By Scott Barzilla

For about four and a half months, the Indians were the surprise of MLB. They came from the bottom of the AL Central standings to spend more days in first place than any team in the division. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how many days you spend in first. It only matters who is in first on the last day of the season.

Unfortunately, fielding was not one of the reasons why the Indians were so good. As the season wore on, the lack of range began to tax the pitching staff to the point where even adding Ubaldo Jimenez wasn’t going to be enough. Change is on the horizon as few veterans were replaced by kids. If they are the right kids, this Indians phenomenon will only continue to grow from here.

DER: .692 (18th)

RA: 685 (24th)

FLD%: .982  (19th

Baseball Reference: +19 runs (11th)

Fangraphs: -47.0 runs (28th)

Fielding Bible: + 9 runs (14th)

Baseball Prospectus: -3.2 runs (20th)

Composite Runs: -5.6 runs

At least Johnny Antonetti and the gang know where the club needs to improve. They are mediocre on the mound and mediocre in the field. The end result is a lackluster fielding team and pitching staff in a division ripe for the taking. Jimenez was a nice thought, but this team needs more arms. They also need to move Asdrubal Cabrera to another position, but that isn’t likely to happen.

Best Defender

Jack Hannrahan literally came to the Indians off of the MLB scrap heap. He hadn’t played in the big leagues in over a year and by the end of the season they saw why. However, his glove has always been solid and gloves are what we are focused on here. Hanrahan won’t and shouldn’t win a Gold Glove, but he was among the top five defensive third sackers in the American League.

Worst Defender

Thanks to ESPN’s Web Gems, everyone thinks Asdrubal Cabrera is all-world. The problem is that the best fielders make spectacular players look routine. The worst defenders make routine plays look spectacular. To the untrained eye, it is difficult to tell the difference. Matt LaPorta is not good, but he didn’t get regular playing time. It’s going to be interesting to see what Grady Sizemore has left when he finally gets back.

Possible Changes

Shin-Soo Choo should be healthy again next year while the club used Kosuke Fukodome down the stretch. He is a free agent and so therefore a wild card. Another wild card will be whether Grady Sizemore can go through a season healthy. Shelley Duncan looked good down the stretch, so he might end up being your left fielder full-time. The infield does not have near the amount of flux in construction.

2012 Overview

Even though Jack Hanrahan was good defensively, the Indians may be better off asking Asdurbal Cabrera to move to third base and thus allowing them to bring in a better defensive shortstop. Cabrera has the power to play third and fit in offensively. Jason Kipnis should blossom at second base. If the outfielders stay healthy this team could be very much improved offensively and defensively.

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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Filed under: MLB, SABR

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