The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Indians Indians Archive Hopes and Fears for the Cleveland Indians in 2012
Written by Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore

2012 04 indian feverSpring training is finally over and the Cleveland Indians are back at Progressive Field to open the season against Toronto, which means it is time to embrace our hopes and confront our fears about the upcoming 2012 season for the Tribe.

Hopes: Lou Marson can hit just enough that Carlos Santana doesn’t have to spend all his time behind the plate. Marson is solid with the glove and he needs to be as a lifetime .218 hitter. Marson did improve his average last season by 35 points – jumping from .195 in 2010 to .230 last season. If he can make even just a little bit more of an improvement this season, manager Manny Acta will have more flexibility as he can rest Santana’s knees by playing him at first base or designated hitter.

Fears: The 2010 version of Marson shows up and Santana plays the majority of his games this year behind the plate. When Marson does play, his offense is too much of a liability for a team that is expected to struggle to score runs. Plus Marson strikes out 25 percent of the time (146 career strikeouts in 570 at bats), so his outs are not even that productive.

Hopes: The infield defense of Casey Kotchman, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jack Hannahan flash plenty of leather this season, helping the pitching staff by not giving up extra outs and giving the Indians plenty of low-scoring games that will help the offense. Cabrera will be motivated to show everyone why the team gave him a two-year, $16.5 million contract extension and will improve – or at least match – his 25 homerun season that saw him hit .296 through

June. Kotchman (.306 last year with a .335 average on balls in play) and Hannahan (.250 last year, his highest average in a season with more than 150 at bats) produce at the same offensive level.

Fears: A chubby Cabrera, now that he has been paid, reverts back to the norm of a batter who never hit more than six homeruns in a season before last year, robbing the Indians of much needed power. That Kipnis struggles in his first full season in the majors, that last season was a fluke for Kotchman and Hannahan, negating the value they bring on defense, and Lonnie Chisenhall isn’t ready for big-league pitching when he gets called up to replace a struggling Hannahan.

Hopes: Shin-Soo Choo comes back healthy after an injury-shortened season in 2011 and is the same player that averaged 21 homeruns and 88 RBI in 2009 and 2010. For a team that was 16th in runs scored last season, the Tribe needs the Choo of old. Michael Brantley helps everyone remember that he was part of the C.C. Sabathia deal and, in the process, helps us forget that Matt LaPorta was part of the same deal. Shelley Duncan shows fans that, sometimes, all you need is a chance and turns into an everyday player at age 32.

Fears: Brantley and Duncan confirm that they are not every day players, meaning we see too many at bats from Aaron Cunningham, who in 355 career at bats carries a .231 average with six career homeruns and a .290 on-base percentage.

Hopes: Designated hitter Travis Hafner and center fielder Grady Sizemore have one more good year in them and can recapture the magic of three and four years ago.

Fears: Sizemore, who is starting the season on the 60-day disabled list, and Hafner continue to spend more time in the trainer’s room than on the playing field. Sizemore has averaged on 70 games player per year over the past three seasons; Hafner has played an average of 90 games a year over the past four. When they do make it on the field, they both struggle enough that the Indians don’t contend but can’t get anything decent in return for them at the trading deadline.

Hopes: The starting rotation has a monster year. Justin Masterson pitches like he did last season – when he lowered his ERA by 1.50 from the previous year – and actually gets some run support. Josh Tomlin pitches all season the way he did the first two months of last year, when he posted a 7-2 record and a 3.27 ERA. Ubaldo Jimenez grows up and figures out what he been doing wrong the past year and a half, and Derek Lowe eats enough innings that we don’t even need to know the name of the fifth starter.

Fears: The 6-foot-6 Masterson loses his ability to consistently repeat his delivery, Tomlin pitches the entire season they way he did after June 1 last year (6-5, 5.24 ERA), Jimenez is an ace in name only and Lowe turns in his eight season, out of the last nine, of double-digit losses, leaving Indian fans convincing themselves that the return of Roberto Hernandez after the All Star break will turn things around for the Tribe.

Hopes: The Bullpen Mafia of Chris Perez (36 saves), Vinnie Pestano (84 strikeouts in 62 innings of work), Rafael Perez (.237 average against left-handed batters), Tony Sipp (.180 batting average against right-handed hitters) and Joe Smith (.152 against left-handed hitters) pick up right where they left off last season. If the Tribe can count on the bullpen, that means they only need Jimenez, Lowe and the rest of the starters to just keep things under control for five innings each night.

Fears: For whatever reason, relievers have a hard time being consistent from year-to-year. If the bullpen falls apart this year the pressure will be on the starters to go deep into the game in every one of their starts, which is probably not a recipe for success in today’s major leagues (how much things have changed in the past few decades).

Hopes: The Indians get off to another solid start, maybe not the 30-15 start of last season, but a strong enough start to keep pressure on the Tigers and stay in the playoff hunt. If the Tribe can match last year’s performance but win just one more game each month of the season, they may have a shot at the playoffs. Eighty-six wins most likely will not be enough to take the Central Division, but the addition of a second wild-card team offers hope. Since the wild-card era started in 1996, on average 88.8 wins would be enough to grab the second wild-card slot. Adding that one win a month would put the Tribe at 86 wins and the cusp of the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Fears: The Indians stumble out of the gate in a nod to the Eric Wedge years, and the Tigers, despite having what could be a historically horrific defensive infield, score enough runs to take control of the division by Memorial Day. By the middle of June fans are debating who the Cavs will draft and checking the calendar for the start of training camp for the Browns.

Hopes: The Indians pull it together behind a solid starting pitching staff, excellent bullpen, strong defense (especially in the infield) and just enough offense to bring home the team’s first World Series title since 1948 and Cleveland’s first championship of any kind since 1964.

Fears: This is Cleveland. What do you think?

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

The TCF Forums