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Cleveland Indians Under the Microscope in the 2011 Season

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Cleveland Indians Under the Microscope in the 2011 Season
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians have gotten off to shaky start. After three games, the team has the second best team batting average, .318 just behind the Chicago White Sox batting .324.  Collectively, Cleveland has scored 20 runs, 20 RBI, 35 hits, four doubles and four home runs. So what's the problem?

Currently, Michael Brantley starts off the lineup, followed by Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner, Orlando Cabrera, Austin Kearns, Matt LaPorta and Jack Hannahan.

Center fielder Brantley has a batting average of .335 over the last two seasons with the Indians. Still a fairly young player, entering this season at the age of 24, Brantley can only improve. In the season thus far, he has already tallied four hits and three RBI in just 12 at-bats. These numbers are well above his averages, and if he can keep these numbers going he will without a doubt become a huge impact player for this young team.

Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has three hits, one double, two runs and one RBI in this young season. Since the 2008 season, Cabrera has averaged a .281 batting average with an average 119 hits, 26 doubles, five home runs, 56 runs and 48 RBI per season. Cabrera has also been a key player in the field. Over the last three season, he has averaged a .982 fielding percentage. At the ripe age of 25, Cabrera only has room grow and hone his skills in future games.

Right fielder Choo has gotten off to an unexpected slow start to this season.  Choo is just 1-for-12 with one run.  He stuck out six times, most in the team.  This is unusual behavior for Choo considering over the last three years with the Tribe, he has averaged a .303 batting average, 146 hits, 79 runs, 81 RBI, 32 doubles, four triples and 19 homers per season with an outstanding .905 OPS average and a 5.43 yearly average WAR. If Choo can get out of this early season slump, the Indians are going to see a lot more action offensively.

In just 46 games last season, Carlos Santana tallied 39 hits, 13 doubles, six home runs, 23 runs and 22 RBI.  In this season, Santana already has six hits, one home run, two runs and three RBI with a 1.192 OPS. 

Designated hitter Hafner was among the top-rated hitters in 2004-2006.  More recently, Pronk has hasn’t been producing the home runs or hits like he used to. He has gone from averaging 35 homers a year to 29 in the last two seasons combined. It would seem that Pronk has reached and passed his peak, but already this season he has hit one home run in just 13 attempts.  This is a small study, but may be the beginning of a comeback season for the Tribe’s DH.

Second baseman Orlando Cabrera has been with six different clubs in the last four seasons, and has hopefully found a home with Cleveland. In his 15 seasons in the major leagues, Cabrera’s batting average is collectively .274.  He averages eight homers per year and has already hit one this season in just 12 at-bats.  Cabrera also has four RBI and five runs. If Cabrera can continue to step up his game, he will definitely be a big part of the team’s success this season.

Cleveland re-signed left fielder Kearns to cover for Grady Sizemore while he finishes his rehab. No one is expecting much out of Kearns. He’ll just serve as a filler until Sizemore can get back in the game.

First baseman LaPorta had a very strong season defensively in 2010, just his second year in the major leagues. However, he was a bit lacking in the batter’s box. LaPorta needs to focus on putting the ball in play and cutting down on his strikeouts to be an impact on this team. If he can improve those areas, he’ll prove that he belongs in the big leagues.

Third basemanHannahan isn’t expected to remain a starter, but if he can get his bat going this season he will have a good chance at keeping his position. Hannahan has already posted four hits, four runs, three RBI and one home run. With this start, the season does look promising for Hannahan.

Like in most seasons with the Indians, the bullpen is something to fret about. The two most promising pitchers on the mound are Justin Masterson and Frank Herrmann. Masterson may not have any strikeouts in the seven innings he has pitched this season, but he did manage to hold the White Sox to just one run where in the two previous games, the Chicago offensive made an embarrassment out of the Cleveland bull pen.

Hopefully, Masterson can continue the success he has displayed throughout the rest of the season. Herrmann has only pitched in two innings, on Opening Day. In those two innings, he stuck out five batters, but also allowed two hits and one run during that short time.

If these players can make the adjustments needed to step up their game, the Indians will have a much better season than in the past few years.

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