The Cleveland Guardians have endured a mediocre start to their 2023 season following an improbable 2022 playoff run. Cleveland has dealt with various injuries and concerning underperformances which currently has them sitting under .500 on the season. As a result, Guardians fans have shared some eye-opening reactions to their performance, but are there any valid concerns or are Cleveland fans’ worries simply overreactions?
Today, we are going to take a look at three reactions to the Guards’ 2023 season and determine whether or not they are overreactions.
Guardians’ 2022 was a fluke
The first reaction is one of the more common ones you may find on Twitter. Cleveland, despite featuring MLB’s youngest team in 2022, reached the playoffs. The Guards weren’t expected to win the AL Central last year, but that is exactly what they were able to do.
Their struggles in 2023, however, have led some fans to label 2022 as a fluke. Is this an overreaction, or is it justified?
This is without a doubt an overreaction.
The Guardians’ pitching rotation has been hit hard by injuries. Triston McKenzie was expected to be Cleveland’s No. 2 option in the rotation behind Shane Bieber. McKenzie is currently dealing with an injury though. Aaron Civale is also hurt, and Zach Plesac was recently demoted to Triple-A following a difficult start to the season. All of this has left Shane Bieber and Cal Quantrill as the only remaining pitchers from Cleveland’s expected 2023 rotation.
Offensively, the team has yet to get things going. It is possible that they over-performed in 2022 despite being near the bottom of the league in home runs. But calling the entire ’22 campaign a fluke is far too dramatic.
Andres Gimenez isn’t that good
This is a frustrating reaction that has been tossed around. Andres Gimenez’s impressive 2022 season led to a contract extension prior to 2023. So far this year, though, Gimenez has labored at the plate.
In 2022, Gimenez slashed an impressive .297/.371/.466 with an .837 OPS. He also added 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases. It was seemingly clear that Cleveland had a budding superstar on the ball club.
Fast-forward to 2022 and Gimenez is slashing just .230/.310/.345 with a .655 OPS. He has stolen six bases, but his offensive numbers are lacking to say the least.
In all fairness to the aforementioned Andres Gimenez reaction, he was due for some regression. He walked just over six percent of the time and posted a 44.3 percent ground ball rate a season ago. The biggest change from 2022 to 2023, however, is Gimenez’s hard-hit percentage. Last year, the All-Star second baseman had a 37.8 hard-hit percentage, a mark that has dwindled to only 23.9 percent in 2023.
In the end, we will label this as an overreaction. Gimenez should be able to make the necessary adjustments and start hitting the ball hard once again. This will be something to monitor moving forward though.
It’s time to move on from James Karinchak, Josh Naylor
The Guardians’ two most electric players, from a personality standpoint, are RP James Karinchak and 1B/DH/OF Josh Naylor. Both players are never shy about trying to pump up their team after recording a big strikeout or clubbing a clutch home run.
In 2023, though, both Karinchak and Naylor have struggled without question.
Karinchak currently holds an 0-4 record and 5.87 ERA out of Cleveland’s bullpen. Through 15.1 innings pitched, he’s struck out 19 batters but walked seven and hit two. Overall, his WHIP stands at 1.24. Karinchak has some of the best stuff, from a pitch arsenal perspective, in baseball. He’s unfortunately proven to be unreliable and inconsistent in 2023 though.
Naylor is currently hitting just .208/265/.337 with a lowly .602 OPS and three home runs. Hitting for a low average is one thing, but Naylor hasn’t even provided much slugging prowess. With Josh Bell at first base, Naylor is also mostly confined to a DH role. And if he isn’t hitting, it is difficult to predict how Cleveland can utilize him.
We will call this a light overreaction. Both Karinchak and Naylor are talented players with high-ceilings. Although the Guardians should not give up on them yet, both players’ performances will be very important to keep tabs on.