In a double-blind study, experimenters recently discovered absolutely no difference between the Cleveland Guardians and Will Ferrell’s character in Act One of Old School.
That is to say, this Guardians team (like Frank the Tank) is streaky.
The club entered Friday’s contest against the Athletics having lost six in a row, victims of two straight sweeps.
Two days later, the Athletics have (somewhat) righted the ship, taking the first two in a three-game series against the Oakland A’s.
In both games, the Guardians’ bats powered runners to base.
On Friday, the Guardians scored nine runs on ten hits (score: 9-8).
On Saturday, though, the Guardians only managed three runs on nine hits (score: 3-1).
Not an awesome ratio, but in the end, a win is a win.
Dubs in Oakland! 🤩#ForTheLand | #GuardiWWins pic.twitter.com/3OfY8hZKWc
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) April 30, 2022
What was different?
On Saturday, two major shifts happened.
First, Steven Kwan returned to the lineup.
His return was massively needed; until Game One against the Athletics, the Guardians had lost every contest without him.
And he quickly found his pre-injury form.
Against Oakland Saturday, Kwan went 2-4 at the plate.
A healthy Kwan should help right the ship and help the team pull out tight games, like the 3-1 win on Saturday.
The second major shift came down the lineup.
The much-maligned Franmil Reyes was dropped.
Not lowered, not given a pep-talk.
This came after Reyes started in the No. 6 slot in the lineup Friday.
That game, Reyes went 0-5.
Reyes’ struggles have been well chronicled.
Heads up, Franmil Reyes is on pace to be 6.4 wins BELOW replacement level in 2022.
That’s never going to happen for a lot of reasons but just wanted to let you know his performance has effectively cancelled out Steven Kwan so far.
— Always the Jake (@alwaysthejake) May 1, 2022
Per The Athletic, Reyes’ walk rate (4.2%) and strikeout rate (43.1%) this season is only slightly better than that of last year’s pitchers who took to the plate (3.7%; 44.8%).
Dropping Reyes is an interesting, if unusual tactic for Manager Terry Francona.
Back in 2014, he waited 44 games to move Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher from the lineup.
In 2018, he waited 37 to move Jason Kipnis.
Perhaps Francona hopes moving Reyes earlier will also alleviate the latter’s pressure earlier, as well.
Either way, the move apparently helped.
Reyes’ replacement to the DH spot, Josh Naylor, recorded one hit in four appearances at the plate against the A’s Saturday.
One hit may not seem like much, especially from a DH, but it’s…well…significantly more than Reyes has mustered of late.
Lucky number seven
Shane Bieber, for his part, managed a decent outing.
And maybe he should head to Vegas on his way home from Oakland after pitching seven innings, giving up seven hits, and notching seven strikeouts on Saturday.
The pen did well too, keeping things calm through two innings to close out the A’s.
The Saturday game featured another reassuring sign: the Guardians won despite a quiet outing from José Ramirez.
The Guardians’ best player this season went 0-4 on the day.
Ramirez, who has the fourth-best AL MVP odds, per FanDuel, has been instrumental to the Guardians so far this season.
It’s tough to tell whether the A’s have “turned a corner” or this is simply more of the same.
The A’s, while decent, are an average team.
The Yankees and Angels, however, feature significantly better talents and records than Oakland.
So while Kwan’s return to the lineup, Reyes’ disappearance from the same, and Bieber et. al’s good outing on the mound are all positives, they need to figure out how to put together wins against top teams.
In the meantime, a sweep against the A’s would be lovely.
And a great place to start.
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