The Indians have really turned things around in the short month of July and it should be no surprise that they went 14-12 when it is seen how many individual players outplayed their expectations and had their best month of the year. If it is confusing that one player moved up in the rankings while having a below average month and another moved down while being average or above, this mostly has to do with playing time and individual expectations. Expectations are much higher for a player like Swisher than Raburn, so Swisher could have a poor month by his standards and still surpass the utility outfielder. For quick reference, here are the Player Power Rankings from June, May and April.
1. Michael Brantley Above (0)
Brantley has sat upon the top spot in the Indians power rankings for each of the past four months, but as the Indians second best hitter continues to get at bats, this decision is getting harder and harder to make. The rate stats of Brantley (.316/.378/.504) and Chisenhall (.307/.374/.471) are almost identical, so while Brantley’s counting stats are better, that is less significant as he also has more at bats. There are three reasons why Brantley stays ahead. First, Brantley has had better at bats, a fact shown by his 38/37 K/BB rate compared to Chisenhall’s 59/27. Secondly, Brantley is faster and better on the base paths, stealing 12 bases to just one time caught, while Lonnie has stolen twice and also been caught once. Finally, and most importantly, Brantley is a vastly superior fielder. He has committed one (questionable) error in the past two seasons and has 10 assists this year already after 11 last year. Chisenhall, on the other hand, has a .935 fielding percent at third base, committing 13 errors in 90 games.
3. Corey Kluber Above (0)
Kluber is in the middle of the best Indians pitching season in years (at least since they won back to back Cy Young awards), although he wasn’t good enough to make it into the All-Star game. While Indians fans feel he was snubbed, there have been a large group of amazing starters in the American League this year, slightly taking away from his tremendous performance so far. This is the primary reason Kluber is stuck in second, behind a man who is also playing at a level not seen in Cleveland in years.
3. Lonnie Chisenhall Below (0)
4. Cody Allen Above (0)
Allen is the last of the great players for the Indians this year as everyone below has generally played vastly below expectations on the season. Allen has not only been the Indians best reliever this season and deservedly the closer, but has also been one of the best relievers in all of baseball. Despite not becoming the closer until a few months into the season, Allen is already 12th in the AL in saves (13) with just one blown opportunity. His 1.97 ERA is the best among all Indians pitchers and better than all but five primary closers around the league. In addition, he has pitched in the second most games in the AL (51) tied with Shaw and Rzepczynski.
5. Yan Gomes Above (+3)
Gomes had unfair expectations coming into this year after signing a lengthy deal based on just one professional seasons and, like many hitters, he ran into a little bit of a sophomore slump early on. Even with this, by the end of May, his defense had returned to normal and now he has the hot stick as well. In July, he leads all Indians regulars in doubles (10) and is second in home runs (5) OPS (.990) and is second in RBI (17) behind only Santana in all three stats. This has raised his season average to .281 and brought him within a few home runs of the team leaders as he has become again one of the greatest offensive catchers in baseball.
6. Carlos Santana Above (+3)
Santana had an excellent June (batted .308 with 15 RBI) and has fallen back some in July, but is finally a legitimate number four hitter for the Indians. Santana now leads all of baseball in walks and leads the Indians in home runs and is second in RBI (52). Late in the month, Santana turned things up to another level, showing off his potential again as he was the only bright spark in the offense in a four game series against Kansas City, where he hit five home runs in the final three games, bringing his season total to twenty.
7. Bryan Shaw Even (-2)
Shaw has been the AL’s second most used reliever this season, tied with his teammates Rzepczynski and Allen, mostly because Terry Francona doesn’t trust anyone else out of the bullpen. While there is reason that he should trust a few other relievers, his use of Shaw has not been unfounded as the right hander has posted a 2.94 ERA on the season and a 3.46 ERA in July. While he is not the strike out star that Allen is, Shaw has been the top Indians reliever against right handed hitters, holding them to an average of .164.
8. Trevor Bauer Above (+6)
Bauer got a late start this season, but has since become the Indians’ second most dependable starter after Kluber. In addition to being the only other starter with an ERA under 4.40, Bauer has thrown 89 innings on the season (third on the team) an average of six innings per start. He not only has the ability to pitch deep into games, but is a pitcher that the Indians actually want to pitch deep into games.
