, Brantley clubbed a two-run home run to push Cleveland ahead again for good.
Brantley ended the day 3-for-4 with two homers, a double and a career-high five RBI for the Tribe.
“I think he likes hitting with men on base,” Francona said. “But he doesn’t change anything. He doesn’t try to do too much. … He doesn’t over-swing and the results [are there]. He’s got such a pretty swing. When he gets that barrel to it, it’s a gorgeous thing to watch.”
To Francona’s point, here are some of Brantley’s numbers this season in clutch scenarios:
Runners on base: .341/.381/.473/.854
ROB with 2 outs: .362/.403/.534/.938
Scoring position: .367/.405/.500/.905
RISP with 2 outs: .406/.457/.625/1.082
“There’s times when the game might dictate getting on base or driving a guy in or whatnot,” Brantley said. “But the game dictates that. I don’t dictate that. I just try to put up a good at-bat every time.”
In his 84th game of the season, Brantley has already matched a career high for a season with seven home runs. He has five homers in his past 61 at-bats after launching just two in his first 246 at-bats this season. He is also about halfway to the career high for his dad, Mickey Brantley, who belted 15 for Seattle in 1988.
“Is that right?” Michael Brantley said with a grin. “We’re doing all right.”
THIRD: There is no getting around the fact that Cleveland’s bullpen — a strength for the past few seasons – has been a glaring weakness this year. The Tribe is tied with the Orioles for the most blown saves (17) in the AL, and has given up 131 runs in Innings 7-9 this season. Only the Astros (141) had given up more runs in the final three innings among AL teams, heading into Sunday.
In the win over Detroit, Indians relievers Joe Smith and Pestano — the setup men for closer Chris Perez — combined to allow four runs on seven hits in 1.1 innings (seventh and eighth). That allowed the Tigers to go from being down, 6-1, to pulling things back into a tie.
“I know that I’ve definitely had my struggles and I’m a big part of that,” Pestano said of the bullpen’s overall issues. “A lot of the blame for a lot of the struggles, and a lot of the lack of ability to succeed in situations I’m put in, falls back on me.”
There are a couple things at play this season that have led to the issue.
Inconsistency in the starting staff is one. Cleveland has 33 games in which the starter did not record an out in the sixth inning. Only the Astros (34) have more such games in the AL. Fewer innings by the rotation leads to more innings for the bullpen, and this ‘pen has also dealt with injuries this year to key players such as Pestano and Perez.
Now, the bullpen had shown improvement recently, posting a 2.92 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP over the team’s 15-5 run from June 11-July 2. That said, the rotation also average just under six innings per start over that same stretch. Over the past five games (1-4), the ‘pen has posted a 6.85 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. Go figure, the rotation has averaged less than five innings per game over that period. It’s all connected.
HOME: Say what you want about the late hiccups that nearly derailed this win, but the Indians showed more fight in this game than they had in the first two games against Detroit. The Tigers outscored the Tribe, 16-4, in the first two games to run their winning streak over Cleveland to seven games. Following Saturday’s loss, the Indians players held a closed-door meeting.
Francona said veteran Jason Giambi played a role.
“Any time Jason Giambi talks, it’s good,” Francona said. “Not only do they listen, but I listen to him. He’s got that kind of presence about him. I actually was talking to ‘G’ a lot during [Saturday's] game about things. I was glad he [spoke in the meeting].”
What was said?
“You’d probably be better off asking him,” said the manager. “I just think there’s a way to compete, and a way to fight back. Through all of this, all the ups and downs — and there’s been a bunch of them — we’re [2 1/2 games] back. That’s not very far.”
KIP-O-METER: downgraded to yellow. On Saturday, the day he made his first All-Star team, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis went 0-for-4 to end his 16-game hitting streak and 36-game on-base streak. On Sunday, Kipnis went 1-for-3 with a single, walk, run and stolen base. He joins Grady Sizemore (2008), Roberto Alomar (1999) and Von Hayes (1982) as the only Cleveland players with at least 20 stolen bases and 50 RBI in a first half (since 1916).
