The calendar hit the month of July and the baseball season hit the halfway point just days apart.
And the Cleveland Indians are sitting in first place, a half game ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.
It speaks to the balance of the American League, something we said would occur before the season started, that the Boston Red Sox have the league’s best record, but their mark is just five games ahead of the Tribe.
The Indians have the fifth best record in the AL, so please, no complaints about the weak Central Division. Terry Francona’s bunch have better records that the Rays, Blue Jays, Angels, and is just 2-1/2 behind the Orioles.
They have been streaky, without a doubt, and there may be another losing streak to come at some point, but the Indians are contenders as things stand today, and really, that’s all you can ask for.
Thanks to Friday night’s doubleheader sweep in which Cleveland scored 29 runs, they rank 4th in the AL in runs per game, scoring 4.83 runs per game. The numbers back up that ranking, as the Tribe ranks 4th in on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.
Yes, the Indians do strike out, ranking 3rd in the league, but they are just behind Boston, who has the best record in the AL. But they also have more athleticism than last year, as they are tied for the lead in stolen bases with the Red Sox.
It seems that Francona’s old team is statistically the same as his new team.
On the pitching side, the Indians are a conundrum. They are 12th in the league in team ERA, but have 10 shutouts as a team, which leads the AL. They have the league leader in shutouts in Justin Masterson, who is pitching more like the 2011 version than 2012.
There is no doubt the biggest surprise in the rotation is Corey Kluber, who has gone from not making the team out of spring training to have six wins and a 4.16 ERA.
Scott Kazmir’s last two starts have been outstanding, allowing just one earned run in 14 innings. He does have a 4.83 ERA which means there have been a few outings where he has been rocked.
Zack McAllister was consistent before he hurt his finger, and Ubaldo Jimenez has been okay, but he has had issues completing six innings per start, which puts a lot of strain on the bullpen.
Speaking of the relief corps, they have been up and down as well, but now that Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano are healthy, maybe this group can regain the form of the past couple of years. They certainly have the arms, with Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, and Matt Albers all capable of getting big outs.
The left-handers have been questionable, although Rich Hill has been better lately now that he finally regained his arm slot.
GM Chris Antonetti will have to improve the team at the end of the month when the trade deadline comes, and getting another solid southpaw for the ‘pen could be his most important move.
The other may just be getting another solid starter to provide depth, preferably someone who can soak up quality innings.
After all the complaining (including here) about the Indians’ organization the past few years, this team is right in the thick of it. It’s too bad the fan base haven’t noticed yet.