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Are the Indians Strong Enough to Tread Water Without All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera?

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Are the Indians Strong Enough to Tread Water Without All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera?
Jason Szenes/Getty Images
Asdrubal Cabrera will miss several weeks, during which time the Cleveland Indians hope to stay afloat.

Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was in obvious pain after grounding out on Monday night. Jordan Bastian confirms that he'll be sidelined at least 15 days with a strained right quad:

The Tribe fell to 30-27 following a 7-4 loss, but they're still comfortably sitting in second place in the AL Central.

So can Cleveland tread water without its Venezuelan All-Star and stay above .500 and within sight of the Detroit Tigers?

The answer depends on how much time Cabrera misses.

That's tricky to calculate because the severity of quad strains can vary. Mike Morse, for example, went down with the same thing on May 28. The Seattle Mariners have yet to make a roster move because they consider him day-to-day.

But this certainly won't require surgery. Barring any setbacks, the Indians can expect him back in uniform by the end of the month.

Duane Burleson/Getty Images
Mike Aviles is a capable replacement for Cabrera.

In the meantime, there won't be much of a drop-off at the shortstop position. Mike Aviles slides into the starting role. Though less flashy with the glove, he's statistically superior to Cabrera in terms of UZR and Defensive Runs Saved, and it's not particularly close.

Cabrera's career at shortstop (4,798.0 innings): -4 DRS, -31.8 UZR.

Aviles' career at shortstop (2,406.1 innings): 27 DRS, 16.1 UZR.

*Career totals accurate entering Tuesday's game, provided by Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.

The Indians will lose a tiny bit of power as the torch passes.

Cabrera owns a 116 OPS+ since 2011, whereas Aviles is only at 83 OPS+ in that span. Juan Diaz—who's taking Cabrera's spot on the active roster—produces much less than either of these guys. As of June 4, he has only five games of major league experience.

Pat McManamon of Fox Sports Ohio writes that Aviles has the right mindset to handle this sudden promotion.

The free-agent signings of Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher resulted in dramatic offensive improvement. The latter has been particularly consistent at the plate over the course of his career. Aside from Ryan Raburn (.293/.364/.525 in 110 PA), there isn't any hitter on the Indians destined to regress.

Terry Francona's pitching staff has struggled in 2013.

It ranks 24th in the majors in both ERA and FIP. Don't expect significant variance in those areas. Cleveland is very much in the middle of the pack when it comes to luck-related measures like BABIP and strand rate.

The shoulder injury to closer Chris Perez comprises the bullpen depth. That said, Vinnie Pestano has the potential to be even better in the ninth inning.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Pestano has been an excellent reliever since debuting in 2010. The Indians won't miss Chris Perez.

Once the Indians complete their current series with the New York Yankees, their grueling road trip continues to Motown (June 7-9), followed by a series with the Texas Rangers (June 10-12). They would be fortunate to split those six contests.

The remainder of June, however, ought to be much more tolerable:

Cleveland Indians Schedule (June 14-30)
Opponent (Record) Home/Road Dates
Washington Nationals (28-29) Home  June 14-16  
Kansas City Royals (23-31) Home  June 17-19  
Minnesota Twins (25-29) Home  June 21-23  
Baltimore Orioles (32-25) Road  June 24-27  
Chicago White Sox (24-31) Road  June 28-30  

Where will the Cleveland Indians be when Cabrera comes back from the DL?

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That matchup with the White Sox includes a doubleheader. Therefore, from June 4—the first day of the Cabrera-less era—through month's end, Cleveland plays 25 games in 27 days. Fatigue will set in, particularly as temperatures rise.

The Tribe is just as likely to reel off a lengthy winning streak as they are to nosedive, but don't count on either of those scenarios playing out. Provided that Cabrera returns to full strength prior to the All-Star break, his team should still be second best in the division and relevant in the AL Wild Card race.

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