Tigers (48-39) at Indians (46-42)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Progressive Field
FIRST: Let me start this one off with saying I enjoy covering Justin Masterson. He’s a refreshing player to chronicle given his sense of humor, constant smile and easygoing way of going about things.
In a game that’s extremely hard, and extremely scrutinized, Masterson does his best to keep things light. He did so again after Friday’s loss to Detroit, following a rough performance in which he allowed six runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, marking his shortest outing of the season.
This time, Masterson’s delivery was off both during and after the game.
Masterson was asked what the issue was against the Tigers, and the pitcher decided to quip that it had to do with his decision to go clean-shaven for the start.
“I was just flying open all day,” Masterson said. “In my last outing, I had a little bit of a beard going on. I shaved it before this one. I think my head was a little bit lighter, so I was just kind of pulling off to the side and I was pushing a lot of stuff out there. So I have to re-evaluate the next time that I shave.”
Masterson chuckled while reporters stood silent.
This is hardly a big deal, but it seems that there could be a better time to joke about a poor performance. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism after a rough start, or maybe it’s Masterson’s way of showing that he doesn’t take a bad day at the office more serious than it probably needs to be taken. After all, there are 30-plus starts in a season. This was just one of them.
Masterson has done this in the past. Most notable were two such postgame interviews last season.
On July 6 a year ago, he allowed eight runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Rays and gave up a home run to Luke Scott to snap the batter’s 0-for-41 slump. Masterson joked that it was just “people helping people.” On Aug. 3 last season, he gave up seven runs in four innings to the Tigers and thought that postgame session was a good time to talk about his wife’s cookie business.
Masterson has the right idea about keeping things light, but it doesn’t always go over well in the immediate aftermath of a tough loss.
Flying open was an issue, but it had nothing to do with Masterson’s beard. The result was a sinker that went flat at times and a breaking ball that wasn’t as sharp. A pair of hitters with poor career numbers against Masterson also came up big. Ramon Santiago (1-for-14 vs. the pitcher going into Friday) delivered a tw0-run single in the second. Jhonny Peralta (1-for-17) had a two-run double in the fifth.
“When the sinker is up, anybody can hit it,” Masterson said. “It doesn’t matter what the numbers are.”
It is worth noting that Masterson spun a brilliant complete-game shutout last time out against the White Sox. In the outings on either side of that start, though, he’s given up 12 runs in 11 innings combined against a pair of good lineups between the Orioles and Tigers.
Here’s a look at Masterson’s season split in two:
Last 9 starts:
3-5, 4.91 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 55 IP, 32 ER, 60 K, 23 BB, 9.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 8.4 H/9
First 10 starts:
7-2, 2.83 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 70 IP, 22 ER, 71 K, 26 BB, 9.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 6.8 H/9
SECOND: It certainly did not help matters that Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello turned in a gem against Cleveland’s offense, spinning seven shutout innings to guide Detroit to an easy win.
Said Tigers manager Jim Leyland: “I didn’t expect him to shut this lineup out, to be honest with you, but I’m thrilled to death that he did.”
Porcello ended the evening with six strikeouts and two walks, scattering five hits along the way. Indians center fielder Michael Bourn said the right-hander did a good job of attacking the lineup with fastballs later in the count rather than using the soft stuff.
“He had a good four-seamer that he was getting to us at the end of counts,” Bourn said. “After he slowed us down, he was speeding us up pretty much.”
THIRD: There was a glaring baserunning blunder by Drew Stubbs in the third inning that cost the Indians a possible rally when they were only trailing, 3-0.
Stubbs led off with a single and Bourn followed by sending a pitch from Porcello to center field. Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson made a diving catch, but Stubbs — who moved halfway between first and second base — stutter-stepped, considered retreating and then ran to second base. Jackson, who caught the low liner just above the ground, threw to first base and easily doubled up Stubbs for an unlikely twin killing.
