Indians trying to get back on top

Editor's note: Throughout August, ESPN.com will take a close look at various teams in the hunt for a playoff spot to assess whether they have what it takes to survive the dog days of August and remain in contention come October.

At the bottom of the page, each team will receive a dog bone rating based on our overall analysis: five bones = serious postseason contender; four bones = good contender; three bones = average contender; two bones = poor contender; one bone = no contender.

Who's the big dog?

Asdrubal Cabrera


From 2007-10, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a total of 18 home runs. In 2011, his first season as an All-Star, he's hit 20. Cabrera leads the team in almost all offensive categories: home runs, average (.291), RBIs (74), hits (139), stolen bases (16), doubles (27) and runs (75). Though his .972 fielding percentage places him in the middle of the pack among shortstops, he's made a number of spectacular, highlight reel-worthy plays this season. And Justin Masterson has been a reliable force in the starting rotation (10-7, 2.71 ERA), despite his lack of run support.

-- Stephanie Liscio, It's pronounced "Lajaway," an affiliate of the SweetSpot Network

Who needs to step up?

The offense really needs to come on strong in the final month of the regular season. It has shown some signs of life recently. Big performances from Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana, Matt LaPorta and Travis Hafner could push the Indians into the playoffs. The team also needs consistency from Fausto Carmona and recent acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez. Carmona has shown flashes of improvement recently -- over his past six starts he's 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA. As a comparison, in the month of June, he was 1-4 with a 7.62 ERA.

-- Stephanie Liscio, It's pronounced "Lajaway," an affiliate of the SweetSpot Network

Key stat: situational hitting

One of the keys to the Indians' success this season has been their ability to hit with runners on base. With the bases empty, Cleveland is hitting only .235. However, with runners on, the Indians know what to do at the plate, especially with the bases loaded. Cleveland's .365 average with the bases full is almost 100 points higher than the league average. The main catalyst has been Cabrera, who's hitting a baseball-best .857 (6-for-7) with the bases loaded.

-- ESPN Stats & Info

Where are they going?

With few competitive playoff races at this point, our attention turns to the developing three-team race in the American League Central. Detroit, currently the division leader, is a fairly straightforward team carried by four star players (Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and the surprising Alex Avila). Chicago sits four games out and is left wondering where it would be if Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and others had produced closer to expectations. Cleveland, on the other hand, is the surprise contender and a bit of an enigma.

When you look at its roster, no player really jumps out at you. The Indians' biggest names -- Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner -- have all missed significant time due to injuries. Even when healthy, Choo and Sizemore have had disappointing offensive campaigns. Carlos Santana, though he's shown tremendous patience, is still hitting a disappointing .239 on the season.

For more of Ben Jedlovec's analysis, click here.Insider