August Reflections on the Cleveland Indians

Indians fans are currently partying like its 1995! As of this writing, the team has just won eight straight games and is heading to Miami to face the Marlins after a convincing sweep of the Chicago White Sox. While in past years, the team has tailed off after the All Star Break, this team certainly seems to have some staying power and is pulling wins out of nowhere. Even when it seems their backs are against the wall they find a way to grind out a win.

Their stick-to-itiveness could not be better illustrated than by Jason Giambi’s walk off homer in the first game of the series against the White Sox.  At 42-years-old Giambi became the oldest player in MLB history to hit a walk off homerun. He didn’t have to worry about hurting himself while rounding the bases because his Medicare coverage would have picked up the damage.

The team has also received a lift from an unconventional spot in Ryan Raburn. The hashtag #RaburnRugburn has been trending in Cleveland for the past few weeks as he has caught fire. He currently is the only player in the majors with less than 200 at bats and more than 11 homeruns (he has 12 as of this writing).

Just looking at the talent and names on this team, would not make one think that they were poised to make a run against the Detroit Tigers to win the American League Central Division. However, manager Terry Francona has worked his magic with this group of players and has them believing in themselves. It’s hard to imagine that a team who juxtaposes Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera with Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher is going to have any chance of competing, but with just over a month to go in the season, they are in the thick of the race.

Ryan Raburn

Ryan Raburn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Indians have been led offensively by the aforementioned Kipnis. He currently leads the Tribe in homeruns (15), RBI (68), runs (57), OPS (.871) and batting average (.294). Unlike last season where he started the year hot and then cooled off after the All Star Break, Kipnis has been consistent all year. In fact, he started the season  relatively slow and has been consistently picking it up day by day since he broke out of his early season slump. He was rewarded for his play by being selected to the All Star Game for the first time in his career.

Just as the Indians are led by one player in virtually all categories on offense, the same feat has happened on their pitching staff as Justin Masterson leads the team in wins (13), strikeouts (160) and WHIP (1.16). This is not to say that Masterson has been the only one who has provided quality starts for the Tribe. They have seen some major dividends pay out from Scott Kazmir who has already started 20 games and posted a record of 9-7 while consistently giving the Indians a chance to win.

The Tribe pitching staff has been hit by a string of one of the strangest injuries: the long finger sprain. This is when the middle finger of the pitching hand gets sprained. Seems like a small deal, right? Wrong. The Tribe has actually been plagued by this industry for about a decade. All the way back to 2006, the Indians number one pitching prospect, Andrew Miller, was on the fast track to the Majors until he was hit with this injury and it completely derailed his career. The same thing happened to highly rated pitching prospect Alex White who the Indians traded to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Ubaldo Jiminez a few summers ago. Earlier this season the injury sent starter Zach McAllister to the disabled list for seven weeks and now it has sidelined starter Corey Kluber just as he was starting to impress everyone.

If the Indians can stay healthy and beat the teams they should beat, they will be right there in the conversation for at least the wild card spot in September.

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