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Jim Ingraham: As good as the Indians are, they have flaws that can't be ignored

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    The Indians' Jose Ramirez watches his three-run home run off Reds relief pitcher Tanner Rainey on July 11 in Cleveland. Ramirez is part of a fearsome foursome at the top of the Indians' lineup, but the rest of the batting order has issues.

    AP

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What a strange team. Just over 25 percent of the roster was selected for the American League All-Star team, yet they have the worst overall record and worst road record of any division leader.

Your 2018 Cleveland Indians in a nutshell: What’s really good is spectacular. What’s really bad is atrocious.

Consequently, they are still in first place in baseball’s Flophouse Division, mainly because they’ve been feeding on the bottom feeders. The Indians are 28-13 (.683) vs. AL Central Division teams and 24-30 (.444) against everyone else.

Against teams with records below .500 they are 35-19 (.648).

Against teams with records at or above .500 they are 17-24 (.415) and they have yet to play Boston, the best team in baseball at 38 games over .500.

Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley, Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion comprise arguably the best top-four lineup in baseball. The only one who didn’t make the All-Star team, Encarnacion, is fourth in the league in RBIs (65) and ninth in home runs (22).

Ramirez and Lindor rank 1-2 in the majors in extra-base hits, in the top seven by Baseball-Reference in offensive WAR and in the top eight in defensive WAR.

Ramirez is the best all-around player in the league. He is tied for the major league lead in home runs, is second in the AL in RBIs, third in stolen bases, fourth in walks and is the seventh-hardest player in the league to strike out — an astoundingly diverse offensive profile.

Lindor leads the majors with 85 runs scored — 14 more than Mike Trout. He’s third in doubles, third in total bases and first in smiles.

Brantley is hitting .308 and is the second-hardest batter in the league to strike out (one every 11.0 at-bats).

This is one of the greatest top fours in Indians lineup history. Ramirez and Lindor comprise the best left side of the infield in baseball, maybe the best in Indians history and one of the best in major league history.

In short: spectacular.

Also spectacular: The Indians’ starting rotation, which has the second-best ERA in the league, the second most strikeouts, second fewest walks and second-best WHIP. It’s a rotation that includes three of the top nine in WAR for pitchers: Trevor Bauer (third), Corey Kluber (fourth) and Mike Clevinger (ninth).

Clevinger, who is also ninth in ERA+ and FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), is the Indians’ No.4 starter. He’d be No.1 on many teams.

Shane Bieber, in a combined 19 starts between Cleveland and the minors, is 11-2 with a 2.10 ERA. He’s the Indians’ No. 5 starter.

So to review, the top four in the lineup: spectacular.

The starting rotation: spectacular.

The rest of the roster? Don’t ask.

The bullpen is still the worst in the league with a 5.28 ERA, more than 2ᄑ runs higher than the Yankees’ league-leading 2.69. Indians relievers have given up the second most hits and second most homers in the league.

So it’s no surprise that in the ninth inning and extra innings, the Indians have been outscored 64-35.

Closer Cody Allen’s 4.66 ERA is by far the worst of his career. His 0.1 WAR is a career low, as are his strikeouts per nine innings. His walks per nine innings? A career high.

Closers tend to have a short shelf life. Just saying.

Meanwhile, the bottom of the Indians’ lineup is producing replacement-level numbers.

Here are some players who hit fifth in the lineup at various times in the first half:

  • Brandon Guyer, hitting .045 against right-handers and .167 overall.
  • Yan Gomes, hitting .216 vs. right-handers and .179 with runners in scoring position.
  • Jason Kipnis, hitting .211 vs. right-handers and .222 overall.
  • Rajai Davis, owner of one home run, hitting .138 with runners in scoring position.
  • Melky Cabrera, who hit .190 vs. right-handers and .207 overall before being designated for assignment. He’s since signed a minor league contract and is toiling at Triple-A Columbus.

Backup catcher Roberto Perez did not hit fifth in the first half, and his numbers suggest he shouldn’t hit sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth. He is hitting .118 vs. right-handers, .148 overall, .111 with runners in scoring position and has as many errors as extra base hits (five).

Can you say, top-heavy roster?

The Indians are loaded at the high-end portion of their roster, but it drops off quickly after that.

The Cavs last season labored with a top-heavy roster, and we saw how that worked out.

The Indians can still win The Flophouse Division with what they’ve got, but to do anything more than that they need to get more than they’ve got.

Because right now they are what they are.

A strange team.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.


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