9. Jason Kipnis Above (+6)
Terrible starts by Santana and Swisher have kept the spotlight off of Kipnis’ poor beginning to 2014, but like them, he is beginning to turn things around as the summer heats up. In July, he hit three home runs and knocked in 14 after starting off with just three and 22 in the first three months. He has also scored 17 runs and stole seven bases (caught just once), both numbers leading the team. With Michael Bourn out for an extended period, Kipnis has been moved to lead-off and has done a fantastic job in a role that fits him better than batting in the middle of the line-up.
10. Scott Atchison Above (0)
Old man jokes aside, Atchison has been incredibly dependable for the Tribe almost every time out. As the perfect reliever, he is capable in any situation, whether it be long duty or a save situation and has obeyed the number one rule of the bullpen by not walking any one. On the season, he has walked just nine for the second best BB/9 (1.72) on the team behind Tomlin and the second best K/BB (3.67) behind Allen.
11. Carlos Carrasco Above (+8)
Every month it seems the same is said about Carrasco, “ignore his total season stats as they are unfairly influenced by his time as a starter” and this month is little different. He allowed just a single run in 9.2 innings this month, dropping his ERA to 3.60 on the season. He has been completely dependable, but still has been used less than Josh Outman (who is now in AAA), Atchison and Axford, all of whom he has been more efficient than.
12. David Murphy Below (-1)
Murphy was one of few Indians to continue to struggle through July as he has been unable to regain his early prowess. While his season stats (17 2B, 32 R, 48 RBI) still look pretty good, they remain buoyed by his tremendous start as he knocked in just 10 RBI on three extra base hits in the past month.
13. Nick Swisher Even (+8)
Swisher came into the season fourth on the pre-season rankings, but immediately dropped into 16th, then bottomed out at the 22nd best player by the end of June. In July, he finally turned things around, knocking in 16 runs as part of a more overall improvement as he batted .257, finally pushing his season average above .200. Of course, he still is ranked as the 13th best player, so he has a long way to go to return to what he was expected to produce. Despite his improved offense he still struck out far too much (30 in July and 100 overall).
14. Mike Aviles Even (+2)
The last time Aviles got to start on a regular basis, when Kipnis was injured in May, he proved to be more than the average utility man, but in his second opportunity, he has been much less impressive. With Cabrera hurt, but not badly enough to go to the DL, Aviles has become an every day player again, but this time has been missing his bat. In July, he batted just .238 with two extra base hits and four RBI. His on base percentage of .298 isn’t much better as he has walked just three times to five strike outs. After the Asdrubal Cabrera trade, but he and Ramirez will likely receive more playing time and if Aviles doesn’t step things up, the majority will go to Ramirez.
15. John Axford Above (+2)
Axford has been less than exceptional in tight situations, but he has been great recently, in a less stressful role. In the past month while generally being used in low risk situations he has posted an impressive ERA of 2.00 with 11 strike outs in 9 innings. While the back end is generally established, Axford could still prove useful in this new position as every team needs pitchers who can keep the score where it is, even when losing.
16. Marc Rzepczynski Above (-4)
Rzepczynski had been the Indians most dependable lefty for the first couple months of the season, but it appeared the excessive work load had a detrimental effect when he gave six runs on 13 hits in 9.2 innings during June. This month, he has been used much more sparingly, just 8 innings across ten games, and he has given up just one run. This increase in success shouldn’t be surprising as he hasn’t allowed a walk and just four hits compared to ten K’s. Don’t take too much from his drop in the rankings as a negative as most was just general correction with players who play much more often, like Bauer, Kipnis and Swisher, moving to where they should have been the whole time.
17. Kyle Crockett Above (+3)
Crockett is one of the many Indians relievers just outside of Francona’s trusted few. Along with Carrasco, he is the most likely reliever to join that group as Shaw, Allen and Rzepczynski begin to tire. Crockett has done nothing, but impress to this point, posting a 1.50 ERA on the season with no runs and just five hits allowed in 7.2 innings in July. With both Carrasco and Crockett available, Francona could be able to match-up earlier and more often in games, keeping Rzepczynski from facing right handers (.375 BAA vs RHH)and Shaw from facing lefties (.359 BAA vs LHH).
