The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

July 14, 2014

Half a loaf

Antonetti says Tribe is in decent spot at the break

CLEVELAND — The All-Star break is upon us. The Indians are 47-47. On this date last year, the Indians were 50-44.

Let’s have a little review on the ups and downs of the Indians’ 2014 season, where they’re at now and what the future holds, accompanied by some insight from Tribe General Manager Chris Antonetti.

First, the trade block. On Saturday, the Indians completed a minor trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, sending cash and a player to be named later for left-handed reliever Nick Maronde. Will there be any more changes on the horizon? Two years ago, the Indians received Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles in a trade with Toronto. Last year, they snagged Mark Rzepcynski from St. Louis. If the Indians do make another trade at the deadline this year, don’t expect any David Price-type blockbusters.

“We’re exploring a lot of different things,” Antonetti said. “We spend a lot of energy on finding fits for acquiring guys who we’d have control over beyond this year, not just guys that would be here for the balance of the year.”

In other words, the Indians are seeking cheaper, controllable types like Gomes and Aviles, not rentals.

It’s been a rollercoaster first half for this Indians club. On one hand, there are breakouts from guys like Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall and Corey Kluber that have led the team.

Brantley and Chisenhall both find themselves in the top 15 in all of baseball in on-base plus slugging, right ahead of two-time reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera.

“It’s not an accident he’s having the success he’s having,” Antonetti said of Brantley. “The work that he puts in every day to prove himself as a player is evident to all of us who get the chance to watch it.”

Kluber, though snubbed from the American League All-Star roster, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. The same can’t be said for the rest of the Indians’ rotation.

Indians starters own a 4.55 ERA, fifth-worst in Major League Baseball. But you can’t place the blame entirely on them. The Indians have played the worst defense in the majors, leading to a high number of balls in play going for hits.

This is reflected in some advanced pitching metrics, like FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, which is a metric that determines the quality of a pitcher’s performance by eliminating plate appearance outcomes that involve defensive play), placing Indians starters more toward the middle of the pack.

But until the defense starts to pick up the slack behind the pitchers, the ERA will have a hard time coming down.

“[Defense has been] the one area that’s been the most challenging for us in the first half,” Antonetti said. “I think if you were to ask anyone in the clubhouse, that’s been the area where we feel we have the best opportunity to improve because we feel we’re a much better defensive team than how we’ve played.”

Looking toward the minor-league level, top prospect Francisco Lindor continues to impress in all facets of the game, and it’s not going unnoticed.

“Every step along the way, Francisco continues to get better,” Antonetti said.

“It’s especially impressive when you consider he’s always been and continues to be one of the youngest players at his level.”

Could Lindor be on the move before too long?

“A promotion to Triple-A could be something we consider in the second half,” Antonetti said.

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