Cleveland Indians — Five things We’ve Learned Through Five Games

Francisco Lindor continues to make case for the “best shortstop in baseball” tag

Lindor is leading the Cleveland Indians with a smooth .368 AVG, including the most hits and runs. His raw power might not match that of Carlos Correa, but, after hitting his first long-ball of the year yesterday in Tampa Bay he continues to show that he is more than just a wizard with the glove.

Even assuming he doesn’t maintain his .368 pace — a bummer, huh? — another .300+ season with elite defense at a premier position will have the Indians set up nicely for the next decade if they ever figure out how not to be in, well, Cleveland.

Tyler Naquin‘s torrid spring and 25-man roster addition has been for nothing

With just five Indians games to date — the lowest amount in the league — Naquin has appeared in just three of them. He has been given just three at-bats, but of course has a hit in one of them for a .333 AVG — second on the team if you want to count three at-bats?

Instead, he has conceded playing time to Rajai Davis who has taken a strong hold of the center-field position by hitting .118 (2-for-17), striking out a team-high nine times and stealing just one of two bases. It’s probably too early to mutter about the ineptitude of the Cleveland franchise, but, eh no it’s not. At least not until they give us a reason not to and benching Naquin certainly is not that reason.

Early-season statistics should be taken with a grain of salt

Understanding that five games worth of numbers, or about 3 percent of the season, are next to useless is a freshman principle of baseball. Of course this isn’t always the case with Cleveland fans, but we can spend 1,000 words on that another day.

Instead, let’s not overreact to Danny Salazar and even Cody Anderson having ‘better’ numbers than top-of-the-rotation arms Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

Kluber, the former Cy Young Award winner, has a 4.85 ERA through two starts — both Cleveland losses. He has walked two batters in each start, allowed a home run in each, and has allowed a combined 13 hits.

But remember at this time last year, after two starts, Kluber had the same 0-1 record. His 11 strikeouts and 13 hits allowed may be less than his 17 and 10 from a year ago. His 4.85 ERA may be significantly higher than his 2.63 a year ago, but here’s why that won’t matter over the next six months.

Kluber has actually thrown more of his pitches for strikes (66.34 percent) than he did at this time last year (65.55 percent).

Boston, Kluber’s first opponent of the season, is tied for the season-lead in runs scored (40) through the first week and a half. He has used his fastball considerably more over the first month than he did in 2015, using both his sinker and cutter less.

Corey Kluber's pitch usage from 2015 via brooks

Corey Kluber’s pitch usage from 2015 via

Corey Kluber's pitch usage from 2016 via brooks

Corey Kluber’s pitch usage from 2016 via

The movement on his pitches has remained nearly identical and has actually increased the horizontal movement on his slider without losing much drop.

Corey Kluber's pitch movement through two starts in 2015

Corey Kluber’s pitch movement through two starts in 2015

Corey Kluber's pitch movement through two starts in 2016

Corey Kluber’s pitch movement through two starts in 2016

A reason for concern could be his decreased pitch velocity in April, his lowest since 2013. But for now, it’s safe to chalk this up to the unstable schedule and less-than-desirable playing conditions for both Kluber and Carrasco.

Northern Ohio weather still sucks

As a native of Northwest Ohio, I can attest to Northeast Ohio not being much better with regard to weather. A mix of snow, rain and sometimes both in the same day have dampened the early-season excitement for an Indians team that has high expectations and playoff aspirations.

The Indians will finish no worse than 4th in the AL Central

In just five games the Indians have stumbled into a 2-3 record, good for just fourth in their division. However, the rival Minnesota Twins, in seven games, are still searching for their first win.

The Twins’ bad players are still playing bad and even their ‘good’ players look mediocre at best. Who knows when Minnesota might win their first game, but assuming another arctic frenzy doesn’t penetrate the dome of Tropicana Field, it should come after the Indians get their next win.

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