(No Russian poets were harmed in the production of this post.)
With our up-and-down run through the first 21 games of the year, the Tribe has alternately thrilled and disgusted us. There have already been a disturbing number of games that we have lost in manners ill befitting a major league baseball team. Less than a month into the year, we've had a four-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak. There are plenty of reasons to look ahead and see more monotonous mediocrity making us miserable, but I would like to offer five reasons for hope that we'll be enjoyable to follow as we attempt to put together a season that is meaningful in some regard.
(1) Our schedule has been rough.
So far this year, we've been at CHW, at DET, at MIN, at LAA, and at OAK. The White Sox are the only sub .500 team among our road opponents, and we won that series. OAK, LAA, and MIN are all currently in possession of at least a share of their respective division leads, and DET has the second-best record of that group. Now we're coming home (finally) to face MIN, TOR, and DET (I'm not sure why I'm using the ticker-style abbreviations for these teams) and then going on the road to KC and BAL. Things are starting to smooth out a little bit.
(2) We've held our own against lefties.
Anyone care to guess what our record in our seven games against LHP has been this year?
I hope you assumed it was abysmal, because I know I did and I hate being wrong alone. We're 4-3 against lefties. With the early clamor about LLL — and with Branyan back and Val hitting better than most of our team, we could go LLLLL — we've actually done okay against left-handed starting pitching. I know this doesn't dissuade the fear that a LOOGY could record three K's on nine pitches against us late in a game, but that has been addressed pretty rationally elsewhere on the site. I think we can calm down about our LH-heavy lineup.
(3) Three of our starters are giving us a chance.
The starting rotation was five-deep in question marks at the beginning of this year. Is Jake healthy? Is Fausto back? Is Huff his first 20 starts or his last 5? Can Masterson get any lefties out? And who the heck is Mitch Talbot? Well, "I guess so," "it looks good early," "somewhere in between," "not yet," and "a robot that shuts you down" would be my answers to those questions. Huff, Carmona, and Talbot have exceeded (my) expectations, though I'll admit that my expectations for Huff probably were needlessly negative. We lack anything resembling a true ace right now, and our best strikeout pitcher in the rotation has a WHIP just shy of two, but I'm pleasantly surprised that any of them are throwing well.
(4) Our bats have to warm up sometime.
Whatever you think of Grady and Pronk, surely it must be conceded that they can do better than they have. Our current team OPS reflects not only their struggles but also Jhonny's annual slow start and the mind-numbing "contributions" of LaPorta and Marson. With Branyan now healthy, Kearns hitting, and Santana's arbitration clock coming closer to being leveraged, it can't stay like this forever.
(5) Expectations weren't (or shouldn't have been) that high anyway.
In the thread where everyone here predicted the Tribe's record, the LGT average prediction was 79-83. We're currently on pace to win about 70 games, which, considering the factors listed above, puts us within shouting distance of ending up a mere four games below .500. In a year where we were not only not expected to contend but made no overtures at pretending we were going to, we seem to be about on track.
After a month, we're about where we expected to be as fans of this team. The only thing surprising has been how we've gotten here. We've probably got another five months of about the same results ahead of us. We'll have some times when the bats carry us, some times when the pitching does, and some times when nothing or everything is clicking, and we'll wonder why we don't win/lose every game. So sit back, watch our current team play, enjoy the reports coming in from the farm system, and daydream about a brighter tomorrow. I'm sure it will be here one of these days.