Inbox: Too early to be concerned with Tribe's performance?
Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers Indians fans questions
Three innings into the sixth game of the season, a reporter two seats to my right spilled a cup of water in the press box. The reporter directly to my right stood and lifted his laptop in a panic and, in turn, spilled his own drink. As liquid spread across the counter, I grabbed my laptop and moved to my feet. In the process, I spilled my cup of coffee.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime spill that, somehow, did not claim any electronics in its path of destruction. The final toppled cup within the trifecta, however, doused my brand-new scorebook. Coffee dripped from its pages as I tossed it in the trash. The good news is I have a new scorebook -- a clean slate -- for the rest of the season.
After a rough few weeks, the Indians could use a fresh start, too. Let's tackle a few of the early issues in the latest Indians Inbox.
How do you feel about Cleveland's slow start? As fans, we tend to overreact, but I am concerned. How do you feel about the Tribe's chances of staying in contention?
-- Matt T., Salt Lake City
Andrew McCutchen entered Thursday with a .204 average and a .689 OPS. Jon Lester was 0-2 with a 6.89 ERA. The Astros led the American League in team ERA and the Angels were near the bottom of the league in many offensive categories. The month of April -- let alone the first two-plus weeks -- does not define a player or a team for a six-month season.
The promising aspect of Cleveland's start has been the starting rotation, which was highly touted heading into the year. If a team is going to contend, it needs strong pitching, and the Indians certainly seem to have that going for them. I wouldn't overreact to the first 14 games, but there are certainly things that have come up that are worth monitoring as the season develops.
What's the most concerning aspect of the Tribe's slow start?
-- @StanFinger (via Twitter)
The offense (3.1 runs per game) is the obvious culprit right now, but part of that can be explained by losing Yan Gomes (knee) and having Michael Brantley (back) sidelined for a portion of games. Beyond that, two things stand out to me: Michael Bourn's slow start (.276 on-base percentage) and the elevated walk total by the bullpen (14th-ranked 1.45 WHIP). The Indians need better production at the top of the lineup and the team can ill afford to keep watching strong starting pitching go for naught.
How long before the Indians look at other options for a closer? Cody Allen is a great setup man, but I'm not convinced he can close.
-- Shawn K., Lewis Center, Ohio
After taking over as the closer last year, Allen posted a 2.11 ERA with a .593 opponents' OPS and 69 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings. Over the past two years combined, he has a 2.25 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 2.99 FIP and 168 ERA+ (indicating he's performed 68 percent better than league average). Allen has had two very ugly outings this month (eight combined runs in only one inning of work), but he has nine strikeouts and no hits allowed in his four other innings. I'm not ready to jump ship on Allen just yet.
If Jose Ramirez continues to struggle at the plate, when is the earliest you realistically see top prospect Francisco Lindor being called up?
-- Craig H.
First, let's point out that Lindor, the club's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com, was batting .191 with a .602 OPS heading into Thursday's action with Triple-A Columbus. Cleveland's offensive issues are not limited to Ramirez right now, and Lindor isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball in his second experience at Triple-A. The Indians will want to be sure that Lindor is ready, and the team will also want to avoid any uneccessary pressure falling on his shoulders. I still think the Tribe will run with Ramirez for most, if not all, of the first half.
How will Nick Swisher fit on this team when he comes off the disabled list?
-- Ross T., Columbus, Ohio
The Indians plan on using the veteran Swisher primarily as a right fielder and designated hitter. First base is not in the plans right now. Obviously, Cleveland has a glut of those types of players with Ryan Raburn, David Murphy and Jerry Sands currently on the roster. The Tribe will need to make a decision to free up that logjam in order to add Swisher to the roster.
In closing ...
How do you like your new scorebook? Will the coffee-stained one be on display for fans at Progressive Field?
-- Anthony Castrovince, MLB.com
I shouldn't have reacted with such haste after the triple spill. Rather than throw the old scorebook away, I'm sure Cleveland's team historian could've found a place for it in a case somewhere in the stadium. In the name of history, I'll be sure to keep the next one I drench with coffee.