I still think there's hope. The pitching has improved significantly. And with the offense performing like they did in last year's second half, they would be a legit playoff quality team. Could that happen? Yes! They still have all the key players from last year's offensive breakout, plus Morrison. Why not?
Is it a huge surprise they haven't? Not really -- subtract Polanco, and significant stretches of Mauer, Sano, Buxton and Santana to injury, and it's exactly what you'd expect!
The real question is whether their performance last year can be replicated. And all those guys could rebound. We don't even need all of them at once; just take turns getting hot like last year, and we'll be fine.
But I have to admit it's looking less and less like something to count on. What if Buxton and Sano really have incurable problems with pitch recognition? What if Mauer's concussion symptoms return long term? What if Polanco's offensive surge was chemically enhanced? It might be that last year was the illusion, not this one.
Still, it happened before, for three whole months, so it's not total fantasy to imagine it happening again. The potential is there.
Maybe Buxton's slow spring was really about migraines he wasn't mentioning, even before his broken foot. Maybe Sano's legs are still bothering him but he'll be back. Maybe Mauer will pick up where he left off with a .400 OBP. Maybe Polanco, Morrison, Dozier, and Kepler will surge again. The good thing is, they don't need all of these to happen -- just any three, on any given day, and their offense will be right back where they were last year. And that would be fun to watch.
If it turns out Buxton and Sano just can't hit big league pitching, then I'll be very, very bummed. But I've despaired about them both before -- which only made their hot streaks even more exciting! They have it in them, somewhere. If they finished strong, think how good that would feel. Just seeing them get back on an upward trend would be a huge weight off, and make every game fun to see. But add a few other players getting hot as well, and a few key injuries to Cleveland, and it could still happen this year. Think back on the past six years, and then to the end of last year; we're a lot closer than it seems.