Why the Cleveland Indians Success Will Not Continue

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The Cleveland Indians are the surprise team of baseball. Sitting atop the AL Central, the Tribe is tied for the best record in the MLB. Most analysts did not believe the Indians would see this much success. Most now sit patiently, waiting for the Indians to revert back to their losing ways. And despite the success of this team, the return to failure is imminent.

Go here for an explanation of why this surprisingly good start might continue

The Indians have started out 2011 playing far beyond their potential. Soon, the Tribe’s offensive woes from previous years will come back to haunt them. Grady Sizemore, recently returned from microfracture surgery, is testament to that. Sizemore began the season on a tear, hitting .378 with 4 home runs and 9 RBIs in April. Since, Sizemore has struggled, with just one hit in his last 23 at bats.

While this is one player, it epitomizes the Cleveland offense. Shin Soo Choo and Carlos Santana’s struggles persist without an end in site. While Travis Hafner leads the team in average, he has hit just two home runs in his last 19 games. A power hitter to the core, Hafner’s much overpaid value to the team is not in singles, but in his ability to hit home runs and drive in runs. If he cannot do this, the Tribe’s offensive success will not continue.

And though Asdrubal Cabrera has picked up the RBI slack for this team thus far, Sizemore’s dipping average and Jack Hannahan’s low .222 average in May will decrease Cabrera’s RBI opportunities. Cabrera has come up with timely hits so far this season, but if Hannahan and Sizemore aren’t on base, Cabrera can’t drive them in.

The pitching has represented the biggest plus for the Indians thus far, but will inevitably dip. Opening day starter Fausto Carmona is the only Tribe starter pitching at his potential, with a 3-3 record and 4.43 ERA. The rest of the rotation, starting with Justin Masterson, is playing far beyond their potential. Masterson leads the team with 34 strikeouts in 47 innings pitched, a low ratio. A group of groundball pitchers, the staff relies on working around hitters, forcing them to hit weakly, and letting the defensive make plays.

While this strategy can work, the Tribe pitchers have lived dangerously. Cleveland is near the bottom of the league, 26th, in strikeouts per nine innings. And as the Indians offense has proven this year, when the ball is put in play, good things happen. Without the strikeout as a weapon, balls will find gaps, and the Indians pitchers will give up runs at higher rates than they have to this point.

And though the Tribe has taken close games thus far, Chris Perez has shown signs of weakness in the closing role. He has a high save total, yes, but Perez has also given up runs in two of his saves, and hits in five. While this may not seem troubling, in every game where Perez has give up a hit, he has also thrown at least one walk. When Perez struggles, his issues tend to build on each other, extrapolating his weakness. In essence, despite his high save total, Perez has also been living dangerously.

And that has been the biggest theme for the entire team in 2011: living dangerously.

The Indians have had to win multiple games in walk-off fashion, and have gone into extra innings five times in this young season, far too often for a team attempting to make a playoff run.

Even for the best of teams, losing streaks throughout the season are inevitable. If the Tribe wants to avoid a losing streak bad enough to dethrone them from the top of the Central, they will have to dominate games, not consistently squeak by in close ones. And though the Tribe has had success sneaking by in close wins, this success will not continue.

-Jamie Arkin

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  1. psshhhhh. A real tribe fan could never utter these blasphemous phases.

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