State of the Central: Cleveland Indians
As the calendar flips to July, and the half-way point of the Major League Baseball season comes and passes, the Cleveland Indians sit atop the American League Central. This is certainly a surprise to many who expected the Detroit Tigers to run away with the division by August. But in this section of the State of the Central, we examine an Indians team that may have the staying power to fend off the Tigers for the division title.
2013 Record: 45-38, 1st in the AL Central (As of July 2nd)
What’s going right: The 2013 Indians can flat out hit the ball. Currently ranked 4th in all of Major League Baseball and 5th in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The lineup features speedster Michael Bourn, perennial All-Stars Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera, and thumpers Carlos Santana, Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher. The lineup figures to get even better as Swisher has been in a slump for most of the first half of the season. This team also has great depth, having been able to weather injuries to regulars in their lineup and in the bullpen. The guidance of Terry Francona cannot be underestimated as well.
What’s going wrong: This team lacks consistent starting pitching. Justin Masterson has been great overall this season, but has had stretches of brillance and stretches of awful starts. Ubaldo Jiminez has not been able to capture the magic he had in his last year in Colorado since he was aquired by the Indians, and has benefited greatly from the potent Indians offense. The rest of the rotation is young and unproven at least until Brett Myers returns from the disabld list. The Indians could also use another arm in the bullpen for the stretch run, because they will not be able to out-slug their opponents throughout the course of the entire season.
Trade Deadline Targets: Top end starting pitcher, late inning reliever.
Bold Prediction: Trying to keep the fans happy after a promising first half, the Indians will add an impact starting pitcher, transition Brett Myers into the bullpen to add late inning stability, and will beat the Tigers in a 1 game playoff for the American League Central Title.