|Michael Brantley (Photo: AP)|
The Indians have reached the midway point of the season with a record of 44-37.
2011 has already been one hell of a ride.
The first 6 weeks exceeded everyone’s expectations. Exceeded expectations in excelsis.
The past 6 weeks have not been up to those expectations. Not to the expectations the Tribe raised in those first 6 weeks, not to the expectations of the preseason.
So which team can be expected in the second half?
Don’t expect to see a team as good as that team Cleveland saw during the first 6 weeks.
Don’t expect to see a team as bad as the one that has been playing for the better part of the past 6 weeks.
Do expect to see an inconsistent team going forward.
It will be an inconsistency born of a roster doing its best Benjamin Button imitation.
It will be an inconsistency born of a lot of injury concerns.
It will also be a contending team, provided Travis Hafner can stay in the lineup.
Hafner has been the lynch pin of the entire season so far as the team is 22-13 when Pronk is in the starting lineup.
If Hafner is healthy, the Tribe will be able to weather the loss of Shin-Soo Choo. The team will be able to take the ebbs and flows of rookies breaking in at second and third. They will be afforded time to wait and see if Grady Sizemore will ever turn into Grady Sizemore again.
Hafner will remain the lynch pin going forward.
He is the lynch pin because this pitching staff is not going anywhere.
Fausto Carmona’s injury on Saturday is a blow in name only. Depending on the severity, the team is only going to need to come up with a replacement for the innings he has pitched this year. He’s given them almost nothing more.
Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin should continue to turn in strong starts on a consistent basis. Carlos Carrasco might even put up better than he did in the first half numbers, although it should also be cautioned that as his innings pile up, he might hit something of a wall. Mitch Talbot is Mitch Talbot, don’t expect much and he won’t disappoint.
The bullpen is as good as they come.
The point is, the pitching staff is good and should remain so.
The hitting will be at least average if not better as long as Pronk is the designated hitter.
The pitching and hitting combined will be good enough to keep this team contending in the American League Central Division.
Detroit is a flawed team. They have great hitting and miserable pitching outside of Justin Verlander.
Chicago is a soap opera.
Kansas City and Minnesota are essentially done for the year.
Even playing inconsistently, the Indians can win this division. They won’t run off any long winning streaks, but shouldn’t have any long losing streaks either.
Another 44-37 record in the second half should win this division. It will be a fight, it will be another hell of a ride, but the Indians are entirely capable of equaling their record from the first half.
They just can’t lose Travis Hafner.