The Cleveland Indians surprised a lot of people with their performance during the 2013 season. This team won 92 games, finished second in the AL Central, and earned one of the two Wild Card spots to reach the postseason. It was an encouraging sign for a team not expected to be ready to compete just yet and it raised the hopes for another solid campaign in 2014.
Midway through the 2014 season and the Indians are finding themselves in a familiar position, right in the middle of a division that doesn’t seem to have one true winner running away with it. The Indians currently stand 7.5 games out of first place but it’s a deficit that isn’t impossible to overcome. The team has been seeing some solid production from some unlikely places as well.
Corey Kluber has emerged as a true ace of the pitching staff, at a perfect time considering the pending free agency of Justin Masterson (who’s reportedly been pitching hurt most of the year). Josh Tomlin didn’t begin the year in the rotation but has pitched well of late. Even Trevor Bauer has started to show enough to cement his place in the Cleveland rotation for the foreseeable future.
The bullpen has seen a mixed bag of results, as John Axford lost the closer’s role early but the combination of Bryan Shaw and Chad Allen (though it’s mostly been Allen) has stepped in well to replace him.
On the offensive side, the team is being carried by Michael Brantley – who’s emerged as a potential All Star – and a surprising Lonnie Chisenhall – who finally seems to be figuring some things out at the plate. Yan Gomes has put together a good first half. Jason Kipnis has been slowed by injury but is starting to turn things around. Carlos Santana has been terrible at the plate, potential a side effect of his defensive position change, but is second in the major leagues with 58 walks.
There’s reason for optimism in Cleveland heading towards the deadline. The team could add a part here or there and end up competing in the AL Central before things are said and done.