Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Subtlety in First


The best record in baseball right now belongs to the Cleveland Guardians, and if you didn't know better you'd assume it didn't. So much of baseball media has been showcasing the Yankees and Dodgers and Orioles and Braves and Rangers, and they're all doing fine, but the Guardians are 16-6 and still looking as good as they did at the start of the season. And they're doing this without big players and huge performances and a big newsmaker. No, they're just...playing really good baseball. And right now, that's enough.

Right now the Guardians are without Shane Bieber, they're only getting a .239 average out of Jose Ramirez [despite 18 RBIs and 3 homers], and only Ramirez and Carlos Carrasco remain from the 2016 World Series squad [though Carrasco famously skipped town for a couple years]. So a lot of the great players they're relying on are just statistical favorites without a lot of brand recognition. 

But, to be fair, Andres Gimenez and Steven Kwan might be among the best bare-bones players in the game right now. Gimenez is an excellent defender, and he's hitting .293 so far this year with 14 RBIs. Gimenez is one of the players this season who's yet to hit a home run, but seeing as Gimenez is best known as a contact hitting defensive guy, it's not a huge loss. Meanwhile Steven Kwan, much like he did to start off the 2022 season, is on an absolute tear right now, with a .358 average and 34 hits. Kwan has become one of those guys that rarely has dull moments, and can do something awesome either at the plate or in field, whenever he wants. Kwan has that x-factor, and in a year where Jose Ramirez is taking a longer period to get up to 100%, he'll do just fine in that role.

And then you have Josh Naylor, who I'm so happy has worked out in Cleveland, hitting over .300 with 20 RBIs and 6 homers already. Naylor just needed the space to become a XBH machine, and though he couldn't find it in San Diego he's been a fixture of the Guardians' lineups ever since the 2020 playoffs. Naylor's coming off a .300 hitting year for Cleveland, and he's still in that headspace. Plus, his brother Bo is up in the majors and is hitting alright, at least compared to Austin Hedges. 

I'm also bewildered by the fact that, while the Cleveland rotation is perfectly fine, the bullpen might be the real reason this team is 16-6. Not that any starter's doing particularly badly right now, they've just all got ERAs over 3. The bullpen, which I need to clarify is without James Karinchak, Eli Morgan, Trevor Stephan and Sam Hentges right now, is still phenomenal. Emmanuel Clase already has 6 saves. Hunter Gaddis has yet to give up a run. Tim Herrin and Nick Sandlin have been excellent. Hell, they may have even fixed Peter Strzelecki after his poor finish with Arizona last year. This is a strong unit, and it's helped the starting pitching, which still isn't...terrific, get a ton of wins so far.

The Guardians are this good not because they have the biggest stars, but they're an excellent technical, and statistical, team. Stephen Vogt is an excellent fit for this system because he's clearly been on a stats-driven team or two, and the team already seems to respect him as a savvy manager. It's still early, but the Guardians have enough to keep ahead of the showier competitors below them in the standings, and it'd be cool if they did.

Coming Tomorrow- A Pittsburgh rookie who throws smoke. Surprisingly, not the one you may be thinking, at least not yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment