The Indians at the 40-game mark: An EHC Buzz Session

Will Lindor get the call-up? (Paul Sancya--AP)
At the 40-game mark, The Cleveland Indians continue to struggle stringing together victories, which is wasting several outstanding pitching performances by the starting rotation. There appears to be gaps in the bullpen, and most especially, the defense, that have reared up to bit the Tribe at different points of the season.

What do the Cleveland Indians have to do to in the coming days to right the ship, and can they still make the playoffs?

Brian Heise (@WahoosBrian)--Everybody Hates Cleveland

The Indians have been such a huge disappointment. There aren't enough words in the English language for me to fully articulate how frustrated I am watching them lose games on a nightly basis. So what do they do to fix this? Honestly, I think it's as simple as winning a few games on a row to restore confidence. This team is lacking any type of swagger and rightly so. It's tough to have any sense of bravado when you've only won two games in a row twice all season. If they can string together a few victories in a row, I'm talking five or six, and remember what it feels like to actually win, it's possible it could get them back on track heading into June. Do I still think they can make the playoffs? Yes, simply because there are a ton of games left to be played. Anything can happen and with the second wild card spot, all it would take is a solid two weeks to get themselves back in the conversation. 

They need some luck, for one.  But I think they could help make some of their own luck by trying to get some of the kids in Columbus up here to help with the defense.  There are four bad defensive RFs on this roster.  That's insane.  Bourn's bat is heating up, but he's still been bad defensively.  Someone like Holt or Ramsey are hardly saviors, but might help settle the outfield.  I'm a big fan of building strengths to cover weaknesses - our rotation is incredible but this defense neutralizes that strength and exposes a bad bullpen and inconsistent offense.
It's also a shame that guys like Lindor (Super 2) and Ushela (injury) aren't options right now, as we're getting nothing offensively from SS or 3B.  I understand some of these younger guys' bats might not be ready, but we have too many "bad defense, mediocre offense" guys on the MLB roster right now. 

Britt Zank (@bzank17)--More Than a Fan

As a Royals fan, I understand an Indian’s fan desire to throw things and demand changes. You guys should be competing for the lead in the AL Central. You got the mad scientist Terry Francona on the bench, a Cy Young winner on the mound and a lineup that gives other teams fits.  

Then Yan Gomes went down and the lineup fell apart. Gomes is the lynch pin of the Indians offense and when he came out, the offense fell apart. Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis have been great. Brandon Moss and Carlos Santana haven’t been as advertised thanks to trying too hard to fill the void left when Gomes got injured.

Salvation is at hand Clevleand, as Yan Gomes should be back within a week or two. I can tell you as a Royals fan, we are not happy about Gomes returning!  Once he’s back in the lineup, things should start to even out and the offense should start hitting. That great pitching with run support, is a scary thing!

You may be nine and half games back in the review mirror, but trust me Cleveland, Kansas City and the rest of the division know that objects in mirror are closer than they appear!
Nick Wheatley-Schaller (@NeastWS)--Everybody Hates Cleveland
The Indians have had a pretty bizarre start to the 2015. It's hard to overstate how good their pitching has been - the best indicator of their dominance is the fact that when looking at cFIP, the gap between them and the #2 team is the same as the gap between #2 and #27. The offense has been good - their 104 wRC+ by non-pitchers is 10th best in baseball and they've been productive on the basepaths. The fielding however, has not only been bad, but poorly timed as well, as the team's BABIP is .297 with the bases empty but .382 with men on base. That disparity is almost impossible to keep up, so the team's ERA should trend towards their remarkable peripherals, even if the defense continues to be below average. Getting Yan Gomes back will help - while Roberto Perez has held his own at catcher, Gomes is better at framing and controlling the running game, so that's an upgrade. They've dug themselves a rather deep hole, but they're still one of the better team in the AL. Baseball Prospectus puts their playoff odds at 15% while Fangraphs puts them at 26% - I'd say the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle - Clay Davenport's 21% looks most reasonable to me.
Remember when the Indians bullpen wasn’t part of the problem? That was a fun year and a half.

That’s not to say that the Tribe doesn’t have any other major, gaping holes, mostly in the swings of some of its supposedly best hitters. But for a team that prided itself with having one of the most solid relievers in the majors, they sure have fallen off the log.

It’s almost as if the ghosts of Ricardo Rincon, Bob Wickman and the two Rafaels, Betancourt and Perez, have magically re-appeared to wreak havoc on close games.

Worst of all, there’s no quick fix to a shoddy bullpen, as we’ve seen in years past. So that awful start the Indians have gotten off to is probably not the aberration fans have witnessed in the past two seasons but more of an omen of things to come.

In other words, get ready to start blame Sports Illustrated for putting the Tribe on the cover.

