It’s time for the All-Star break and the 2011 have been an overall success. While some claim that the Indians have already done enough, by coming within 22 wins of last seasons total at the half way mark, I don’t buy that. Last year is firmly in the past and anything can happen in the future. Past seasons performance should never keep a team from competing at its absolute best with the ultimate goal in mind. 89 games into the 2011 season, the Indians find themselves in 2nd place in the AL Central, only a half game behind the favored Detroit Tigers. This is not a mistake. The Indians didn’t get any free wins and haven’t played better than their record either. This isn’t the 2001 Mariners who overachieved in every aspect of the game with almost an entire lineup filled with players who had career years. The team batting average is .250 and they are right in the middle of the pack as far as runs scored and allowed. This can be seen multiple ways.
First, it means the Indians are not playing beyond their abilities, meaning they will probably not have a huge let down. It also means that you probably can’t expect a whole lot more out of these guys. One benefit the Indians do have going into the second half is that they were not always playing at full strength during the first half. Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Carlos Carrasco, Mitch Talbot, Fausto Carmona and Matt LaPorta all missed a significant amount of time and will hopefully be able to finish out the season in full health. The worst injury still looms ahead for the Tribe with Shin-Soo Choo out until basically the end of the regular season. Another injured player that will be coming back to the team soon is Trevor Crowe. He has missed the entire season to this point with a broken wing, but should be back soon. While it is unknown how well he will be able to perform coming off an injury, he has quietly put together a couple good seasons for the Indians and would be a better replacement in right field for Choo than either Travis Buck or Austin Kearns can be. Crowe has 26 steals and 70 runs scored along with 154 hits in what amounts to just over a regular seasons worth of at bats (625).
Everyone who has watched the Indians play this season can tell you they have won as many games as they have because of their pitching. While the starting pitching has been above average and has kept the Indians in almost every game, the bullpen has been magnificent on a possibly historical level. The Indians best pitchers in terms of ERA (Justin Masterson, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith and Josh Judy are all under 3.00) have combined for an ERA of 2.38 in 299 innings pitching. Josh Tomlin, Alex White and Frank Herrmann all have ERAs under 4.00 as well. Smith deserves as special notation as he has only allowed 3 runs this season in 31.2 innings for an ERA of 0.85. Masterson has by far been the best starter, holding an ERA of 2.64 and leads the all starters in home runs allowed (4) and strikeouts (87). Home runs have been a slight problem for the starting staff in general with every other pitcher giving up at least 10 so far this season.
The Indians have had so many injuries during the early part of the season that projecting stats for the rest of the season difficult. I did a straight extrapolation of each starter’s stats who I think will finish the rest of the season as a starter. To figure out the projected games played for each player I assumed that all injuries are 100% healed and no player will be injured for the rest of the season. While this is wishful thinking, there is no way to predict injuries. I then took the percent of games played when each player was able and used that for the rest of 2011. Adding those projected end of season stats with the ones that already happened looks a little something like this:
While none of these players are bordering on records, their numbers will be respectable if they can keep up the pace and get near these numbers. 2011 has been a year of the pitcher all around the Majors so, unless your name is Jose Bautista, you can’t expect a whole lot. Major League pitching has been so amazing this season that Justin Masterson and his 2.64 ERA (7th in the AL) did not even make the All-Star team even though 6 pitchers dropped out of the game due to injury or because they started on Sunday. Asdrubal Cabrera has done the best so far of all the Indians hitters, which earned him his All-Star Game start, and his numbers are very good for a short stop, but even they are no where near great. Cabrera is the one veteran who is having a career year and has already crushed most of his career highs and will certainly beat the rest by the end of the year.
As far as the rest of the season goes, no one can really tell. The Indians have placed themselves in strong contention for the Central Division crown and will be able to control their own destiny for the rest of the season. The Tribe has 16 series against other Central Division teams out of the 23 left in the season. The Twins and Royals seem to have removed themselves from contention, but will still remain hard teams to beat for the rest of the season. Right now the Indians 4.29 runs allowed per game is the best since 2005 (3.96 RA/G) and better than every team in the 90′s except for 1995 (4.22). If they can keep up this amazing pitching combined with the return of Alex White and can increase the level of the offense now that everybody is healthy (except Choo) there is no reason the Indians won’t be able to clinch this thing by September 1st.