Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Not Far Away

The Boston series last week made me think about the makeup of this Indians' team, and its similarities to the World Champs of last year. The Red Sox relied on strong starting pitching, a solid bullpen, a few run-producers, and role players to win the Series.

This year, the Tribe's starters have been great and the pen has been spectacular. Take the fact that the minors are LOADED with young arms, and you've got to think that the blueprint for the success of this team in the long run was seen in the Red Sox run to the title last year. If you think I'm overestimating the young arms in the minors, look at the Tribe Depth Chart to the right. Francisco Cruceta, a major Dodgers prospect when he was acquired for Paul Shuey (who had a couple of starts in Cleveland last year), recently lost his spot in the Buffalo rotation! Watching Cabrera blow through the Tigers tonight makes me feel good about the quality of arms in the bushes.

Back to the comparison at hand though. Looking at the Red Sox lineup, there had a few "great" players, in Manny, Ortiz, Damon, Varitek, and (one could argue) Cabrera. The remainder of their lineup was Millar, Bellhorn, Mueller, Roberts, and Nixon. Nice players, but none will set the world on fire.

This Tribe lineup is not far away from a younger version of the Sox. Take Hafner, Sizemore, and Victor as the next Ortiz, Damon, and Varitek (though Victor has a higher offensive upside). The Tribe is lacking one more big stick (the Manny - though there's really only one Baby Bull) and the continued development of, say a Jhonny Peralta, from being on the cusp of something big. The Baltimoran pointed out that Coco is a part of this future, that "everyone doesn't have to hit 35 homers", and he couldn't be more right. There's nothing wrong with Broussard, Belliard, Blake, and Coco as role players on this team - solid grinders that will get on base and give quality AB's. That leaves 3B and RF to add that final piece of the puzzle, whether it be this year or not.

That's what is so exciting about watching this team mature this year. The Indians of the '90s were a collection of VERY talented offensive players, who were very fun to watch. But the "All Star at every position" strategy never brought home a WS Championship (it won't in Texas either, Mr. Hart), becuase there was no pitching!

The way that this team is built begins with pitching. That's why this blueprint is going to work. It doesn't hurt that the team is hitting .297 and averaging 6 runs a game under the new hitting coach. I see it. You see it. When will Cleveland catch on?


Anonymous said...

in keeping with the comparisons, who do you see as the future leader/captain (varitek) of this team, PD asked who was the new "face" of the tribe the day after Pronk hit 3 homeruns and got a predictable response.
Sabathia seems to say the right things and have the respect of his teammates, and I can definately see him being a money "clubhouse guy." Pronk might have too much North Dakota in him to ever be the "face" of a ballclub.

Cy Slapnicka said...

checkin in from the beach in NC. i'm dying to see a game. a few things:

-i am working on a Bartolo-like physique. i already had the tater tot legs and the fat rolls on the back of the neck are coming in nicely. PC, i'll be your 5.
-mission #1 when i return to civilization is the "supersizemore" jersey. just gotta figure out what letter to leave out, as 12 is the max.
-is it just me, or does maddux look like he's about 60? and when did he get so out of shape?
-too bad hafner didn't post those detroit numbers before they picked the reserves, they wouldn't have been able to ignore him. and is anyone else furious that rodgers made it?

as for your question, i'd go with millwood as the clubhouse guy if we keep him. but since that is unlikely, i'll go with c.lee.