The Cleveland Indians just might be on to something. As is recognizing your strengths and moving to improve your weaknesses. As it turns out, signing very good baseball players for reasonable terms is good for business also.
Last season, Cleveland started out well but couldn’t maintain their strong play through the long summer. A team which excelled at getting on base, the 2012 Indians lacked the power to drive those runners home. On May 21st, 2012, Cleveland found themselves in the exact spot they currently sit: first place in the American League Central division.
But this isn’t your slightly older twin brother’s Indians. The upgrades the team made over the off-season and the further development of their homegrown talent suggests this Cleveland team might be a little bit closer to “authentic contender.”
The 2013 Tribe is a better team than the 2012 team. They added power, as previously mentioned, adding “power only” hitter Mark Reynolds, who leads the team with 12 home runs. Though he splits time equally between first, third, and DH, his 12 dingers already matches the season output from previous DH Travis Hafner. The position as a whole only managed 14 home runs for Cleveland all last season.
Losing Shin-Soo Choo was tough, but the Tribe signed Nick Swisher to replace his productivity and he’s done just that. Swish is hitting .274/.382/.493 with six homers, spending most of his time at first base. Carlos Santana is off to a great start, crushing the ball to the tune of a 160 wRC+.
The pieces certainly fit together for the Tribe right now. The pitching was a concern to start the year and…other than Justin Masterson and Zack McAllister, it remains a question mark. Nobody can questions the Indians ability to steal wins from the Seattle Mariners, as the Tribe swept four straight from Seattle at home, winning three of the games in very dramatic fashion – walkoffs, to be precise.
FRIDAY – The Indians do it in their final at bat, pushing the Mariners aside through a three-run homer off the bat of Jason Kipnis.
SATURDAY – Cleveland coughs up a late lead, surrendering two runs in the ninth. Doesn’t matter as the Tribe pushes across the winning run in their half of the final frame. 5-4 win
SUNDAY – Justin Masterson pitched, there was no drama. He’s too good
MONDAY – More last at bat madness as Cleveland does it again, as this game follows the Saturday script closely. Justin Smoak does something dramatic for the Mariners, the Tribe storms back and walks it off in their half of the inning. This time Yan Gomes supplies the firepower. Yan Gomes!
Fun, bond-forging victories as these might be, they do highlight some shortcomings within the Tribe’s construction. Despite his strong track record and numbers, I do not like nor do I believe in Chris Perez. The starting pitching is questionable after the first two (beyond Masterson alone, really.)
Scott Kazmir is a nice story but he was rocked for the second consecutive start yesterday. He now has three rough starts and three good ones on the season – count on Sandy Kazmir at your peril. Until Trevor Bauer stops fiddling with his privates on the mound and walking more guys than he strikes out, consider me a skeptic.
A quick look at the standings show Cleveland doing all the things required to build a strong record in the middle of May – the things which tend to abandon teams as they lean heavy on the “magic” all season long. Extra innings wins, one-run victories, and beating up on bad teams aren’t always the hallmarks of true quality. The wins certainly count and, as the Orioles showed last season, can carry a team for six long month. But that “certain something” isn’t just the will to win. Sometimes that “something” is nothing more than a little bit like luck.
To say nothing of the 10-1 record against the weak sisters of the American League West, none of which came against the Rangers or Angels (lol).
Look, Cleveland looks good. Better than the Royals for sure. But Detroit remains the class of this division. We’ve all seen this movie before. Cleveland is certainly headed in the right direction and their offensive upgrades are for real – they’re one of the top scoring team in baseball, after all.
But before they start planning the parade from the tire fire to the other tire fire, let’s take a breath. See how they fare against some better teams, or without the benefit of late-inning pixies working their magic. Sorry, Cleveland, your track record demands it.
And the rest
You guys! I don’t think you’re allowed to do this! [Crashburn Alley]
Jose Bautista aka Charlie who emerged from the baseball factory to play long enough to earn a golden ticket. Or something.
The week in pitch framing, always an excellent (free) read. [Baseball Prospectus]
Speaking of the value of speaking to reporters, here’s Ryan Vogelsong‘s wife breaking the news of Ryan Vogelsong’s hand injury
Ryan has a dislocated joint in the pinky finger of his pitching hand. It’s broken above & below finger. Surgery tomorrow, out 6 weeks.
— Nicole Vogelsong (@nicolevogelsong) May 21, 2013
Profanity-laced tirades are the Cadillac of tirades. The very best the tirading world has to offer. [Productive Outs]
Speaking of sad states of affairs, get into the Bruce Bochy high socks slo jamz