MLB Opening Day 2011: 10 Things We Learned About the Cleveland Indians
The Indians honored the memory of Bob Feller before their Opening Day game today.
If only they had honored it with their play as well.
It was a rough game for Tribe fans, as the Indians fell to the White Sox 15-10 on a frigid Opening Day. I was afraid for a while that I might actually get frostbite on my toes.
The Indians came out cold, allowing 14 runs to the White Sox in the first four innings. Despite the late comeback, today's game still counts as a loss in the standings and wasn't the beginning any Tribe fans were hoping for.
We watched the White Sox get encouraging signs (Buehrle's effective work, Dunn fitting right in) while we watched our team get destroyed.
It may be just the first game, but there was plenty to draw from the game today. Here are 10 things we learned about the Indians today on Opening Day 2011.
1. I Hate the New Hats
Okay, this one is a little personal. I just hated the new hats the Indians wore today. They went with the cream-colored uniforms perfectly, but what's up with just a "C" on it?
And a plain "C" at that? The Red Sox have their ornamental "B," the Dodgers their sweet "LA" and the Yankees their "NY."
This looked like the Indians went into Times New Roman and typed a "C." It looks like something the local youth team got printed up cheap.
I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the new hats. It's not like Chief Wahoo would've looked bad on the red hats.
2. It Could Be a Rough Year for Fausto Carmona
Again, it's only one game out of 162. You can't draw too much of a conclusion out of one game. But there were disturbing trends coming out again in Fausto Carmona's Opening Day.
In only three innings pitched (and some of the fourth without recording an out), Fausto allowed 10 earned runs, 11 hits, two home runs and registered a 30.00 ERA.
While his five strikeouts and only one walk were great (nothing wrong with 15 SO/9 and 3 BB/9), he was absolutely hittable today. There were a couple cheap hits, but most of the contact was solid.
I've been of the opinion that Carmona will never be an ace. Today just served to solidify that in my mind. I'm now convinced that the Indians won't make the playoffs with Fausto Carmona as their No. 1 pitcher. Fausto as their No. 2 or No. 3? Sure. As their No. 1? Never.
The Indians need to find another Sabathia, Lee or Feller, because Fausto Carmona will never be one.
3. There's Nothing Wrong in the Bullpen
Fausto Carmona's early exit allowed us to see the best unit of the 2011 Tribe in action: the bullpen. Though Justin Germano struggled, Frank Herrmann and Vinnie Pestano showed the goods the Tribe's got in the 'pen.
Frank Herrmann happens to be my favorite Ivy Leaguer on the Indians. It probably doesn't hurt that he's the only one.
He may have given up a run today, but five strikeouts in two innings? Only two hits? No walks? Sounds like a good outing to me.
It's not like he's a closer or setup man. That kind of heat and talent is exactly what the middle relief needs.
Vinnie Pestano also brought the heat today. One inning, one hit, three strikeouts. Not a bad outing either. Sure, neither guy pitched with any pressure on, but that doesn't take away from it. Both should help the Tribe all year as more-than-serviceable middle relief pitchers.
(By the way, Pestano is my favorite gangster on the Indians. Go ahead, say it in a Mobster voice. "Hey, Vinnie Pestano! Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." You know you hear it. Admit it.)
4. Jack Hannahan Is Quite the Third Baseman
I'll admit I was firmly in the Jason Donald camp for the third-base job. I like his scrappiness and ability. He seemed like the perfect person to bridge the gap to Lonnie Chisenhall. Then he got hurt.
And Jack Hannahan stepped up in a big way.
I'll also admit that I was underwhelmed by Hannahan. I figured he'd struggle until Donald came back and took the job from him. He's proving me wrong already.
Hannahan seems to be playing like a man who knows his job is on the line. As such, he came out on fire today.
He had three hits in five at-bats, three runs scored, and the first Indians home run of the year today. He also made quite a few good plays out at third base.
Hannahan is not a long-term answer, but he is playing well. He's making the most of the opportunity he has and is playing to prove he belongs.
Count me in on the Hannahan bandwagon. (At least until Lonnie Chisenhall's ready. Then I'm jumping off.)
5. Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley Took Big Steps Forward
Fate was really cruel to us last year. We only got a 46-game teaser of the man we were all waiting for: Carlos Santana. Luckily, young players like Michael Brantley stepped it up at the end of the year to help fill the gap.
