Why the Cleveland Indians’ Early Success Will Continue in 2011

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The most surprising team in baseball, the Cleveland Indians (22-10), are still tied for the best record in the MLB. Few analysts believed the Tribe would stand a chance in 2011, and almost none believed the Tribe would lead the AL Central. Despite this, the pesky Indians continue to find ways to win.

For an explanation of why this early success will NOT continue go here (Only after 8:11 AM CT on 5/9/11- when link goes live)

Offensively, the Tribe stands near the top of the MLB in almost every single category. The team has the second best on-base percentage, the fifth best batting average, and the sixth most runs in league. More importantly, Cleveland has displayed incredible timely hitting. In a recent extra innings game against the Athletics, the Indians had a single, a walk, and back-to-back RBI singles in the 11th to take the win. Clutch hitting has become a theme for the Tribe.

That stands to be the biggest difference between this year’s team versus the 2010 team that lost 93 games. In 2010, the team couldn’t buy a timely hit, stranding runners and constantly missing opportunities, especially late in games. This season, the team has much more confidence at the plate.

And all this confidence has come without the middle of the lineup producing. Shin Soo Choo, Cleveland’s best hitter last season, and Carlos Santana, the up-and-coming catcher, have yet to significantly produce. Choo is hitting .226, while Santana is at .217. Arguably the most dangerous hitters in Cleveland’s’ lineup when they are producing, the fact that this team is scoring regularly without major contributions from these two is surprising, but positive. It has forced other players to step up and take leadership roles in the lineup, such as Asdrubal Cabrera, who leads the team with 21 RBI’s, or Travis Hafner, who leads the team with a .352 average. If these stats continue and Choo or Santana begin to produce the way they’re capable of, this lineup will be incredibly dangerous.

But no offensive team can survive without pitching. Thus, the Indians success in 2011 has stemmed directly from impressive pitching that came unexpectedly.

The Indians are first in the league with 24 quality starts, and sixth in ERA. The Tribe boasts a rotation of unknowns, pitchers without much flair who simply get the job done. Led by Justin Masterson, who is 5-0 with a 2.11 ERA, the pitchers simply throw strikes, and let their defense make plays. Though it is hardly overpowering, the Indians rotation is consistently around the strike zone. With several sinkerball pitchers, including Masterson and opening day starter Fausto Carmona, the Tribe are able to get a lot of groundballs to get out of sticky situations.

And with leads in the late innings, wins are almost always secured. Chris Perez sits patiently in the Indians bullpen, constantly ready to close out games. Perez has ten saves in 11 tries. A lockdown closer is vital to any successful team (just ask the Yankees and Mariano Rivera), and thus far, Perez has been as lockdown as Tribe fans can hope.

Beyond the lineup or stats, this team has the attitude of a winner. The Indians have multiple come from behind wins, several walk off wins, and are 6-0 in one run games. Come late season, the ability to win in tough, close games is imperative for a team making a push for the playoffs. After breaking a franchise record for wins in April and beginning the season with the best record in franchise history, this team is ready to continue its success throughout the season.

-Jamie Arkin

Comments

  1. Tribe time baby. Jamie Arkin is the sports-prose master. Love reading his articles.

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