Every year, it seems Cleveland Indians’ fans get the hope that the team is going to exceed their expectations, and why shouldn’t they? Each year, the Tribe starts off incredibly well, only to crash land hard and fall ultimately to the Detroit Tigers.
2013 is a new year though, and one in which I don’t see the Indians falling by the wayside.
For starters, the biggest improvement for the Indians was the hiring of manager Terry Francona. Now I’m not one to say that a manager directly affects everything the players do, nor am I saying Manny Acta was unfit for the job, but Francona is a proven winner. Francona not only took the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles, but made them the threat they still are today. Clearly owner Larry Dolan and general manager Chris Antonetti realized a winning attitude will help motivate the players more than anything.
The free-agent signings of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds and the trades for Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles, dramatically changed the roster of this team. Before, the Indians weren’t really used to players who played a single position other than Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. Now the Indians were ready to roll with more solid players and a line-up that was in a definite need of a do-over. The Indians could never really pride themselves on much before, but now their offense has become a new weapon for this team.
Of course, while the talent is nice, can it help a team that has constantly been beaten down by the Tigers get back up? As of now, the answer is yes as the Indians currently sit at 40-38, and are 2.5 games behind Detroit in the American League Central. Is the floor going to collapse as it seems to for C-Town each year? I don’t know, but it looks really doubtful. Cleveland has been clicking on all cylinders this season.
Justin Masterson has been the team ace for awhile, but has never really received the widespread recognition for it. Sure, Masterson had an off 2012, but in 2013, he’s 9-6 with a 3.76 ERA and has notched two complete game shutouts under his belt. The biggest surprise for the Tribe so far has been Corey Kluber who has turned out to be a pleasant pitcher for Francona’s staff. Kluber is 6-4 with a 4.16 ERA and had two back-to-back outings in which he pitched eight innings of very low scoring baseball. In his last outing however, Kluber was tagged for seven runs, six of which were earned, against the Baltimore Orioles.
Unfortunately, there are problems within the Indians’ rotation. Ubaldo Jimenez has become such a streak pitcher ever since he was traded by the Colorado Rockies, but yet someone that Francona places his faith in. Jimenez sits at 6-4 on the season with a 4.58 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 78.2 innings pitched. Lately though, Jimenez has been solid ever since his shellacking at Detroit on May 22nd. Scott Kazmir has also been somewhat effective for the team, but overall just can’t seem to be the pitcher he was years ago as he’s 4-4 this year with a 4.83 ERA.
Offense has seemed to be the strong suit for the Indians and Kipnis leads the way. Currently, Kipnis leads the team in RBIs (45), runs scored (38), batting average (.288) and in hits (76). The signing of Reynolds proved to be worth the money as he has 14 home runs and 44 RBIs, helping the Tribe produce runs. Bourn has also been producing like the team was hoping, as he has a batting average of .296 (though in less games than Kipnis) and has 11 stolen bases. Catcher Carlos Santana leads the team in on-base percentage (.380) and has a solid average of .269.
Though, the biggest obstacle for the Indians remains to be not only their division rivals, but themselves. Cleveland fans are used to the bottom falling out on the team, but this year has a different aura to it. These Indians are just not a collection of talent, but they’re solid producers and are staying neck in neck with the Tigers while having a decent lead on the third place Kansas City Royals. Truly, the Indians’ ground is their own to lose as the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins don’t have much life.
So yes, the Indians and will be a threat this year. While they haven’t seen playoff life since 2007, mark my words, the Indians will be fighting for October this season. They may not win the Central as long as Detroit remains king of the hill, but it’s certainly in the realm of possibility as Cleveland isn’t lagging too far behind. They have the offense, they have the pitching, though some may need fine tuned, and they definitely have the manager to get them there. All that matters now is if the Tribe can make their efforts in 2013 last all season.