18. Danny Salazar Above (New)
Salazar has been on the Columbus express all season, but is looking to be more of a mainstay thanks to his own work to become more dependable (3.00 ERA, 13 K’s in 12 innings and two starts), but even more so because of the trade of Masterson and the inefficiency of McAllister and Tomlin. Salazar was originally believed to be the ace of 2015 and, while Kluber has likely taken that mantle, Salazar could still be a strong number two if he can finish 2014 the way he has pitched in July.
19. Zach McAllister Below (New)
McAllister made just four starts for the Indians in July and all were on different stints with the team as he tallied a lot of miles between Cleveland and Columbus. In his last, he was the replacement in the rotation for Josh Tomlin, who had struggled mightily in his four Major League starts this month. McAllister was not much better, however, posting a 5.95 ERA and a WHIP of 1.53 in July. With the trade deadline passed and no addition pitching help found, the Indians will need either McAllister or Tomlin to step things up as they continue to struggle to find pitching depth beyond Kluber and Bauer.
20. Ryan Raburn Below (+3)
Raburn found ways to test the limits of the Indians patience this month, committing one of the most egregious errors in team history and lowering his batting average that was already just above .200. Despite this, Terry Francona continues to bat him as high as fifth against left handers and Chris Antonetti hasn’t even hinted at a forthcoming release. He is easily the worst player on the Indians 40 man roster and the only reason he doesn’t sit lower on the rankings is because of lack of playing time by the other members.
21. Chris Dickerson Above (New)
Dickerson is the latest in a long line of amazing, replacement level pick ups for Chris Antonetti and he certainly has played above a replacement level. In his 19 games as a replacement for Michael Bourn, Dickerson has a hit in ten, batting .300 throughout. Expected to be a speed/defense player, Dickerson has fulfilled his role in the outfield at least as well as Bourn could, but he has also produced at the plate with two home runs and six RBI with an OPS of .835.
22. Nick Hagadone Above (New)
Hagadone is a new addition to the Indians’ revolving eight man bullpen and has been significantly improved this time around. A career high 2.1 innings in the final week of the month helped boost his numbers as he posted an impressive 1.13 ERA and an almost impossible 0.63 WHIP. The most impressive stat considering his past and the most telling of his success is that he has struck out eight batters and walked one, finally getting ahead in the count enough to use his slider effectively.
23. Roberto Perez Above (New)
The Indians tried to start the season with just one roster spot being used for a catcher, with Santana taking the back-up duties for Gomes. This didn’t work out and, as the Indians didn’t think anyone else was ready, George Kottaras was signed in the interim. Perez had been an offensive and defensive force in AAA and finally made his debut this month. In very limited playing time, Perez has went 5/18 in three games, including his first MLB hit and home run in his first game.
24. Jose Ramirez Above (New)
While his season numbers don’t look very impressive to this point (9 hits in 48 at bats), he has been much improved in his most recent promotion, batting .304 in the month of July. More importantly, he has jumped in for Cabrera at short stop when needed, especially while his back was hurt, and has played a style of defense missed in Cleveland for the past decade. With Cabrera gone to Washington and Francisco Lindor still at least a month away, Ramirez could provide a more than able stop gap until the young phenom is ready.
25. Austin Adams Below (New)
Adams is in his second run with the team after being the immediate roster replacement for Asdrubal Cabrera on the last day of the month. While he didn’t play in that game, he did throw in two earlier in the month, posting an 18.00 ERA with one walk and one strike out in four innings. Don’t expect him to stick around long as he will likely be sent home on the second for T.J. House.
No Longer With Us
Justin Masterson Below
Michael Bourn Below
C.C. Lee Below
Tyler Holt Even
Vinnie Pestano Above
T.J. House Below
Josh Tomlin Below
George Kottaras Even
Justin Masterson Below
Asdrubal Cabrera Even