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By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor - Archive - Email
Don't buy into the Indians
 Jason Kipnis The Indians were leading their division at this time last year only to finish with 94 losses.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Cleveland Indians seem to be the flavor of the moment.

And why not? After a miserable 2012 season the Indians find themselves atop the American League Central thanks to thrilling win after thrilling win and a never-day-die attitude that has led to six walk-off victories.

"The past couple years, it's been, 'Yeah, it's a great start, but when's this going to slow down?'" Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano said. "'When's that speed bump going to come? When's it going to get derailed? When are the real Indians going to show up?'

"I think with the start this year, people can start buying in, because it's not the same team."

Well, forgive me, Mr. Pestano, but we've all been down this road before.

Was it last year when the Indians were leading the division at this time only to finish with 94 losses and a whopping 20 games back of the Central champion Detroit Tigers?

Perhaps it was 2011 when the Indians held a seven-game advantage as late as May 23. While that drop off wasn't quite as pronounced as it was a year ago, the Tribe still ended that year two games under .500 and in second place 15 games back of the Tigers.

People are waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it usually does with this team. So, paint me unimpressed by the fact the Indians' bandwagon is once again getting full.

If the Indians are still winning games in September, then come talk to me. Actually if they still have a winning record a month from now, I'll be impressed.

After a brief series with the Tigers, the Tribe hits the road for games against Boston and Cincinnati. They then return home to face the Reds and Tampa Bay Rays before traveling to face the New York Yankees, Tigers and Texas Rangers.

Cleveland caps that rough stretch with a homestand that includes visits from Washington and Kansas City.

Business is about to pick up. So, until then, I'm not going to get sucked in.

Now in the Indians' defense, there are some signs that point in the direction that they just might be for real. They own the AL's best record in one-run games (11-3) and are a perfect 5-0 in extra inning affairs.

The Baltimore Orioles followed a familiar script last season and rode that to the American League Division Series.

Baltimore did so with a terrific bullpen which was led by a virtual cast of unknowns. The Indians' bullpen also features a group of no-names and it's a corps that has pitched to a 3.15 ERA, the third-best mark among AL teams.

Closer Chris Perez makes every save opportunity interesting, but he and right-handers Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen have all appeared in at least 16 games with ERAs of 2.25 or lower.

Offensively, the Indians should be fine. Catcher Carlos Santana is in the midst of a career year and Nick Swisher will somehow, some way end the year around .275 with close to 30 home runs and 100 RBI, while getting on base at a 38 percent clip. That's just what he does.

Second baseman Jason Kipnis has had a knack for getting the big hit and Mark Reynolds is amongst the league leaders with 12 home runs.

The lineup has actually been a bit of a disappointment, but that should improve with a healthy Michael Bourn.

That won't be what stands in the way of the Tribe staying on top, though. The biggest reason why they will eventually tail off is their starting rotation.

In a word, it's horrible.

Sinkerballer Justin Masterson looks like an ace at times, but after him, there's nothing. Zach McAllister has pitched to a 2.65 ERA, but his strikeout rate of just six per nine innings and his slow strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.43) will eventually catch up to him.

Plus we are not dealing with Matt Harvey-like upside here. McAllister's minor league track record doesn't instill the kind of confidence that he'll be a No. 2 starter.

Righty Ubaldo Jimenez has been better of late, pitching to a 1.90 ERA over his last four starts. But if that's the guy you want to hitch your wagon to, good luck. I'll be over in the corner with the winning team then.

Jimenez is to consistency as Sergio Garcia currently is to race relations.

Whether it's Corey Kluber, Scott Kazmir or at some point super prospect Trevor Bauer, that's not good enough for the long haul. Bauer can obviously be the best of the group, but there is a reason why he's not there yet given the circumstances.

The bottom line is the Indians don't have enough starting pitching to compete with Detroit for the long haul. Can they stay above water in the AL Central? Perhaps, but that is like being the tallest Ruddick. Not a real accomplishment if you've seen us. Patrick Ewing we are not.

Now they could go out and get themselves a starter if this continues to roll the right way. Would a Cliff Lee reunion get the juices flowing in Cleveland? Absolutely, and Philadelphia likely would listen to offers considering it figures to enter rebuild mode in a matter of months.

That's probably a little too early to speculate on, but that's what we do, right?

So when it comes to the Indians, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. What is the line for a third time? Who knows, but you can ask Indians fans in September.


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