What's with the Indians?

Ryan Raburn celebrates with Michael Brantley - Jason Miller

The Tigers are in first place as expected, but not by much. How are the Indians staying close?

The Tigers begin a four game series against the Indians today. Yes a four game series, as a weekend series can now end on a Monday. So much for tradition. The Indians briefly summited the American League Central Division standings this week before falling back to second place. They are not letting the Tigers run away with the division, as most pundits said they would. That is much more a result of the Tigers failing to turn copious amount of runs and good starting pitching into wins. But something must be right with the Indians' lineup.

Jason Kipnis is blossoming in his second full season. He has 13 homeruns as part of 38 extra base hits. With 41 walks providing an on-base percentage of .386, he is leading the offense. He had one of the best first halves among American League second basemen, up there with Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano. He strikes out too much to sustain this pace, but he can fall back a bit and still be very good.

Carlos Santana is in his fourth season and providing offense as a catcher. The elite catchers are Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer, and Buster Posey. Carlos Santana is in the next group due to a .377 on-base percentage and 10 home runs. It may be too much offense, putting him on the Victor Martinez path with a third of his playing time at first base and designated hitter.

But the backup catcher, Yan Gomes, is providing plenty of pop as well with six home runs in only 128 plate appearances. A fun fact for you old timers: Yan Gomes is married to Atlee Hammaker's daughter. I am looking forward to Rod and Mario providing the back-story.

Michael Bourn is a step down from Shin-Soo Choo in the outfield, but with an on-base percentage of .345 he can cause trouble. He is stealing bases far less than in his youth, and getting caught more often.

Asdrubal Cabrera provides above-average production for a shortstop, but is piling up the strikeouts. That is a weakness the Tigers' pitchers know how to exploit.

And that leaves us with the Indians' trump card. Mr. Versatility has played right field, left field, second base, and designated hitter. He has nine home runs in only 165 plate appearances. His on-base percentage is third highest on the team. Jim Leyland always believed in him, and he has responded with his best season since 2008. Yes, Ryan Raburn helps to lead the Indians' offense.

So here's to Raburn. I would be glad to see him sustain his success for a full year. But even more, I would be glad to see the Tigers take three out of four from Cleveland.

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