Jeremy Klein (@PapaBearJere)--Everybody Hates Cleveland

The first thing the Indians need to do is get Yan Gomes healthy. As much as they miss him behind the plate, they miss his bat even more. So far this season they’ve gotten next to nothing offensively from catcher, third base, shortstop, centerfield, and DH, so they need Gomes back to give some length to the lineup.
I won’t take a side in the #FreeLindor debate other than to say that, recent hot streak aside, there’s no way Francisco Lindor isn’t a better shortstop right now than Jose Ramirez. If the matter is what gives the Indians the best chance to win games in 2015, Lindor’s defense is a must on a team that struggles so much in that regard.
The other thing the Indians should do is trade for Jackie Bradley Jr. as soon as possible. Bradley could be the worst-hitting position player in baseball, but it’s not as if the Indians are getting much from Michael Bourn at the plate (.599 OPS as of Thursday), and if they are going to play to below-average defenders in the corners, they’re better off playing a defensive whiz in center.
As for the bullpen, there’s not much for them to do other than keep cycling through guys until something sticks. Bullpen performance is precarious, and the Indians should treat it as such.
But the most important thing the Indians need to do is the least satisfying to talk about analytically: they need to play better. Between Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, and Salazar, they have some of the best starting pitching in the league. With some better health, a few roster tweaks, and some internal improvements from the guys they already have, the Indians should be able to vault themselves back into contention.
Rich Primo (@primo_ehc)--Everybody Hates Cleveland
The great thing about sports talk IS the fact that people have different takes and angles. It's all speculation and we all have different paths to our speculation. Heck, Billy Beane is supposed to be the guru of speculation and his team is in dead last in the AL.
I feel like the Indians are constantly right on the verge of turning the corner. April was discouraging, but May has been frustrating. They seem like they are poised to go, but that "go" is slow in coming and I worry that the hole may get too deep to get out of when it finally does.

Of course, 2 years ago I wrote the team off about 3 times, only to see them go on runs that got them right back into it and into that final game to play for a playoff spot. 

I can't say I've given up on them, but I think the clock is ticking loudly. The nice thing is that the starting pitching is coming around in a big way, and the offense has been decent, though not the last couple of games. With the entire AL in front of them - minus Billy Beane's Oakland A's - it's going to be a tough hill to climb. The good thing is, if everything gets rolling, this is a team that could go on a tear for quite a while.

My prediction? They miss the playoffs and finish just above .500, maybe with 85 wins.

Play better? I mean, I know that sounds ridiculous but this team is talented enough to make the playoffs and they aren't in a hole that is too deep to climb out of, so yes they can. But they need consistency and they need to play better in all aspects of the game in a more consistent nature. Sometimes its the offense, sometimes the defense, other times the bullpen. It almost never really seems to be the starting pitching because that has been great for about 80 percent of the season thus far. But just some more consistency will right the ship if you ask me. There isn't one cure-all to it, maybe other than a few other roster tweaks, this team is just some consistency away from putting it together.

Mike Hattery (@hatmanehc)--Everybody Hates Cleveland

The rotation is the best in baseball, the offense is in the top 10-12. Those are really awesome building blocks for a contending team. This team is super talented!

Obviously, the outcomes, haven't been there but even the outcomes have improved over the past week with a chance to win consecutive series today.
The team's most glaring issues are defense and the bullpen (Also weird sequencing in small samples explain some of the weirdness of the outcomes). Defense is hard to fix but it will improve at the margins when Lindor is promoted and ultimately, Holt or Ramsey brought up for outfield defense. The bullpen is an issue as well but it has been less of an issue since McAllister was moved there.

This team is starting to show a pulse, there is over 3/4 of the season left and they have an integral player in Gomes returning soon.

Bullpen's are more fixable than any other roster issue and it is their largest flaw.

Having the best rotation in baseball will keep this team competitive and if the bullpen is addressed and improved quickly, this team will contend for at least a wild card spot in September. whether or not this season ends with a playoff berth, I am certain that the results will improve the rest of the way.

Let me just start with this: the Indians quite possibly have the best front four of any starting rotation in baseball. I could dance around statistics for you, but I'll just start and stop with this. They, as a foursome, are striking out 10.8 per nine innings, while walking only 2.35 per.

It's special.

When you add a dose of Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley & Carlos Santana, and pepper in a returning Yan Gomes, and you have an offense that's going to be one of the better hitting clubs in the American League, regardless of their 2015 inconsistencies up to this point.

The bullpen needs to figure things, especially Cody Allen, who seems to be back on track. Zach McAllister just might be the back-end arm that balances a unit that struggled.

Where the team needs a boost is defensively. We'll see Francisco Lindor, likely in June, or July at the latest. Past the Tribe's top prospect though, this is an area that will remain a concern, unless they unclog the logjam that is the outfield. Even then, will that be enough help?

They have to go 74-49 over their next 123 baseball games to finish with 90 wins. Can they do it?

Yes, they can, but it will take a maximum effort by the coaching staff, the front office and the players themselves to overcome the defensive deficiencies, and ride the starting rotation to the promised land.

This is our weekly #EHC Buzz Session, in collaboration with many great writers across the internet via our site and More Than a Fan. Make sure you follow all of the fantastic writers that took part! Leave comments below!
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