Heading into the 2010 MLB season, most national writers and baseball gurus predicted the Cleveland Indians to finish last in the AL Central, and some thought they would be the worst team in the Majors.
Tribe fans were already outraged coming off the most frustrating season in decades because of the trades of Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and their best hitter and heart and soul of the team Victor Martinez.
Local fans knew it would be a tough year and most likely the club would finish under .500, the only debate was how far under the even mark would they finish.
Through 28 games, the Indians have a record of 10-18. They should have a couple more wins, but fielding errors spoiled those. For the most part, this record does reflect the team and their play.
By now everyone knows the offense has been non-existent, I think some teams in the NHL playoffs are outscoring the Tribe. Surprisingly, the starting pitching has done pretty well.
So where does the team go from here? When will the hitting finally come around, and by how much? Will the Indians be able to at least make this season respectable, or will they prove the national press right?
I would be happy if they could finish near .500 or within about 5 games of it. But also very important in 2010, is making sure the young talent develops and improves so they can have an impact on future seasons.
One of the great things about baseball is debating over players and teams, and saying what we would do if we were the manager.
So here are three things that need to happen to make this season a moderate success and not a total embarrassment. Otherwise we could be looking at a season with 100 losses.
There are many to choose from, so let me know what your top three are.
With most of the Cleveland hitters struggling, you can’t blame one player for the lack of scoring. But it is imperative that Grady Sizemore starts to hit and becomes the offensive force we saw in past years.
Since 2005, Grady has been the catalyst that makes the Tribe go. And he needs to get that spark plug going very soon.
It’s important for him to get on base to set up the middle of the order, namely for Choo and Kearns.
Entering Saturday’s game, Grady is only batting .220, already has 27 strikeouts, has a career low .282 On Base Percentage and only 2 stolen bases.
His lack of power is more troubling than a Lindsey Lohan movie. It took Grady 28 games to hit his first home run of the year, but it will not officially count as the game was rained out Friday night versus Detroit. That’s right, at the moment you and I have as many home runs as Grady does, Zero.
Grady has never been a high batting average hitter, his career average is .273. And he has always struck out near 150 times a year.
But even with these unfriendly stats, Grady has been a highly productive offensive player. He always made the most of his hits, racking up the doubles and home runs.
From 2005 to 2008 he averaged 27 home runs and 40 doubles per season. And when he got on base, things just seemed to happen.
This year has been the total opposite for Sizemore. Baseball is a funny sport, when a leader or the best player struggles, it seems like the whole team does also.
Off course Grady is coming off elbow surgery from last Fall, so we expected him to take some time to get the rust off. But so far this season, Grady has looked more like Tom Sizemore at the plate.
I can live with the lower batting average and strikeouts if Grady can get back to producing runs. If Sizemore does not get on track, it will continue to have a trickle down effect on the rest of the line-up and this season will be even more painful than we expected.
Off course this Indians starting pitching staff is not going to get you wins like Lee and Sabathia did. But they have been solid this season, and have performed much better than expected.
They are keeping the team in most of the games and have a 4.49 ERA. The bigger problem is that they have no run support.
No they are not a great staff, they are average with small flashes of being very good. But if the starters go south for a prolonged period of time the team will have absolutely no chance of winning games with this offense.
Then we will all be praying for the kind of starting pitching that we are currently getting. It is crucial for the starters to hang in there and keep their current pace, or the Indians will lose over 100 games for sure.
The bullpen is always a mystery year to year. They looked fairly good on paper going into this season, but are pitching inconsistently.
We do have some dead weight in the pen like Jamey Wright, and the perpetual underachieving Rafael Perez. But the bullpen staff is going to have to hold down the fort and pick up the pieces when the starters do slump, which happens to all teams at times.
I guess my bottom line on the pitching is I will happily take their current stats all year long. Otherwise it will go from bad to really ugly in the win column for the Tribe.
It is hard to choose just one more need for this season, but here goes...
Young players on the Indians need to contribute and show improvement.
They need to do the little things and help this team score runs and win games. And if that does not happen then the front office needs to replace them with players waiting in the wing at Triple A before August. And before we are 25 games under .500.
Yes this is a fine line, because we are trying to develop some of these guys at the major league level and that takes patience, but we also have other prospects who can take their place.
That means players like Matt LaPorta need to show that he can stay healthy for a whole season and start to hit the baseball like he was projected to. Today, the 210-pounder is barely hitting his weight, and I mean barely.
I know he is not playing every day, which he should be. Since we are not the manager we can’t control that, so LaPorta needs to make the most when he does play.
Lou Marson got off to a bad defensive and offensive start. His defense is slowly improving, but he really needs to step up his batting average. He is not a power hitter, but can hit for average as a singles and doubles guy.
Manny Acta has committed to using Marson as the everyday catcher, so Marson needs to produce. He is batting .211 with no RBI. The understatement of the year, but this will not cut it for a starting position player, rookie or not.
Yes he is only a fill-n catcher until Carlos Santana takes the job permanently. Santana and his guitar may arrive in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame city much sooner if Marson does not show he can hit and at least get his average up to .250.
By now we all want Valbuena ran out of town. Hopefully he can turn it around quickly as he did have a pretty nice 2009 with 25 doubles and 10 homers.
But if his Little League fielding errors and .175 batting average continue, Valbuena should be replaced with Jason Donald. Through 26 games, Donald is hitting .323 with 9 doubles, 2 HR’s, 17 RBI’s, 7 stolen bases and NO ERRORS at Columbus.
Coming in the Cliff Lee trade, you cannot sit on this guy too long.
And Peralta's days are numbered at third and on this team. His contract is up after this season, so lets bring in his replacement as soon as possible. Like Now.