At the start of the 2013 season, very few prognosticators would have pegged the Cleveland Indians as a playoff team, let alone a relative threat come the start of September. Fortunately for the Tribe faithful, the team has done a lot to prove its detractors—including myself at times—wrong this season.
The Indians own a 71-61 record to this point, as they find themselves 5.5 games in back of the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers. The two AL wild-card spots are in reach as well with just 3.5 games separating them from the final playoff spot
The Indians' offense has benefited immensely from the breakout season of Jason Kipnis, along with steady production from catcher/first baseman Carlos Santana. The pitching staff, though shaky at times, has been paced by team ace Justin Masterson along with solid contributions from Scott Kazmir and Corey Kluber among others.
Several players have begun to turn their otherwise disappointing seasons around and are peaking just in time to try and help the Indians secure a playoff birth for the first time since 2007. Others, however, have suffered through mediocrity all season long and have hampered the team's overall success.
The best time to wipe the slate clean in a bad season, or to break out of a lengthy slump, is the month of September.
The stakes are high in Cleveland and October baseball is the prize. In order to realize that goal, the Indians will need several players—six by my count—to step up in September and guide the team to the playoffs.
Let's take a look at those six players, starting with a relative newcomer to the team.
All stats, unless otherwise noted, come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through play on Aug. 28, 2013.
Defensive metrics come courtesy of Fangraphs.com.