Looking Back at What Was: Shortstop

Source: Yardbarker.com

This is the fourth in a series of posts looking back at the realities of the Indians 2010 season. We’ll look at what was hoped for, what actually happened, and what the expectations are going forward at the position in 2011.

After spending the beginning of his career manning second base, Asdrubal Cabrera was handed the keys to the shortstop position (his natural position) last year and that carried over to opening day this season, with Jhonny Peralta being permanently moved to third. The season started off promising for Cabrera, that is until Peralta snapped Asdrubal’s arm in a collision in Tampa. This led to a month-long platoon of Jason Donald and Luis Valbuena, quite an uninspiring duo, and when Cabrera returned from the DL he just didn’t quite look the same.

As I mentioned, the season started with number 13 (no, not THAT number 13) at short. Through May 17, Asdrubal was hitting .287 with a .689 OPS, not great numbers but about what you expect from a light-hitting shortstop. Then Peralta worked his magic, and Jason Donald (acquired from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee disaster) was shoved into the line up the very next day.

Donald had been playing second for the Clippers, but his (like Cabrera’s) natural position was shortstop so the Indians figured it would be an easy transition back. However, the game at some points seemed too quick for the young man and he made quite a few errors. Hoping to stop the bleeding, Manny Acta gave Luis Valbuena a shot at what was also his natural spot in the infield (though I think his natural position is behind a cash register), and he was so bad he pushed Bruce Drennan over the edge.

When Cabrera returned on July 20, the Indians had won five in a row and things seemed promising for the second half of the year. Upon his return, however, it was more of the same for the Tribe, as they once again skidded towards last place, and the shortstop’s production was less than impressive. His batting average slid 25 points at one point, and his defense, aside from one ridiculous play, was pedestrian at best. The drop in numbers could have possibly been from rushing him back too quickly, though, as the traning staff apparently does a little too often (see: LaPorta, Matt or Ambriz, Hector); his numbers did pick up considerably in the last six weeks.

Even though Cabrera’s production was nothing to write home about, he will be back at shortstop in 2011. Over the last weekend of the season I heard Tom Hamilton mention that he comes into camp out of shape, which has to change, especially as he gets older. Anthony Castrovince reported in his mailbag that he will be playing winter ball in Venezuela, so hopefully that will keep him in baseball shape for next year.

In the event that he does come to camp looking like Pablo Sandoval, well, the Tribe will just have to suck it up. Jason Donald looks like a utility guy at best, and there is really no answer at shortstop in the farm system. So, here’s to hoping Asdrubal chooses broccoli over Twinkies this winter, and also that that choice leads to a repeat of his 2009 numbers (.799 OPS, 68 RBI from the number two hitter). Otherwise, the left side of the infield could be a black hole once again in 2011.

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