First off, making any inferences about a baseball team after just 12 games isn’t a wise thing to do.
You have to look at the schedule because there is no way you could have played all of the good teams in your league after that amount of time. And as we’ve said before, a better time to check is after the first 27 games of the regular season, when one sixth of the slate has been played.
After a dismal opening homestand in which they went 1-4, the Cleveland Indians have picked up the pace on their first trip of 2012, so far going 6-1 against Kansas City, Seattle, and Oakland.
This is where the schedule comes into play. The teams regarded as the best in the American League coming into the season were the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, and Angels. The Tribe has played zero games against those squads.
Still, the hitting has been better statistically to start the year with Cleveland ranking 3rd in the AL in runs scored. However, a closer look shows that almost half of those tallies (32 out of 68) came in the three game series against the Royals. currently losers of seven straight.
The good news there is that KC doesn’t have the worst pitching in the league statistically. In fact, their staff ERA ranks higher (9th) than the Indians (11th).
At this point though, the Tribe has cut down on strikeouts at this early juncture. They rank 9th in the Junior Circuit, a big drop from the past few years when they ranked in the top three in the AL.
They also lead the league in walks, although outside of last season, they have been in the top half of the AL since 2008 in that category. Shelley Duncan has been a surprise in this statistic, drawing 12 bases on balls in the first dozen games.
The only real bad strikeout to walk ratios on the club right now belong to Jason Kipnis (11 whiffs, 3 BB) and Jason Donald (10 K, 1 BB). That’s outstanding. Drawing walks drives up pitch counts and gets into the opponent’s bullpen, where the less talented pitchers are.
However, the starting pitching so far has been a bit of a disappointment, mostly because they have not been able to soak up their share of innings. Cleveland starters have gone five innings or less in half of their appearances, although one of those was due to Jeanmar Gomez’s ridiculous ejection for protecting Shin-Soo Choo vs. the Royals.
This has put a strain on the bullpen, who for the most part has been up to the task.
Chris Perez rebounded from Opening Day to record five straight saves, and he has fanned five hitters in 6-2/3 innings. Vinnie Pestano has done well, and newcomer Jairo Asencio has contributed.
One area of concern is Tony Sipp, who has allowed seven hits and three walks in 3-2/3 frames. Sipp could go back to Columbus in favor of Nick Hagadone, when Asdrubal Cabrera returns from his grandfather’s funeral.
One thing that is concerning is the lack of swing and miss guys on the Tribe staff. Cleveland ranks 11th in the league in striking out hitters, yet have issued the fifth most walks. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.
Granted, it’s only three starts, but Manny Acta needs Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin to give him at least six innings per start. Ubaldo Jimenez had one good start (vs. Toronto), but in his last two, he has been inconsistent in the strike throwing department. Derek Lowe’s had two good starts, and battled through a six walk outing to keep his team in the game.
Any success Cleveland will have in 2012 in based on good starting pitching, which so far hasn’t been there.
Still, at 7-5, it’s been a good start to the season, but it’s too early to get carried away, just like it would be too early to panic if they started 4-8.
Manny Acta would agree though, that it’s better to win early in the year, than to lose.