Second Half Preview: Many Questions and Decisions Ahead
By Mike Brandyberry
It’s easy to point to the Indians’ first half and have a, “glass half full or half empty,” conversation. Fans can chose to focus on the 30-15 start and only being a half game behind the Detroit Tigers, or they can focus on the 17-27 stretch since the start. However, as the Indians prepare to start the second half, the team has to make many decisions regarding the players and their dedication to winning, both now and for the future, to keep that glass full.
Manny Acta appears to have lost confidence in Mitch Talbot and has opted to give Jeanmar Gomez his spot in the starting rotation. Talbot has struggled mightily of late and Gomez filled in nicely early in the season. Gomez has dominated at Columbus all season and is definitely ready for the opportunity. If the Indians continue to contend on the second half, it will be on the strength of its pitching staff. The team can no longer afford to see Talbot flounder while young talent continues to flourish at AAA. Talbot was placed on the 15-day disabled list, but it seems a very convenient injury to avoid having to try and slide him through waivers to get to Columbus. How long Talbot remains “injured” will likely depend on how well Gomez pitches.
While Fausto Carmona has pitched better of late, his first half struggles are very concerning. According to many, his problems are mechanical, effecting his control. Carmona throws well, and with good mechanics, on the side and on days off, but struggles to take that to the center of the diamond with him. Will the Indians ever decide that Carmona’s struggles are affecting the team’s opportunity to win the division? What if Carmona struggles and Alex White is ready to return?
Offensively, the team must improve its run production and the first place for improvement must sit directly at the steps of Grady Sizemore‘s door. Sizemore has struggled to hit over .230, or have an On Base Percentage over .300, each are unacceptable from a player team president, Mark Shapiro called, “a player of a generation.” Sizemore has struck out in nearly 30% of his at bats, while only walking 6% of the time.
Likewise, Carlos Santana must also improve his batting average. Sizemore and Santana’s struggles have caused Acta to shuffle his lineup on many occasions. A stable, consistent lineup will improve production throughout.
The organization will also have to decide soon, what, if any role, Jason Donald or Jason Kipnis can have for the team this season. While it seemed Orlando Cabrera was in jeopardy of losing his job a month ago, OCab has improved his play of late. It is unlikely the team would allow Kipnis to play in a backup or platoon role on the big league roster.
Finally the Indians will have to decide how serious they are about winning the division this season when exploring deadline trades. General Manager, Chris Antonetti has said several times in recent weeks that the team is dedicated to improving the major league roster to contend now. However, it is hard to fathom the team parting with any key prospects, like Lonnie Chisenhall, Alex White or Drew Pomeranz. At least one of them would most likely be necessary to acquire a marquee addition, like a Carlos Beltran.
Do not be surprised to see the Indians deal a lower level prospect for a right handed hitter who the team will only rent for the remainder of the season, like a Jeff Francouer or Ryan Ludwick. The team may rely more on the return of Shin-Soo Choo to the lineup to provide that offensive spark.
The Indians probably find themselves a little ahead of their own schedule in their rebuilding process, but the team has to put forth a serious effort to hold off the Tigers and prove to the fan base they are serious about competing. The Tribe and Tigers hook up 12 times in August and September, including the last three games of the season. The question is, how many tough decisions will the Indians encounter in order to make those last three games matter?
Photo: Baseball Wiki