So, what happened?
“The umpire was directly in his line of vision,” Indians manager Terry Francona explained. “And the way Jackson caught the ball … Stubby had no idea. He thought the ball fell. He’s maybe our most conscientious and best baserunner. He got shielded and didn’t know what to do.
“He didn’t know. He was stuck, and he knew it. It just was a fluke. Wasn’t the umpire’s fault. Just was a fluke.”
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis went 1-for-4, but finished with three strikeouts in a game for the first time since May 22. That sixth-inning single did, however, extend his career-best hitting streak to 16 games. During that streak, Kipnis has hit .446 (25-for-56) with 13 extra-base hits, 20 RBI and a .916 OPS. It’s the longest hit streak for a Tribe second baseman since Robbie Alomar went 18 games in 2000.
The single also extended Kipnis’ on-base streak — reaching via a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch — to 36 consecutive games, dating back to May 26. The last Cleveland player to enjoy an on-base streak at least that long was Victor Martinez, who lasted 45 games between 2005-06. Martinez went 3-for-3 for Detroit in Friday’s loss.
Tigers (47-38) at Indians (46-40)
at 4:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Progressive Field
FIRST: The late-inning bullpen trio of Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez has arguably been one of the better groups in the American League over the past two seasons. This year?
“It’s been a little bit of a mess,” Smith said after Tuesday’s win in Kansas City.
The “mess” Smith spoke of is the mix of injuries and inconsistency that has struck the Tribe’s trio. To this point, Smith has done his part, logging 31.1 innings. Pestano and Perez, on the other hand, have each spent time on the disabled list, fought diminished velocity and experienced plenty of drama both in outings that have gone right and outings that have gone wrong.
Tuesday marked only the fourth time this season that Smith, Pestano and Perez finished a game for the Indians. Smith turned in a clean seventh, Pestano allowed one run in the eighth but escaped further harm with a critical double play, and Perez collected a save after putting a couple runners aboard.
“We had the order,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Now, we’ve just got to get them hot. That’ll happen.”
Last season, the Indians went 20-7 in games that all three pitchers appeared and 38-8 in games featuring Pestano and Perez. The trio combined for a 3.01 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP during the 2012 slate. This season, they are currently sporting a combined ERA of 3.12 and WHIP of 1.24. Smith (2.01/0.99) has done most of the heavy lifting.
Perez returned from the DL on Thursday after another bout with the right shoulder injury that first flared in Spring Training. An effective Perez helps restore order to the bullpen, pushing Pestano back to the eighth, Smith to the seventh, and the rest of the arms — some capable of handling late innings — into the sixth.
“Hopefully getting CP back and Vinnie getting his stuff back, hopefully we can start rolling like we did the past two years,” Smith said. “[Having CP back] makes it so much deeper when you’ve got an arm like Cody Allen and Nick Hagadone and Bryan Shaw sitting there, those guys that can pitch the sixth inning. They’ve proven they can pitch later in the game, too. That just shows the depth of our bullpen. When CP’s back and going, that just makes us that much stronger and I think it takes a lot of pressure off our starters.”
SECOND: A key point in the win came in the fifth inning, when Indians starter Corey Kluber fell behind, 3-0, against Alex Gordon with the bases loaded and one out. At that juncture, Cleveland was holding a 4-0 lead on the Royals.
There was talk in the press box — from a few Royals writers — that Kluber might’ve been best served just walking Gordon, conceding one run and taking his chances with Alcides Escobar (.608 OPS).
“No, no, no,” Francona said. “That’s the problem with falling behind. If you start walking guys with the bases loaded, you’re asking for trouble. Sometimes you’ve just got to get the guy out with a fastball. Bases loaded? He had just walked [Johnny Giavotella]. If you start getting toward Billy Butler or [Eric] Hosmer, you’re asking for a crooked number.”
