The series: Hosted the White Sox (loss, win, loss) and visited the Royals (win, loss, loss). Blah. Went 2-4. Blah. With a 4.25 ERA. Blah. Scored four runs per game. Blah. Hit .243/.318/.435. Blah. Not the worst you've ever seen, just. Blah. Certainly not at all good either, though. Blah.
The big story: As outright awfulness receded into mere malaise, word finally started to leak out that the respective collapses of two of the Indians' best hitters, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner, probably owe more to injuries than to anything else. In retrospect, the profundity of Hafner's problems this season never really made all that much sense as a simple collapse of skills, and there is no real precedent for a hitter's version of Steve Blass Disease. Still, perhaps because of our habitual fatalism, Indians fans never much figured Hafner was injured, so much so that when he was finally placed on the DL this past Friday, many fans speculated that the injury was phony, merely an excuse to make room on the roster for another player while Hafner was sent away to clear his head for a while.
The Indians told local media that Hafner would be available to play first base during Interleague play, and then he wasn't. The Indians told local media nothing about Joe Borowski's triceps strain, counting on them to not even notice a substantial drop in velocity, let alone write about it. And until this weekend, the Indians said nothing about Hafner's shoulder being a significant problem, and they never mentioned that it was probably Victor's hamstring that had hamstrung his power, again counting on them not to notice or report it. Local media was shocked — shocked! — that the team had not been more forthcoming about those injuries, apparently forgetting that the team said nothing in 2006 about Victor playing half the season with a broken toe, or that they already knew that Jhonny Peralta had a vision problem.
Injuries happen, and players try to play through them, and sometimes teams know, and sometimes teams agree to let the player try. Knowledge about injuries represents a competitive advantage in many sports, and since MLB is not yet dominated by gambling as some pro sports are, reporting requirements are meager. Socker sniffed, "A credibility gap is developing between the Indians and the local media ... I find it difficult to believe that people in authority at Progressive Field think it serves their purpose to create an aura of distrust between the team and the media." (Does he really not see this as a self-condemnation, as he implies that he has nothing to report if the team doesn't spoon-feed it to him?)
These developments bring little solace to Indians fans, as players sometimes don't heal in the course of one season, and sometimes they don't heal at all. All it does is lend a small light of understanding on the widespread offensive collapse. We've got young hitters struggling in their first full season (Gutierrez, Cabrera), streaky mediocrity from a few veterans (Blake, Dellucci), two of our best hitters playing hurt (Martinez, Hafner), and unsteady results from two more (Peralta, Sizemore) — oh, now I get it. That leaves us with only one everday player totally sucking without even a halfway-decent explanation (Garko), and the slow-head-shaking resignation that all this crap apparently really can happen to one lineup in one season.
In other news: Jake Westbrook returned to the rotation with a reasonably solid start, retiring the first 12 batters of the game before succumbing to a series of line-drive hits in the 5th. Craig Breslow was claimed off waivers by the Twins, and Jorge Julio was designated for assignment to make room for Westbrook. Hafner's trip to the DL was timed to make room on the roster for Shin-Soo Choo who returned from the DL to play his first big-league game in over a year. Hafner's absence prompted Wedge to start utilizing his players in more of a rotation, sharing time fairly evenly among Gutierrez, Blake, Aubrey, Choo, Francisco and even Marte. Adam Miller's finger gave us the finger once again, apparently for the entire season. Oh, and I guess there was this "triple-steal" thing, supposedly. Whatever. We scored a run on that play, which seemed like pretty big news, but on the other hand, we didn't drive in that run, and that didn't seem like news at all. Blah.
Post of the week: Looking for nominations as always ...
Who fed it: Just when we least expected it, Frankie Gutierrez had a huge week in limited playing time, hitting for average (.357), getting on base (five hits, two walks and a HBP) and flashing that enticing power/speed combination with a home run, a triple, and more than one spectacular play in the field. Peralta had another huge week (1093) and after almost three weeks of hot hitting is on pace for more than 30 home runs. Blake (1012) and Dellucci (953) were both highly productive in four starts each, and both were bouncing back from substantial two-week slumps (523 and 411). Sizemore (948) had his worst two games of the year in the past week but still banged out three home runs and a triple; he's basically stayed hot for six weeks solid (947 after May 12). Masa bounced back from some rough outings last week with two scoreless innings. Absolute Best: Peralta. Relative Best: Gutierrez.
Who fed it breakdown: Very slim pickings for standout pitching performances this week, but I'll go with Perez; he gave up one earned run, and one unearned, in the second of his three appearances this week, but those runs were fluke crap, not at all his fault. He faced 14 batters and induced six grounders and five strikeouts, allowing no walks and just one line drive for a single. Borowski, meanwhile, allowed three line drives and eight fly balls — eight looooooooooooong fly balls — and, miraculously, no runs on no walks and three hits. Just ask my shorts.
Who ate it: Francisco cruelly fell back to earth this week (458), slugging just .208 while drawing more walks (three) in his last 19 PA than he had in his first 82 PA this season (two) — in both respects, possibly a sign that pitchers have started to pitch him more carefully. Aubrey also struggled (322) to maintain his hot start, getting just one single in his last 11 AB en route back to Buffalo. Garko's pathetic week (2-for-13, double, 2 BB, 498) was remarkably similar to his prior pathetic week (2-for-11, 2 BB, 490), or for that matter to his whole pathetic last six weeks (.186/.259/.299). Paul Byrd coughed up 9 ER over 11 IP, and while he walked only one of the 50 batters he faced, he ominously struck out only one as well. Absolute Worst: Francisco. Relative Worst: Aubrey.
Who ate it breakdown: As has become the norm over the last few month, Victor was mediocre but not notably awful over the past week, hitting .261/.292/.348. The real depths of his problems show up over multiple weeks, however, as his line over the past month is .222/.273/.272. In 88 PA, he's got only four extra base hits — all doubles, of course — and only three non-intentional walks. It's become a serious breakdown. Although leading the majors in batting average just three weeks ago, Victor's contributions at the plate have seriously collapsed. Deepening that black hole in the lineup has been Shoppach, who is just 3-for-31 over the past month while inconsistently filling in for Victor, with two walks and no extra-base hits.