Eighty-one Tribe games down. Lord have mercy if the next 81 are anything like them. The Indians started this season a popular pick to win the World Series. Today they’re jockeying for position with Kansas City at the bottom of the Central Division.
Eighty-one Tribe games down. Lord have mercy if the next 81 are anything like them.
The Indians started this season a popular pick to win the World Series. Today they’re jockeying for position with Kansas City at the bottom of the Central Division.
How did they get here? Count the ways.
What’s gone wrong?
Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez combined for 49 home runs and 214 RBIs last year.
This year, they’ve combined for 49 days on the disabled list. The Tribe’s No. 3 and 4 hitters have four homers and 43 RBIs between them.
Hafner’s season has been shrouded in mystery as he tries to come back from a weak right shoulder, which is the lead shoulder for the left-handed hitting DH.
Originally, Hafner was getting a “mental” break when he missed a May 26 game against the White Sox. Then he had a problem with the shoulder and received his second cortisone shot of the season, apparently to get him back for the start of the 11-game road trip starting on May 30 in Kansas City.
Then on May 30, Hafner was sent home from the road trip. He hasn’t been spotted on a playing field since.
Martinez’s homerless season also includes some mystery. After battling a hamstring injury since Opening Day, a right elbow injury suddenly game to light during a June 11 game. Two days later he had surgery. He’s out until at least August.
Misery loves company
Hafner and Martinez aren’t alone in their struggles. Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Garko are all hitting below their 2007 averages.
After playing a key role in the Indians’ late-season/postseason push last year,
Asdrubal Cabrera was so bad at the plate this season that he’s currently a Buffalo Bison. David Dellucci is headed for the Mendoza Line. It’s so bad that (generously listed) 5-foot-9, 170-pound Jamey Carroll has provided the most offensive punch of late.
Last year the Indians had the sixth-best bullpen (3.73 ERA) in baseball. This season they have the second worst, entering the weekend with a 4.83 ERA. The Indians were 14-of-26 in save opportunities entering Saturday night.
There have been signs of life, and the Tribe will need the bullpen at its best to have a chance to contend.
The Indians have come back to win when trailing after eight innings exactly once this season entering Friday. When tied after eight innings, they are 2-7.
For a team built around pitching and defense, winning the close games is imperative. Their longest winning streak is five games.
What’s gone well?
For starters: Cliff Lee’s 11-1 record and 2.34 ERA highlight some very strong work by the Tribe’s starting rotation. The Indians began the weekend with the third best starters’ ERA (3.74) in baseball, and that’s with Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook missing a combined eight weeks. C.C. Sabathia, the American League’s reigning Cy Young winner, is on a major roll. Aaron Laffey has been better than anyone could have expected.
Youthful bliss: The Indians have received good play from young outfielders Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo. The two have combined for a .286 batting average with seven home runs, 21 doubles and 40 RBIs in 238 at-bats. Francisco’s also gaining a reputation for one of the best outfield arms in baseball.
Big D: The Tribe can do some work with the glove, ranking among baseball’s leaders in fielding percentage, fewest errors and doubleplays turned. Even Martinez, once a defensive liability, had become one of the toughest catchers to steal on this season before he went down.
The rest of the Central Division has not buried the Indians, although Minnesota is red hot and the Tigers are playing much better baseball. The White Sox starting pitching has been even better than Cleveland’s. And don’t forget the Royals, who were tied with the Indians going Saturday.
Reach Repository sports writer Josh Weir at (330) 580-8426 or e-mail: email@example.com. Read more at Josh Weir’s blog: www.cantonrep.com/tribe