Kluber went after Gordon with a fastball and the Royals left field deposited it well over the right-field wall for a game-tying grand slam. Escobar followed with a sharp groundout and Hosmer flew out to left to end the inning.
THIRD: Cleveland drew eight walks on offense in a game for the seventh time this season. Only the Red Sox and A’s — eight apiece — have more such games this season. In Tuesday’s win, Carlos Santana was the poster boy for the patient approach that helped the Tribe get away with a one-run victory.
Santana finished the game 0-for-1, but he drew three walks, including one with the bases full in the first inning, and chipped in a sacrifice fly. He became just the fourth Indians hitter since at least 1916 to have no hits, two RBI and three walks in a single game. He’s only the third to do it in a game that didn’t go extra innings.
Zero hits, two RBI, three walks (since 1916)
Carlos Santana, July 2, 2013, five plate appearances
Brook Jacoby, Sept. 21, 1989, eight plate appearances
Dale Mitchell, June 6, 1949, five plate appearances
Odell Hale, June 13, 1936, six plate appearances
Francona said Santana’s most impressive plate appearance came in the first inning, when the catcher fell behind, 0-2, before eventually working a bases-loaded walk to put the Indians up, 1-0. Royals starter Luis Mendoza alternated between fastball and slider for his first six pitches before going with an 84-mph slider in the dirt for his seventh pitch.
“Everybody in the ballpark is figuring fastball,” Francona said. “He had enough to lay off of it. That was huge.”
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, who was named the American League’s Player of the Month for June on Wednesday, went 1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored on Tuesday. That extended his on-base streak to 33 games (.376 average, 1.108 OPS) and his hitting streak to 13 games (.447 average, 1.492 OPS).
“There was no big drastic change in approach or my swing that has led to this,” Kipnis said on Tuesday. “When I’m going well, in the past I’ve been prone to either get greedy with some swings or go away with the approach that’s working in certain situations. This time I’ve stayed the same game in, game out against lefty or righty.
“There’s been some times where I’ve wanted to pull the ball, but I’ve stayed with my approach and have stayed through the ball and have gone to left field. It’s led to being a more consistent hitter in the last month. That’s literally all it’s been. It’s been not wandering too far off the path that’s working for me.”
Indians (45-38) at Royals (38-42)
at 8:10 p.m. ET at Kauffman Stadium
For the Indians, June was a month to quiet some critics. There are three months left for Cleveland to prove it can contend in the American League Central, but over the past month the Tribe has shown that a prolonged slump does not necessarily need to be a season killer.
When the Indians went through their 4-16 skid between late May and early June, there was a sense of, “Here we go again,” among the fan base, considering the collapses of the previous two years. This is a completely new team this season, and the players have emphasized that all along in the clubhouse. On the field, they showed it by responding with a 14-5 record in recent weeks to pull back into a first-place tie.
What June really was for the Indians and their fans was a chance to witness an historic month from Jason Kipnis.
What Kipnis did over the past four weeks was nothing short of special, and he seems a shoo-in to take home the American League’s Player of the Month Award. An argument could be made that Kipnis just turned in the greatest single month in the long history of the Cleveland franchise. Of course, that would depend on what statistical measurements you favor. I’ll use this space to give you a glimpse of the month Kipnis just had for the Tribe.
Stats: .419/.517/.699/1.216, 4 HR, 12 2B, 1 3B, 25 RBI, 39 H, 17 R, 9 SB, 20 BB
- Note: These factoids were gathered via baseball-reference.com, so data is to at least 1916.
- The last MLB players to have a slash line of at least .419/.517/.699 in one month are Miguel Cabrera and Mike Napoli in Sept/Oct 2011.
- The last MLB player to have at least that slash line with nine-plus stolen bases in a single month: George Sisler in June 1920. The only other player besides Kipnis and Sisler to have that slash line and at least nine stolen bases? Ty Cobb in June 1917. That’s right. Cobb, Sisler and Kipnis. Think about that.
