2014 IBI Roundtable: Indians and MLB predictions
Well, a-beat the drum and hold the phone
The sun came out today
We're born again, there's new grass on the field
A-roundin' third and headed for home
It's a brown-eyed handsome man
Anyone can understand the way I feel
Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Look at me, I can be centerfield
- John Fogerty - Centerfield
Who is ready for some baseball?
I know I am. And I know that 12 other esteemed writers at the IBI are as well.
It has been almost six months to the day that the Indians lost to the Rays in the single-game elimination Wild Card game against the Rays at Progressive Field, and after a long offseason that was relatively quiet on the news front for the Indians there is a feeling of optimism going into the season – something not genuinely felt since 2008.
With the dawn of a new Indians season here, I pooled together several IBI writers and put together a roundtable to get their quick thoughts on the Indians this season, their season predictions for the Indians, and their MLB predictions as well.
Enjoy! And PLAY BALL!
Tony Lastoria: It was a fun summer last season for Indians fans, especially after the horrific second half the season before. Terry Francona came into a situation in Cleveland where things were spiraling out of control and he brought in a fresh new way of thinking and cultural change which dramatically shifted the entire way the organization operates from the top down. The results were immediate as the Indians enjoyed playoff baseball – albeit one game – for the first time since 2007. This season I look for the Indians to be competitive once again, and while there are fewer question marks with the roster there are still plenty of concerns going into the season. Can players like Yan Gomes and Ryan Raburn have such amazing seasons again? Can the starting rotation lead them like they did down the stretch last year even though two key starters are missing from last year’s staff? Can Carlos Santana handle third base on a regular basis? All of that and more will be answered over the course of the next six months, but I have a feeling the Indians will be in the thick of things well into September but fall just short of the division and/or wildcard. I see them as sort of like the Orioles of last season who did okay (85-77) but fell short of the playoffs after surprising and making the playoffs in 2012 (93-69) after an awful 2011 season (69-93). Record: 84-78
Jim Berdysz: Last year was just the beginning. Expectations couldn't be any higher for the Tribe in 2014. No, they didn't make a big splash this winter, but the core of the team that experienced postseason baseball in Cleveland remains intact. It's the bad taste at the end of last season that will drive this team, as they board a new 162-game roller coaster ride ahead. Offense is what the Indians will need to rely on in order to be successful, but pitching will ultimately decide their fate. If Corey Kluber or a guy like Trevor Bauer can break loose, lookout American League Central. Record: 90-72
Kevin Dean: Despite significant departures and minimal additions, I think there are three reasons why these Indians can be as competitive as the 2013 version: the team's depth and versatility, a full season of Yan Gomes catching and Danny Salazar pitching, and Michael Bourn, Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Swisher likely not collectively underperforming as much as they did last year. Platoons will be of wild importance (David Murphy and Ryan Raburn in a true one, Lonnie Chisenhall getting the designated hitter at-bats against right-handers, and Josh Outman and Marc Rzepczynski facing primarily left-handers), and the defense has to improve somehow. Francisco Lindor...? Record: 88-74
Jake Dungan: Like many, I was hoping to see the rotation improved this offseason with either the possible retention of Ubaldo Jimenez and/or Scott Kazmir or bringing in someone else. While I don’t necessarily doubt the potential of the guys in the rotation now, they have a lot more to prove. If John Axford is effective as a closer, the bullpen should be one of the best in baseball. The lineup is about the same, which isn't bad considering that they finished in the top five in the league in runs scored. I would like to see them produce a little more consistently with less peaks and valleys. If it all clicks (and under Francona, I think it can) I believe this team is another 90+ game-winner. Record: 91-71.
