Entering the 2012 MLB season, the Cleveland Indians maintained many ifs and maybes, but now 50 games into the year enough data exists to start credibly assessing the Tribe's ability to contend. Cleveland ends May with a 27-23 record, trailing the AL Central first-place Chicago White Sox by 1.5 games.
The Indians' opportunity to contend within the AL Central revolves around certain players enjoying bounce-back seasons, repeat seasons, or good health. Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, plus starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe, represent players needing bounce-back seasons.
So far, Shin-Soo Choo and Derek Lowe give us fans reasons to consider the Cleveland Indians real contenders. Choo, previously good for at least 20 home runs a season, seems to have lost a little power, only going yard three times in 44 games played. However, the right fielder unexpectedly went from batting third in the Tribe's order to first. Choo's .262 batting average, .383 on-base percentage, and eight stolen bases makes him a quality leadoff hitter.
Derek Lowe appears well on his way to garnering his sixth career 15-plus win season. The veteran holds a 6-3 record and 3.25 ERA through 10 starts. Subtract his terrible outing May 26 in Chicago, and, to date, Lowe has given the Indians a chance to win every game he pitched.
Moving on, hope-existed starter Justin Masterson, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, and pretty much the entire bullpen could continue building off strong 2011 campaigns. Masterson, while displaying glimpses of masterful pitching, has struggled a little consistency-wise.
On the positive side, Cabrera and the essential bullpen arms look like they haven't faltered too much. The 2011 season saw the shortstop achieve career bests in home runs and RBIs, with 25 and 92, respectively. So far, Cabrera has hit five homers and drove in 20 RBIs throughout 41 games in 2012. Asdrubal's team leading .298 batting average helps compensate for the apparent drop off in home runs.
Meanwhile, right-handed reliever Joe Smith, setup man Vinnie Pestano, and closer Chris Perez stay dominant in the bullpen. In fact, with a MLB-leading 17 saves, Chris Perez appears likely to receive his second straight All-Star nod.
Regarding good health, that's vital for everyone and the Tribe's last six games in May show why. The Cleveland Indians dropped five of those six games, in part to bad starting pitching and in part to an injury ravaged offense. Thankfully, only designated hitter Travis Hafner stands to miss significant time.
Overall, everything isn't going ideal for the Cleveland Indians, but as this article shows enough seems right to keep the Tribe a viable AL Central contender.
Zachary Fenell fell in love with the Cleveland Indians during the 1995 season when the Tribe powered their way to the organization's first World Series appearance since 1954. While the Indians lost some allure since the 1990s you will still find Zachary watching the games on TV, listening to them on the radio, or best yet taking in a game from the stands at Progressive Field.
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