Indians After Two Months = Disappointing
- Updated: May 22, 2009
While the Cleveland Indians are currently on a winning streak at the time of this writing, it is the first time in nearly a month that they have won at least two games in a row. Even though there were no huge expectations coming into this season like there were in 2008 when many, including ESPN’s Buster Olney, picked them to go to the World Series at the beginning of the year. Still, the Tribe’s start is disappointing. There was a span of about two days when the Indians were actually the worst team in all of Major League Baseball according to their record.
At the same token, the Indians are fortunate that they play in probably the weakest division in the majors where many believe that it will probably take all of 88 wins to be the champion.
General Manager Mark Shapiro has tried just about everything to try to get this thing turned around. He has called up players from the minors, changed the roles of some of the players already on the team and even signed some people off the street in an attempt to right the bullpen.
The constant problem throughout this season has been the bullpen. Although there were spells when the starting pitching was horrible (the first week or so), or when the hitters couldn’t buy a run (the first week of May), the bullpen has been the largest area of concern thus far.
One of the major moves that was made a few weeks ago was to call up outfielder/first baseman Matt LaPorta (the major piece from last season’s CC Sabathia deal) to get some major league experience. Despite grumblings that he would be better off in AAA because he needed more seasoning and would be able to play more consistently, but since the corner outfield positions were not producing, Shapiro made the move. LaPorta was not able to play consistently for a small amount of time because of a players only meeting where it was decided that the players who made the team out of Spring Training were those who really deserved to play.
This news was reportedly given to manager Eric Wedge and he abided by the veterans’ wishes for a few days until those players still were not hitting and is only using LaPorta just about four times a week. While he did struggle when first called up, LaPorta has started to hit in the past week, and with some more time at first base, could be a reliable everyday player in the near future.
As stated earlier, the starting pitching at the beginning of the year was horrendous. The starters were averaging just over two innings per start through the first week of the season. This meant that the bullpen was being called on for lots of work which could have contributed to their fatigue at this point. For the time being, the starters seem to have gotten through their early season run giving up barrage to put together some stellar outings over the past two weeks. 2008 Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee looks to have found his form once again and has allowed just seven runs over his past six starts. Even though he has only earned one win during that span, mostly due to lack of run production, he has posted an ERA of slightly more than 1.50.
Fausto Carmona, who in addition to having one heck of a sinker also has one of the best baseball names, has also turned it on as of late. Although it does seem that he works too slowly for his infielders to stay on their toes at times, he has been able to compile a few good starts to show why he was considered for the Cy Young Award in 2007. With Carl Pavano also providing some strong outings, the Indians should have their rotation set when Jake Westbrook returns from surgery in mid-July.
With all of the sad spots on the Indians this year, Victor Martinez has given fans a reason to keep watching. Over the last few days, his batting average has climbed as high as .388 and he has consistently been second in the league in that category. A lot of his prowess at the plate seems due to the fact that he is getting so much time at 1B this year and does not have to worry about the catching duties as much as in the past. Obviously it is going to be hard for Martinez to continue on a pace that is this impressive, but he has turned a lot of heads in the early going this season.
The only player other than Martinez who could even be considered to be having a decent season at the plate is middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, or as Clevelanders call him “‘Drubes”. Cabrera’s average has dropped a bit over the past week, but it has been consistently over .300 throughout the season and with his impressive range, he is making it hard for Wedge to play Jhonny Peralta at SS everyday and has started seeing time at 3B.
Despite their early struggles, the Indians still have a realistic shot at turning this season around. If their current winning ways are not fools gold and they do actually mean something, the Indians could start to rise from the bottom of their weak division. Realistically though, they have to just focus on the team in front of them instead of worrying about the team that is three above them in order to keep their focus.
With so many young players on the team, it is getting harder for Wedge to give everyone enough playing time to keep all of the players fresh. For instance, outfielder Trevor Crowe has not seen nearly enough action despite the fact that he has been stellar in the outfield and actually made the team out of Spring Training. This is just one of the issues that Wedge will have to wrestle with for the rest of the season while he tries to save his job and turn this club around.