Springtime Fall: Indians Hit the Wall Running
I am currently appalled at the horrendous start by the Cleveland Indians.
A 5-9 start is uncalled for, especially coming off an appearance in the AL Championship series. An amazing and quite unforgettable season that culminated in the buggy playoff series victory over the Yankees. The Tribe has faltered unexpectedly.
Of course, it is still early. No one comes out of the gate 100 percent, and a .500 or near record is not out of the question. The Indians still have hopes of catching up to and surpassing that mark.
I believe that there are many obvious problems that are causes for concern and should be resolved sooner rather than later. I look around the AL Central and see that the White Sox are off to a hot start and got younger in the offseason. They look to be a challenge long-term if not presently.
The Kansas City Royals are blazing but will probably fade, and the Detroit Tigers not only tripped at the starting line…they all out fell. They will be a force to be reckoned with indefinitely.
No team can go without looking at the teams around them and seeing how much they are succeeding, comparing them to their own current struggles.
The first cause for concern is the pitching staff and their inability to throw strikes (or at least strikes that don't get sent on vacation to the home run deck).
C.C. Sabathia has not thrown strikes and appears to be mentally off of his game. He is overthrowing the ball and getting hit hard. He needs time off and should be sent on a trip to the DL to rest for at least a couple of weeks until the weather gets a bit warmer and he can quit over-thinking everything.
I have confidence that he will bounce back. Another problem with C.C. is that Eric Wedge is not a manager who knows his pitching staff well at all.
Regardless of pitching count, Wedge needs to step up and take a pitcher out after five or six innings. He always seems to let the starters back out for one more inning and they get hit hard and then lose confidence, letting the game get away from them.
I would argue that we have the strongest bullpen in the AL and we should be able to depend on them. The starters pitched a large number of innings last year and should be rested accordingly throughout the beginning of the year.
Paul Byrd is not going to be an effective pitcher this year. He is up there in years and needs to be dealt with. I am patient and will wait to see if he can pick it up as the weather improves. (Although that is not the greatest excuse as he blew it at Oakland in fairly decent weather.)
I believe Carmona will get more calls, calm down, and end the season with the Cy Young. He is that dominant and congratulations go out to him on his new contract.
Cliff Lee has been a pleasant surprise and can be counted on for the fifth spot.
I believe Sowers is the best bet to come in to replace Byrd if he goes, or C.C. if he goes to the DL.
Speaking of prospects, I also believe that Adam Miller should be converted to a closer. Near 100 mph heat and two other pitches will dominate if he has the mental toughness.
And as for mental toughness...Joe Borowski does not have it. 45 saves or not, he can't start blowing his opportunities like this.
Something has to be done and soon on this issue! Best bet for a replacement: Jensen Lewis.
I realize he faltered last evening against the Red Sox. Still, there is no reason at all why Eric Wedge should have had him pitch more than one inning. This further supports my point that he does NOT know how to handle a pitching staff.
I don't think Masa has the stuff, and Betancourt is a better setup man. I would, again, like to see Miller's stuff as a closer. Help can actually be found as relief arms are always available around and before the break.
The Indians’ hitting is my biggest concern for this season. Blake, Gutierrez, AND Michaels have struck out 28 times in the 12 games!
For those counting, that is 28 Ks in 112 at bats for a grand total of 25 percent of the time! Not to mention Grady Sizemore has as many hits (16) as the three of them COMBINED!
Wedge's never-ending juggling of the batting order does no good for anyone not getting continuity in the everyday game. He also needs to learn how to let his players bunt and run (small ball is not just a old fashioned defunct part of the game as every run counts.)
Garko is batting too low in the order for someone so good at getting on base and driving in runs. He would be perfect to hit between Martinez and Hafner, splitting up the lefty and switch hitter. There is little reason to bat him so low and even behind Peralta.
Cabrera has to bat near the bottom of the order and needs to avoid the sophomore slump. He will be great defensively but WILL struggle offensively as he just doesn’t have a strong swing and is incredibly young.
Peralta will be fine if he is not shuffled to the top of the order again (in the 2-3 spot) and can find out how to not hit into double plays.
Casey Blake is awful. I never liked his game. He is average or below in everything except for hustle, and salary. Therefore, the third base spot needs attention as well.
I think Dellucci will be fine as a non-everyday player (as long as GM Mark Shapiro sees that he made a mistake signing him to such a large long-term contract and Wedge wakes up from his fantasy world and takes him out of the three spot in the order).
Jason Michaels is unworthy of a spot on a major league roster, period!
Sizemore will reap the benefits of the Indians finding a leadoff man and moving him down to the 2-3 spot making his RBI count more. Sizemore is second on the team even with batting leadoff.
Last but not least, the love affair Eric Wedge has with Franklin Gutierrez has to end. He is great defensively and is above average hitting off lefties, but couldn't hit the continent of Africa when facing a righty.
I always thought Ben Francisco was a better option even though he may not be the best option. I was sorely disappointed that the Jason Bay trade fell through in the offseason and hope the Tribe will take another look at that or possibly a third baseman. (Or in my dreams—both.)
The Indians will be fine in the end. They will wake up and get a better shot when the warm weather comes here to Cleveland in a couple weeks.
The players will get into the grove and start seeing pitches better. The staff will get control and get a better grip on the ball gaining control, and Wedge will find a way to get a routine down.
The Indians have a bit of cash to spend, so start fantasizing about all the players you want.
Brendan Donnelly will be a possibility for the pen in the second half as will Shin-Soo Choo for the outfield.
The Indians will have to fight hard but they will come out on top by midsummer.
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