- Over the past 20 seasons, a player has had a month with at least that slash line combined with at least 20 walks and 25 RBI just four times: Kipnis (June 2013), Barry Bonds (Aug. 2002), Frank Thomas (May 1997, May 1994).
- Kipnis is the first Indians player to enjoy a month with at least nine stolen bases, 17 extra-base hits, 20 walks and 25 RBI.
- If you remove the stolen bases, a 17/20/25 month has been done just eight times by a Tribe hitter: Kipnis, Travis Hafner (Aug. 2006, Sept. 2005), Jim Thome (July 2001, June 1998, May 1998) and Manny Ramirez (Sept. 2000, May 2000).
- Kipnis’ .419 average is highest in a single month (min. 20 games) by an Indians hitter since Aug. 1986 (Pat Tabler, .463).
- Kipnis’ 61 times on base are most in one month by an Indians hitter since July 2001 (Thome, 61).
- Kipnis’ .517 OBP is highest in one month (min. 20 games) by Tribe hitter since Sept. 1999 (Ramirez, .524)
- Last Indians hitter to match Kipnis’ slash line in one month: Tris Speaker (Sept. 1923). Only others are Speaker (July 1923) and Joe Sewell (Aug. 1923).
- Kipnis’ 38.5 runs created and 1.216 OPS (min. 20 games) best by an Indians hitter since Hafner in Aug. 2006.
- There have been 27 months in which an Indians hitter had at least a .400/.500/.600 slash line. The last with at least 25 RBI mixed in was Thome (Aug. 1996). The last with 12 doubles and 25 RBI was Speaker (July 1925). Kipnis is the only one to have more than seven stolen bases to go along with that slash line in one month.
- There have been only seven months in which an MLB player had at least a 1.216 OPS with 20 walks and nine stolen bases: Kipnis, plus Ryan Klesko (May 2001), Bonds (Sept. 1997, Sept. 1992), Chuck Knoblauch (July 1996) and Joe Morgan (Aug. 1976 and June 1975).
- Only five times has an MLB player had a .400 average with 20 walks and nine stolen bases: Kipnis, plus Knoblauch (July 1996), Brett Butler (July 1992), Morgan (April 1975) and Speaker (July 1916).
- Only five times has an MLB player had at least 39 hits, 20 walks, 17 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases in one month: Kipnis, plus Knoblauch (July 1996), Bonds (Sept. 1992), Morgan (Aug. 1976) and Max Carey (July 1922).
- Kipnis has reached base via a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch in 32 straight games, marking the longest such streak since Ryan Garko went 32 from Aug. 14-Sept.24, 2008. If Kipnis extends that to 33 games, it will be the longest since Victor Martinez’s 45-game run from Sept. 17, 2005-May 6, 2006.
- Kipnis has posted a .381/.479/.646/1.125 slash line over his 32-game on-base streak.
- Kipnis was batting .189/.265/.270/.535 on May 1. In 54 games since that point, the second baseman has posted a .340/.426/.630/1.056 slash line to pull himself into the upper echelon of baseball’s second basemen.
- Entering Monday, Kipnis led American League second basemen in runs created (61), OPS+ (157) and ISO (.234). He ranked second among his AL peers in runs produced (83) and baseball-reference’s WAR (3.6).
- Here are Kipnis’ season stats with rank among AL second basemen: .299 average (t-3), .384 OBP (2), .533 SLG (1), .917 OPS (1), 12 homers (2), 22 doubles (t-1), 3 triples (2), 51 RBI (1), 44 runs (t-2), 39 walks (t-2), 19 stolen bases (1), 146 total bases (3) and 37 extra-base hits (1).
Phew. Got all that?
To summarize: Kipnis had an amazing June.
