Sunday, August 24, 2008

Watching the trees, missing the forest

Since the Tribe bagged the season about a month ago with the CC trade most of us have been watching the team through a microscope rather than a wide-angle lens.

It only makes sense.

This season is shot.

The only thing that matters is who is making a case for themselves to be on the squad next year, when - hopefully - enough holes will be filled to put the Tribe back in a pennant race, if not the post-season.

We've been busy examining how each individual player is stacking up against his perceived competition for next year. Or worrying about certain positions where no one seems to be stepping up. (Yes Andy Marte we're talking about you.)

Terry Pluto has done a lot of that recently in the Plain Dealer, including today's paper. The same can be said for Paul Hoynes in his offering today.

On the national Web sites, Ken Rosenthal is among those who have been looking into the future of the Tribe and other teams. His most-recent offering about the Tribe examines where the pitching staff may be heading.

In the blogosphere, Paul Cousineau of the The DiaTribe has two pieces this week that deal with the future makeup of the team - one here, and the other one here.

We've delved into it ourselves recently.

It is only natural that anyone with an ounce of foresight and curiosity would try to relieve the current unpleasantness by looking ahead to see how things might work out a little better in the future.

But while we're busy worrying about whether Ryan Garko has shown enough to either get back into the picture for 1B next year or bring something valuable in trade, or whether Anthony Reyes is good enough to be a No. 3 or No. 4 starter next year, we're missing some of the best team baseball the Tribe has played since last October.

So I just wanted to take a moment to look at the entire forest. The first half of this season was so miserable to watch, we owe it to ourselves to enjoy what we've been seeing lately, even if it comes under the category of cheap thrills.

The Tribe, heading into Sunday's game, was on their longest winning streak of the year - 6 games. They've won 12 of their last 15 games and 14 of 21 so far this month.

In August, the Tribe has scored 116 runs - an average of 5.5 a game. They're scoring 6.1 runs a game in the 12 of 15 stretch and 7.6 runs/game during the 6-game winning streak.

Save one player (yes Marte, you again), the Tribe is getting offensive output across the board.

Some of those who struggled earlier in the year are making the biggest contribution in August.

  • Franklin Gutierrez .317 (BA) .567 (SLG) .936 (OPS) 11 RBI
  • Ben Francisco .316 (BA) .447 (SLG) .805 (OPS) (we should expect better power from the corner)
  • Ryan Garko .320 (BA) .467 (SLG) .840 (OPS) 17 RBI
  • Cabrera .292 (BA) .462 (SLG) .835 (OPS)
  • Choo .279 (BA) .508 (SLG) .888 (OPS) 8 Doubles 10 RBI
And stalwarts Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta have contributed 16 and 14 RBIs respectively, with Peralta at .877 (SLG) and 4 HR. Sizemore has been dragging a bit this month with a .758 (SLG).

The Tribe's starting rotation is contributing as well, after adjusting to the loss of CC and Paul Byrd from their ranks. Largely thanks to Cliff Lee and newly acquired Anthony Reyes, the rotation is 10-5 in 21 starts. The rotation's ERA (not counting Sowers' debacle Saturday night) is 3.56 this month.

As far as the overall bullpen is concerned, it's hard to say it has gotten better. But it is fair to say that the back end of the pen has solidified somewhat, with Jensen Lewis making the most of his audition for the closer spot.

In August, the pen is 4-2 with 6 saves (all by Lewis), but it is sporting a bloated 5.04 ERA.

The good news is Jensen Lewis is 6 for 6 in save situations and has a 0.89 ERA with 9 Ks in 10.1 innings this month.

Raffy Perez is 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA, but if you eliminate two outings in which he gave up a total of 6 runs in 2 innings, his ERA for August is 0.66.

Perhaps the best news of all is the month being put up by Raffy Betancourt. After giving up 3 earned runs in 2/3 of an inning in his first August outing, Raffy Right has made 5 scoreless appearances covering 7 innings and has looked a bit like his old self.

So instead of wondering if Ben Francisco will provide more pop from the corner, or whether Peralta should play 3B or SS next season or whether the Tribe would be better off starting Kelly Shoppach at catcher or trading him for a starting pitcher let's take just a minute from our squirrel-like planning ahead and smell the roses growing at our doorstep in recent weeks.

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