With the season at its halfway point, the Tribe finds itself with a 44-37 record and a 1.5 game lead over Detroit in the AL Central division.
On May 23, that would've sounded a little disappointing. 45 games into the season, the team at the time was 30-15 with a 7-game lead over the Tigers. But overall, this is a pretty good spot to be in, especially for a team that was picked to finish fourth or fifth in the division prior to the season.
How many teams, I wonder, have been in first place at the half with an Opening Day starter carrying around an ERA over 5.50? I wonder how many more of those teams had finished last in their division the year before.
The Indians' hitters are 13th in baseball in runs scored, with 351. That's 4.33 a game, good for 7th in the AL and 3rd in the AL Central. So overall, it's middle of the pack; however, that doesn't tell the whole story. They were one of the best in baseball in the first 8 weeks or so, but then terrible from late May to late June. They've been decent in 4 of the last 5 series, so hopefully they can maintain a decent scoring average in the second half, with some help from recent call-ups Lonnie Chisenhall and Cord Phelps, or perhaps Jason Kipnis if he gets the call.
In OPS, they are, as expected, in a similar position. 14th in baseball, 8th in the AL, 3rd in the AL Central.
The good: Travis Hafner has a 975 OPS, though in only 150-odd PAs because of injury and his inability to play the field in NL parks. Asdrubal Cabrera has emerged as a star shortstop, with an 846 OPS and 14 home runs. Carlos Santana has a 780 OPS and has been one of the best at drawing walks.
Any other good things? Well, I'm not sure if this is good, but three other regular hitters have an OPS over 700: Brantley (717), LaPorta (733), and Sizemore (745). Brantley, who is batting lead-off, was very good early on, but scuffled in June. LaPorta was typical frustrating LaPorta, looking great one game, then horrible for 3 games. Sizemore has only a 291 on-base percentage.
I must mention our leader in OPS: Josh Tomlin, with a 2.000 OPS in 2 plate appearances!
The bad: Everyone else. Choo had a disappointing 687 OPS, but he seemed to be coming around before going on the DL. He'll be out till September. Orlando Cabrera's OPS is 645, Jack Hannahan's is 639. Shelley Duncan is at 606 and Austin Kearns is at 552. Craptastic.
We are 11th in baseball in ERA at 3.77, 6th in the AL and 1st in the AL Central. In FIP and xFIP, we are 6th in the AL and 15th and 16th respectively in baseball.
Breaking it down further, the Indians starters are nothing to crow about overall. They're 10th in the AL and 22nd in baseball in starting ERA, at 4.12. We can blame Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot for this, as our top 3 are good. Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco are a strong 1-2 punch with good stuff, and Josh Tomlin's strike-throwing ways make him a good mid-rotation starter. He has never gone less than 5 innings in any of his major league starts.
The bullpenmafia# has been excellent. Its ERA is 4th in baseball and second in the AL at 3.02. Man by man, our top five relievers: Chris Perez, 2.37 ERA. Vinnie Pestano, 1.47 ERA. Tony Sipp, 2.65 ERA. Rafael Perez, 1.60 ERA. Joe Smith, 0.99 ERA. They are the driving force behind our success this year.
Edit: As of July 5th, after 83 games, the bullpen's FIP is 3.66, which is 11th in baseball, 6th in the AL and 2nd in the AL Central. By xFIP, they're 21st, 9th, and 3rd, respectively, at 3.98. And by tERA, they're 7th, 3rd, and 1st, respectively, at 3.71.
I'm not sure which of those three is better for evaluating bullpens.
Looking at other stats, our bullpen's 7.22 K/9 is one of the lowest; it's 25th in baseball and 10th in the AL (ouch). We make up for that somewhat by being 8th in baseball and 4th in the AL with a 3.36 BB/9, and we're 14th in baseball and 6th in the AL with a 2.15 K/BB.
The rotation is 19th in FIP and 13th in xFIP.
In team ERA, the White Sox are right behind us at 3.79, while the Tigers are down at 4.41. They say pitching wins championships, so this race could come down to us vs. the White Sox, although that might be speaking more of a playoff series than a regular season pennant race. The Tigers do have an excellent offense, plus an ace in Justin Verlander, that they are hoping to ride to claim the pennant.
If we are to win this race, the offense has to avoid another month-long slump. Someone - Sizemore, Brantley, Chisenhall, Buck, LaPorta, Phelps? - is going to have to step up and help out Asdrubal, Hafner, and Santana. Perhaps more importantly, we need Fausto and Talbot to settle down and pitch well; or if they don't, a minor leaguer or two may need to come up and give us some decent innings. We should probably expect a trade acquisition or two, but hopefully we can get some real help without decimating the farm system.
At this point, I'm cautiously optimistic.