Sunday, April 12, 2009

First week
So, the Indians finally won a game today. It was a nice relief for players and fans, to be sure, but winning won't mean much if the team doesn't get its act together over the next seven games.

Three in Kansas City, four in New York.

You can't win a division in April, but you sure can lose it. At 1-5, the Indians really need a good road trip. In reality, maybe it's just a winning road trip. The point is, the Indians need to get some confidence rolling. They got an average start from Anthony Reyes today, but it was, by far, the best one of the season.

The offense still is relying on the homer. That's not always bad, but the clutch hitting (or lack there of) has been frustrating to watch. What the Indians really lack in this lineup, and what I think will haunt them, even if they do turn the season around, is a contact hitter.

Ever batter in the lineup, one-through-nine, is prone to the strike out. My argument for moving Grady Sizemore out of the leadoff spot has always centered on two things:

1) He strikes out too much.
2) He needs to be put in a position where he can drive in runs.

My first part has been rendered meaningless, since there is no one in the lineup who handles the bat well.

That's a failure on manager Eric Wedge and hitting coach Derek Shelton, to be sure, but it's a worse reflection on GM Mark Shapiro. The Indians organization loves to brag about "playing the game the right way." But part of playing the game the right way is shortening a swing or choking up on the bat with two strikes. Ryan Garko makes an effort, but he's not immune to big swings at the wrong time.

- Still, the offense, as Erik Cassano said, will run hot and cold, like it always has under Wedge. The biggest problem has been that the Indians have not gotten a quality start all year.

Even Reyes couldn't finish things off today, giving up four runs in six innings. In fairness to him, it appeared he was out of gas when he hit the sixth, but Wedge was terrified of going to the bullpen, and for good reason.

Things worked out today. But it's looking more and more like the Indians best shot at an ace is Fausto Carmona. Lee simply won't do what he did last year, and Carmona at least looked decent at some point this spring.

Carl Pavano looked to be toast in Texas. If he gets rocked again against the Royals, one might think about pulling the plug.

Speaking of the Rangers, anyone see what the Tigers did to them this weekend? Doesn't really give me a whole lot of confidence.

- So now everyone is jumping on the Pronk bandwagon again. I can see the temptation, but remember -- Travis Hafner was white-hot the first month of 2007, then had an ice blanket thrown on him.

The issue I have with Hafner is whether or not he can stay healthy. Even in his prime years, he missed more than a few games. Wedge appears well-aware of this, and only wants to play him five games a week. Not a bad deal for a guy making $14 million.

Of course, Wedge has in the past shown a need to play the hot hand. I really don't remember Victor Martinez getting a day off the last three weeks of the 2005 season.



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