Here is a look at the month that was for the Indians…
AL Central standings as of July 1:
1. Tigers 43-37 (–)
2. Indians 44-38 (–)
3. Royals 38-41 (4.5)
4. Twins 36-42 (6)
5. White Sox 32-47 (10.5)
Offense (AL rank)
.254 average (9)
.332 on-base (5)
.395 slugging (9)
.727 OPS (7)
130 runs (3)
236 hits (9)
46 doubles (5)
2 triples (t-9)
27 home runs (t-8)
126 RBI (2)
107 walks (1)
231 strikeouts (14)
24 stolen bases (2)
75 extra-base hits (t-6)
367 total bases (8)
NOTES: The offense has struck out 230+ times in back-to-back months, marking the first time since at least 1916 that an Indians team has whiffed at least 230 times in two months in the same season. … June marked the first time since May 2000 that an Indians team had at least 100 walks, 130 runs and 24 stolen bases in a single month. … Mark Reynolds came five punch-outs shy of the Tribe’s one-month mark. Reynolds struck out 40 times, marking the second-most for one month in team history. That dubious record is held by Anthony Castrovince’s favorite player, Cory Snyder, who struck out 45 times in September 1986.
Pitching (AL rank)
15 wins (6)
4.15 ERA (11)
4.68 rot. ERA (9)
3.10 bullpen ERA (6)
7 saves (t-12)
243 innings (t-6)
245 hits (t-10)
123 runs (t-10)
112 earned runs (9)
30 home runs (t-10)
96 walks (15)
202 strikeouts (8)
.263 average (9)
1.41 WHIP (14)
NOTES: The Indians had at least 15 wins and 200 strikeouts in one month for the 27th time since 1916. Cleveland also achieved that feat in May, making this the first time since 2004 (June and July) that the club had at least two months with 15 wins/200 strikeouts in the same season. Between 2004 and 2013, the only 15-win month with 200 strikeouts was September 2010.
INDIANS PLAYER HONORS
Player of the month: 2B Jason Kipnis
Stats/Notes: See above.
Previous 2013 winners: C Carlos Santana (co-winner, April), INF Mark Reynolds (co-winner, April), Kipnis (May)
Pitcher of the month: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
Stats: 3-1, 3.09 ERA, 32 IP, 32 K, 18 BB, 1.63 WHIP, .268 AVG, 6 starts
Notes: Justin Masterson (May 2013, July 2011) is the only other Indians pitcher to have a month with three-plus wins, 32 innings, 32 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.09 or better over the past five seasons. Cliff Lee (April 2008) and CC Sabathia (June 2008) were the previous pitchers to pull that off in a single month for the Indians.
Previous 2013 winners: Masterson (April, May)
Reliever of the month: RHP Vinnie Pestano
Stats: 2.08 ERA, 6 saves, 13 IP, 15 K, 6 BB, 1.38 WHIP, .245 AVG, 13 games
Notes: The last Indians reliever to have a month with an ERA under 2.08, at least 15 strikeouts and 13 innings, plus six saves was Bob Wickman in May 2001. Prior to Wickman, the previous Tribe relievers to have those numbers in one month are Jerry DiPoto (Sept. 1993) and Jim Kern (June 1977).
Previous 2013 winners: RHP Joe Smith (April), RHP Cody Allen (May)
Game of the month (hitter): Kipnis, June 28 (Game 1), during 19-10 win over White Sox
Stat line: 3-for-4 with 1 SB , 3 2B, 3 BB, 4 R. First MLB player since as least 1916 with 3 2B & 3 BB in one game.
Game of the month (pitcher): Masterson, June 30, during 4-0 win over White Sox
Stat line: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K. First Indians pitcher since 1994 (Dennis Martinez) with 3 SHO in one season.
