We are officially 34 games into the season, and the Cleveland Guardians sit in third place in the AL Central, half a game behind the White Sox and a full four behind Minnesota.
The squad had a chance to make up ground against both sides last week, but largely failed to do so.
Then we turned to what should have been a breezy stint against the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers.
Except the Guardians dropped Game One to the Reds, in disappointing fashion.
Hey, we did say at the start of the season that Cleveland couldn’t beat up on bad teams and struggle against the good ones.
But this…was not what we meant.
Nonetheless, the team has another chance to make up ground against the Reds, finishing up a two-game series before hosting Detroit.
Here are two players who need to get it going against Cincinnati:
1. Steven Kwan
Spoiler alert: both the players who will appear on this list need to get their offense going.
The first is a slightly curious nomination in Steven Kwan, who looked all the part of a rising star at the start of the season.
But lately, Kwan’s been less than stellar.
Back in April, he was hitting a white-hot .354.
Impossible not to root for Steven Kwan https://t.co/la3MTJ4Lm7
— Becks (@BecksWelker) May 17, 2022
And the team was generally excellent when Kwan recorded a hit, going 7-3 in such games.
But since Cleveland’s loss to the Oakland A’s on April 30th, Kwan’s average has steadily declined.
So far in May, Kwan is slashing a pedestrian .192/.269/.545.
Each of those, in addition to being an eyesore, is not anywhere near the standard Kwan set for himself to start the season.
And before you argue it hasn’t been another full month of action yet–the sample size is almost the exact same between April and May (15 games vs 13).
To be fair, the Guardians have largely fared the same record-wise in May as they did in April.
But how many games in May could have gone another way had Kwan notched a hit when needed?
A tight 5-4 loss to the Padres, where Kwan recorded one hit?
What about a 3-1 contest against the Twins, where Kwan went hitless?
Ditto for a 5-4 extra innings loss to the Reds earlier in the week?
Not saying Kwan would have definitely been a difference maker, but the team is a measly 1-8 on the season when Kwan doesn’t record a hit.
Is Kwan a .354 hitter?
But is a .195 hitter?
Also not likely.
What we’ve seen so far are likely just two ends of Kwan’s extremes.
If the Guardians plan on extending their season beyond early October, they will certainly need Steven Kwan to find his earlier form.
Or, at the very least, a form between where he was and where he is currently.
2. Austin Hedges
Austin Hedges is an excellent catcher.
So far this season, he’s caught five batters stealing and not given up a single passed ball.
And, to be fair, aside from Shane Bieber, it’s not like Hedges is catching an All-Star pitching rotation.
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) May 15, 2022
That said, while Hedges is an excellent contributor behind the dish, he’s left a lot to be desired at the plate.
In fairness, his May (.200) has been significantly better than April (.140).
In fact, Hedges went hitless through his first seven games this season (19 at-bats).
But the Guardians could use even more production from Hedges.
If Hedges can keep that batting average at or around .215, then he should provide just enough of an extra spark at the end of the lineup to keep opposing pitchers honest.
“Any offense is welcomed by anybody … and he knows that. I’d rather have him struggle hitting rather than catching. Again offense is welcomed, but if he hits and doesn’t catch we’re not in a good spot.”
Regardless, a strong showing against Cincinnati’s generally poor pitching could give Hedges some confidence going forward.