There were a lot of people who thought June would be the beginning of the end of contention for the Cleveland Indians.
With Texas, Boston, Kansas City, the Angels and Tigers all on the slate, many thought that meat grinder would be too much for Terry Francona’s crew.
However, right now they stand at 11-6 for the month following today’s come from behind win on Nick Swisher’s grand slam and head into a three game series at home versus Detroit before heading out for another west coast jaunt.
The offense has become more consistent with Carlos Santana starting to hit, and Lonnie Chisenhall continues to hammer away at a .368 pace.
Michael Brantley has become one the American League’s best offensive players, ranking in the top ten in the circuit in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
However, the defense, particularly in the infield continues to be atrocious, particularly on the left side of the diamond, most notably SS Asdrubal Cabrera.
It wasn’t too long ago that Cabrera was an all-star, making the team in both 2011 and 2012. He should be in the prime of his career at 28-years-old.
Instead, he is showing that last season wasn’t an off-year, it was the beginning of an offensive decline.
In 2009, the switch-hitter showed signs that Tribe fans had a player to watch when at age 23, he batted .308 with 6 HR and 68 RBI (799 OPS). After an injury plagued 2010, he started to show some power in ’11, belting 25 HR, knocking in 92 runs with a 792 OPS.
Another solid season followed in ’12 (.270, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 762 OPS), but his average dropped to .242 last season and so did his home runs and ribbies.
Offensively, he’s doing a little better this season (.255, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 732 OPS), but he’s made 13 errors already this season.
If Cabrera were hitting like he did in 2011, you could overlook his shaky defense. Furthermore, whereas the shortstop used to make highlight defensive plays on occasion, those plays are rare, and the majority of his miscues are on routine plays.
In the past couple of weeks, he dropped a simple relay throw killing a double play chance, and on Tuesday night, couldn’t come up with a roller to second, instead trying to tag a baserunner and then toss to first for a twin-killing. Instead, he got nobody out and the Angels scored three runs in the inning.
With several baseball people saying SS Francisco Lindor is ready to play in the big leagues, how much longer can the front office ignore the defensive suck fest that goes on at SS and 3B?
Lindor would add a better glove and some much-needed speed (19 stolen bases at Akron) to the Cleveland offense. He’s hitting .280 with 5 HR and 38 RBI at the AA level, so it’s not as though major league pitchers would knock the bat out of his hands.
Of course, the front office would have to move Cabrera to make this happen and because he’s a free agent at the end of the season, they probably won’t get much in return. Perhaps it would make the ballclub better if the future started right now.
We understand that the Tribe is in a post-season race right now and it would seem crazy to bring up a 20-year-old to play short in that type of situation, but the scouting reports on Lindor say he has an incredible make up and if any rookie could handle it, it would be him.
In Francona’s first season in Boston, the Red Sox decided to improve the defense by trading icon Nomar Garciaparra and getting Orlando Cabrera, a much better defender in a separate deal.
Does history repeat for Francona? It’s getting to the point where they may not have a choice.