After months of money squabbling and headaches we finally (and hopefully) have baseball on the horizon. A week after the MLB implemented a 60 game season, Indians players migrated from every part of the world back to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario for spring training 2.0. In what will be the most unusual season to date, Francisco Lindor and company will have just 3 ½ weeks to ramp back up after a 4-month layoff since corona invaded the US and shut down sports.
Now with the 60 game sample size, everyone is wondering the factors that are going to determine who legitimately is going to have success without it being a fluke. In a sport as random as baseball, anyone has a legitimate chance to find success this year, especially the Indians who not only have a talented roster but a great manager in Terry Francona who has never been afraid to employ whatever strategy to win. There’s a reason we say in “Tito We Trust”, because if you need a frame of reference look back at the 2016 postseason where he used Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw to bridge the gap for an injury-plagued starting rotation carried by Corey Kluber. Tito knows every game matters and in his own words, he’s treating every game like its August 1st, and the Tribe are tied for the division lead.
With that being said, the bullpen has to be more consistent this year, and that’s putting it lightly. With how vital every game is going to be, especially with the 3-batter minimum rule, players like Oliver Perez and Adam Cimber who were relied upon to get one or two outs might be rendered obsolete if they aren’t versatile enough to get both left and right-handed batters out. Even if they do get the occasional 2-out match up, they still need to buckle down to get that last out of the inning to be able to go to another arm. The versatility and flexibility of everyone involved is necessary this season, especially with starting pitchers needing time to get back to 100 percent.
Indians closer Brad Hand cannot afford to be miserable like he was in the second half last year. Hand needs to return to his first half form where he earned his 3rd all-star selection. In the first 60 games of last season, Hand had an ERA of 1.09, with 17 saves in 17 save opportunities and only allowed a .155 batting average, which is the Brad Hand the Indians need. The Indians cannot afford for Hand to perform like he did in the last 60 games where he had an ERA of 4.96, with 17 saves in 22 save opportunities and allowing a staggering .296 batting average. These two versions of Brad Hand could mean a division title or missing out on a wild card spot.
You’re either going to feel confident when Tito goes to the bullpen or terrified, even more than usual when it comes to this season. Every single out will be more vital than ever. I just hope that Tito can figure out how to make the bullpen run like a well oiled machine. Trust in Tito and GO TRIBE!
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