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Is Indians' Strong Spring a Sign of Things to Come?

On Monday, the Indians beat down the Cubs by a final score of 13-5. While the win continued the Indians’ run of dominance in Cactus League play, that wasn’t the main takeaway. What fans should be ecstatic about was the way in which the centerpieces of the Tribe’s 2013 lineup performed. Sure, the game didn’t count, but who cares? What the Indians did was a sign of the great things that could happen in 2013.

Drew Stubbs, who was inserted in to the leadoff/center field spot, set the tone by going 2-for-4 with a run scored and and three RBI. Jason Kipnis broke out of his Spring Training funk with a 2-for-4 performance and two runs scored. Hitting out of the No. 3 hole, Lonnie Chisenhall turned in a 3-for-3 day that included three RBI and left him just a triple short of the cycle. Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds manned the heart of the order and went 5 for 8 with three runs, two home runs, and six RBI between them.

Again, Monday’s game didn’t count for anything, but fans have to be excited by the result. Especially a result that didn’t even include the likes of Michael Bourn, Carlos Santana, or Michael Brantely. Imagine what this team can do once it’s completely put together come April 1 in Toronto.

While Spring Training serves mainly as a way for a team to work itself into game shape and build camaraderie, it also helps to raise the expectations of the fanbase and provide a sense of hope for the six long months that are to come. So while the Indians’ starting rotation might still have several question marks and holes left to be filled, the investment in the everyday lineup seems to be paying dividends.

That folks, is reason enough to be excited about the Indians heading into the 2013 season.

This was a team that struggled to score runs in 2012. Their 667 total runs scored, .381 slugging, and .705 OPS was better than only the lowly Mariners in the American League. From what we can gather from the results thus far, the Indians should be significantly better in each of those categories this season. And if that’s the case, then there is no reason to expect this team to finish the 2013 season as miserably as it did 2012.

We’ve also documented ad nauseum the downward spiral of the 2012 pitching staff. They had an American League worst 4.78 ERA and allowed 845 total runs. Their .268 batting average against was third-worst in the American League. Compounding things further, the Tribe also had the second-worst K/9 (6.78) and K/BB (2.00) ratios on the American League.

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With that said, there is reason to believe that most of last season’s pitfalls were against the norm. Did anyone expect Justin Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez to perform as poorly as they did in 2012? Did anyone think Derek Lowe would run out of gas by mid-May? Could anyone have predicted injuries to Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco, or even the issues surrounding Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez? The Indians finished 2012 with a starting rotation that included Corey Kluber and Chris Seddon.

All of that is reason to believe that things will get better in 2013. After all, could they possibly get any worse? If the pitching staff shifts even a bit closer to simply being average, combined with this potential offense and its ability to cover up mistakes with big innings of its own, the Indians could make some noise in 2013.

Yes, I know it’s still way too early to be discussing potential playoff runs and World Series titles. That’s not at all what I’m implying here. What I’m simply stating is that Monday’s game gave me reason to be optimistic. It gave me a reason to pack away my Cleveland bred negativity and look forward to what this season could hold.

Tags: Cleveland Indians

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