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With Youth Leading the Charge, the Tribe is Back on Top.

Posted By Bradley Ross On Jul 5 2011 @ 11:44 pm In Cleveland Indians,MLB | 1 Comment

After going through a small blip for a few weeks when Detroit surpassed them, the Indians are back on top of the AL Central.  While only a 1 game lead, their schedule gets easier.  Only 1/3 of their games left are against teams above .500.  It also helps that by the All-Star break, the Indians will be the healthiest they have been all season.

According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Manager Manny Acta believes Matt LaPorta will be activated any day now which gives him enough time to get up to speed.  Essentially, Fausto Carmona will be taking LaPorta’s DL so it is a wash but this may be good for Carmona.  Something was off and he needs time to refocus. Until he refocuses his ability, Carmona is a liability in that rotation (and they have a lot of good young arms in AAA Columbus).

Carmona aside, the rotation has been excellent.  Tomlin has lowered his ERA  to 2.85. Despite Carrasco’s recent train wreck (his control was a little off and the Yankees monster line-up took advantage), he previously had a streak of 5 consecutive Quality Starts.  His QS% remains a solid 60% after starting off the year poorly.  Collectively the Indians have 3 starters with QS% over 60% - all of whom are under the age of 26.  Talbot got killed this week too, but he is prone to that.  He can be inconsistent and unravel quickly.  Unlike Fausto, he doesn’t seem to get into prolonged slumps where he is awful. This is what happens with a young pitching staff. Know what else happens? They usually improve at an exponential speed!

Speaking of closers (which we are now), Chris Perez is having a nice season with 20 SVin 21 opportunities and will represent the Indians in the All-Star game (along with Asdrubal, but that was a given).  This surprised me a little.  Perez has a good ERA and WHIP, but in all honesty he could be doing much better.  He is not dominating hitters like he did last year and his control is spotty.  Still, all that the voters care about (managers too when it comes down to it) is a pitcher’s ability to keep the win and there are few who have been as good as him.  He is 3rd among all AL closers in ERA and 2nd in save %.  Ice truly runs through the veins of Chris Perez.

Austin Kearns hitting the winning HR

Not only have the Indians’ young pitchers been doing well, but they have gotten a nice boost with the recent call-ups of position players.  Cord Phelps has not been getting a lot of playing time recently, but he has been able to give Orlando Cabrera a rest occasionally. Since then Cabrera, has been a very solid hitter (.333 AVG .944 OPS).  Chisenhall has also been a nice spark.  He provides offense that Hanahan just wasn’t, offense that the Indians desperately needed. Not only have young players been contributing but veterans too. Austin Kearns had a game-winning HR yesterday.  While Kearns should not be an everyday option the way he has played it is nice to have some pop come off the bench.

With the rapidly approaching All-Star break, there are some questions about the Indians going forward:

-What should they do with Brantley?  He has really been struggling and been in a slump for almost a month now.

-Who will replace Carmona in the rotation and what will they do with him when he is healthy (especially if his replacement is at least solid)?

-What kind of spark to the order can LaPorta bring and can he add onto the improvements he was starting to make?

-Will Santana be able to bring his average up sometime this year?

-Is Grady Sizemore finally turning it around or has this past month (where he has hit .267 with an OPS around .800) just been an anomaly?


Quick Update:  Since this was originally published, the Indians announced that Zach McAllister will be starting in the place of Fausto Carmona.  While I was expecting Jeanmar Gomez or David Huff (both of whom have experience in the majors), Zach is not a bad option to call up.  The Player to be Named Later when the Indians traded Austin Kearns to the Yankees, Zach has been very dominant in Columbus (2.97 ERA) and does deserve a shot.

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