Jeff Ellis: I am again not super high on the Indians. I worry about the loss of Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez. For all the talk about Asdrubal Cabrera having a career year, I feel like there is a better chance he is just done. There is a lot of faith being put on four pitchers who all missed a month of more last year. The fifth spot has a guy who has spent four years now trying to nail down a spot in the rotation who won it over a pitcher who would set the record for home runs given up in a season if he pitched regularly. I think the offense should be improved, but the starting pitching has me very concerned. In a perfect world the Indians get the Wild Card again this year, the young players improve and step up, and next year the Indians end up with four first-rounders because Masterson and Asdrubal play at All Star levels - and the Indians continue to build on a good team now and an even better future. Record: 85-77
Michael Goodman: I’m predicting that the Indians will have a record similar to last year, with one caveat. I don’t think they’ll be able to manage injuries in their rotation as well as they did last year. The offense should perform at least as well as last year, with some upside to be even better. The bullpen should continue to be strong. The team’s defense isn’t one of its strengths, but it remains mostly intact from last year and at the least shouldn’t be considerably worse. Just like last year, the team’s success if going to fall on the rotation. Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Zach McAllister, and Carlos Carrasco are all talented pitchers who the team will need to step up in a big way. If any combination of those four struggle or get injured, things could unravel quickly. I’m expecting big things form Kluber and Salazar this year, and I think they’ll team with Justin Masterson to form a formidable group at the top of the rotation. Beyond that, I’m optimistic that Carlos Carrasco will be able to hold down his rotation spot and finally break through. Record: 91-71
John Grimm: Optimism or pessimism in assumptions: if one gives it to the Tribe, one has to give it to the Royals and Tigers. The best-case scenario for the Tigers pitching staff is a replication of 2013 - four all-star caliber pitchers and Porcello filling Fister's shoes: that is, insurmountable. Yet the Royals' best case scenario involves Vargas, Guthrie, and Chen being average pitchers. The Indians' best-case is unlikely, but a one through four of Salazar, Kluber, Masterson, and Carrasco could be a match for Detroit's top four. Overtaking the Tigers would take a tremendous (but possible!) amount of good luck - similarly, taking third in the division would require a similar (but possible!) amount of bad luck. But I believe in The Salazar - 2014 will see a star rise like no other. Record: 84-78
Michael Hattery: This prediction is probably not analytically sound nor is it separate from emotion, perhaps a few weeks ago I would have had a more neutral opinion. The lineup will be top 10 in MLB in runs scored due to optimized platoons and a collection of solid OBP types. The bullpen while seemingly impossible to predict, simply looks better despite the loss of Joe Smith. Lastly, the pivotal rotation is very talented, yet enigmatic. I think the front four is very impressive and if they get at least a 150 innings out of each, this team is a playoff team. Lastly, is starting pitching depth, which Tomlin, Bauer, House and Anderson credibly offer this team. They will once again be in contention with some dangerous upside if they make it to the divisional round. 88-74
Andy Nichols: My belief is that the Indians will once again have a September of meaningful baseball, but Cleveland will eventually fall just a couple games out of the final Wild Card spot. Pitching is my main area of concern heading into 2014. I think Masterson will have another great year, and I think Corey Kluber will really solidify himself as a solid-to-above average number two starter. The rest of the rotation scares me a little. I'm not as high on Danny Salazar as most - at least not for this season. His fastball is straight as an arrow and he really only throws two pitches consistently well. Delmon Young showed in last season's Wild Card game that if a Major League hitter is sitting fastball and he gets one that's perfectly straight, no matter how hard it is, he can do some damage with it. I also believe that Zach McAllister will be sent to the minors at some point this year due to poor performance. I just really think he's going to have a rough year. I also don't see Carlos Carrasco lasting long in the rotation. However, I do think the combination of Josh Tomlin, Shaun Marcum, and Trevor Bauer will provide great depth for the rotation and keep the Indians in the race. And I do like this offense and bullpen a lot. In the end, the Tribe falls just short of making the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995-1999. Record: 87-75
Steve Orbanek: It makes me chuckle when I think of how things change year to year. I am usually an optimistic person, and that’s evidenced by my prediction last season of 89-73. When you look at the Indians today, March 31, 2014, it’s clear that there are far less question marks now than there were on the same date in 2013. I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves. Who really thought that last year’s rotation would be so spectacular? We seem to have a much better idea of what to expect this coming year, but I think this team will struggle to match last year’s 92-win total. I really think the losses of both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir are going to be felt this year, but not to the point that the team won’t be able to overcome those losses. I have no faith in Carlos Carrasco as the fifth starter, but I believe that one of either Josh Tomlin or Trevor Bauer grabs that spot and makes an impact this year. The one thing that this year’s spring training did was remind me of what a special talent Bauer can be. I’m hoping that he shows that talent this year, and helps the Tribe go to the postseason for a second straight season. Record: 89-73
