Going into this season, the Cleveland Indians looked like a team that had taken a step back. After all, the team traded shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco over the offseason to the New York Mets. Furthermore, they were without Brad Hand at the back end of the bullpen.
Combine those three factors together and it looked like the Indians would have an uphill battle in 2021. Beyond that, both the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox were going to give Cleveland a challenge. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals had improved and the Detroit Tigers were expected to take another step forward.
Although, the one consistent that was always true revolved around the pitching staff. Over the past handful of seasons, pitching especially starting pitching has been the hallmark of the Indians big league roster. Even after subtracting impactful pieces from the starting rotation the last two years, Cleveland continues to churn pitchers throughout their system.
So far, albeit a small sample size, that notion is once again proving to be true. It was a key factor in what happened for the Indians over the weekend as well against the aforementioned Detroit Tigers.
Indians Sweep the Detroit Tigers
The Indians capped off Sunday’s win with a final score of 5-2. That ultimately led to the three-game sweep and put the Indians in first place in the American League Central, heading into play Monday. Furthermore, it extended the Indians current win streak to four.
While Logan Allen struggled in the first inning throwing over 30 pitches, he ultimately gave the Indians five solid innings. Following Allen, the bullpen did their job recording a total of six strikeouts over four innings of work.
The game concluded with a standout performance by closer Emmanuel Clase who has formed quite a 1-2 punch with fellow reliever James Karinchak. Karinchak recorded three strikeouts himself, while Clase got his second save of the season. Clase missed all of last season after being suspended for PED use last May.
On paper, the subtraction of Brad Hand was expected to be a potential problem for the Indians. However, so far the Cleveland Indians front office is proving why they made the right decision. Granted, it’s still early but if this past weekend’s series was any indication, both Karinchak and Clase will be extremely valuable the remainder of the year.
Indians Pitching Staff Leading the Charge in the American League
Someone just doesn’t have to look on the field to see just how valuable the Cleveland Indians pitching staff has been so far. In fact, heading into play on Monday, Indians pitchers led the American League with a 2.83 ERA over 70 innings of work. In addition, the staff has 80 strikeouts over that sample and have held opposing batters to a .169 batting average.
Although, walks have been the one caveat for the pitching staff. Over the eight-game sample, Indians pitchers have recorded a total of 29 walks. That puts them in the middle of the pack among the other 29 teams. However, it is certainly far away from the leader in that category – the Colorado Rockies – who have 52 walks so far.
More specifically, the starting rotation has once again been dominate. Indians starters have combined for a 2.52 ERA. That puts the Indians second overall in the AL in that category behind the Minnesota Twins. The rotation also ranks fourth overall in K/9 with a 11.70 value. Zach Plesac has been the team’s best starter to this point. He has made two starts, while allowing two earned runs, two walks and racking up ten strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the bullpen has been effective overall also. Indians relievers have a 3.60 ERA over 20 innings. In addition, the unit has allowed 12 walks while recording 26 strikeouts.
The Cleveland Indians will open up a four-game set against the aforementioned Chicago White Sox on Monday. To this point, the White Sox have been off to a slow start with a 4-5 record. However, they are a team with a lot of talent on their big league roster and a club looking to make some serious noise in the American League this year. Triston McKenzie will get the nod for Cleveland in the series opener Monday, while Carlos Rodon gets the ball for Chicago.
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