Best Offensive Play
April 5th, Francisco Lindor vs Texas
WPA or Win Probability Added shows the difference before and after an at bat in a team’s chances to win a game. In general, no one at bat adds a huge number to this as it takes a team effort to win a game. Even for this at bat, the best of the first half, took some help as four of the first five Indians hitters reached base first in the top of the ninth.
After Carlos Santana walked to load the bases and push across a run to move the score to 6-5 Rangers, Lindor moved the Indians chances of winning from 46% to 96% with a grand slam that was crushed out to right field. Turning a one run deficit to a three run lead, Bryan Shaw was able to come in and earn the save, giving the Indians a 3-0 record to start the year.
Best Defensive Play
July 1st, Bradley Zimmer vs Detroit
It wasn’t the most important great defensive play of the year (that may have been Yandy Diaz‘s diving catch that kept the game tied in the home opener), but it certainly had the highest degree of difficulty. According to Baseball Savant, this hit off the bat of Mikie Mahtook against Andrew Miller with one out in the ninth had just a 57% chance of being a hit and came off the bat at 100.7 MPH. Zimmer had to sprint hard to his right and back before making a full flight extended dive to snare the second out.
Worst Offensive Performance
April 11th, Edwin Encarnacion vs Chicago
Taking an 0 for 4 in baseball isn’t a big deal and Francisco Lindor even took an 0 for 6 with 6 runners stranded in scoring position later in the year, but this game was special for Encarnacion. The Indians would eventually win the game 2-1 in ten, but it probably should have ended quite earlier. In his first two at bats, he struck out with bases empty, so that wasn’t too bad, but in his third at bat, he had the bases loaded and one out. With a chance to break open a 1-1 tie, Encarnacion grounded into a double play to end the inning. In his next AB, three walks with a sac bunt in between loaded the bases with one out again for Encarnacion and again, he hit into a double play.
Michael Brantley would end up walking it off with a double in the 10th, but it’s surprising that the Sox didn’t just intentionally walking him again so Encarnacion could have had a third chance with runners on in a tie game.
Best Offensive Performance
April 15th, Jose Ramirez vs Detroit
Just like with an 0 for 4 not necessarily being terrible on it’s own, a 4 for 4 doesn’t necessarily have to be the best game of the season, but this one for Ramirez was. With Corey Kluber on the mound to keep the Tigers down, Ramirez came up with two on and two outs in the first and added a 23% WPA with a home run off Justin Verlander. After the Indians put two more across in the second, Ramirez had his second at bat in the third inning and singled, scoring on the Tribe’s third home run of the night.
He would lead off the 5th with a single as well and walked in the 6th. Ramirez would get one more at bat in the 9th with the Tribe up three and would finish off that WPA by moving the Indians chances of winning from 97% to 100% with a one out, three run home run.
Best Defensive Performance
April 22nd, Jose Ramirez vs Chicago
While he did hit a home run in the Indians 7-0 win over the White Sox, Ramirez’s biggest contribution came with his glove. In the 6th, he used an all out dive to rob Tim Anderson and catch the speedy short stop at first. One inning later, he made a quick move to his left to snare a ground ball off the bat of Todd Frazier and was able to get the lead runner at second.
Heading into the 6th, the Indians had just a four run lead and in each instance, Ramirez’s play came with a runner on and helped stifle a White Sox rally. He would then cap things off with a home run in the 9th.
Worst Relief Appearance
There are two kinds of bad relief appearances: close games where a small mistake makes a big difference and not so close games where the reliever is given a chance to really let things get crazy. Since the Indians only blew three saves in the first half, this game was of the latter.
Logan came into the ninth with the benefit of a nine run lead and only three outs to go. Two singles started the inning before Logan retired his only batter of the night on a fly to center. Another single followed before James McCann hit a home run to bring the game within a much more manageable five. One single later, Terry Francona was aware that Logan might just not have it and he went to Shawn Armstrong, who allowed one more run to score against Logan on a Nicholas Castellanos home run. An out and a single later and Cody Allen came in to get a one out save in what used to be a blow out.
Best Relief Appearance
April 30th, Nick Goody vs Seattle
June 21st, Andrew Miller vs Baltimore
It isn’t very sporting to have a tie, but Miller and Goody had nearly identical outings at a pivotal point in a game nearly two months apart. In the first of the pair of appearances, the Indians had a huge 8 run lead against the Mariners, but Josh Tomlin allowed four straight hits in the top of the 6th and Boone Logan allowed two more without an out recorded. With three runs already in and the bases loaded, Goody struck out Taylor Motter and was able to get Carlos Ruiz to line into a double play to end the inning. He came back out for the 7th and quickly set the M’s down in order, striking out one more to go two innings with two strike outs, three runners stranded, no base runners allowed and a hold.
On June 21st, Miller had the almost exactly the same line. The Indians had taken a three run lead in the 5th, but Carlos Carrasco loaded the bases with three straight singles in the seventh. First, Miller had Joey Rickard ground one to Jose Ramirez who threw out the runner going home. Then, Miller struck out the next two hitters to end the inning without score. Miller struck out Craig Gentry to start his second inning, then induced two more ground outs to earn his hold.
April 13th, Josh Tomlin vs Chicago
This game ended with Michael Martinez pitching, so that should give you an idea of how it started. It took Tomlin just two starts to have his most Tomlinesque start of the year. Tim Anderson, he of the .352 slugging percent, started the game with a first pitch home run off Tomlin, then two more reached before the slightly more powerful Matt Davidson also hit a first pitch home run. After a double and a single brought home one more, Tomlin finally ended the inning with just five runs home. In the second, Tomlin retired two more, but a walk and two singles brought home two more runs and ended his night with Shawn Armstrong cleaning up his mess.
The Indians bullpen would hold Chicago scoreless from then until the 8th, but they could only muster four runs of their own and would fall 10-4.
June 19th, Corey Kluber vs Baltimore
This wasn’t quite a clutch performance as the Tribe scored 12 runs behind him to help extend the team’s winning streak to five games, but it was the best of the season for the Tribe. Kluber went the distance against the talented Orioles line-up, striking out 11 and allowing just three total base runners (all on singles) in the shut out. Incredibly, each of the three singles came with two outs in the inning in separate innings and no runner ever reached second base for Baltimore. Kluber didn’t allow a base runner from the final out in the first until there were two outs in the sixth and when he should have been tiring in the ninth, he struck out the final three batters of the game. This was one of two complete game shut outs for Kluber this year.