Roller Coaster Season Could Reach New Heights
Mike Brandyberry | On 17, Jun 2013
The Indians wake up this morning at 34-34, experiencing a roller coaster ride that would make most Cedar Point goers blush on the journey that they have traveled.
By definition, the Indians are what make a .500 team. They have inconsistent starting pitching, inconsistent offense—and suddenly an inconsistent bullpen. Most .500 teams are inconsistent, some days looking like a contender while other times looking like a team headed for the cellar.
Despite the Indians massive offseason overhaul, most prognosticators still felt the Tribe was not a serious contender. Even when they signed Michael Bourn on the eve of spring training, the Indians still projected by most as 78-86 win team. Mediocrity was the projected finish, which after 68 wins, is quite an improvement in one season. The thing that makes Cleveland’s mediocrity notable after 68 games is how high the highs have been and how low the lows have been. This team brings streaky to a whole new level. Winners of 18 out of 22, only to lose 16 of their next 20 is not the normal road to the middle of the pack. They played themselves into first place and back to third place in the span of three weeks.
What’s also unique about the Indians’ mediocrity is that they have done it without the full assembly of their team. They have not played one of their 68 games with their best 25-man roster healthy. They started the season with Scott Kazmir on the disabled list. Michael Bourn followed soon after, then Vinnie Pestano. Pestano returned—likely sooner than he was ready—only to have he and Chris Perez struggle in the back of the bullpen because of their ailments. Now, Asdrubal Cabrera and Zach McAllister are injured and Nick Swisher could be next to join the disabled list. None of this takes into account the day-to-day injuries that sidelined Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis for a couple days each.
That’s a lot of setbacks and adversity for a team not expected to be able to handle that kind of challenge to their depth.
Cleveland was supposed to be mediocre with their full assembly of players, not a constant piecing of a lineup, rotation and bullpen. Cleveland used six starters in their first eight games to start the season. The rotation that was their biggest question has exceeded expectations. Justin Masterson has resumed his place as the leader of the rotation after a poor 2012, Corey Kluber and McAllister have exceeded what most have projected and Ubaldo Jimenez no longer causes panic attacks when he takes the mound. What was perceived as a weakness is more stable than anyone would have guessed.
Mediocrity was what was projected and mediocrity is what fans have received. But considering the Indians have played .500 baseball with injuries and distractions, the expectations should rise if the team can find a way to get all 25 players healthy, on the field, at the same time. Most teams could not survive as well as the Indians have, especially with an already thin margin of error to contend.
At this point, a healthy 25-man roster is not likely until after the All-Star break. But, if this team can survive the next four weeks with out their third hitter, fourth hitter, second best starter and closer for most of the season, the Indians could manage to exceed mediocrity with a second half that could be extraordinary.
Maybe the second half roller coaster could have more highs than lows.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images