The Cleveland Indians are 43 games into a 162 game schedule and at this point have been up and down, with more downs then ups. The last 4 games are a good indicator of this team so far: A blowout 15-4 win followed by losses of 4-2, 11-1 and last night of 6-2. The Tribe sits with a 19-24 record, good for last place in the Central Division. Is it too early to panic? The Indians are 9.5 games behind the Tigers, 4 games behind the 2nd Wild Card and only 4 games ahead of the Astros for worst record in the American League. A little over a fourth of the season is behind us, that means a vast majority of the season lies ahead. Who can carry the Cleveland Indians to success?
When you look at the top teams in the league you will notice a player, or two, who can carry the team. For many teams that player is a pitcher but for some it is a position player. The Tigers have had Justin Verlander to carry their team for years, but now can be carried by either Miguel Cabrera or Max Scherzer. The Yankees rode C.C. Sabathia ever since they acquired him and now have Masahiro Tanaka in the midst of a brilliant rookie year here in the states. The Rays have Evan Longoria, the Angels Mike Trout, the Nationals Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg and the list goes on and on.
Do the Indians have that type of player that when things go wrong they can always be counted on to carry the team through? Justin Masterson is the ace of the staff, and was overpowering last year. This year he has had 5 quality starts, out of his 9, carrying 2 wins with a 4.31 ERA. He is down to 8.61 strikeouts per 9 innings and has given up 4 home runs already. Corey Kluber really leads the staff currently. He has 4 wins in 6 quality starts to go along with a 3.38 ERA and 66 K’s. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff but locates the ball well and doesn’t get rattled. He isn’t a #1 type guy and isn’t a guy who can carry a team like the others mentioned.
Amongst everyday players Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana were all, at one point in time, expected to carry the load. Bourn missed some time earlier in the year and is only hitting .250 with a .276 OBP, which is not good for a lead off guy. High energy guy Swisher is struggling even more with a .203 average and only 3 homeruns. Santana, who has been trying to get used to playing a new position as well, is batting a whopping .156 with 5 homeruns and a whopping 13 RBIs, bad for a cleanup hitter. His saving grace has been his walks, 35, which has his OBP at a respectable .319.
Dr. Smooth Michael Brantley is actually holding the team above water, barely, with his 7 homeruns, 30 RBIs and 43 hits leading the team. Brantley is a talented all around player but is not the type of player to carry a team. His consistency makes him a high quality #2 hitter and his above average arm and range in the outfield are positive traits. Yet he lacks the power consistency that can help put a team over the edge with one swing during close games.
Right now the Tribe is being “carried” by Kluber and Brantley, two players whose talents don’t allow for them to carry a team far. Can Masterson, Bourn, Swisher and/or Santana turn it around quickly to pick up the load of a playoff caliber team? Could Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer or another young pitcher explode on the scene and take the team by the reigns? Or will Tito Francona have to try to again puzzle piece together a winner on the backs of all 25 men? Can this team again come together in a way that will overcome the lack of “they guy”? Or is there a trade to be made that could bring that person in?
What are your thoughts on the Tribe’s season so far? Who do you think can/will carry the team? Is that type of player necessary in this era?
Tags: Cleveland Indians