The Indians have been here before. They come into Tuesday with a 30-27 record and sit just one game back of the Tigers for the AL Central lead. Through 57 games last year, they were 31-26 and 0.5 games back. In 2011, they were 33-24 and 2.5 games up in the division through 57 games. In both of the previous years, they crashed back to Earth in the second half.
Will this year's squad avoid that same late-summer collapse? It's possible, but we don't know for sure. One thing we do know is the Tribe is in a better position to sustain their success because they acquired players with a track record of durability this past offseason. In the past they relied on injury prone players.
|Playing Time: Former Indians vs. Current Indians|
|Former Player||2010-12 Games Played||Current Player||2010-12 Games Played|
|Grady Sizemore||104||Michael Bourn||454|
|Shin-Soo Choo||384||Nick Swisher||448|
|Travis Hafner||278||Mark Reynolds||435|
That is out 486 possible games during the three-year span.
Health is a skill (to a certain extent), a skill guys like Sizemore, Choo and Hafner lacked in recent years. On the other hand, the three key position players the Indians signed this winter have all ranked among baseball's healthiest in recent years. They all place among the top 50 in games played since 2010.
Ironically enough, Bourn (118 OPS+ in 2012) visited the disabled list for the first time in six years last month after his finger was stepped on. Swisher (127 OPS+) hasn't been on the DL since 2005 and Reynolds (125 OPS+) has been on the DL once in his career -- he missed two weeks with an oblique issue last summer. These days it isn't just about having the best players, it's about having the best players on the field for the most amount of time.
The Indians still need their pitching -- particularly guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach McAllister and Scott Kazmir -- to perform well in the second half if they want to contend for a postseason berth. That will be paramount to any success or failure they have. The lineup is important as well, but it is less of a concern now than it has been in recent years because Cleveland brought in more reliable players. Those three play every single day and produce at an above-average level. Being able to pencil them into the lineup day after day makes manager Terry Francona's job that much easier.