3 Up 3 Down: Guardians Maintain Ohio Cup
After a long offseason of hate, the Guardians have shown up on the field and absolutely mashed the ball. I think we all owe this ownership a big-time apology. All winter they explained to the fans that they wanted to see the young guys get their chance. I know I didn’t trust the young guys to come up and hit as they have, but that’s the reason I’m not in the front office.
Another great move from the front office was the removal of long-term hitting coach Ty Van-Burkleo. I was dead right that we needed a change at hitting coach and you can see the impacts of Chris Valaika right away. The hot bats won't stay this hot all season, but the changes of approach at the plate are phenomenal.
Steven Kwan was allowed to keep his contact style approach at the plate. This has helped him stay patient and not chase pitches out of the zone while working himself into good hitting counts. Owen Miller on the other hand has been more aggressive at the plate and jumping all over fastballs that cross the plate. He’s an absolute stat cast legend while also being one of the fastest players in the league.
Finally, Oscar Mercado hasn’t been perfect at the plate, still striking out far too often, but he has changed his contact swing for more power. Mercado hasn’t improved his average, it has actually gotten worse, but his slugging percentage is up by almost .300 points, giving him an OPS just under .900, which is borderline elite.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the three best things and the three worst things from this series with the Reds.
When Triston McKenzie came in relief for Shane Bieber on Opening Day, I was concerned. His movement looked great but his fastball velocity was back down around 90-91. When he doesn’t have that extra zip on his fastball, he’s going to get killed. Luckily for him, his velo was back around 94 mph against the Reds, and his late tailing fastball was untouchable once more.
Another promising sign for McKenzie is his fastball usage is already up higher than any season prior. When he’s throwing hard and in on hitters, I think it’s his by far best pitch in his arsenal. It felt like at points last year, when McKenzie struggled, he leaned on his offspeed pitches too much. If he’s going to have confidence in his fastball, I wish the rest of the league good luck.
The Guardians didn’t have a single error against the Reds. After watching a pitiful defensive performance all weekend against the Royals, this was a lot more promising. I think less moving players around to different positions has made a huge difference. If we can have most of the team settle into one set position, that will help limit errors and turn this team into a plus defensive unit.
Not many players see their fastball randomly uptick by two MPH, but Eli Morgan has done just that. Morgan had pretty solid stuff in his first season in the majors, but his fastball was generating too much hard contact. It’s only been short outings for Morgan, but his barrel percentage is down from 11.9% to 8.3% this season. Hitters aren’t killing his fastball and his solid change-up has now become elite. He might not have a shot to be a starter this year, but Morgan will have a very solid role somewhere on the roster this year.
Hedges finally got on base. He still hasn’t hit the ball this year, but he finally managed to get a walk. There’s not a single hitter worse this season on stat cast, and just about every single outlying number for Hedges puts him into the first percentile. He’s awful and his defensive numbers are actually just average instead of elite like seasons prior. I don’t get why Bryan Lavastida isn’t getting any at-bats, because letting Hedges continue to bat is borderline managerial malpractice.
Does anyone feel confident when a reliever comes into a game? Almost every reliever has an ERA around 4-5, and the only two that don’t (Logan Allen and Trevor Stephan) have many outlying numbers saying that their zero ERAs won’t be around for much longer.
If you can trade Yu Chang or Bobby Bradly for a bullpen arm, you immediately do it. They’re both in danger of being left off of the impending roster crunch, so if you can get anything out of them, I say go ahead and do it. If not, the Guardians have tons of solid middle infield prospects that could be flipped for some major league-caliber arms. I think it’s time to make a few calls.
Honestly, the team played phenomenally this week, and I don’t want to talk poorly about Franmil Reyes, because I know he will heat up. So with my final negative this week, I’m going to complain about the fans. Grow up, the teams called the Guardians. I don’t care if you don’t like the team name, there are so many bad team names in MLB and every other organization is okay with them.
Two teams are named after literal socks, the most famous team in baseball, the Yankees, were given their name because they were in the American League, and the Padres are named after Spanish Friars.
Anyone still complaining about the team name comes across as a whiny, petulant child. I’m okay if you accidentally call them by the Indians, everyone's going to do it every once in a while; however, if you’re going out of your way and refusing to call them by their new name, you have the maturity of 12-year-old telling a fart joke. Grow up.
Back to the positives. The Guardians look great this year and it feels like we might surprise some people. Let’s see how long we can keep this thing rolling.
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