Reflecting on Cleveland’s First Half

Well Tribe fans, have they made a believer out of you yet? As of this writing, the Indians are 43-37 and .5 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers for the lead in the American League Central. While it’s a far cry from the seven game lead they had just a month ago, the Indians are still playing solid baseball.

Perhaps some of the Indians faithful got ahead of themselves when the seven game lead stayed consistent for about a week, but just as in any other season, this one for the Indians will have its ups and and downs.

The main downer for the team has probably been the pitching of Fausto Carmona. Currently, Carmona is 4-10 with a 5.89 ERA and he has been chased from the game early in almost every start over the past month. Fausto was thought to be the next CC Sabathia in Cleveland after finishing third in the Cy Young voting in 2007 behind Sabathia and Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox. If he is to get there, it doesn’t look like 2011 will be the year, as Buster Olney from ESPN reported last week that Carmona will likely be pitching for his job over the next couple starts. Editor’s Note: Carmona has since been placed on the 15-day DL.

The Tribe has hit more than expected thus far, but it has come from some surprising places. While former heavy hitters Grady Sizemore, Shin Soo Choo and Carlos Santana continue to struggle, the Indians have found offense in unexpected places. Coming off of a number of seasons that have been mired in injury, designated hitter Travis Hafner has found his form yet again and has posted strong numbers throughout the season. When he was out for three weeks due to an injury, the team’s offense took a nosedive and essentially allowed the Tigers to get back in the race.

The Indians recently brought up third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall and second base prospect Cord Phelps to the Big League club. While initial plans were to bring both of those players up later in the season, the Tribe brass was looking to give a shot of new life into a slumping offense. Phelps was welcomed to the Tribe with open arms especially after hitting a walk-off homerun during his first week with the team. Chisenhall has already taken the starting third base job over from Jack Hannahan and has swung the bat well during his first few weeks in the Majors.

The major spot that the Indians will no doubt look to address is in left field. Currently they are playing a combination of Austin Kearns, Shelley Duncan and Travis Buck. While Duncan has been responsive in spot pinch hitting duty, he hasn’t shown an ability to hit consistently when in the everyday line-up. Kearns and Buck have both underperformed as well for a position that is supposed to provide the team with some consistent power.

Closer Chris Perez has been another bright spot for the Tribe this season. During his first year of full time closer duty, Perez has converted 19 of 20 save opportunities and currently carries a 2.37 ERA. His performance recently had Tribe manager Manny Acta pushing for his inclusion in the All Star Game. Editor’s Note: Perez has indeed been named to the AL All Star roster.

With the season not yet halfway in the books, the Indians are keeping their fans on their toes as they continue to flirt with the division lead. Since the middle of last month, the Indians have climbed from last in the league in attendance to 26th. While this may not seem impressive, it is a sign that residents of Northeast Ohio are starting to buy into what the Dolan family is selling (at least for now).


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