Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pronk Has Awakened

Bad News to the rest of the American League contenders, the man they called Pronk is waking up after a year long slump. Travis Hafner single handedly stole one in the Metrodome last night, causing a huge swing in the AL Central race. With two outs in the ninth and lock-down closer Joe Nathan on the mound (a guy who dominated the Indians), igniter Asdrubal Cabrera doubled, bringing Hafner to the plate. Pronk proceeded to crush his second pizza of the night, a two run shot to deep center, to tie the game at five. His first inning blast off of Kevin Slowey was a upper-tank no-doubter. In the 11th, it was Hafner's sac fly that gave the Tribe the lead in their eventual 7-5 win.

Credit must also go to the maligned part of the Tribe bullpen - Tom "Nasty" Mastny pitched 1 1/3 scoreless in relief of Aaron Laffey. Jenson Lewis followed 2 2/3 allowing only one base runner. Nasty and Lewis kept the Tribe in the game before Hafner tied it. Raffy "The Realtor" Betancourt worked his usual two scoreless for the win, and Joe Borowski actually didn;t give up a run, getting his 40th save. The win coupled with the Tigers 3-1 loss to the lowly White Sox, put the Tribe up seven games with 24 to play.

A seven game lead with 24 to play. Did you hear me? If you would have told me three weeks ago the Tribe would have a seven game lead, I would have told you that I am seven feet tall. You wouldn't have believed either sentence. To put it into perspective, if the Tribe finishes 12-12, The Tigers will have to go 19-5 just to tie them for the division. Do you believe this? Only a classic Cleveland-style choke job could keep the Indians from playing in October.

Some Numbers to chew on:

1. The Tribe has won 10 of 11 and 12 of 14.

2. Since a three game sweep ant the hands of the Yankees and a loss to open a big home series vs Detroit, the Tribe is 14-4, adding 5 1/2 games to their division lead.

3. Since starting this blog, the Indians are 12-2, the same record they have since moving Asdrubal Cabrera to the starting lineup.

4. Trot Nixon has 3 HR in 296 at bats. Ben Francisco has 3 HR in 47 at bats.

5. Fausto Carmona, C.C. Sabathia, and Paul Byrd have combined for 44 wins.

6. In Sabathia's last eight starts, he has allowed 2 ER's or less, yet has a 2-2 record.

7. Joe Borowski has 40 saves with a 5.50 ERA.

Final Analysis comes from our stat guru Matt G:

The year is definitely an enigma. We have all complained about certain things, but our relative record is very impressive. However, this year has plenty of parity. Our .577 winning pct. would have qualified for the playoffs in only 2 of the last 6 years (barely winning the Central, but behind the Wild Card team in 2003 and 2004). There are elements of the team that have been great (most of our starters, our setup guys, Victor, etc.), and there are others that have been bad or underperforming (Hafner, Blake, Nixon). It is one of the few seasons when we don't have a one side of the ball that is much better or worse than the other as we are 5th in runs scored and 6th in ERA in the AL. Decent, but not amazing.

I guess one could say that with the talent we have, our record could range from 75 to 95 wins. Last year, we nearly hit the bottom and this year, we could hit the top. I am little concerned that we are 2-11 against NY and Boston. Having followed the Braves for many years, I see a lot of similarities with their team of the 1990s-2000s - very good starting pitching, streaky bats, and a manager that you can second guess all day long. We are one real stick away from being a solid pick to go all the way. Yet, we kind of knew that going into the past two years, and Shapiro has delivered Delucci, Nixon, Michaels and Marte during that time. It seems the organization does a great job of identifying and developing young players, but struggles to get much value during our discount shopping each winter.

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