Minor League standouts for April
Player of the Month: INF Cord Phelps
Stats: .320/.369/.460/.829, 2 HR, 6 2B, 16 RBI, 32 H, 12 R, 25 games
Previous 2013 winners: OF Jeremy Hermida (April), Phelps (May)
Pitcher of the Month: RHP Preston Guilmet
Stats: 0.73 ERA, 2 saves, 12.1 IP, 18 K, 4 BB, 1.30 WHIP, .235 AVG, 9 games
Previous 2013 winners: Guilmet (April), RHP Carlos Carrasco (May)
Player of the Month: OF Carlos Moncrief
Stats: .370/.447/.640/1.087, 5 HR, 8 2B, 2 3B, 22 RBI, 37 H, 21 R, 27 games
Previous 2013 winners: 1B/DH Chun Chen (April), C Roberto Perez (May)
Pitcher of the Month: LHP Matt Packer
Stats: 4-0, 1.19 ERA, 30.1 IP, 24 K, 7 BB, 1.12 WHIP, .237, 5 games (4 starts)
Previous 2013 winners: LHP T.J. House (April), RHP Jose Flores (May)
Class A (high) Carolina
Player of the Month: 2B Joe Wendle
Stats: .333/.412/.637/1.049, 5 HR, 12 2B, 2 3B, 20 RBI, 34 H, 18 R, 26 games
Previous 2013 winners: SS Francisco Lindor (April), OF Luigi Rodriguez (May)
Pitcher of the Month: RHP Cody Anderson
Stats: 1-1, 2.52 ERA, 25 IP, 29 K, 10 BB, 1.16 WHIP, .209 AVG, 6 starts
Previous 2013 winners: Anderson (April, May)
Class A (low) Lake County
Player of the Month: 2B Yhoxian Medina
Stats: .316/.427/.418/.845, 6 XBH, 4 RBI, 13 BB, 25 H, 11 R, 26 games
Previous 2013 winners: OF Logan Vick (April), OF LeVon Washington (May)
Pitcher of the Month: RHP Josh Martin
Stats: 1.32 ERA, 13.2 IP, 2 saves, 23 K, 2 BB, 0.80 WHIP, .188 AVG, 8 games
Previous 2013 winners: RHP Michael Peoples (April), LHP Ryan Merritt (May)
Class A (short season) Mahoning Valley
Player of the Month: INF Claudio Bautista
Stats: .302/.367/.491/.857, 2 HR, 4 2B, 10 RBI, 16 H, 10 R, 13 games
Pitcher of the Month: LHP Harold Guerrero
Stats: 1.35 ERA, 6.2 IP, 12 K, 2 BB, 0.75 WHIP, .130 AVG, 4 games
Arizona League (Rookie) Indians
Player of the Month: OF Clint Frazier
Stats: .412/.450/.706/1.156, 1 HR, 1 3B, 7 RBI, 7 H, 3 R, 4 games
Pitcher of the Month: LHP Anderson Polanco
Stats: 1.29 ERA, 7 IP, 8 K, 1 BB, 0.71 WHIP, .160 AVG, 3 games
Dominican Summer League (Rookie) Indians
Player of the Month: 2B Erlin Cerda
Stats: .265/.410/.429/.838, 7 XBH, 3 RBI, 12 BB, 13 H, 9 R, 15 games
Pitcher of the Month: RHP Edward Estrella
Stats: 2-1, 2.49 ERA, 25.1 IP, 20 K, 12 BB, 1.11 WHIP, .180 AVG, 6 games (4 starts)
Not quite eight hours, D-Man. But, given the wild doubleheader that took place in Chicago last night, I did sit down this morning over coffee to look up some factoids. I’m not on the road for this series, and I opted for family time over watching the games on Friday, but that twin bill was right in my statistical wheelhouse. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to witness it first-hand.
Let’s get at it…
For starters, we’ll take a look at the Kip-o-Meter, which had been downgraded to yellow on Thursday night. Well, it went from back in the red to off the charts with Jason Kipnis’ performance back in his hometown against the White Sox.
In Game 1′s 19-10 win, Kipnis had three doubles and three walks, making him the first Major League player to have that type of game since at least 1916. That’s almost 100 years of baseball, and he stands alone. And, to make sure his stat line is even harder to duplicate in the next 100 years, he stole a base and mixed in a pair of RBIs.
