Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Some things I have noticed about the Tribe
It was an interesting contrast, at least to me.

Most media "experts" were picking the Indians to contend in the American League Central, if not win it.

Most fans I talked to were negative about the Indians, perhaps being burned one too many times by preseason expectations.

I'm something of a hybrid in this area. I'm a fan of the Indians who happens to be a member of the media. I'm no expert, in that, I don't cover the team. But I am deeply into the Indians, and have enough background to back up my assertions.

And yet, with the new season dawning, I felt more like a fan than a member of the media.

That is, I didn't see where the optimism about the Indians was warranted.

Two games and two sizable losses later, I'm not ready to say my negative feelings were correct. It's way too early for that. But I do see a few major problems with this team.

- Starting pitching: The Indians ability to contend hinges almost entirely on the arms of two guys who have been -- at different times -- among the best and most inconsistent at their position.

Cliff Lee had the best season of an Indians starting pitcher I have ever seen. But I just can't believe that what we saw last year was the real Cliff Lee. If Lee were able to string even two seasons like that together, and pitch the way he did when he was just plain decent for the rest of his career, he'd be on a Hall of Fame list one day.

Being decent is good for his career, but it won't be enough for the Indians. Same with Fausto Carmona, who was brilliant two years ago, but mediocre last season.

With the rest of the Indians rotation set the way it is, Lee and Carmona need to pitch like 2008 and 2007, respectively. There's just not enough strength in the rotation between Carl Pavano, Anthony Reyes and Scott Lewis to push the Indians to greatness with less.

After two starts, let's just say I'm less than confident the two will be great this year.

- Leadoff Hitter: The Indians have one of the most feared No. 3 hitters in baseball this year.

Sadly, he's leading off for some reason.

Sizemore can hit 40 homers. He can drive in 100 runs. But he won't as a leadoff hitter. He also strikes out way too much.

He batted leadoff in each of the Indians games, and struck out each time.

- Hafner: Travis Hafner has been given the No. 4 spot in the batting order based on what he did in 2006.

Travis Hafner of 2006 is gone, never to return. Maybe the guy from '07 will come back, but even if that's the case, that guy was not a No. 4 hitter.

All the more reason to move Grady down.

- Hacking: Sometimes I wonder if hitting coach Derek Shelton's advice to Indians hitters consists of "swing as hard as you can. Contact is optional."

What we have here is a team that needs more than it has. Maybe it will all come together like in 2007.

But Trot Nixon isn't around anymore to make sure of it.



At 10:03 AM , Anonymous Erik said...

The starting rotation will rival the Tigers for worst in the AL. It's time for Lee to pay the piper for having a season for the ages a year ago, and Carmona is inexperienced, inconsistent, and quite possibly out of shape. Behind them resides the inexperienced and injury-plagued.

The bullpen will be Kerry Wood, Rafael Perez and everyone else. Betancourt's 15 minutes are up. Jensen Lewis is throwing upper 80s. Hot dog man was a bust of a signing.

The offense will do what the offense usually does. They'll be productive for a while, then lapse into an inexplicable monthlong slump where they average two runs a game and hit .085 with RISP. They do it every year, even in '07, when someone turned the lights out in July, and it likely cost Carmona and Sabathia a chance at 20 wins.

When you get right down to it, this is going to be a rebuilding/retooling year. That's the look of the roster. I peg the Indians for 73-78 wins. If the pitching is bad enough, the bottom might fall out.


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