CLEVELAND — Despite inconsistent play early in the season, the Cleveland Indians are 12 games above the .500 mark coming out of the MLB All-Star Game break, and after a solid month of June, find themselves just 5.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League Central Division.
Individually, the Indians have several players who have had standout seasons, and CBSSports.com recognized that by naming five of Cleveland’s athletes to their list of the Top 100 MLB stars of the first half of the 2019 season.
Pitchers Trevor Bauer and Shane Bieber, the reigning Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award winner, catcher Roberto Perez, shortstop Francisco Lindor and first baseman Carlos Santana were named five of the best 100 MLB players of the first half.
In 20 starts this season, Bauer has posted an 8-6 record and 3.61 earned run average over a league-high 132.0 innings pitched. Bauer has allowed 104 hits, 51 walks, 62 runs, 53 of which were earned, and 17 home runs against 149 strikeouts in 2019.
Bauer has been a double-digit winner in each of the last four seasons, totaling 52 victories from 2015-2018. Additionally, Bauer has struck out at least 143 batters in each of the last six years, with his single-season career-best, 221, coming in 28 appearances in 2018.
Bieber won the All-Star Game MVP award after throwing a perfect fifth inning and becoming the first Indians pitcher ever to strike out the side, 1-2-3, in the MLB All-Star Game.
On in relief during the top of the fifth inning, Bieber set down the National League with three strikeouts and preserved a 1-0 lead at the time.
As the crowd chanted “Let’s go, Bieber” loudly, he struck out Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. looking for the final out of the inning.
Bieber enters the second half with an 8-3 record (.727 winning percentage) and 3.45 earned run average over 112.1 innings of work in his 19 appearances. Already, Bieber has surpassed his previous single-season career high with 141 strikeouts, and should set other personal bests for innings pitched as well as games played and started in his next few starts.
Perhaps no one was swinging a better bat for the Indians than Perez when they started their run to the best record in baseball in June, as over a 15-game stretch, he registered 16 hits with 11 runs scored and 13 RBI while hitting .296, and it continued a trend in the right direction for Cleveland’s every-day backstop.
For the season, Perez is hitting .256 (52 of 203) with 29 runs scored, five doubles, 16 home runs and 36 RBI in his first full year as Cleveland’s every-day catcher.
Despite a late start to the season because of calf and ankle injuries, Lindor is hitting .296 with 17 doubles, 14 home runs, one triple, 45 runs scored and 32 RBI over 69 games, all of which continues to build on the success he has enjoyed early in his career.
Through 643 games over his first five years with the Indians, Lindor has collected 749 hits, including 155 doubles, 14 triples and 112 home runs, with 342 runs batted in, 422 runs scored and 239 walks drawn against 409 strikeouts. Additionally, Lindor has stolen 84 bases in 105 attempts.
Now a four-time American League All-Star infielder, Lindor has a .289 career batting average with .350 on-base, .490 slugging and .840 on-base-plus-slugging percentages.
“He’s a very special player that’s only going to keep getting better,” said Houston outfielder Michael Brantley, a former Indians teammate. “He works very hard, day in and day out. When we were teammates, he asked the right questions. He’s very passionate and cares about this game. He’s going to be in this game for a long time.”
A slow starter in the early part of seasons throughout his career, Santana earned his way to the All-Star starting lineup because of a strong first half performance in his first year back with the Indians.
In 87 games this season, Santana hit .297 with a .418/.540/.958 split of on-base, slugging and on-base-plus-slugging percentages. Santana has driven in 52 runs, scored 60 and registered 37 extra-base hits, including 17 doubles and 19 home runs, both of which lead the team.
Along with the doubles and home runs, Santana leads the Indians in RBI, runs scored, hits (93) and walks (64), as well as on-base, slugging and on-base-plus-slugging percentages.
“He’s done it all,” Bieber said during American League Media Day Monday. “He’s been one of the most consistent hitters I’ve ever seen, especially for the first half. He started off hot and stayed hot. He’s kind of been our guy, our rock in that middle of the lineup, producing even when we weren’t playing as well as we did the past month.
“It’s meant a lot, and it’s awesome to see him get the recognition he deserves.”