The Indians’ Outfield Turnaround Has Me Eating Crow

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When it comes to voicing my concerns with the Cleveland Indians, you’ll notice I’m rarely subtle. This is especially true when it comes to my worries about their lack of depth in the outfield.

I voiced my initial lack of enthusiasm when the team dealt for center fielder Leonys Martin, as I felt the move did little to fix the issue at hand. I spent more than a few podcasts hammering this point home, insisting the Indians had to continue looking for upgrades. Simply put, I was convinced the current outfield cast wasn’t enough to help the team come October.

With that said, allow me to say something you rarely see when it comes to, well, the internet in general.

I was wrong.

As laughable as the concept seemed to be just weeks ago, somehow the Indians’ outfield woes were solved within. While we still need to see this success carry over when October comes along, the situation has become significantly less dire than I initially thought.

To be fair, I don’t think it was wrong to worry about the team’s outfield depth. To that point, veterans Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer had been struggling. Melky Cabrera had just been reacquired despite his underwhelming first stint with the team earlier in the year. Greg Allen looked lost at the plate, while fellow rookie Bradley Zimmer was out for the season due to injury.

Naturally, the addition of a good-not-great player in Martin didn’t seem to help the cause too much. That his bout with a life-threatening infection sidelined him for the rest of the year didn’t aid in my concerns.

Yet, here we are just a couple weeks after another Indians outfielder was sidelined, watching the team receive consistent production from left, right and center.

Cabrera, let go by the team back in June due to boasting a .207 batting average, has suddenly become one of the most consistent hitters in the Indians lineup. In his 91 at-bats from May through July, he had only contributed a combined 12 RBIs. He’s already topped that total in 58 August at-bats. Cabrera has also tallied five hits in Cleveland’s first two games against the Boston Red Sox this week, two of which left the park.

When optioned back down to the minors in mid-July, Allen was struggling mightily at the plate with a paltry .209 average. Since getting back in the lineup on August 9, he’s boosted said average up to .257 and heads into tonight’s game against Boston as the proud owner of a 14-game hitting streak.

Of the eleven runs Cleveland has scored against the Red Sox in the first two games of the series, five have come from Cabrera and Allen. Even more poetic, these two and left fielder Michael Brantley contributed the only runs in the Indians’ win on Monday, all by way of home run.

Just a couple weeks after stressing out about Cleveland’s lack of depth, I found myself eager to watch Cabrera at-bats in the middle of campaigning for Allen’s postseason roster spot. It’s been quite an adjustment.

Admittedly, avoiding becoming a prisoner of the moment is extremely difficult when it comes to watching baseball. It’s easy to get caught up in midsummer struggles and assume the same thing will occur come October. I’d like to think this explains my inability to buy in to the idea of relying on Allen and Cabrera for meaningful postseason playing time.

Of course, you could argue the sudden shift in perspective is just as much of an overreaction. It should also be said there remains a possibility that both Allen and Cabrera are just riding hot streaks, that they may have trouble maintaining the continued offensive surge come playoff time.

Still, the turnarounds we’re seeing from these two have gone a long way towards convincing everyone (or myself, at least) this setup could work come the postseason. While an extra move or two wouldn’t hurt, it appears Cleveland’s decision to let its outfield situation play itself out may have actually worked quite well.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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