Indians: A Half In Review

By: T.J. Zuppe

2010: Tough Season for Chief Wahoo

It is hard to believe entering the 2010 campaign, the Cleveland Indians would not be able to meet low expectations that surrounded the club at the start of spring training. There were no cheers, not even a dull roar to be heard. You could hear a pin drop.

As the calendar flips to July, the realization that the team has played well below basement level, and the city of Cleveland has officially began to turn attentions elsewhere as we head into the dog days of summer has officially set in.

However, where has the 2010 season taken us in Cleveland? As we have reached the halfway point of the year, it is time to take a look back on what has taken place for the Tribe, and share some news, notes, comments, and criticisms through the first 81 games.

Projections: It is always fun to play with numbers, and when you reach halfway point of the season, it becomes very easy to project where players or a team will end up. The Indians currently sit at 32-49. That means they are on a pace for a 98-loss season. No matter how much rebuilding, or restructuring takes place in an organization, it is never acceptable to flirt with the 100-loss plateau. The Indians are quickly approaching that status. They currently sit 3.5 games back of fourth-place Kansas City in the American League Central, making them the cellar-dwellers of the division.

Cleveland Mash Unit: No team can stake claim to being bit harder by the injury bug than the Indians in the first half of the season. The team has literally been rocked to the very core, losing key members like Grady Sizemore (.211 – 13 RBI), or infielder Asdrubal Cabrera (.287 – 1 HR – 7 RBI). The latest edition to the Mash-Unit for the Tribe is Shin-Soo Choo (.286 – 13 HR – 43 RBI), who is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a right-thumb sprain. If that is not enough, the Indians started the season without closer Kerry Wood (6.27 ERA – 8 Saves), and as a result has been searching to get back to mid-season form since returning to Cleveland.

The injuries certainly are not an excuse for the Indians however, and possibly could end up as a blessing in disguise. Manager Manny Acta disclosed the injuries can create opportunities to make decisions that otherwise would be tough. As a result, the Tribe will get a more clear-cut look at some of the young talent as they push on into the second half, and beyond.

Indians Manager Manny Acta

Blurry Actavision: It becomes difficult to grade a manager based on the talent that Acta has been given in Cleveland in his first year as the skipper of the Indians. Certainly, no one will make the case that the Indians were a playoff bound ballclub, and a half is clearly not enough to come out one way or another on the Tribe’s manager.

Acta has shown glimpses of being a great man for the job, instilling confidence, and showing guidance to the Indians abundance of youth, but the record is hard to ignore, and constant excuses for losses will tire eventually to the organization. The grade on Acta is still incomplete, but it is clear he will need to show the club they made the right choice in hiring him in the off-season.

Carmona Resurgence: Entering the year, the Indians were not certain as to what Fausto Carmona would emerge on the mound. After all, it was only one short year ago that Carmona was working his way back from rookie-level ball, and reworking his mechanics and mindset to get himself back to big-league form. Flash forward to the first half of the 2010 season, and Carmona has responded in a big way.

On Sunday, Carmona was named as the Indians lone All-Star, and he has deserved it with the type of reclamation he has put forth. On the season, Carmona is 7-7 in 17 starts, with an ERA of 3.69. He has worked in 109.2 innings, striking out 57 batters. He has tossed two complete games. He has put his stamp back on the American League, and his work is a positive testament to the time and effort Indians new pitching coach Tim Belcher put in during spring training. Backup catcher Mike Redmond can also be given some credit, as his early season work with Carmona has his confidence soaring high and straight to Anaheim, California for the All-Star Game.

So much criticism can be thrown at the Indians, but this is case where they can come away patting themselves on the back for not giving up on the young stud pitcher.

Emergence of the Talbot: Raise your hand if entering the season, you thought new Indians hurler Mitch Talbot would be leading all rookie pitchers in wins at the All-Star break. Now look around the room. All you see are liars.

Talbot has been one of the few un-featured bright spots for the Indians this season, and at the halfway point it appears his work is only going to get better. His eight wins currently leads the Indians staff, and his 3.86 earned run average has been nothing short of impressive.

The Tribe has a knack for finding the occasional diamond in the rough, such as Choo, Cabrera and now Talbot, and it appears the offseason trade with the Rays for catcher Kelly Shoppach will pay dividends for the club for years to come.

Ex-Indian Russell Branyan

Branyan a Bust: Many people were left scratching their heads when the Indians announced the signing of infielder Russell Branyan right before spring training. The team seemed focused on a more youthful movement of talent, and then, seemingly out of left field was placed Branyan. Despite his semi-decent numbers (10 homeruns with the Indians – 24 runs batted in), all he did in Cleveland before being dealt back to Seattle in June, was confused the fan base, and limited playing time for youngsters like first-baseman Matt LaPorta and outfielder Michael Brantley.

Branyan became yet another player on the long-list of questionable decisions by current general manager Mark Shapiro. Meanwhile, for all the questionable moves, Shapiro will be promoted to team President at seasons’ end.

Lineup on the Downswing: Heading into the 2010 campaign, the Indians lineup was expected to actually put up decent numbers, and be a bright spot for the Tribe. What followed has been nothing short of embarrassing, and disappointing in the first half. The team currently is hitting .247 (12th in the American League) as a unit, after another terrible month of April for the bats.

Expected to help increase productivity in the second half will be the everyday play of catcher Carlos Santana (.300 – 4 HR – 15 RBI), as well as the return of Cabrera to the top of the order. If not for outfielder Austin Kearns (.271 – 7 HR – 35 RBI), who knows where the Tribe could possibly be?

Into the Second Half: Indians faithful have more of the same to look forward to from the Tribe in the second half of the season. The only real possible excitement could be generated from the full-out youth movement, with everyday, regular at-bats given to the younger players, and the trading deadline approaching at the end of July, with names like Wood, and pitcher Jake Westbrook (5-4 – 4.59 ERA) possibly on the move.

First-Half Grade: D- Due to the tough injuries, we will cut the Indians some slack on a slight curve. However, the team has much work ahead of them if they look to improve their grade for next semester.

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