After Month One of the new season the Cleveland Indians claim first place in the Central Division by a game over heavily favored Detroit and not so favored Chicago. How could this happen?
Typical Tribe. After a dispiriting opening 1-4 homestand, a great 7-2 road trip against downtrodden Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland rollercoastered the Indians back into April relevance. Despite later dismal home losses to the Royals, a solid series win against the Angels ended the month on an up note.
11-9 is only 11-9 but it’s still first place. So what if the Tigers played Boston, Texas and New York while we tangled with the Royals, M’s and A’s. The numbers below tell the twisted tale. Like last season, this is a deeply flawed but deeply likable team so buckle up. The rollercoaster will continue.
Johnny Damon Day is TODAY. If only he played LF but batted as a 1B. . .
— The Indians hit 16 home runs in 9 straight games to open the season then failed to homer in the next 11. Chiropractors call such dry spells an acceleration/deceleration injury or ‘whiplash’.
— In 11 home dates the Tribe managed 10 or more hits only twice, batted .213 and scored but 2.63 runs per game (hence a 4-7 home record). Cold weather or the offensive contagion that is Casey Kotchman?
— The Indians went 6-1 in 1 run games, a trend or attitude which must continue.
— The Tribe leads MLB in walks (102) and is 5th in OBP (.342) but tied for 15th in both runs scored (90) and batting average (.244). A quirk or a more telling quark?
— The Indians scored 61 of their 90 runs in 9 road games, including 32 runs in 3 games against the Royals. More balance would be nice.
— Five scheduled off days plus one rainout ensured the Indians played the fewest games (20) in MLB.
— The staff ERA of 4.10 is middle of the pack (17th). In a small surprise, the starters’ ERA at 3.93 (18th) is better than the relief corps at 4.35 (22nd). However, the starters are second to last in strikeouts with only 67 in 116.2 IP.
— The bullpen owns a 3-2 record and a 1.27 WHIP good for 12th overall.
— We need to take advantage of Lowe and Gomez while they last.
Hafner (.295/2/10) Driving the ball, lots of walks and a .909 OPS. Glimpses of the old Pronk we dearly miss.
Cabrera (.286/2/4) Solid start but limited run production and impatient at the plate (clutch RBI on Fri. followed on Sunday by 2 first pitch swings with runners on).
Hannahan (.290/1/14) Best clutch hitter, strong going to opposite field but will not keep up this pace.
Santana (.262/3/10) Taking walks but not yet on a hot streak.
Kipnis (.256/3/12) Leads the team in runs, home runs (tied) and stolen bases, 2nd in RBIs. Could cut his Ks.
THE NOT AS GOOD
Brantley (.250/0/5) 5 game hitting streak keeps him from the Bad and Ugly, Too list. Needs to live up to billing.
Choo (.237/0/9) Like last year, nagged by injuries and a slow start.
Duncan (.230/2/8) 22 Ks in 61 ABs. Not a good every day audition.
THE BAD AND UGLY, TOO
Kotchman (.148/2/4) Good in the field but take away one 3 hit game and he’s batting .111.
Masterson (0-2, 5.40) 17 BBs in 30 IP and a 7.02 ERA against left handed batters. He’s better than that and will settle in.
Jimenez (2-1, 4.50) Maalox man. Velocity remains down and pitch
counts up (107/6 IP). A wobbler on a thin tightrope. We need him to be better.
Lowe (4-1, 2.27) Very pleasant surprise. Consistent innings eater and stabilizing force. A good get by Antonetti.
Tomlin (1-2, 5.48) Very hittable (.302 avg. against) and looks a lot like
last year’s 2nd half Tomlin with facial stubble.
Gomez (1-1, 2.35) 0.78 WHIP. Quietly solid start after a promising last season. Cross your fingers it lasts.
CPerez (0-0, 4.00) 7 for 8 in saves. 1.08 ERA since Opening Day Meltdown.
Smith (0-0, 1.74) Good ol’ steady Joe.
Pestano (1-0, 2.79) 13.03 k/9 but still not as sharp as he can be.
Hagadone (0-0, 2.08) 10.38 k/9. Keep him here.
RPerez (1-0, 3.52) The shoulder needs to hold up for all of us.
Wheeler (0-0, 3.68) I’ve already been mean to him and it’s only April.
Asencio (1-1, 7.15) Good AAA line so the move made sense but he pitches like Luis Vizcaino. We have better options.
Sipp (0-1, 7.71) Consistently inconsistent but decent of late.
— The Tribe plays 18 home games and 12 away contests (30 in 31 days), including two 2 game sets (home to Seattle and at Minnesota) and the season’s first interleague series against Ozzie Guillen and Miami;
— By the end of May the Tribe will have 13 division games against the White Sox and 9 against the Royals but only 3 against Detroit, a possible recipe for fun and/or despair later in the summer;
— In June the Indians go on the road for 18 of 27 games, so May would be a good time to harvest some wins.
Which event is more likely: The Indians finish May still in first place or Albert Pujols finishes May with fewer home runs than Jack Hannahan?