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If you're a regular subscriber to Right Down Euclid, then you'll know every week there are major takeaways from the latest in Cleveland Cavaliers basketball. Now that the Cleveland Guardians are fully one week into their inaugural season under their new moniker, it's time to debut a new series. Every Thursday Right Down Euclid will give its thoughts on key takeaways and observations as well as anything and everything else concerning the Guardians this season.
After dropping their first two games of the season in Kansas City to the Royals, Cleveland has been on a four-game winning streak with no signs of slowing down. A lot of what was expected from the Guardians this season has been quickly established with elite pitching from their entire stable. But, what's been unexpected this season is how Cleveland has been flat-out dominant offensively thanks, in part, to rookie star Steven Kwan's historic debut. More on him, as well as thoughts on Myles Straw's start to the year as well as how important Friday's game against the San Francisco Giants will be for the Guardians.
Have the Cleveland Guardians found their next star in Steven Kwan?
It has been a history-making start for Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan's career. The former Oregon State Beaver is 10 for 19 (.526) with eight walks to begin his big league career. He has only been struck out once. Before Wednesday's win over Cincinnati, Kwan reached the base 18 times in his first five career games, the most times on base in a player's first five games in the Modern Era (since 1901).
"There are a lot of player development people who have their chest out right now, as they should," Guardians manager Terry Francona told the Associated Press after Kwan reached base three times Monday. "I know we're four games in, but every single one of them kept saying 'Hey, he's going to be OK, man.' So I know they're proud."
Kwan, 24, was a fifth-round pick in 2018 and he was never considered a top prospect during his time in college. That's what makes the start of Kwan's professional career so special. It's also what's going to make the hype train come barrelling into Progressive Field on Friday night against the Giants as well.
It feels like the Guardians have a star in the making but, more than anything, they now have a bat in Kwan that can provide consistent offense. But, that shouldn't come as a surprise to some. Kwan has walked more than he struck out in each of his minor-league seasons. His Swinging Strike Rate last year was 2.7 percent. The MLB average swinging strike rate was 11.3 percent last season, for reference. With Kwan, the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 on that leaderboard is the same as the gap between No. 2 and No. 51. The last minor leaguer with a swinging strike rate as low as Kwan's last year was journeyman infielder Breyvic Valera in 2015. The last big leaguer was Marco Scutaro in 2013.
In short, that means Kwan will consistently drive up pitch counts, put the ball in play, only swing at strikes, and rarely swing-and-miss at those strikes. That's frustrating for opposing pitchers and is, in turn, breathing life into what was feared to be an anemic offense for Cleveland. Clearly, the bat-to-ball ability Kwan possesses is truly elite. He's also a player other than Jose Ramirez that regular fans can latch onto as well, which is always a welcome sign.
But, there are questions about Kwan's long-term value given his lack of over-the-fence power (he hit 15 homers in three minor-league seasons) and defense. There is no question about Kwan's impact early in his MLB career though. He has reached base at a historic rate thus far, and his supreme bat control gives him a chance to be a high-volume hitter with some of the hottest hot streaks in the game.
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Myles Straw has been exactly what the Guardians have needed in center field for nearly a decade. That's why Cleveland had to lock him up to an extension as soon as possible.
Myles Straw has been exactly what the doctor ordered for Cleveland's outfield and that's why they locked him up
A team long desperate for outfielder support knew what they needed once they acquired Myles Straw from the Houston Astros last summer. Straw covers acres of ground in center field, and that has proven even more valuable given the team’s uncertainty in either corner of the outfield. Not only that but, like Kwan, Straw refuses to make life easy on pitchers and when he's on base has shown a propensity for stealing them.
It's been a while for the Guardians to have consistency in center field. The last time they had it was with Grady Sizemore, who had his last healthy, productive season in 2008 and Cleveland hasn’t had a steady, multi-year presence in center field since then. After 2008 the club has cycled through 36 different center fielders. In that stretch, only on three occasions has a player started more than 100 games in center field with Michael Brantley in 2012 and Michael Bourn in 2013 and 2014.
Straw has been exactly what the doctor ordered in center field for the Guardians. That's why the team announced that the club and Straw agreed to a five-year contract extension several days ago. This was soon after the team agreed to extensions with closer Emmanuel Clase and third baseman Jose Ramirez as well.
The deal includes club options for the 2027 and 2028 seasons as well. It's a no-brainer for either side. Straw is the quintessential leadoff hitter, getting on base at a solid clip and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. And now he’ll be setting the table for Cleveland’s lineup, on top of playing stellar defense for years to come. For Straw, meanwhile, it's a deal that guarantees financial security for years to come and allows him to further develop into something special with the Guardians.
For the first time in months the gates of Progressive Field will be open to fans to witness the first home game in Cleveland Guardians history.
This season could be the biggest in Cleveland baseball's history and it all starts this Friday
This Friday is technically an unofficial holiday for those in Cleveland and all over Northeast Ohio. As it's been mentioned numerous times so far, Friday marks Cleveland's home opener as they play host to the San Francisco Giants. The Guardians announced that the game officially sold out on Monday, but standing room tickets are still available. If you want to take part in the festivities, you can still buy tickets here but they'll likely be gone soon.
So, buy now while you still can since if you're able to attend Friday's game, you'll be part of history. Not only do fans get to take in two-time Academy-Award winner Tom Hanks will throw out the ceremonial first pitch but it'll be the first ceremonial first pitch in Guardians history.
“I’ve had Guardians fever since 1977 when I caught my first game in Section 19 of Cleveland’s Lakefront Municipal Stadium,” said Hanks. “I’m honored to return to Cleveland and Progressive Field for the first home game of the Cleveland Guardians era.”
Cleveland is also recognizing and celebrating the 75th anniversary of Larry Doby becoming the first Black player in the American League by having his son, Larry Doby Jr., catch the ceremonial first pitch from Hanks. Doby broke the color barrier in the American League on July 5, 1947, just months after Jackie Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Doby spent nine seasons with Cleveland and helped lead the Indians to a World Series title in 1948.
This also is a new year under a new identity and that in itself makes this game even more significant for Clevelanders. Hopefully, they can get a win but the atmosphere is going to be so electric all throughout the city either way. Sure, it'll be a little chilly but it'll all be worth it when things are underway once again from the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
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