In an era where fans flock from every edge of the country to see names like Jeter, Halladay and Pujols, injuries to star players can really put a damper on the spirits of the fans and the teams who ride on the success of their coveted stars.
After the Tribe's 5-tool spark plug player Grady Sizemore hit the DL for the second time this season, many are left to ponder whether or not this season's Cinderella story that is the Cleveland Indians will be able to continue their success. This article will aim to put all doubts to rest, with five reasons why the Indians won't be stung by the injury bug.
Although Cleveland has benefited from the success of their men at the dish all season long, credit for their impressive run in the A.L Central must be given to their pitching staff. It comes as no surprise to see that while they sit atop the division standings, they also lead the division in team ERA with an admirable 3.49, which also ranks fourth in the American League.
Justin Masterson leads the group of hurlers with a 5-1 record through eight starts, and posts an ERA of 2.73, but it is the collective efforts of the Tribe's entire staff that has made them such a success from the mound. The team has demonstrated their ability to work deep into games with an average of 6.1 innings per start, which ranks second in the division.
The Indians' pitchers have allowed an average of 4.5 runs per game in 16 games against divisional opponents (they had 106 runs of support through the same span).
I cannot discuss the successes of the Tribe's pitching staff without the mention of their electric closer, Chris Perez. This game-saver has arguably been the best performer for the Indians to this point in the season. Through 18 innings of baseball, Perez boasts a 1.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 20 K's, while converting on 10 of 11 save opportunities—a division leading number.
Clearly, to these points, the Cleveland Indians, while having favorable production in their bats, have been able to effectively and efficiently pitch through all nine innings of games, and they don't look to be slowing down.
Grady Sizemore played in 18 games this season, and although the Tribe posted a record of 11-7 during his time on the active roster, they're record without Sizemore this season is an even more impressive 14-6.
Grady Sizemore's slash line (.282/.333/.641), team leading sux home runs and a respectable 11 RBI show the value that he brings to the Cleveland lineup, and that he truly deserves to be called a star player.
With this being said, the Tribe's record without Sizemore in the lineup reassures how talented the team is without their star bringing his talents to each game.
Because of Cleveland's ability to perform with Sizemore healthy, their ability to perform better when he isn't, and caliber of play that Sizemore delivers when he's active, all signs in Cleveland point to the continued success of the team-wide talent of the Indians.
Every team has a star player who brings fans to the stadium, and who can be relied on to fill up the stat sheet, and even though Grady Sizemore effectively fills that position in Cleveland, a case can be made that every player to step up to the dish is a star.
Now before you call me crazy and bring up the stat lines of Austin Kearns or Adam Everett (he still bats .308 in spite of the rest of his abysmal stats), let me tell you that what I mean by this statement. As a team, the Cleveland Indians' bats have produced unlike any other team in the division.
The Indians lead the division in just about every offensive category. With a team BA of .270, 200 runs, 42 HRs, and 193 RBI, no team can touch the hot bats of Cleveland (the team's BA and run accumulation also rank first in the American League).
What's possibly even more impressive is that even while leading the division in HRs, the Tribe's highest home run accumulators sit at six HRs on the season—a number far from the top of the rankings in the league or division. What this tells me is that Cleveland is receiving power from all facets of their lineup, which gives the team a certain degree of reliability that you cannot have with teams that receive their power almost exclusively from one player.
This year's Indians team has two players with six HRs, three with five HRs, and three with four HRs. That should give you an idea of just how spread out the talent is on this squad. Another impressive factor within this lineup is where the power hitters lack in BA (Shin-Soo Choo: .228, Carlos Santana: .222), other players with less power production compensate for their lack of power (Lou Marson: .294, Orlando Cabrera: .287).
While it is exciting to have a bat like Jose Bautista's or Ryan Braun's in a lineup, the benefits of a lineup that collectively wins games as a team trump those that do not, as can be seen with the Cleveland Indians.
I mentioned before that the Indians receive offensive production from both ends of their lineup, but what I did not allude to was that this team wide talent distribution would not be possible without the efforts of particular players who have stepped their game up in order to fill the gap made by Grady Sizemore's absense
Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner have especially done this.
Cabrera, who hit only three HRs and 29 RBI, with six SBs through 97 games last season, has doubled his HR total from last year, and has recorded 26 RBI with five SBs through only 37 games this season. On top of this massive improvement in power production and baserunning, Cabrera has also recorded higher numbers in BA, OBP and SLG than last season.
After a strong start in 2010 from Carlos Santana (.260 .401 .467 with six HRs and 22 RBI through 46 games), he suffered a broken leg in a collision at home plate that had many wondering whether we would ever see that kind of performance from him again. With the sophomore slump on a lot of peoples' minds, it was hard to say what Carlos Santana would bring to the table in 2011.
Through 35 games this season, Santana has allowed all of us holding our breath to exhale as he has shown very similar numbers from last year. He has five HRs with 18 RBI, and although his numbers in BA, OBP and SLG have fallen slightly, they are starting to improve.
The bottom line is that Santana has clearly avoided the sophomore slump to this point in the season, and has shown great poise and consistence on a team that could have been in a world of trouble had they let the loss of Sizemore change their game plan. This is exactly the kind of play that we want to see from a 25-year-old sophomore.
Travis Hafner's production may be the most important to the Indians' offense, as he is performing well above his career numbers in just about every batting category. He currently boasts an eye popping line of .339/.407/.532, and is on pace to nearly double his HR total from last season with five HRs through 31 games. I should also mention that he is doing this at the age of 33. I say that his performance is arguably the most important to the team because with such a young core of players, it is crucial that a veteran with the experience of Hafner steps up and takes a leadership role on the team.
Like I said before, the entire Indians lineup is to be thanked for their success to this point in the season, but it is because of players like these, who have been able to improve their game or continue where they left off after an abrupt end to last season, that the Cleveland Indians have been able to secure the top spot in the division, as well as the majors in 2011.
Nothing can be said about the success of this Cleveland Indians team without mentioning the efforts of its manager.
In his second year as the Tribe's skipper, Acta has led the team to its best start since 2001, and with his calm demeanor, and focused attitude towards his team, you wouldn't guess that it is also his best start as a manager.
According to www.cleveland.com, Acta brings a calm attitude to the dugout, and encourages his players and coaching staff to take it one game at a time.
Acta said, "it's early. We can't get comfortable and we've still got to work hard and still get out there and try to win every single day. We're not even close to where we want to be."
As they await the return of their star, Acta ensures continuous success by treating each game like the last one of the season, and enforcing a winning attitude into each of his players.
Indians closer Chris Perez notes that, "last year, he needed to get to know the guys, and guys needed to get to know him. This year, from Day 1, it’s been ‘we’ve got to win this year. There’s no more excuses.’"
Acta's patience in using last season to establish strong relationships with the team, and to get to know the playing styles and personalities of his players has made it easier for him and the team to follow through on their goals of winning this year.
Unique in Acta's managing style is his connection with the fans. Known as a master communicator, Acta and many of the players on the team have began to use Twitter in an attempt to draw more fans and to stay in constant communication with their following. Although this is a factor that doesn't have a direct relationship with winning between the chalk lines, it benefits the organization. With Manny Acta's focus on strong relationships within and outside the organization, and his dedication to turning his players into winners, it comes as no surprise that the 37-year-old manager has been able to turn this young Indians team around and advance them to the top of the major leagues.