After nearly 100 games, we know this run of success isn't a fluke. The Indians are good enough to potentially make a run into October – not something we all anticipated back in April. But there are still some questions about the strength and depth on this upstart club. Let’s look at the 5 biggest questions heading into the second half:
1. Can the Indians Keep Up With the Tigers?
The largest hurdle for the Indians in the second half of the season is definitely their division rivals, the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are known for their All-Star talents, such as Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Prince Fielder. If the Indians are going to take control of this division by the end of the season, they need to prove they can effectively handle the Tigers, something they did not do the week before the All-Star Break (the Indians lost 3 out of 4 to Detroit). Earning a Wild Card slot is always an option, but it’s better to concentrate on the divisional crown and treat the Wild Card as a last resort.
In addition, consistently defeating the proven powerhouse in Detroit will bolster the Indians’ confidence and prove that they are legit. Right now, it’s still unclear if the Indians’ have the lineup and bullpen to match their AL Central rivals.
2. Will the Indians Meet Their Needs Before the Trade Deadline?
With thetrade deadline looming, the Indians may be active in the weeks to come. Rumors have the club looking to fill crucial gaps on their pitching staff. Specifically, the Indians could be looking for another left-handed reliever, and possibly another starting pitcher.
How much are the Indians willing to give up to fill these needs, and who or what will they give up? It will be interesting to see just how desperate the Indians are to get help in these problem areas, and how these moves affect the charisma and morale of the locker room.
3. Can the Indians Take Advantage of Their Second Half Schedule?
Indians fans, who peek ahead at the remaining schedule, may be excited about the teams they will face. Get this: Out of the remaining 67 games for the Indians, a whopping 45 are against teams that currently have losing records.
But be careful. While this may seem like a positive sign, constantly playing against sub-par teams can lead to complacency and a lack of effort. (In other words: You sometimes play to the level of your competition.)
4. Who Will the Indians Call Up?
If the Indians don’t find any favorable trades, they have a few farm team names who can be called up to address their pitching weaknesses.
Two prospects showing MLB promise are right hander Danny Salazar, who earned a win against the Blue Jays in his only Major League start (before being recalled to the minors), and lefty Nick Hagadone, who the Indians have already brought up to the Majors and demoted again a few times this season.
While Hagadone could fill the gap the Indians have with left-handed pitching, Salazar was more promising in his Major League appearance. If the AL Central – or Wild Card chase – comes down to the wire at the end of the season, look for the Indians to utilize these two young pitchers.
5. Will the Indian’s Clubhouse Continue to Mesh?
The Indians made many smart moves this off-season, including the acquisition of veterans Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi. These older and more experienced players have given this young team the elder leadership and direction that it sorely missed in the past.
Swisher and Giambi, who both have serious playoff experience, have motivated and stimulated the Indians clubhouse, which has led to higher expectations on the field. Of course, they’ve also helped manager Terry Francona motivate his club.
The Indians will need the leadership of Giambi, Francona and Swisher for the remainder of this season in order to overcome the obstacles in front of them. No matter what, it should be a great run into September. And possibly beyond.
Jason Giambi could be a pivotal part of the Indians clubhouse in the second half.