CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Indians have played eight postseason games in the last two years and Trevor Bauer has pitched in five. It’s staggering to think how much responsibility they’ve given him.
Last year he started Games 1 and 4 against the Yankees in the ALDS. He pitched Game 4 on three days’ rest and it went poorly, but the Indians obviously knew something wasn’t right with Corey Kluber.
This year Bauer, coming back from a stress fracture in his right leg, started the ALDS in the bullpen because the Indians knew it was their weakest link. Manager Terry Francona said it was not an easy sell.
“We had to kind of work through that a little bit,” said Francona in Wednesday’s end-of-the-season press conference. “I think in his perfect world, he would have pitched in all five games. I tried to tell him in my perfect world he was going to also.”
Bauer’s season was derailed by a Jose Abreu line drive on Aug. 11 that hit him above the right ankle and put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career. He did not take it well.
“I had to remind him a couple of times, ‘Hey, man, I didn’t hit you with that line drive,'” said Francona. “That was somebody else. That’s how much we appreciate his pitching. He’s turned himself into one of the best pitchers in the game.”
Bauer appeared in all three games against Houston in this year’s ALDS. He pitched a mop up inning in Game 1. Francona waited a tad too late to get him into a 3-1 loss in Game 2. Finally, in Game 3, Bauer entered the game in a perfect situation with the Indians leading, 2-1, in the sixth inning. He worked a scoreless sixth, but lost his control and the game in the seventh when he made two errors and allowed three runs on four hits in one-third of an inning.
It was the second straight year the Indians put a starter in the bullpen for the postseason thinking he’d be a weapon. Last year it was Mike Clevinger. This year it was Bauer. The results have been spotty at best.
No. 2: Indians didn’t move needle with Donaldson trade
The Indians knew they were taking a gamble when they traded for Josh Donaldson on Aug. 31. They didn’t gain a whole lot, except to find out Donaldson can play the heck out of third base. But they acquired him to hit, which he didn’t do.
Donaldson, after missing three months of the season with a calf injury, was going through spring training in September and in the ALDS. Spring training against Houston’s pitching staff … now that would explain his .091 (1-for-11) ALDS batting average.
When the Indians made the trade, baseball executives outside the organization said the best part of the deal was letting Jose Ramirez play his natural position at second base. But Ramirez never looked comfortable there. His most memorable play after the move came in Game 2 of the ALDS when he turned a 5-4-3 double play against Jose Altuve. It was a great turn, but it started when he tripped over second base.
Who would have thought Jason Kipnis would have looked more comfortable in center field than Ramirez did at second?
No.3: Francona, Kipnis talk over “out-scouted, out-coached’ remark
After Monday’s embarrassing 11-3 loss, Kipnis said the Indians were outplayed in every phase of the game. He added that they were outscouted and outcoached to a certain extent as well.
That must have hit a nerve because Francona said he talked to Kipnis about that remark. He did not tell reporters what the conversation entailed, but before the start of the ALDS Francona said the Indians were well-prepared thanks to the work of Dave Malpass and Tom Wiedenbauer, among others, on breaking down the Astros. Malpass and Wiedenbauer are special assistants to Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff.
Then again, the Indians were out-hit .327 to .144 and outscored, 21-6. Kipnis, meanwhile, took a 1-for-9. So maybe the Astros’ spies were better than the Tribe’s.
No. 4: Tribe coaches, executives could be on the move
Francona said he would not be surprised if some of his coaches are interviewed/hired for one of several managerial vacancies. Bench coach Brad Mills is said to be on the Twins’ interview list as is first base coach Sandy Alomar and John McDonald, a minor-league instructor. Derek Falvey, former Tribe executive, is the chief baseball officer for the Twins.
The Twins, Blue Jays, Rangers, Reds and Angels are looking for managers. Chernoff has reportedly talked to the Mets about their vacant GM job. Chernoff just completed his 15th year with the Indians and is second in command to Antonetti.
No. 5. What to do with options on Carrasco, Guyer?
The Indians hold club options on Carlos Carrasco and Brandon Guyer for 2019. Carrasco’s option is worth $9 million, while Guyer’s is $3 million. Carrasco, who has won 35 games in the last two years, should be a no-brainer. The oft-injured Guyer is another question, even though the Indians are seriously thin in the outfield.
“It’s something we have to work through,” said Antonetti, regarding Guyer. “We have a handful of decisions and the decision on Brandon’s option is one of them.”
The Indians have until five days after the World Series to make a decision on Carrasco and Guyer’s options.
No. 6: Indians’ foundation remains the starting rotation
The Indians could lose as many as nine free agents this winter, but the fact that they are expected to return their entire starting rotation should position them well to win a fourth straight AL Central title.
Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, Clevinger and Shane Bieber give the Indians a good starting point.
“We didn’t have the results we wanted this year, but as we look at where we are moving forward, we still feel like we’re in a really good spot organizationally,” said Antonetti. “We’re going to have two guys in the top five to top seven of the MVP voting (Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez). We’re going to have four guys that are in the top 10 in the AL Cy Young balloting (Kluber, Bauer, Carrasco and Clevinger). That’s a great foundation to start any offseason.”