No offense, but...

When we last met, I promised to devote this column to the hitting – or lack thereof – of the 2012 Cleveland Indians. I also suggested that you'd be better off sitting when reading this, as I was certain it wouldn't be pretty. After an anemic homestand, the Tribe’s bats sprang to life in Kansas City. We could be in for a wild ride, folks. So make your way to the nearest chair and brace yourself for some “offensive” comments.

We'll start in the outfield:

1. Ah-Choo! (Bless you): Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo hasn't been the same player since he was popped for DUI last spring. On top of that, he was injured for a good chunk of the season. He maintains all those problems are behind him, and we can only hope that they are. Defensively, he may have the most accurate arm in baseball, but this offensively-challenged team needs him to return to 2010 form, and fast. So far, he still seems lost at the plate; without question he's a key to the team's success this year.

2. Why can't we with Brantley?: The center field job is all Michael Brantley's, thanks to the (totally surprising) injury to Grady Sizemore. That's the good news. The bad news? Well, we've had Michael for a few years now and we still don't know if he can do the job because he's injured almost as much as his predecessor was. Now that it appears the Tribe has realized they got hosed on Matt LaPorta, Brantley is the last hope from the handful of minor league stars the Indians received from the Brewers for C.C. Sabathia. Brantley's ceiling, at one time a sky-is-the-limit kind of upside, is rapidly dropping. If he doesn't do it this year...

3. Duncan Hines-sight: You can't help but root for Shelley Duncan. A career backup who's spent much more time in the bushes than the big leagues, the ball goes a long way when Shelley hits it. The problem is, he solidly hits a baseball with the frequency of a full lunar eclipse. As a fielder, he makes Frankenstein's monster look light on his feet. Pinch hitter? Yes. Regular outfielder? No.

Maybe, just maybe, the infield will fare a little better:

1. Aye, Captain, he can throw, but can he Kotch, man?: The Indians' answer at first base is a guy who, since 2008, has played for six – count 'em, six – MLB teams. If that isn't the picture of stability, I don't know what is. Casey Kotchman hits for average, but little power. Need more than that at first base, which is traditionally a power position. 

2. Racin' with Jason: Here is one of the key guys for the franchise. Jason Kipnis was a major spark for the club after being called up last year before getting – wait for it – injured. In my mind, this guy's the real deal, and I expect him to have a very good 2012. He's adequate at second base, but has the potential to be an offensive force sooner than later. As long as we don't trade him...

3. Do you care-a for Cabrera?: I'm not sure what it is about Asdrubal that concerns me. He had an awesome 2011, no doubt. Some of the time in the second half – beginning with his play after the All-Star break – he seemed to be going only three-quarter speed, as if he were losing interest in playing. Whatever the reason, I don't like to see that from a supposed team leader. It's hard to imagine him duplicating his success of 2011, but the team needs him to come pretty darn close.

4. Them's the facts, Jack: Just what are the facts, you ask? Well, Jack Hannahan is the proverbial career part-timer with the "good field, no hit" label – just what this team needs, right? Last year, the Indians were so enamored with his play that they couldn't wait to rush Lonnie Chisenhall up ASAP. Chisenhall was so unimpressive this spring, Hannahan got the third base job by default. I love it when that happens.


A good dose of Carlos: Was thrilled the Indians signed this guy to a long extension; he's one of the few guys on the big league roster who even knows which end to hold the bat. Santana needs work defensively, but that will come. He and Kipnis are the faces of the franchise for the next six or seven years.

Designated Hitter:

Half and Haf(ner): In the last year of a brutal, injury-plagued career with the Tribe, Travis Hafner hasn't had a productive season since 2007. Now, I'm no math whiz, but I think that's five whole years ago. Not enough pop in his bat to DH for the Indians, nevertheless he's our guy this year. 

To summarize, we have three guys (Duncan, Hannahan, and Kotchman) who are career part-timers thrust into starting roles by the Indians, along with a couple of other question marks (Brantley, Choo) where we're not sure just what we're going to get. And this group is going to challenge Fielder, Verlander and the rest of the Detroit Tigers?

I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid.

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits.

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Volume 4, Issue 8, Posted 11:16 AM, 04.17.2012