Cleveland Indians: 5 Unlikely Heroes During Tribe's Hot Start
Despite their current poor play (on a two-game losing streak), the Cleveland Indians' first 53 games can only be described as surprising.
This season, Indians fans have seen a little bit of everything from the 2012 Tribe.
Including fast starts for a few of the most unlikely of heroes.
Let’s now look at to whom the Indians and their fans can look for the rest of the regular season.
5. Manny Acta
Most fans and American League pundits alike swear to the idea that “small ball,” the style of baseball usually associated with the National League, will not win in the offensively powered American League.
Welcome to the 2012 version of the Cleveland Indians. The Indians have won 83 percent of their games decided by one run.
The Indians hold a 28-25 record but are winning 65 percent of their games against right-handed starting pitching.
Also, they are leading the American League and tied for second in all of baseball in stolen bases (46).
The Manny Acta influence on the 2012 Cleveland Indians does not end there. The Indians are tied for fifth in all of baseball in fielding percentage (.986) and second in the American League and sixth in all of baseball in total assists (587).
All these statistics and numbers are great, but Manny Acta’s real influence on the 2012 Cleveland Indians is with their patience and optimism.
Any individual who watches the 2012 Indians can see that this team goes through no real highs or lows. Even with a 3-7 record over their past 10 games, the Indians look like they are having fun playing the game of baseball. This nuance is a direct correlation to having Acta as the Indians' manager.
Dan Steinberg quoted Manny Acta’s sister Anayma during his tenure as the manager of the Washington Nationals, “He's all the time positive, with everything. I'm pretty thankful for God that's the way he is. We're so blessed, we have to be positive.”
Steinberg interviewed a local blogger Steven that agreed with his assessment of Manny Acta; “Manny Acta has a powerful presence in person that doesn't come across on TV. What might seem like placid lifelessness on TV is something else in person…”
Acta’s influence on the Tribe cannot be under-appreciated. This is why he ranks fifth on my list of unlikely heroes in 2012.
4. Chris Perez
Most Clevelanders are not the biggest fans of Indians closer Chris Perez after his comments about the city's last-place attendance numbers. "It's just a slap in the face when you're last in attendance. Last. It's not like we're 25th or 26th. We're last. Oakland is out-drawing us. That's embarrassing.”
With all of those comments and bad feelings set aside for a moment, the Indians’ closer is having a career season.
Chris Perez has converted 17 saves in his 18 opportunities this season.
Those 17 saves have him tied for first in all of baseball.
Perez has a 2.66 ERA this season, which he has cut down from his 3.09 career ERA. His current 2.66 ERA is also lower than his average ERA since joining the American League and the Cleveland Indians (2.86).
Without Perez’s stellar performances so far this season, the Indians would not have won 83 percent of those one-run games.
For those reasons, Chris Perez ranks fourth on my list of most unlikely heroes for the 2012 Cleveland Indians.
3. Jason Kipnis
Who would have thought Jason Kipnis would be leading the Indians in at-bats, runs scored, hits, triples, home runs, RBI, and stolen bases as he plays within his first full major league season.
Kipnis’ numbers are not only impressive compared to his fellow Indians, but also rank among the best in all of Major League Baseball.
Kipnis’ 38 runs scored have him tied for seventh in all of baseball.
His three triples have him tied for 13th in all of baseball.
The Indians now have defensive stability at the second base position.
Kipnis ranks ninth among all second baseman in fielding percentage (.988).
Kipnis also ranks first in assists among all second baseman, and is tied for third among all second baseman in number of double plays completed.
Not only has Jason Kipnis been a bright spot for the Cleveland Indians this season, but he should also be a future All-Star and more for the Tribe as the seasons progress.
2. Bruce Fields
Many fans may overlook the importance of a coach or manager to a team or an individual player. No one in Cleveland can overlook the importance of Bruce Fields to the Tribe.
Fields is entering into his second season (first full season) as the Indians' hitting coach. Under Fields, the Indians are in the upper echelon of five different offensive categories.
The Tribe is on a record-setting pace for walks, leading all of Major League Baseball with 207.
The real impact of Fields can be seen in the at-bats the Indians now take. At the plate, the 2012 Cleveland Indians are one of the most patient teams Tribe fans can ever remember.
The Indians rank seventh in all of baseball in amount of pitches seen.
Bruce Fields ranks second among my most unlikeliest of heroes because of this statistic more than anything. The Indians’ hitters are wearing down opposing starting pitchers and making opposing managers go to their bullpens early. With this and prompt hitting, any team in baseball has a chance of being successful.
1. Derek Lowe
Hands down, Derek Lowe has to be the number one most unlikely of hero for the 2012 Cleveland Indians.
When traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Cleveland Indians this past offseason, most figured Lowe to be a third or fourth starter who could help mentor the younger starting pitchers of the staff.
Derek Lowe has gone above and beyond those expectations already. Many fans even believe him to be the best Cleveland Indians starting pitcher so far this season.
Through his first 11 starts, Lowe has a 7-3 record with a 3.06 ERA.
In 67.2 innings pitched, Derek Lowe has only given up three home runs.
Derek Lowe has been the epitome of consistence so far this season for the Cleveland Indians. With the struggles of Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez well-documented, Lowe’s strong start has proven to be even more important to the 2012 Cleveland Indians then anyone could of expected.