Enjoying the Ride

Yesterday’s post was my way of putting everything in perspective. If you accept that Bob Wickman is the best closer in the league, then you’ll be that much more disappointed when he regresses towards the mean. That being said, you have to at some point just enjoy this winning wave until it finally crashes upon shore, as long as you understand that it happens. The opposite is true as well; revisit this column for a great example of sports myopia.

I suppose it is a staple of baseball fans to get really high during the winning streaks and irate and depressed during the down stretches. The body of work is important in evaluating anything in baseball, and right now the Indians are 37-30. As Bill Parcells might say, you are what you are, but you can take some things from recent events as signs of future events; how you got there can tell you where you are going.

The offense has been much better lately. The Indians’ line in June is .262/.318/.460, a drastic improvement over what they did in April (.228/.293/.376). Aaron Boone, Casey Blake, and Victor Martinez are hitting much better lately, although Ben Broussard seems to have entered one of his cold streaks. That the club has patched up most of their offensive holes is a big reason why the team has one nine straight. The team could probably use a veteren bat to hit behind Hafner in the order, but for now, “one through nine” has to suffice.

The pitching has maintained its excellence, which is the biggest reason for the streak. The rotation’s fourth and fifth starters pitched well against a good offensive team this weekend, and the staff’s overall ERA now stands at 3.50, best in the majors. What’s even more impressive is the opposition’s OPS, which is .674, more than twenty points lower than the second place staff. Kevin Millwood is now healthy, and the bullpen is deep and good. When you don’t have a weak link on your pitching staff, you force the other team’s pitchers to beat you.

That being said, the pitchers are going to get a real test in the next two weeks; the Indians face some of the best offenses in baseball before the All-Star Break. Boston, who the Indians next face, rank second in the AL in runs scored, and Baltimore (June 30, July 1-2) ranks fourth. Cincinnati, for all their pitching problems, can still put runs on the board (2nd in the NL in runs scored). The good news for the Indians is none of the teams have that great of pitching staffs. The Indians miss Boston’s best starter, Matt Clement in the upcoming series, so that’s a big break. But watch out for David Wells, tomorrow’s starter; he’s shut down St. Louis and Cincinnati in his past two starts, allowing only 5 hits in his past 15 innings pitched. Of course, he has emotional ties with the Indians fans, so I’m sure he’ll get a warm welcome as he warms up in the bullpen.

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