When the Cleveland Indians started the 2013 season, the organization and fan base had high hopes for the season. There was a new regime in town. There were new players with a lot of promise. Things were definitely looking up in Cleveland.
Now that the Tribe is almost done with April, there are certain flaws that are becoming more exposed and more obvious. Some of these flaws were well documented before the season started. Other flaws were swept under the rug with the hope that no player—or team—would catch them.
With the Indians 17 games into their season, there are a handful of flaws plaguing the team that have become glaringly obvious.
If you are an Indians fan, and let’s assume you are, starting pitching has been the comeback to every person’s argument. For every person that spent February and March trying to convince others that the Cleveland Indians were legitimate contenders, there were two or three others commenting on the fact that the starting pitching was weak.
They weren’t wrong.
Ubaldo Jimenez is probably the biggest disappointment. His failure to control his pitches has left him with a WHIP nearing 2.000 and an ERA north of 11.00.
Brett Myers, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a right forearm injury, has looked more like a batting practice pitcher than a starting pitcher. With only three games under his belt this season, he has already given up ten home runs. However, unlike Jimenez, at least Myers is throwing strikes.
The only problem is his strikes are landing in the seats instead of the catcher’s mitt.
Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister are the anchors of the rotation. There could be improvements from McAllister in regards to his composure on the mound, but overall these two just need run support.
Remember what I said about run support?
Even though Kazmir got the rare run support, he couldn’t stick it out until the fifth inning for the win. Instead he allowed six runs on seven hits in three and one-third inning. That is good for a 16.20 ERA to start off his comeback tour.
Lately, Chris “Pure Rage” Perez is enraging the fans more than the opposing batters. The sometimes eccentric pitcher has the intensity of a closer everyone wants, but the accuracy of a blind man in an archery contest.
Unfortunately, the best pitch in his arsenal is his slider. It’s unfortunate because that pitch has been landing everywhere but the strike zone lately.
The 5-4 win against the Houston Astros on Sunday was a perfect example of the inconsistency of Chris Perez. He got in trouble early in the ninth inning after giving up a lead-off double to Rick Ankiel and hitting the next batter. Luckily, he was able to hold off the struggling Astros and record his first save since April 2, but not without the drama Cleveland Indians fans have come to expect when his number is called.
While it was expected that the starting pitching would struggle this season, the offensive side of the team seemed to be locked up with the additions of Mark Reynolds, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs and Nick Swisher to complement Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana.
If the Indians are going to be successful at all this season, they need their power hitters to perform at least near their potential. If they can get that from these players, they will get run support for their pitchers.
It’s not rocket science.
Asdrubal Cabrera was lumped in the group on the previous slide because of his bat—or lack thereof. He is getting his own slide because, in addition to his slump at the plate, he has been playing sloppy defense this season as well.
With two errors in the first 17 games of this season, it isn’t crazy to think Indians fans might see Cabrera eclipse the 20 mark in errors. Currently, his fielding percentage is sitting at .963.
Eight points lower than all of last season.
After slipping down the dugout steps—you read that right—in Houston, Cabrera is listed as day to day with soreness in his left wrist. Perhaps this is just the rest and re-focus that Cabrera needs to get back on track.
Then again, maybe Terry Francona pushed him.
Injuries were listed as one of the six barriers that would be standing in the way of the Cleveland Indians winning the AL Central. That definitely hasn’t changed and maybe has become even more of a problem than initially thought.
Although the injuries could be worse, they are causing problems in the daily lineup. One of the hardest tasks a manager has is to get his lineup to a point where it's running smooth. It becomes really hard on the manager when his everyday players are bouncing back and forth between the lineup and the disabled list.
In addition to Cabrera’s sore left wrist and Myers’ left forearm injury, Michael Bourn was stepped on last week and required stitches in his finger, landing him on the 15-day disabled list. Catcher Lou Marson has just begun his rehab assignment in Triple-A Columbus after suffering a neck strain in his only start of the season and Jason Kipnis was experiencing soreness in his left elbow and has missed a handful of games.
With versatile players like Mike Aviles, Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher and an outfield with Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley, the Indians have been able to put very good players in place of those injured. Although that is a nice luxury to have, it hasn't helped the Indians lineup find their groove.
Although low attendance isn’t anything new in Cleveland, it really is one of the bigger flaws. The Indians have struggled to fill their seats and have finished at or near the bottom in attendance every year since 2004. As logic will dictate, there is only one thing that the Indians can do to boost those numbers.
If the Cleveland Indians can figure out a way to improve the starting pitching, invigorate the offense and keep injuries to a minimum, the numbers in both the wins column and attendance will rise.
If this team comes together and figures out how to win games, the whole dynamic will change in Cleveland. The players feed off the fan emotion and enthusiasm during games and in order to get more fans in the seats, the team needs to win. As long as the team is doing their part, more people will be coming to the park to watch and cheer.
The Indians know what they need to do now. It’s only April and there is plenty of baseball left to play. With a little luck and a little faith, the Indians have the right tools to be above .500 by the All-Star break.