Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.
This week, it's midseason awards time! In a slight departure from our normal Tribe Talk format, we cast our votes for the good the bad and the ugly in the first half of the Tribe's 2011 season and predict a little of what's to come as well.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas and Jim Piascik for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.
Over the weekend, we passed the 81-game halfway point of the 2011 baseball season.
And what a half it was for the Tribe, who finished it with a .537 winning percentage and in first place in the AL Central. This means this week's Tribe Talk is all about handing out some midseason awards to our Indians.
1. First Half Offensive and Defensive MVPs
Dale Thomas: For Offensive MVP, Asdrubal Cabrera gets my vote although Tomlin was tempting.
For Defensive MVP, it's Lou Marson. I was going to go with Asdrubal Cabrera on this one too, but instead decided to give a tip of the hat to Marson for an incredible job of catching guys stealing. I think he's caught 17 in only 31 games started (as of Tuesday morning). Maybe I just like Lou. Laporta has also done a fine job on defense, as has Orlando Cabrera.
Samantha Bunten: Asdrubal Cabrera is our offensive MVP, hands down. He's been spectacular nearly all season long, and perhaps most importantly, has been a perfect five for five in bases loaded situations. It just doesn't get any more clutch than that.
Defensively, it's Lou Marson and Jack Hannahan. Marson is not the team's flashiest defender, but he's probably the most consistently good. Plus, if I were an opponent, I wouldn't try to run on him. That's worth a lot.
And Hannahan? Nothing gets past this guy. After all the defensive struggles we've had at third in recent years, it's absolutely amazing to watch a guy over there who not only doesn't struggle, but is just spectacular.
Jim Piascik: Is there any doubt? Asdrubal Cabrera runs away with the Offensive MVP on the strength of his All-Star season.
The Defensive MVP is a little trickier. I thought is was going to end up being Shin-Soo Choo, but I'm actually taking Austin Kearns. His 1.1 dWAR is off the charts. If only he could hit...
2. First Half Cy Young (starter) and First Half Cy Young (reliever)
Dale Thomas: Starter - Tomlin. It was a tough call, but I'll go with the 10-4 record Reliever - Joe Smith, although this should go to the entire pen.
Samantha Bunten: For the starter, I'm tempted to call it a tie. Tomlin has the record, but Masterson has been so dominant that he has to get some consideration as well.
For the relievers, I wish I could give the whole pen (well almost the whole pen) a Cy Young award. But if I had to pick, I'd say Chris Perez, with Pestano coming in second.
Jim Piascik: Justin Masterson has had a great first half and is more than deserving of our Cy Young (Starter) award.
For the reliever, I guess I'll take Chris Perez. I would've had Vinnie Pestano in this spot, but that 9th inning last night versus the Yankees was quite rough.
3. Most Improved and Most Disappointing Players
Dale Thomas: Most Improved - I'll give it to Carlos Carrasco.
Most Disappointing - Grady Sizemore. I always feel like he's pulling and looking to go deep when he should be looking to just put the bat on the ball.
Samantha Bunten: I've got three in mind for most improved: Pitching-wise, it has to be Masterson. Most of us wanted him sent to the bullpen or into Lake Erie by the end of last season, and he's now turned himself into our ace.
Offensively, it's Michael Brantley and Travis Hafner. I know Brantley's numbers still aren't where they should be, but I see a huge overall improvement in his game from last season, and I believe he'll get the average up.
As for Travis, he's back to being the Travis of old. He had a decent season last year, but this season, he's reminding us of the guy he was back when he was one of the most feared hitters in the AL. Pronk is back.
Most disappointing for me is Tony Sipp. I keep really wanting to like this guy, but he just doesn't seem to have it. Every time I think he's getting it together, he gives up a home run in a critical situation. He hasn't been awful, but he has cost us big time on a number of occasions.
Jim Piascik: My most improved player would be a choice between Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera. Both have made great strides and are key parts of our division-leading team.
My most disappointing player would be Fausto Carmona. According to baseball-reference.com's WAR, Carmona is the worst pitcher in baseball this year. Not bad for our preseason ace...
4. Player who has been the biggest pleasant surprise
Dale Thomas: Travis Hafner. There's still plenty of "unpleasant" surrounding this guy, but as a DH when he isn't fatigued, or hurt or just absent for whatever reason, he's been a very pleasant surprise when he steps up to the plate.
