The Downfall of the Cleveland Indians: Why They Can't Last

Jason KodyszContributor IMay 30, 2011

The Downfall of the Cleveland Indians: Why They Can't Last

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    Since the beginning of the year the Cleveland Indians have stood at the top of the hill looking down upon the rest of the Central Division and more recently even the entire American League.

    Those in Cleveland seem quick to believe that the Indians are suddenly the favorites to go to the World Series. Well sorry to burst the bubble of all those hopefuls but the talent just is not there.

    Ignoring the facts that they Indians have displayed bad defense and base running, the Indians are nothing more than a group of mediocre and fringe major league players.

    Are they capable of hit streaks of even two months? Yes. But what makes them mediocre are that they will spend the next 4 months playing so badly that the season totals will look the same way they always do throughout their whole careers: just mediocre.

    And in the case of many Cleveland Indians, mediocre is a compliment. So why will they collapse?

Players Not Living Up to Potential

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    In 2008 Cleveland traded C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee for Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson. They also traded Casey Blake to Los Angeles for Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan.

    I cannot say enough how much of a flop these were for Cleveland. Of all of Milwaukee’s top prospects, leave it to Shapiro to find a way to trade good long-term starters for NO top prospects.

    But they got LaPorta and Santana. The potential of both was supposed to limitless (.300, 30 home runs each). One of the biggest disappointments of 2011 and the biggest cause of the downfall is that these two are not showing any signs of playing anywhere near potential.

    While Sabathia continues to be an extremely good, albeit overpaid, pitcher and Blake continues to hit solidly as he had always done, Santana and LaPorta have faltered with little signs of progress.

    In all actuality this maybe what you see at catcher and first base for several years to come (Santana will be moved to first base and LaPorta to designated hitter before they leave). For a glimpse here are their stats for the season:

     

                            Matt LaPorta:              Season             .257, 6 HR, 23 RBI   (.237 over 3 years)

                            Carlos Santana:        Season             .212, 6 HR, 22 RBI

The Travis Hafner Mirage

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    Travis Hafner has been another player with built-up expectations. The only difference between Hafner and less talented players like Santana and LaPorta is that Hafner is a tease.

    He actually had three really good seasons that made you think that only New York or Boston was worthy of his talent. We are talking of an average of .308, 34 HR, 111 RBI over those years.

    However due to injuries or because his power has faded, the results are that in the following four years he averaged .261, 15 HR, 56 RBI. They still haven’t figured out what the answer is.

    The tease continues in 2011 with a .345 average, but with injuries and the recent track record, it is unlikely to stay above .280 for the season unless he is injured for the rest of the season.....again.

The Massive Soon-to-Be-.200 Hole in the Lineup

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    Out of nine batters in the order, if you have three who have batting averages hovering around .200, you are literally handing the other team a free 3 innings every game without having to try very hard.

    These considerate givers are also known as Carlos Santana, Jack Hannahan, and the platoon mess known as left field (depending on if Sizemore and Hafner decide to take a week break to play from the disabled list) consisting of Travis Buck, Shelley Duncan, and Austin Kearns.

    Who is the starter is out of those three? Not even Cleveland knows. The best one out of the three appears to be Travis Buck, but he barely plays enough to know how talented he really is.  Austin Kearns has been a disappointment thus far.

    A couple keys to Cleveland’s past success and their future failure are in the form of Jack Hannahan and Shelley Duncan. They both had great months of April, enough to help carry the club.

    But their lack of talent has shown with horrible Mays and will likely continue this way for the rest of the season. Just for a view:

     

    Shelley Duncan:    .370, 1 HR, 7 RBI in April  but .158, 0 HR, 8 RBI in May

    Jack Hannahan:    .273, 4 HR, 14 RBI in April but .174, 0 HR, 3 RBI in May

Will the Real Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona Please Stand Up?

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    Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona are two of the most inconsistent pitchers I have ever seen. At their best, they are capable of being All-Stars. But for every start they pitch like All-Stars there is at least one game that they utterly implode. And yet they implode in different ways.

    Justin Masterson flip-flops on a game-to-game basis. Take this year for example, he has a strong 3.07 ERA but two of his last four starts he has allowed at least 5 runs and has not won a single game in over a month.

    Fausto Carmona flip-flops on a season-by-season basis. For example in 2007 he had a 3.06 ERA. He followed that up with ERAs of 5.44 in 2008 and 6.32 in 2009.

    Then he pitched like an All-Star again in 2010 with a 3.77 ERA but with consistently bad performances and on a pace for 20 losses, Carmona is primed for another bad season, but honestly no one can really tell.

Dime-a-Dozen Starting Rotation

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    The rest of the starting rotation however is very predictable. There are six players who have been cycling through the last three spots in the rotation:  Mitch Talbot, Josh Tomlin, Alex White, Carlos Carrasco, Jeanmar Gomez, and David Huff.

    Out of these pitchers, there is not a wide variety of talent here. They are all interchangeable pitchers.

    The only exception is Alex White, who is a top prospect, but at this point in his career he must take a season or two and adjust to being a major leaguer. The other five are definitely not top-prospects and will not amount to a career with ERA lower than 4.50.

    The only tease is Josh Tomlin but being a Charles Nagy-type control pitcher, he will be off more games than on and many mediocre games will be seen from him down the road.

    In the end, they are all dime-a-dozen starters that can be found off the free agent scrap heap any year.

    At least you don’t have to pay these guys as much. Either way, they definitely do not help you earn championships. They are only a place holder for that day a starter comes along that actually lives up to potential (Alex White?).