Kipnis became the 6th player since 1916 to have a game with three walk and three extra-base hits. The others include George Foster (Oct. 1, 1978), Reggie Jackson (June 11, 1969), Dolph Camilli (July 29, 1941), Del Bissonette (June 14, 1930) and Jim Bottomley (June 22, 1927).
Some more Kip Facts:
- Hitting .486 (18-for-37) with 11 extra-base hits and 15 RBI in 11-game hitting streak
- Has reached base via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch in 31 straight games
- Has posted a .373/.471/.618 slash line in those 31 contests for the Indians
- Marks longest on-base streak since Ryan Garko went 32 from Aug. 14-Sept.24, 2008
- In June, has hit .411/.509/.667, 3 HR, 12 2B, 1 3B, 8 SB, 16 R, 19 BB, 23 RBI
- Already has first 37-hit, 19-walk month since Jim Thome did so in July 2001
- Currently best one-month slash line since Albert Belle’s .416/.527/.809 in May 1994
- Prior to Belle, have to go all the way back to Tris Speaker (1925) to find a one-month line as good
Here are Kipnis’ season stats (entering Saturday) with his rank among qualifying American League second basemen in parentheses: .295 average (5), .380 OBP (2), .520 SLG (1), .900 OPS (1), 11 homers (2), 22 doubles (1), three triples (1), 43 runs (3), 49 RBI (1), 38 walks (3), 18 stolen bases (t-1). In the most recent fan All-Star voting, Kipnis wasn’t in the top five. Hopefully his peers views things differently.
Other items of note from Friday’s doubleheader sweep on Chicago’s South Side:
- The Indians allowed at least eight runs in both games and still swept the twin bill. The last time Cleveland gave up at least eight runs in back-to-back wins was June 8-9, 1962 against Boston. The last time the Tribe allowed at least eight runs in both games of a doubleheader, and still won both games, was July 15, 1934 against Washington.
- The Indians collected 19 runs, 10 extra-base hits and 21 hits in Friday’s Game 1 win. The Tribe has had just six games with at least 19 runs, 10 extra-base hits and 21 hits since 1916. The Indians have had two such games this season. Game 1 on Friday was the first such game in team history that also included at least nine walks. Think about that. Cleveland had 30 baserunners via hits and walks alone in a game that has 27 outs.
- The Tribe scored at least 19 runs for the 21st time in team history. Cleveland has scored at least 19 runs in two games in a single season for the first time since 1923. The Indians also scored 19 on April 20 this year against the Astros.
- Game 1 starter Trevor Bauer allowed five earned runs on six hits in just two-thirds of an inning. Then, the Indians rallied, won the game, and Bauer escaped with a no-decision. It marked the first time that an Indians starter allowed at least five earned runs and six hits with no more than two outs recorded in a no-decision since Rick Waits did so on May 7, 1982.
- There have been 12 instances since 1916 in which an Indians starter allowed at least five runs and six hits with no more than two outs recorded. Cleveland is 2-10 in those games. The only other win came in that 1982 tilt against the A’s.
- In Game 1, Cleveland had seven players with at least two RBI. The Indians hadn’t achieved that rare feat in one game since June 28, 1950 against the St. Louis Browns. It’s been done seven times in team history.
- Game 1 was the 30th game in Indians history in which eight players had at least two hits. The team record of nine — done just once — took place on June 14, 1954 against Boston.
- The Indians established a club record in Game 1 with seven players who had at least two hits and two RBI. That’s been done 17 times in MLB history since at least 1916. The last team to pull it off was the Rangers on Aug. 22, 2007.
- Finally, Indians outfielder Drew Stubbs finally hit into a double play. He opened the season with an American League-best 242 at-bats without a GIDP on his season line.
Catch you again from the road on Tuesday in Kansas City.