With Opening day being only days away, it got me thinking about baseball. On April 4th the Cleveland Indians will be taking on the Boston Red Sox to start the 2016 season. Last year the Indians had a pretty decent year overall, but fell way short of expectations put on them from Sports Illustrated and other national media groups that thought the Tribe had what it took to make it all the way to the World Series. They finished with an overall record of 81-80 (81 wins-80 losses). With the high expectations and not making the playoffs, the pressure on management went up to go out and add the pieces needed to put them back into position to make it to the World Series.
The pitching staff on the Indians is widely believed to be top-5 in the MLB, and tops in the American League. They are the main reason why there are such high expectations on this ball club and it all starts with Corey Kluber.
Kluber is the Ace of the staff, after winning the A.L. Cy Young Award in 2014 (18-9 2.44 ERA), his 2015 season was not one that anyone seen coming. Kluber’s numbers dipped to 9-16 with a 3.49 ERA. But if you look past those numbers you can see that there are still plenty of reasons to believe that Kluber can put up numbers similar to 2014. In 2015 Kluber threw 4 complete games – that doesn’t happen unless he is pitching very well. He only threw 3 complete games the year he won the Cy Young Award. Kluber still struck out 245 batters while only walking 45. Kluber threw 222 innings and only gave up 189 hits, as opposed to 235 innings and 207 hits in 2014. Kluber’s numbers are there, showing that he is still a top notch pitcher, he simply just didn’t get the run support he needed.
Behind Kluber is a plethora of up and coming talent. The Tribe’s #2 pitcher is Carlos (Cookie) Carrasco who really came on big last season. Carassco went 14-12 with a 3.63 ERA. Cookie had 216 strikeouts in only 183.2 innings. Behind Carassco is Cody Anderson, Josh Tomlin, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer. All of those guys are young and filled with potential and the main reason why many people look at the Indians as a World Series contender.
The bullpen seemed to be the main focus for the Indians in the offseason. Many teams are following the Kansas City Royals blueprint of success and the Indians are no different. They added players such as Tommy Hunter, Dan Otero, and Jeff Manship all just to the bullpen, and are currently rumored to be in talks with the Texas Rangers about a starter for reliever trade. We will see how that shakes out, but it appears that the Indians are securing the bullpen and going to try to make a run as long as they can get some help on the offensive side.
One key player they brought in hoping to provide some much needed run support is First Baseman Mike Napoli. Napoli comes to Cleveland from Texas after he started last season in Boston. Napoli brings 204 career home runs to Cleveland along with 577 career RBI’s. The Tribe will rely on him to hit in the middle of the lineup. Along with Napoli the Indians added Rajai Davis, and Juan Uribe to the lineup.
Davis has spent the last few seasons up north playing for the Detroit Tigers. He will provide some speed on the base paths and some dependable defense in the outfield. Juan Uribe is a veteran who will be 37 when the season starts and looks to be the Indians 3rd baseman. Uribe is one of the better defenders even at his age at a position that the Tribe desperately need help.
This will be the first full season for Rookie sensation Francisco Lindor and I am really looking forward to following this young mans career. He and Jason Kipnis make up a great combo up the middle for the Tribe. Once Michael Brantley gets healthy we will see if he can return to his near MVP form. It appears this season may be a make or break year for Carlos Santana who they removed from Catcher to play third base, that didn’t work out so they tried him at first, and with Napoli looking to be the everyday first baseman Santana looks poised to be they everyday DH. Manager Terry Francona will certainly have his hands full, but he seems to be excited for the challenge.
When you examine this roster from top to bottom they appear to have all the pieces. The only question mark will be if they are going to be able to produce enough runs. Even with the addition of Napoli they still lack that one big power bat that keeps opposing pitchers awake at night. The strength of the pitching staff should lessen that problem as the Tribe look to make their run at the first Championship in Cleveland since 1964 and the first for the Indians since 1948.
With all that being said I expect a jump in the record for the Indians this season but I still dont think they have the lineup to compete with the teams that are spending twice as much in payroll as the Tribe…my 2016 Cleveland Indians record prediction is 91-71 but being eliminated early in the playoffs.