Monday, April 6, 2009

Back on track

After the Cavaliers' shameful performances on Thursday and Friday nights, which caused me to boycott my own blog, I wasn't sure what to expect yesterday afternoon at the Q. The team was possibly facing their first three-game losing streak of the season, but the guys responded in style with a 101-81 win (highlights) over the Spurs to run their home record to a sparkling 37-1 at the Q. The win drops the magic number to clinch #1 in the East to just 2 and still keeps a one-game lead over the Lakers for #1 overall.

Yesterday's game still featured way too much of Tony Parker waltzing through the lane unchallenged, too reminiscent of the 2007 Finals for my taste. I wish one of our guys at some point would just knock Parker on his ass with a hard foul instead of giving up a layup. But the Cavs did do a great job keeping Ginobili and Duncan in check, with the two of them combining for just 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

LBJ & the Cavs had a nice bounce back game Sunday afternoon

Offensively I think it may have been Delonte West's best overall performance of the year. He was aggressive and outstanding, netting 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting. And LeBron was LeBron, with a 38/6/7 line on an efficient 14-of-21 from the field. Add in Mo's 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting and the three combined for 82 points on 33-for-51 (65%) shooting. Not many teams can beat the Cavs when they play like that. It was a nice bounce back performance to right the ship before a payback game with the Wizards this Wednesday at the Q. Rumor has it that Ben Wallace will be suiting up for the good guys. Go Cavs.

Tribe Update: Hard to believe Opening Day 2009 is already here. I've neglected to spend much time on the Indians here due the the Cavs' overwhelming success. But the real games get underway in just over three hours from now when the Tribe takes the field in Texas to face the Rangers. So what to expect from the team this year? The good news is, it's an odd year. If recent Tribe history has taught us anything about that, then we should all be happy. 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2009? Let's hope for another postseason appearance. I think it's very likely with this group of guys.

A lot will hinge on the success of our starting rotation. I don't expect Cliff Lee to enjoy the same dominant Cy Young season he had last year. That's just asking too much. But I think he still will be a solid #1 starter this year. I also expect Fausto Carmona to have a nice comeback year after struggling with control problems and injury last year. The rest of the rotation is more of a question mark with Carl Pavano, Anthony Reyes, and Scott Lewis. But there are plenty of options in the minors with Aaron Laffey, David Huff, and hopefully a healthy return of Jake Westbrook, post-All-Star break.

The bullpen should be more reliable with the addition of Kerry Wood and Joe Smith to go along with the dependable options of the two Raffys (Betancourt and Perez) and Jensen Lewis. I expect this to be the major strength of this team this season and a key to their success.

The batting order should also be fine with the addition of Mark DeRosa at third base and an everyday outfield that now includes Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo. We know what to expect from Grady Sizemore, Victory Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta. Asdrubal Cabrera seems to have found his stroke again after struggling mightily last year. Kelly Shoppach should get more at-bats after last season's success and the ability to move Victor Martinez to first base when needed. Ryan Garko has had a hot spring and should also get plenty of at-bats. The one true question mark is Travis Hafner. How will his shoulder hold up? Will his timing be back? And most importantly, will the power return? If so, then this offense could really put up big numbers this season.

I honestly don't know what to expect. For fun I'll make a prediction. I think this team will go somewhere around 89-73 and it will be just good enough to win the Central. And if we get into the postseason, there's no telling what will happen from there. Hopefully we're in for a fun summer.