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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cliff Lee stops sucking; Mother Nature comes through; and other important developments for the Indians

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 8:02 AM

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Seriously, Johan, that Cliff Lee disguise is really starting to freak us out.
With just five wins on the young season, there’s not much working for the Indians right now. But that could all change after Sunday’s win against Oakland. It turns out the Tribe didn’t actually realize the season had started, because they hadn’t played a game in the snow. But yesterday, Mother Nature finally got off her her ass and made it flurry a little. About time. It was starting to feel like San Diego around here. ... The Bad: Cleveland fans can revel in Detroit’s misery all they want -- I’ll get to that in a second -- but the real reason they should be rooting for the Tigers to continue their collective nosedive is because it’s the only reason the Tribe aren’t in dead last in many statistical categories. ... Going into tonight’s game with Boston, the Tribe ranks second to worst in the AL with a team ERA of 4.74, have given up the third most walks (49) behind Boston and Detroit, are tied for the most HR’s given up (15), are letting opponents slug .419., have tallied a miserable 1.56 WHIP, and are fourth worst in K/BB ratio (1.41). And this is a team built on pitching. The Good: Two/fifths of the Indians starting rotation is pitching great right now. You couldn’t ask more of Cliff Lee, who went eight innings yesterday, surrendering only one earned run on two hits while striking out eight and walking zero. (Memo to Fausto Carmona and C.C.: not walking guys = good.) Westbrook is just doing what he does, eating up innings, keeping the team in the game, and pitching so fast that when the camera pans back to him after a pitch he’s already in mid-windup. So far, he has the fourth best WHIP in the AL (.857), doesn’t walk many guys (BB/9 ratio of .55), and his changeup has made him a serious strikeout threat (averaging 7 Ks/BB). In searching for offensive positives over the weekend, when the Wahoos dropped two absolutely vomit-inducing games to the A’s, I could only come up with a few. First, the Indians equipment team appeared to have correctly spelled the names on all the jerseys. Well played, dudes. Second, Grady is tied for second in the AL in the Hit By Pitch category, getting plunked three times. Way to not move, Grady. Great stuff. Also impressive, Ryan Garkonoponopolous has reached base in every game this season, posting a .325/.460/.500 line. David Dellucci has been seen impersonating a real baseball player too, getting a couple of hits. Grady has continued his hot start with a .313. average, and over .400 OBP. Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta are hitting the ball hard, going the other way with outside pitches, and generally playing like people who get paid to hit a baseball for a living. On Deck: Back to the aforementioned Tigers. Yesterday the White Sox schmucked the Tigers 11-0, marking the fourth time they’ve been shut out this year, and the second night in a row that they didn’t put a run on the board. They’re now 2-10 on the season, and Jim Leyland has had enough. He laid into the team last night with one of his famous tirades, one that Indians fans might find familiar to his April 2006 outburst after a 10-2 thumping by the Tribe. Standing at 7-6 that day, Leyland’s Tigers went on to win 13 out of the next 17, and have win streaks of 5, 6, 7 and 8 games by the end of May en route to the World Series. I’m not sure the 2008 version is going to respond like the 2006 team did, or that Leyland’s maniacal screaming in between cigarettes is going to make this team a winner. But I wouldn’t be surprised. And that’s bad news for the Tribe, with Detroit coming to town for a two-game series Wednesday and Thursday. But with any luck, the snow has awakened the Wahoos, and after taking care of the Red Sox today and tomorrow, Cleveland will mow down the Tigers and throw some shovelfuls of dirt on their Central Division grave. (OK, the grave thing might be a tad premature, but a Pole can dream, no?) -- Vince the Polack
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