The Cleveland Indians have finally gotten through the first month of the season but not without sustaining some bumps and bruises along the way. Sitting just under .500, the Tribe seemingly couldn’t go a week with a full, healthy lineup—which could be the reason their April was so underwhelming.
In addition to the injuries, a few key players played below their normal averages and really hurt the team’s chances to win. Also, when a team’s starting pitching rotation consists of only two solid starters, it makes it extremely difficult to string together wins.
Looking at some of the individual statistics from the first month of the season, it’s easy to pick out who can be deemed a winner for the month and who will have to redeem themselves in May.
Maybe that was a good thing?
Because of his absence, the fans were pleasantly surprised by his performance during the month of April. Santana hit .386/.456./.686 in 70 at-bats and drove in 11 RBI, as of Tuesday.
Perhaps the most impressive stat for Santana is that he only has four home runs while racking up nine doubles. That stat alone shows that he is not only hitting for power, but hitting for average as well.
If Santana hadn’t sustained a thumb injury early in the season, those numbers could have been elevated even more.
That should scare any AL pitcher.
Asdrubal Cabrera has always been the crutch that the Indians fans can lean on. When things turned south in Cleveland after the 2007 debacle, Cabrera was one of the shining spots on an otherwise gloomy lineup.
Fast-forward to the present and you’ll find the fans—and Cabrera—a little frustrated.
April wasn’t to kind to the All-Star shortstop. Cabrera came out of spring training flat, but over the last week of April, he seems to be coming around. Even with his bat coming alive, it still wasn’t enough to salvage the month. He hit .225/.287/.375 with only eight RBI.
What the fans have to remember is that this is a very long season and Cabrera—like most of these “losers”—will come around at some point.
Mark Reynolds was one of the big free-agent signings that general manager Chris Antonetti and the Indians made this offseason, and it looks like an outstanding pick up thus far. If April is any indication of things to come, the season is already looking bright for Reynolds.
Leading the team in home runs (8) and RBI (20), Reynolds has opened up the 2013 season hitting .291/.363/.620. Even more impressive might be his 1.019 OPS which is only second to Santana’s incredible 1.198.
For the Indians to make a legitimate run toward October baseball, Reynolds will have to keep up his handy work at the plate, and so far, the veteran isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
Remember the aforementioned big free-agent signings? Well, there has to be a catch, right?
Drew Stubbs might be that catch.
Stubbs entered the season as part of a highly touted Indians outfield that consisted of three center fielders, and during the month of April, that’s about all he did right.
Hitting .213/.286/.293 at the bottom of the lineup can be disastrous for a team when it comes to scoring runs. The player at the bottom of the lineup is responsible for getting on base and turning the lineup over to the top of the order. When there isn’t production from that spot, the players batting seventh and eighth are usually left stranded.
It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out when players are left on base, they aren’t scoring.
Another part of the free-agent splash was the signing of first baseman Nick Swisher. With his four-year, $56 million contract came certain expectations—like being the power-hitting, RBI machine in the lineup.
So far, he has shown that he is ready to fulfill those expectations.
Swisher clubbed .265/.386/.410 with two doubles and nine RBI. In fact, the core of Swisher, Santana and Reynolds have accounted for approximately 38 percent of the Indians RBI this season. One of the more memorable RBI was the game-winner against the White Sox on April 12. That run not only won the game 1-0, but it also gave Justin Masterson a complete-game shutout.
Consistency from Swisher, along with staying healthy, could have the Indians sniffing around for a Wild Card spot come October.
"I'm not really concerned about the average in spring training," said Kipnis. "I really didn't have a good average in spring training last year. I still have my confidence."
Unfortunately, the problems from Goodyear, Arizona have followed Kipnis to Cleveland.
The calendar has probably been flipped to May since mid-April in the Kipnis household after starting the season hitting .185/.260/.277 with just four RBI.
Perhaps his problems are all mental at this point, but another bad month from the second baseman will make the road to the playoffs one filled with potholes.
Justin Masterson has shown a new confidence this year after churning out just 11 wins and an ERA near five during his 2012 campaign. That confidence has nabbed him four wins in the month of April.
Along with wins, he also leads the team in ERA (3.12) and strikeouts (39). Of course, with a starting rotation like Cleveland’s, that might not be all that impressive.
If Masterson can continue to show dominance on the hump, maybe the old adage “lead by example” can hold true for this team.
For example, Ubaldo Jimenez showed signs of life on April 29, shutting out the Royals during a seven-inning, three-hit performance. So maybe it isn’t that far of a stretch.
This could have easily gone to Ubaldo Jimenez, but he is getting a break after his outstanding outing against the Royals.
Brett Myers is probably looking forward to May just as much as Jason Kipnis. After starting off the season in Toronto throwing batting practice to the tune of seven earned runs on seven hits in five innings of work, things haven’t really turned around.
Myers has gone 0-3 during his first season with the club, recording a 8.02 ERA and giving up almost as many home runs (10) as he has strikeouts (12).
Currently, Myers is sitting on the 15-day DL with a sore right forearm. Maybe the time to reflect and gather himself is just what he needs to get his season back in order.
If the stint on the DL doesn’t help him, the Indians will probably replace him with Trevor Bauer.
But will that be better?