Nice trip. . . Not!
Observations from the Indians' dreary 2-4 trip to Chicago and Detroit:
Ubaldo Jimenez is becoming a problem. A big problem. This is no time for a slump, but a slump is what the Indians have to hope he's in. Because the alternative, if it's not a slump, is that he's injured. Nobody wants to think about that.
He's not throwing like he's injured. The velocity is there. He's throwing like a guy who can't consistently throw strikes - for whatever reason. He's also throwing like a guy who doesn't have a lot of confidence, almost like he's being intimidated by American League lineups.
Certainly Jimenez wouldn't be the first National League pitcher to come to the American League and struggle. Unlike NL lineups, AL lineups don't have automatic outs in the 8th and 9th spots in the order. Prior to being traded to Cleveland, Jimenez had spent his entire career in the National League. He's obviously having difficulty making an adjustment - and the Indians don't have time to wait.
There's a division title up for grabs, and Sunday was the kind of game the Indians traded a boatload of talent to the Rockies so that Jimenez could win such games. Instead, he failed miserably.
Jimenez has won one of the four starts he's made for the Indians. In the other three he has an 11.77 ERA, having allowed 17 runs and 25 hits in 13 innings. That isn't going to cut it. The Indians need No.1 starter numbers from Jimenez. So far he's giving them No.5 starter numbers.
Travis Hafner looks like he could be headed to the disabled list with a strained foot, suffered in Sunday's game. Hafner has been horrible of late. His single Sunday snapped an 0-for-16 slide. At one point on the road trip he struck out 11 times in 21 at bats. He's swinging at balls and taking strikes. He's a mess right now. Maybe two weeks on the DL wouldn't be such a bad thing. It would given him some time to mentally re-group.
I can't remember a major league season in which the umpiring has been so routinely bad. The Indians were victimized by blown calls by umpires at least a half dozen times on the trip. The umps are bad for both teams, so this isn't an Indians problem. It's a baseball problem, and I'm not sure how you fix it.
The loss of Jason Kipnis is devastating. He brought considerable energy, production, and confidence to a lineup that needed all three. THIS may be the injury that hurts the Indians the most coming down the stretch.
It's interesting now that Manny Acta seems to be going back to Jack Hannahan over Lonnie Chisenhall at third base. Chisenhall looks a little lost at the plate right now, and if he isn't going to be a major offensive upgrade over Hannahan, then Hannahan is going to play, because of his Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base. I'm in complete agreement with Acta on this one.
Kosuke Fukudome has been very impressive defensively in center field, but the next time the Indians play in Comerica Park, with its spacious outfield, somebody needs to tell Fukudome that he doesn't have to position himself in Grand Rapids. He was playing so deep in the Detroit series, almost anything hit to medium or shallow center field was falling in for a hit.
Jimenez's latest meltdown, and the wild finish in Sunday's loss in Detroit overshadowed another brilliant performance by the Indians' bullpen. This is the best Tribe bullpen since the '95 group (Mesa, Plunk, Assenmacher, Tavarez, Poole), and it deserves tons of credit for carrying the team through much of this season.