Don’t Count Your Chickens, Cleveland
- Updated: June 10, 2011
Much to the delight of Cleveland fans, the Cavs season is over. In all seriousness, Tribe fans, young and old, have not experienced this success since their pennant run in 2007, when they were one game away from the Fall Classic. In the month of April, Cleveland went 18-8 and was clearly the surprise of the month. On Baseball Tonight, Eduardo Perez predicted that the Indians were here to stay and from then on, were considered contenders by everyone from Curt Schilling to Tim Kurkjian.
And it wasn’t all hype, either. They had found an ace in Justin Masterson, and solid numbers two and three in Josh Tomlin and Mitch Talbot. They had Fausto Carmona. They also had young prospects, such as Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. Things looked good from the pitching side. Additionally, they were the best defensive team in the AL.
At the plate, they were just as good. Grady Sizemore had just returned from his injury-ladened 2010 season with a bang, Travis Hafner looked like the Pronk of old, and they found a star shortstop for years to come in Asdrubal Cabrera, who is finally attempting to partially fill the size 16 shoes left by Omar Visquel. We were winning and scoring runs in bunches, and our two hitters with the highest hopes, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana, were both struggling. So, naturally, we Tribe fans thought they would only improve from April. But then, how could they?
From April 1 to May 17, the Tribe went 26-13, batting .271 with over 5 runs scored per game. They were even averaging almost 10 hits per game! Meanwhile, the team ERA was a cool 3.41 and the bullpen was stellar. It was eerily similar to the 2007 ballclub, as the staff was stellar, the bullpen was brilliant, and every player in the lineup, from top to bottom, was positively contributing to the team. Defensively, they were giving up an unearned run only once every five days. Things were looking good.
On that fateful day on May 18, the Indians hit a wall, and it wasn’t made out of “dry wall”, it was six inches of steel. The opposing team was the ChiSox, and on the mound was Jake Peavy, making his first start since surgery. Peavy was masterful. He held the Tribe to three hits in his complete game shutout. Masterson pitched well, giving up only a sac fly in his eight innings of work, but still got the loss.
The Indians are still sliding down that wall, and can’t seem to find a way to climb back up. From May 18 to June 5 (the date of this writing), the Indians are 7-11 with a .225 average and a miniscule .285 OBP. If you can’t get runners on, then you can’t score runs, which explains the 3.4 runs per game the Tribe put up during that stretch. Meanwhile, the team ERA ballooned to 5.16 during this range of games. They were also giving games away: they gave up three unearned runs every five games. All was not well on the shores of Lake Erie.
There is some hope yet. Carlos Santana is starting to heat up a little, and Shin-Soo Choo seems to be on his way out of a slump as well. Hafner is hopefully on the mend (it’s no coincidence that Pronk has been out during nearly the entire Indians swoon; he was amazing during the first month and a half of the season) and Sizemore is nearly at 100%. Additionally, the pitching stats I threw forth were actually quite deceptive. In 10 of the 17 games in the Tribe’s sputtering, the pitching gave up four or fewer runs. Those days were just hidden by the five days that they gave up eight or more runs.
However, I just don’t see the Indians making the playoffs this year. Don’t call me a pessimist, or a bad Indians fan, because I’m not. I’m just not naïve. You don’t have to be a member of AARP to remember some classic chokes by the Tribe—2007, one game away from the Fall Classic; 2005, lost six of their last seven to finish at 93-69 (two games behind the Wild Card and six games behind eventual World Series winning ChiSox); 1997, okay, they did make the World Series, but they lost to the Marlins (no disrespect). The Tribe plays mostly teams above .500 for the rest of June, and if they don’t improve soon, I think the Tigers will sneak up from behind. Don’t count your chickens.