The Indians got their season off to a fine start with a two games to one series victory over the White Sox as they took the final two games after a miserable start by opening day pitcher starter Jake Westbrook who was hammered by Chicago. Thankfully they managed to get back on track with a pair of nice wins, including a come from behind, extra innings victory in the rubber match.
The second series against the Tigers didn't go nearly as well as they were shut down by two very mediocre pitchers in Dontrelle Willis, and and Jeremy Bonderman., and then blew a huge lead in the final game as they tagged Tigers ace Justin Verlander for 6 runs, only to see the bullpen blow the lead as they allowed nine runs in the final four innings, finally losing on a game tying walk, followed by a game losing wild pitch. Heart breaking stuff.
Offensively, the Tribe really struggled as the only two players to break the .800 OPS mark were second baseman Luis Valbuena (.806) and third baseman Johnny Peralta (.810). Obviously players like Grady Sizemore (.759), and Shin-Soo Choo (.619) aren't going to continue to hit so poorly, and the offense should be better. Actually, with Sizemore, Choo, Peralta, Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis Hafner and top prospects Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, and Carlos Santana, I think the Indians offense will be pretty good in 2011. But as of right now, that future is still a little ways off.
The issue with the Indians on a long-term basis is going to be pitching. They simply don't have much of it. I believe Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona can be above average arms, and prospects Hector Rondon, and Carlos Carrasco show varying levels of promise, but is that enough? I'm not sold.
Ultimately, the Indians season is going to depend on how quickly the young bats develop. It won't be enough to help them win this year, but it can at least lay the groundwork for 2011 and it'll be a progression we'll be following closely here at AL Central in Focus.