Jim Pete: Most experts are calling for 82 wins and third in the division. My brain is saying wildcard again. My gut is saying that the Indians are going to win the division. For that to happen the starting pitching has to be sound. I think Justin Masterson is going to take the next step, and Danny Salazar is going to showcase a full season of special. Corey Kluber will create a big three, staying healthy and improving on his last season numbers. I like Zach McAllister, and the five slot will be ably filled by a committee. The offense will improve. Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis are going to solidify themselves as stars. Yan Gomes will stay steady. Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and David Murphy will improve. I like the makeup of the bullpen, but refuse to predict there, as it's always different than I see it. We'll see some new blood in the mix as well, and I firmly believe some new faces come at the trade deadline. Terry Francona will build upon the foundation from last year, and I see this Indians team overtaking an AL Central in flux. Record: 88-74
Jim Piascik: Most projections seem to have Cleveland finishing around .500, but something projections cannot capture is platooning. Cleveland led all of baseball in hitting with the platoon advantage (helped by switch-hitters, of course, but that could be by design) and players like David Murphy and Ryan Raburn will likely outperform their projections when used in a platoon. Yet this is only worth a few wins at most. I see Cleveland finishing 85-77, not because of a poor offseason, but because the team played a little beyond it's true talent last year to get to 92 wins. I see some natural regression coming, not just another Mark Shapiro/Chris Antonetti screwup. Record: 85-77
Andrew Zajac: The Indians will finish in second place at 84-78 four games behind Detroit. The Kansas City Royals will finish 82-80 and give the Indians a run for their money. Corey Kluber will be the sleeper of this team. Francisco Lindor doesn't get called up until very late in the season (early September). This will also be Carlos Santana's best year of his career offensively. Record: 84-78
|Tony Lastoria||Jim Berdysz||Kevin Dean||Jake Dungan|
|AL East||Red Sox||Yankees||Rays||Rays|
|AL Wildcard||Rays||Red Sox||Red Sox||Tigers|
|AL Wildcard||Angels||Angels||Indians||Red Sox|
|World Series||Cardinals over Red Sox||Nationals over Yankees||Cardinals over Rays||Nationals over Rays|
|AL Cy Young||Justin Verlander||Jon Lester||Yu Darvish||Felix Hernandez|
|NL Cy Young||Jose Fernandez||Stephen Strasburg||Clayton Kershaw||Jose Fernandez|
|AL MVP||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout|
|NL MVP||Freddie Freeman||Bryce Harper||Yadier Molina||Paul Goldschmidt|
|AL ROY||Masahiro Tanaka||Masahiro Tanaka||Masahiro Tanaka||Yordano Ventura|
|NL ROY||Archie Bradley||Billy Hamilton||Billy Hamilton||Gregory Polanco|
|AL Manager||John Farrell||Ron Washington||Joe Maddon||Joe Madden|
|NL Manager||Mike Matheny||Matt Williams||Mike Matheny||Matt Williams|
|Jeff Ellis||Michael Goodman||John Grimm||Michael Hattery|
|AL East||Red Sox||Yankees||Red Sox||Rays|
|AL Wildcard||Rays||Red Sox||Rays||Indians|
|AL Wildcard||Rangers||Indians||Rangers||Red Sox|
|World Series||Dodgers over Athletics||Dodgers over Tigers||Tigers over Dodgers||Nationals over Rays|
|AL Cy Young||Yu Darvish||Yu Darvish||Yu Darvish||David Price|
|NL Cy Young||Clayton Kershaw||Clayton Kershaw||Clayton Kershaw||Jose Fernandez|
|AL MVP||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout|
|NL MVP||Paul Goldschmidt||Joey Votto||Clayton Kershaw||Bryce Harper|
|AL ROY||Xander Bogaerts||Masahiro Tanaka||Masahiro Tanaka||Xander Bogaerts|
|NL ROY||Gregory Polanco||Billy Hamilton||Javier Baez||Kolten Wong|
|AL Manager||Bob Melvin||Brad Ausmus||Brad Ausmus||Joe Maddon|
|NL Manager||Bruce Bochy||Matt Williams||Fredi Gonzalez||Matt Williams|
|Andy Nichols||Steve Orbanek||Jim Pete||Jim Piascik||Andrew Zajac|
|AL East||Rays||Rays||Rays||Red Sox||Rays|
|AL Wildcard||Red Sox||Red Sox||Red Sox||Angels||Red Sox|
|World Series||Cardinals over Royals||Rays over Nationals||Nationals over Rays||Dodgers over Red Sox||Nationals over Rays|
|AL Cy Young||Felix Hernandez||Chris Sale||Chris Sale||Justin Verlander||Yu Darvish|
|NL Cy Young||Adam Wainwright||Clayton Kershaw||Jose Fernandez||Clayton Kershaw||Clayton Kershaw|
|AL MVP||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout|
|NL MVP||Yadier Molina||Joey Votto||Bryce Harper||Buster Posey||Bryce Harper|
|AL ROY||Xander Bogaerts||Xander Bogaerts||Jose Abreu||Xander Bogaerts||Xander Bogaerts|
|NL ROY||Billy Hamilton||Billy Hamilton||Billy Hamilton||Gregory Polanco||Billy Hamilton|
|AL Manager||Ned Yost||Joe Maddon||Terry Francona||Bob Melvin||Joe Maddon|
|NL Manager||Walt Weiss||Matt Williams||Clint Hurdle||Matt Williams||Bruce Bochy|
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
I just think were going to see a much more balanced division...and I don't think the White Sox will touch 90...
