|Indians Look Like Cinderella||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on May 11, 2011
Baseball is full of surprises each year.¬† Who would have thought that more than a month into the season that the Cleveland Indians would have the best record in the American League?¬† But are they for real or merely an early season Cinderella making a good show early in the season, but destined to fail in the end like last year's San Diego Padres?
After all the Tigers, Twins and White Sox are all playing below .500 ball, and those were the logical contenders to win what looked to be at least a moderately competitive division.¬† Yet are the failures of other teams the reason that the Indians have flown high?¬† The answer is clearly no.¬† The Indians, and like them the Royals, have been stockpiling young talent with plans for rebuilding.¬† Of course the Royals have been rebuilding for about three decades, while the Tribe has merely taken a few years to recreate themselves.
The starting pitching is still rather suspect despite seemingly great strides made by Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin.¬† Both are posting sub 2.50 ERAs which aren't sustainable, especially for young Tomlin, a pitcher whose success relies on control more than quality stuff.¬† The rest of the starters are run of the mill at best, all of whom should finish with 4.50-plus ERAs which will leave them somewhere around middle of the pack when the season comes to an end.
And while the early success of the team may be partially attributable to that unsustainable starting pitching the real surprises have come from the offense -- an offense which ranks third in the AL behind just the Texas Rangers and the equally surprising Kansas City Royals.
The key man in all of this has been Travis Hafner, who once was one of the most feared hitters in the game who seemingly fell off a cliff several years back.¬† Back then he was a 40 home run threat, and while he doesn't seem to have that kind of power anymore, he's hitting .350 and is on a pace for 20-plus home runs.
And while the Tribe does have some power, it's not the big blows that make the Indians such a threat.¬† It's the balance.¬† Up and down the lineup there are few easy outs, and plenty of players like Grady Sizemore, Matt LaPorta, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana who can drive in any runner who gets aboard.And that's the key.¬† Their .336 on-base percentage leads the AL and is second behind St. Louis in the majors.¬† As long as the Indians can sustain that level of getting on base, the Tribe can be a factor well into September.