Cleveland Indians: Mid-Season Report Card
Team: Cleveland Indians
Record: 51-44 (1.5 GB)
Biggest Surprise of 1st Half: The Indians were expected to improve this year after adding some power bats and speed in the outfield but one condition on the improvements of the Indians was how their pitching rotation would respond. So far, so good for Cleveland as their rotation has actually be pretty decent and even though the production the Indians are receiving from Jason Kipnis could qualify as the biggest surprise of the 1st half, I think the nod here goes to the pitching rotation. Justin Masterson has truly bounced back from a disappointing year last season and was selected to go to New York for the all-star game. Masterson is currently 10-7 with a 3.72 ERA but the most surprising stat of all, in 135.1 innings, he has struck out 137 batters, something that was not his calling card until this season. All the strikeouts and the ability to eat innings has developed Masterson into a true ace. Ubaldo Jimenez has bounced back a tad this season, not as much as Masterson but it has been enough to have some well pitched ball games. Jimenez is currently 7-4 with a 4.37 ERA and Indians fans should not complain about that as it has been some of the best pitched baseball games since acquring Jimenez from the Colorado Rockies a few seasons back. Other starters the Indians have been getting some decent production from include Scott Kazmir, and Corey Kluber.
Biggest Disappointment of 1st Half: If there was a lowlight or disappointment for the Indians it would probably have to be their closer Chris Perez being charged for having marijuana being delivered to his house. It was a distraction Perez did not need to have when trying to recover and rehab from an injury that sidelined him for just over a month. The 2 time all-star appeared to possibly be on his way to a 3rd straight all-star game but unfortunately for him and the Indians he landed on the DL and had to deal with a drug charge. Despite the eventful first half for Perez, he actually has had a decent first half. He has saved 12/14 ball games but has his typical high ERA for a closer, a 3.16 ERA. If the Indians are to make a push and challenge for a playoff spot, they’ll need Perez healthy and distraction free for the 2nd half.
Team MVP: Jason Kipnis has been the team MVP for the Indians this season and it has shown via his berth in the all-star game on Tuesday. If Kipnis was not having such a great season, I would have given team MVP to Nick Swisher based on the culture change he has brought to his home state Indians but Kipnis’ first half should not go unnoticed. Kipnis is currently batting .297 with 13 home runs and 55 RBI. He also has great speed for a second basemen as evidenced by his 21 stolen bases. Combine that with some nice defense and you have your team MVP. A notable runner up would be Carlos Santana who is showing why he is one of the best offensive catchers in the MLB. But Jason Kipnis has truly made the Indians a force.
Prospect Ready to Make an Impact: If not for Danny Salazar‘s electric debut against the Toronto Blue Jays last Thursday, I would have said a rebound 2nd half is in store for Trevor Bauer but Salazar may have made enough of an impact Thursday to stick around for a few more starts. Salazar pitched 6 innings, only allowed 2 hits and struck out 7 Blue Jays. His stuff is electric and can run his fastball close to 100 MPH. He has struck out his fair share of batters in the minors and his refined control of his stuff has allowed for him to be called up and maybe stick around for a pennant race.
Contender or Pretender: I am going to classify the Indians as a pretender despite how well they have played in the 1st half of the season. There are a few reasons why I say the Indians are pretenders. Despite the good offense, there is a few guys on this team who are just to streaky and inconsistent at the plate. Swisher, Santana, Drew Stubbs, Mark Reynolds, and Lonnie Chisenhall all need to be playing good baseball to support guys like Kipnis in the 2nd half. There is just something that screams at me that this team can’t have sustained production all season long. The other reason for calling the Indians pretenders is the fact that they have been in this spot before and have come crashing down to earth. Last August the Indians only won 5 games and truly got swept by the wayside. The Indians need to be cautious about the second half as second half of seasons is usually not kind to them.
Overall Team Analysis: The Indians have had a good first half. They’ve gotten production from their starting pitchers, and the main guys on offense. The bullpen is also pretty good. There are two things the Indians need if they do not want to fall out of the race by mid August. They need another starting pitcher. Perhaps having Danny Salazar up could potentially benefit them in order to showcase them to add an arm such as a Yovani Gallardo. If the Indians add a big arm to compliment Masterson and slide in ahead of Jimenez, they will have a good top end of the rotation. They also need another left hander in the bullpen. Rich Hill is the only lefty available for Terry Francona at this point and he will need another lefty to be able to matchup well with other offenses. If the Indians start slowly in the 2nd half, the Detroit Tigers will run away with the Central and doubt will begin to creep back into the minds of the Indians and their fans. Hopefully Terry Francona keeps them afloat. There is just something that makes me doubt the Indians chances in the 2nd half so I call them out here to prove me wrong.