Samantha Bunten: Jack Hannahan. Going into the season, we didn't even know if this guy would make the team. He's turned out to be a game-saver on defense over and over, has provided a hugely surprising amount of offense compared to what we thought we were getting, and I expect he'll continue to do a great job sharing time with Lonnie Chisenhall at third going forward.
Jim Piascik: Jack Hannahan was a great story in the first month or two of the year. He did his job wonderfully and gracefully moved to the bench when Lonnie Chisenhall was called up. His performance definitely surprised me.
5. Best player who was NOT on the major league roster last season
Dale Thomas: Chisenhall gets the vote here, mostly based on what I 'think" he can do. Now he needs to actually earn the vote.
Samantha Bunten: Maybe I'm counting my hits before they hatch here, but I'll go ahead and give this to Chisenhall. I see big things from him in the second half of this season, and I think he'll be one of those rare players who needs very little adjustment time after being called up.
Jim Piascik: Is it too early to pick Lonnie Chisenhall? Between him at 3B and Jason Kipnis (eventually) at 2B, I think we are pretty well set for the future. Chisenhall's first home run of his major league career should be the first of many.
6. Your top three players on the team
Dale Thomas: Tomlin, Chris Perez, and Sizemore. By the way, this is the first time ever I've listed a pitcher in this kind of category...and look! There's two of 'em!
Samantha Bunten: Can I pick four? Josh Tomlin, Jack Hannahan, Chris Perez, and Grady Sizemore.
Jim Piascik: I like Carlos Santana a lot because he's a top catcher, even though everyone hates on his low batting average. I also like Josh Tomlin because he gets the most out of his ability. The man knows how to limit his baserunners by not walking anyone. I also can't help but love how Asdrubal Cabrera has hit this year. Jose Reyes who? (Just kidding of course).
7. Player you wish would just go away
Dale Thomas: Last year, I would have put Trevor Crowe in this spot...but then he just went away.
This year's roster really doesn't have anyone that I want to make disappear. Each and every player has done something, somewhere, sometime that's put a spark into the team or won the game, or was wildly entertaining. That said, Carmona came the closest, but who could wish this on a power hitting street fighter who is always smiling at really weird times?
Samantha Bunten: Chad Durbin, certainly, and I'd like Carmona to go away from the mound, but he's just so likable in other ways, I wish we could find another use for him. Backup mascot, maybe.
Jim Piascik: The list goes on and on: Chad Durbin, Fausto Carmona, Shelley Duncan, Travis Buck, Mitch Talbot, Cord Phelps (only because I'd rather see Jason Kipnis called up). Orlando Cabrera used to be on this list, but only because I wanted him coming off the bench. Now that's his role. I'm happy.
8. Fun Question of the Week: As we've discussed many times, the Indians have been in first place in the AL Central for nearly the entire first half of the season, yet all we ever hear from sources outside of Cleveland is how they're a fluke…or they can't keep it up…or that Detroit is a better team…you get the idea.
At any rate, it's gotten pretty obnoxious considering that actually, they have kept it up. So give us your best rebuttal to all the doubters out there! Tell us, what's your best response to such nonsense?
Dale Thomas: "Best Records" do not determine who is right, only who is left...
Samantha Bunten: Just look at the numbers: How many days has Detroit actually been in first place in the Central this season? How many days have the Indians been there? What you can do in theory doesn't matter. Until Detroit actually plays like the best team in this division and puts up the accompanying record for that, then they're not the best team.
I'm fine with people underestimating the Tribe and refusing to give them the credit they deserve. Go ahead; write us off. That way you'll never see it coming when we sneak up from behind and roll right over you. Consider yourselves warned.
Jim Piascik: I'll go stat-based (shocking no-one): Run differential: Cleveland: +14 Detroit: -6 Chicago: -8 Minnesota: -76 Kansas City: -49 For the entirety of the first half of the season, we are the only AL Central team to score more runs than we've given up.
Add in the fact we're only getting better (call-up of Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis ...eventually, getting Travis Hafner and Matt LaPorta back from injury) and are in good position to make a trade or two at deadline and you have the anatomy of a division leader. We are absolutely the best team right now in the AL Central.