A few weeks ago, we talked about how this was Indians’ skipper Manny Acta’s first foray in a pennant race. He had been managing in the obscurity of bottom tiered teams during his career, and suddenly, he is involved a race to make the playoffs.
For the first time, all of his moves will be viewed with greater observation.
The biggest dilemma he has is at second base, where he has been playing veteran Orlando Cabrera most of the year.
Acta will tell you how much leadership Cabrera has brought to a young team, and how he is 5th on the ballclub in RBI’s with 38.
There is no doubt about the former and the latter statistic is a fact.
However, the Indians have brought up one of the prize plums of their farm system in 2B Jason Kipnis, and the Tribe ranks near the bottom in the American League in offensive production at the position.
Since the first of May, Cabrera has hit just .228 with 2 HR and 28 runs knocked in. For the season, his OPS is 596, which is dismal no matter how you cut it.
Yes, the veteran ranks high on the team in RBI, but he’s hitting just .230 with a 495 OPS with men in scoring position. And his lack of production is compounded by the manager placing him sixth in the batting order, behind a bunch of guys who get on base often. If you bat enough with guys on base, you’ll eventually knock a few in.
With Kipnis on the big league roster, he has to play almost every day. It’s very difficult for a young player to come up and play one day, sit the next, play again. They don’t get into a rhythm. It’s very different from anything they’ve done throughout their minor league career.
Ask Cord Phelps. That’s the way he was used and he ultimately failed in his first go at the big league level.
If Cabrera is such a leader, and a great guy in the clubhouse, then he should know that diminished playing time is better for the team. There were reports that he did a lot of griping when Phelps was brought up. If that’s the case, then that’s not being a leader.
Most baseball writers have said using Kipnis at second is an automatic upgrade over what the Indians were getting offensively out of the position. And they don’t mean Luis Valbuena.
And Cabrera is average to below average in terms of range at second, so it’s not like he’s going to win a Gold Glove.
Kipnis received the start in his first game in the bigs, but won’t play in game two because Cabrera is back in the lineup, mostly because he’s hitting .333 lifetime against White Sox starter Edwin Jackson. However, that’s the past. Right now, OC isn’t really hitting anyone. And once again, Kipnis needs to play every day.
There is no question that Orlando Cabrera has meant a lot to the 2011 Cleveland Indians. He’s been a mentor to Asdrubal Cabrera, who has responded with an MVP type season. He’s also brought a winning attitude to the team, fostered from his consistent appearances in the post-season.
Manny Acta has to make the best decision to win games. And with a struggling offense lately, the best decision is to play Jason Kipnis everyday. We need to find out if indeed he can contribute with the bat.