Don't be fooled by the 10 runs the Cleveland Indians scored Thursday afternoon against the lowly Kansas City Royals ... the 2005 edition of the Tribe lacks the punch and consistency found in contending teams. Explore the Indians' lineup position by position and you'll find below average ouput at almost every position.
Leftfield and Rightfield - Leftfielder Coco Crisp is a decent hitter with some pop in his bat but for a corner outfielder his stats are far below the norm. Each corner outfield position should yield 25 to 35 home runs and more than 100 RBIs. You couldn't get those stats if you added Crisp's numbers with those of rightfielder Casey Blake. Blake's anemic average and lack of aggressiveness at the plate have caused fans pain all year long.
Centerfield - Grady Sizemore has held his own in his first full Major League season. He's currently struggling but has proven he belongs in the Majors. The Indians can look forward to Sizemore providing 20 home run, 100 RBI performances for years to come.
Third Base and First Base - Once again, weak numbers from historic power positions. The combination of Third Baseman Aaron Boone and First Baseman Ben Broussard make former Tribe corner infielders like Brook Jacoby and Pat Tabler seem like George Brett and Don Mattingly. Boone has been mired in a season-long funk as he tries to regain his form missing the 2004 season due to an ACL injury. He's beginning to hit a little better, but when you're hitting around .200 going 1 for 4 seems like you're tearing the cover off the ball. As for Broussard, his best position is as a utility player. His inconsistency and streaky nature make him ideal for coming off the bench to pinch hit or give a starter a day off.
Shortstop and Second Base - Jhonny Peralta has been solid in his rookie year. Double-digit home runs, clutch-hitting and an average above .275 has made the departure of Omar Vizquel a little easier to swallow. Ronnie Belliard has been satisfactory at second. His stats are decent for a second sacker but his lackdaisical play is enough to rival Manny Ramirez --- minus the 40+ home runs and 140 RBIs. We won't miss Ronnie if he's traded or not back next year.
Catcher and Designated Hitter - Victor Martinez' horrid start has dampened his average. He's currently hitting around .250 with modest power and RBI numbers. I think his multi-year contract extension played a role in his early season slump. Even though he's struggled somewhat this year, Martinez is definitely one of the top offensive catchers in the American League. The same can be said for Travis Hafner at the designated hitter position. Hafner, after a slow start, has been red hot. The American League Player of the Month for June hits for average, power and RBIs. Hopefully he can recover from his facial beaning at the hands of Mark Buerlhe and help the Tribe during the second half.
Summary, we're still rebuilding even in our year of promised contention. We have four players we can count on in the future: Hafner, Martinez, Sizemore and Peralta. I say let's be modest buyers at the trade deadline and acquire some legitimate Major League talent that will help us contend this year and next.