After a strong start to the season, the Cleveland Guardians are sliding back down to earth.
They sit 7-10, second behind the Twins in the AL Central, and are riding a five-game losing streak.
Here are three things working so far through the first month of the season:
1. Steven Kwan-Jose Ramirez One-Two Punch
The 2-3 spots on any lineup are two of the most important.
Anyone will tell you that.
You follow a strong leadoff with two solid hitters and a team has a recipe for real offensive success.
And according to that recipe, the Guardians have been cooking.
Steven Kwan, who bats second (or did before hamstring tightness sidelined him), has been an absolute revelation.
Slashing a .341/.456/.500, Kwan’s been a base magnet, recording 15 hits (five doubles and one triple).
And José Ramirez, who slots in at third, hasn’t been too shabby himself.
Not enough people are talking about José Ramírez, and we're here to change that.
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) April 21, 2022
With 22 hits and almost as many RBIs (21), Ramirez has been absolutely essential to the Guardians’ offensive hope.
Both Kwan and Ramirez’s offensive successes have masked the slow start of Franmil Reyes, who the team will need to get going to sustain the offense.
His injury is currently day-to-day and hopefully Kwan will return to the lineup and continue where he left off.
If he does, and Ramirez stays hot, fans will want to dust off their fall team windbreakers and hoodies.
2. The Offense (Against Non-Coastal Teams)
Thus far, the Guardians’ bats have seemed to prefer its “Home, Home Home on the Range” rather than a “New York State of Mind.”
Because while Kwan and Ramirez deserve their own plaudits and adoration, the offense as a whole has been a huge boon for the team.
That is, when the Guardians aren’t playing teams from the East or West Coast.
Against teams from the midwest (KC Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox), the team is 7-2.
Against the coastal teams (SF Giants, New York Yankees, LA Angels) it’s a different story.
Try 0-8 different story.
Back to the midwest now…
While these trends will even out over the course of a season, the fact that the team is succeeding against teams from the center of the country is a good sign, considering their division opponents all hail from the midwest.
The Guardians have hung up some really serious numbers against midwestern teams, as well.
Against the Royals on April 10, the team exploded for 17 runs.
They went for 11 on April 20 against the White Sox.
Consistency will be important, but if the bats stay alive when the Guards play teams where the buffalo roam, then the skies surely won’t be cloudy all day.
3. Zach Plesac
While Shane Bieber is likely the talk of the town for his return, another Guardians pitcher is quietly putting together a strong start to the season.
Zach Plesac looking incredibly sharp early in 2022.. today’s outing included:
42 strikes on 65 pitches and just a lone run allowed in 5 innings of work#Guardians maintain a 2-1 lead, halfway home here in the 5th
— Jensen Lewis (@JLEWFifty) April 21, 2022
The 2016 Ball State product has been superb.
Through 17.1 innings, he’s held batters to a 1.53 ERA, good enough for sixth in the league.
He could do better at keeping batters off base, with 17 hits against 10 strikeouts, but with that ERA, he’s at least been keeping batters off of home plate.
If Bieber (2.82 ERA/22 Ks/22.1 IP) can stay healthy and in form and Plesac sends more batters straight back to the dugout, the rotation will have a nice one-two punch to match the batting order.