We have never seen a back-to-back winner in the AL ever...only back-to-back winner in its history was Bobby Cox in 2004 and 2005.
Francona very easily could 'deserve' manager of the year again...but voters seem to like to spread this award around. Gonna be very tough for him to win it again with some voters thinking he won it last year (and some thinking Farrell or Melvin deserved it more anyways). Not saying it's a bad pick at all though.
I don't really think it's so much a Detroit collapse though.
Maybe I'm naive...but I refuse to believe the Indians will go 4-15 against the Tigers again this year. You can easily argue the Tigers were a better, more talented team last year..but no way can you convince me they were THAT much better.
While at the end of the day ultimately meaningless, I still find it interesting that the Tigers' winning percentage against all teams other than Cleveland was only .545 last year....which would have correlated to only an 88 win season...if not for their ridiculous .789 mark against the Tribe.
The Indians winning percentage against all teams other than Detroit was an outstanding .615 (no team in baseball even had a .600 win percentage last year)...which correlates to a 100 win season. However, against Detroit it was a pathetic .211.
Obviously you play the schedule you're given (the Tribe was not a 100 win team they were a 92 win team)...Tribe dominated their weak parts of the schedule, Detroit owned us, etc...but can the Tigers really improve against the rest of the AL with all the talent they've lost? Or can they really expect to beat Cleveland at a near .800 clip again?
That all said, would not surprise me if the Tigers won the division again...would be equally unsurprising if they finished 3rd in the division.
Division is likely to come down to who does best in the division (as usual)...
Of course, that all depends on my Tigers' collapse scenario...
Will it even take 90 wins to win the AL Central?
Would not surprise me at all if we are looking at three 85 win teams and zero 90 win teams out of the Central....
Lots of talk how the Tribe didn't improve...but I don't see how anyone can look at the Tigers and not see a vastly worse team. Rotation is worse, bullpen is at best the same, offense is worse...even defensively I'm not sure they are better. Sure getting Miggy off 3B helps but Kinsler is a step down from Infante at 2B and SS is not going to see the improvement they were hoping for with Igelsias out (plus Peralta was solid).
Royals did improve the offense a lot...but losing Santana could hurt (Vargas may be able to replace him but maybe not) and that pen took a big hit with Hochevar gone (and Smith traded).
Gonna be a fun division race to watch IMO.
On paper the bullpen is just about as good as any in baseball. If Wood comes through then it's the best regardless of Pestano's performance.
Offensively, weren't they in the top 5 in runs scored. That's with poor performances from Swisher, Bourne, and Cabrera. Santana should perform better without the rigors of catching full time. Gomes will be in the lineup for the entire season instead of 88 games. Cabrera will not perform as bad as last year. The combination of Murphy's and Raburn's numbers in RF will probably be all star caliber. Kipnis will maintain at the least, and all indicators point to improvement. The bench is versatile and good. We have 2 kids ready to take over at SS that would immediately improve this team defensively, and maybe offensively too. Brantley has proven he improves a little every season, and there's no reason to doubt that he will continue to do so.
The two biggest factors in my opinion are Terry Francona and Mickey Calloway. The last I remember they both coach for the Cleveland Indians. I think it will be a close race between the Tigers and the Indians if both remain healthy, but I couldn't tell you which team I'd put my money on. This team is good and I'm tired of people not giving them the credit they deserve.
All in all, the Tigers are the best on paper, but they already have some key injuries. Youth is starting to fade and they have exactly nothing in their minors to use in a trade or on the field. The likeliness of Sherzer performing at that level again isn't likely. Hell, with his injury history, he's more likely to miss a good portion of the season. KC has youth and potential in the upper minors, but for anyone to say they are better than the Indians at this time is terribly mistaken. You think we have problems in the back of our rotation, after Shields they have 3 league average starters and a question mark.