Now, both of them are expected to contribute every day. And they started off very well on Opening Day.
Santana hit the second Tribe home run of the season, went 3-for-5, and had three RBI. Brantley went 2-for-5, led off the Tribe's year with a hit and had two RBI (on a Lastings Milledge drop in the outfield, but it still counts).
With Brantley turning 24 in May and Santana turning 25 on April 8, here's hoping that these two players will fulfill all the hope we have put into them.
6. We Could See a Rebound Season from Asdrubal Cabrera
2010 was a rough year for Asdrubal Cabrera. He had a below-normal .276 batting average, .326 on-base percentage, only 29 RBI, a 90 OPS+ and only a 1.2 WAR; whether you use sabermetrics or traditional stats, it was a subpar year for Asdrubal.
Plus, Jhonny Peralta fractured his forearm. (Yes, more Jhonny Peralta jokes. Because it's never too late to kick Jhonny Peralta around! Never!)
Luckily, this year, Asdrubal's off to a fast start. He scored two runs, went 3-for-5, and hustled to beat out a key infield single. Asdrubal has the ability to be Omar Vizquel with more hitting; today, he took another step toward making good on that promise.
(And this year, he'll be able to make it because Jhonny Peralta won't be around to screw things up. I won't make another Peralta joke in this slideshow. Promise.)
7. Matt LaPorta Was Good, but Not Great
Being the key piece coming back to Cleveland in return for CC Sabathia, we were destined to expect too much out of Matt LaPorta. He's not been a bad player, but we're expecting great, not average. 2011 sure feels like the make-it or break-it year for LaPorta.
Unfortunately, Opening Day wasn't kind to LaPorta. His 2-for-5 line with one RBI isn't bad, but it doesn't tell the whole story. His 0-for-3 start killed rallies when the Tribe desperately needed a big hit to keep them in the game. Once again, Tribe fans felt unfulfilled by Matt LaPorta.
Today seems to sum up LaPorta perfectly: good, but not good enough. Here's hoping he can change that perception this year. If he can keep this average up and hit .400, maybe then we can accept him as a replacement for CC Sabathia. Maybe.
8. Travis Hafner and Shin-Soo Choo Have Seen Better Days
Shin-Soo Choo's seen better days than the 1-for-5, four LOB line he put up today. There's no need to worry about him, though.
He's still the 22 HR, 22 SB, .300 AVG and .400 OBP guy, as well as the second-best player (by WAR) in the majors last year. He'll be fine.
Travis Hafner, however, probably won't be. Well, that's a lie. He'll be fine. But he won't be elite. He had a long fly ball today that ended up hitting the wall. Something tells me the 2004-2006 version of Pronk would've hit that one well out of the park.
He's going to continue being a good hitter, posting decent numbers. The problem for Tribe fans is the elite Pronk is gone. Now, all that's left is pedestrian Pronk.
9. This Tribe Team Looks Young and Inexperienced
The first four innings of the game today were rough. It's teams like the Indians—not contenders—that allow 14 runs in the first four innings of the season without scoring a single run of their own.
Indians fans want nothing more than to buy into this team, and the first look they get at them is a 14-run outburst on Opening Day by their opponents. It was hard to watch.
I'm on the record on Samantha Bunten's Tribe Talk as believing the Indians can go 81-81. Now, I'm not so certain. If Fausto Carmona's the best we have, how many runs will the rest of the starting rotation give up? How many runs will this team give up before they finally decide to start playing baseball?
When the score's 6-0 after three innings, you have to stop the bleeding and not allow an eight-run fourth. Today was ugly. There's no doubting that.
10. There's Still Hope for the Season, Though
I still see some hope for the Indians this year.
Instead of rolling over down 14, they gave the White Sox all they could handle over the final four innings. This team struggled to score runs last year; there's nothing wrong with 10 runs on Opening Day.
The starting rotation's an Achilles' heel of this team, but who knows? Maybe it'll come around. If the Tribe keeps scoring like this, who knows what could happen this year?
We're only one game in, so there's no need to lose faith yet. With 161 games ahead of us, the Indians still have plenty of magic left to use this summer at Jacobs Field (or Progressive Field. Whatever). Let's strap in and enjoy the ride.