Yes, the Indians are still playing ball, at least until today. The Tribe closed out an interesting year with a 5-1 loss to the White Sox. With future Cy Young winner Cliff Lee nursing an injury, Orel Hershiser, er, make that Bryan Bullington took the mound for the Indians.
The kid didn't pitch too badly, calling upon his inner-Bulldog to hold the Chi-Sox to 2 earned runs in 5 innings. That's pretty good for a guy who was recently cut by the perennial cellar dwelling Pittsburgh Pirate organization. Hopefully, one day, he'll become the player he was meant to be as the number 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft. Unfortunately, I don't think he'll be in the bigs next April. And that is what this season became about early, next season.
So what did this season teach us about next season?
1) Andy Marte is a bust. 80 games and he struggled to reach a .221 average. The biggest concern is his lack of power, which was much more prevalent in the minors than his batting average. 3 home runs just won't cut it for a third baseman. At 24 years old, he still has time to get better. But with no more options, are the Indians willing to wait to find out?
2) Shin-Soo Choo is a ball player. 94 games and a .309 average, easily tops on the team. This was a refreshing change to the .240 averages put up by his outfield predecessors Guterriez, Dellucci, Michaels. His development also provides solid insurance for the organization in case corner outfielder of the future not named LaPorta, Trevor Crowe, is unable to develop into a major league talent.
3) Jeremy Sowers is done. After two straight seasons with an E.R.A. over 5.53, Sowers has fallen too far down the depth chart of young starting pitchers. We should see a rotation next year of Lee, Carmona, Reyes, Laffey, and Scott Lewis. Westbrook will find a way into the rotation at some point mid-season following his rehab. Of course, if superstud Adam Miller can go 2 weeks without a blister, he might finally get a chance in the bigs.
4) Jensen Lewis might be a good closer, possibly, perhaps. 13 saves in 14 chances is promising, but so was 10 wins in 15 starts last season for Derek Anderson. After a horrendous June and July where he had E.R.A.s of 6.00 and 6.97, Lewis settled down and had E.R.A.s of 3.38 and 1.00 in August and September. Not surprisingly, 12 out of his 13 saves came during August and September. And at only 24 years old, Lewis has his best years ahead of him.
So here's to the summer of 2008, as it leads us to the summer of 2009.Read the rest of this article