The 2013 Indians, What We Should Really Expect
In what might be the first Indians season people have been excited about since the Dolans have owned the team, fans actually believe that this team has a chance to win the Central. Do they? Sure if Justin Verlander t-bones his car into another car containing Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and all three break their hips. And that is also contingent on three of the Indians starters performing much better than history and common sense dictate they probably will perform. Yet, why get caught up in that? Let’s accentuate the positive here.
The 2012 Indians were one of the most boring baseball teams I have ever seen. It wasn’t just me either. The ocean of empty seats from August on actually spurred ownership to do something, which collectively shocked the baseball community as well as the population of NE Ohio. The free agent signing of Nick Swisher is the one people flipped out about, but the real exciting deal is Michael Bourn. Swisher got more press since he was a Yankee (as probably the sixth best hitter on the team which gives you an idea of the exhaustive press coverage the Yankees get). Bourn is the real deal though. He is a monster centerfielder, top five base stealer, and solid hitter. He really is a young Kenny Lofton. Swisher is a peak Paul Sorrento. Nothing wrong with that, but if Swisher didn’t go to Ohio State and have a “rah-rah” personality; you’d be pining for Josh Willingham.
Drew Stubbs is an interesting player. While he may never cut down on the strikeouts, he might be a guy that hits .250 with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Or he may hit .221 with 9 home runs and strike out every time you’ve got guys on first and third with one out. Still, he’s better than anything in the farm system and is still a young player. There is upside there. Since there was no way Choo would re-sign here, getting Stubbs/Bauer/whatever the hell those reliever names are was a great deal.
The Indians last year were second to last in runs scored. They were third to last in home runs. They play in Progressive Field, so they really need to score some runs. While they couldn’t go out and buy those flashy power hitters like Josh Hamilton, they could get speed guys. That was smart. They really need to make something happen and score more runs. The problem the Indians have is simple. They have NO starting pitching. The Indians had the worst ERA in the American League, and gave up the most overall runs. Allow me to put it in perspective. Last year the Indians gave up 845 runs. The Tampa Rays gave up 577. The Indians walked a lot of guys and they didn’t strike that many guys out. The pitching staff blows.
You cannot win in MLB without pitching. That’s it. There is no way around it. You can win without hitting (see Giants, San Francisco). You can’t win without pitching though. Six of the top seven pitching teams in the AL went to the Playoffs last year. (Seattle didn’t, but their offense was even worse than Cleveland’s, which is really saying something). Realistically the Indians will have to take a full run off of their ERA to get into the playoff contention mix. Can that happen? Not with this pitching staff it can’t.
Justin Masterson is widely regarded as their best starting pitcher. This is somewhat terrifying. His 4.93 ERA was brutal last year. While he was effective in 2011, that 4.93 is more in line with the 4.77, 4.55 and 4.50 he had posted in previous years. It is logical to assume 2011 was an aberration and he is a 4.50 ERA guy. That’s going to be a problem in your #1 starter. Justin Masterson is a #1 starter like the Dodge Caravan is a really kickass sports car.
Ubaldo Jimenez is an enigma. He can look really great for short stretches. He really can. Then the wheels come off all at once. He doesn’t throw 100 mph anymore. That’s over. Forget about that. He will never be that pitcher that dominated while at Coors Field. Nope. He’s the guy pitching starved Colorado traded despite a team friendly contract. He had the highest ERA of any starter in the AL last year. With luck, he can become Justin Masterson. This is your #2 starter.
Brett Myers was a fair starter for Philadelphia that never lived up to his #1 pick, 12 overall pick in the draft status. His ERA was routinely over 4.25 and he won less than half his games on some of those monster Phillie teams. The Phillies let him go and the Astros decided to make him a closer on a team that needed four starters. That was an interesting move for a team that was projected to win 55 games or so and thought of Bud Norris as their #1 guy. Myers wanted to start, the Tribe gave him $12 million, and you’ve got yourself what the team optimistically hopes will be “an inning eater”. In theory, he may be the best starting pitcher on the staff. He’d be a #5 almost anywhere else you can think of… Yikes.
Zach McAllister was really good through July last year. 3.50 ERA and a Whip around 1.30 make you The Man on this staff. What causes me concern is that his ERA was 5.25 in August/September in 12 starts. Maybe he got tired and was dinged up. Maybe other teams figured out what he could and could not do and teed off on him. I guess we’ll figure that out pretty quickly. What is it about him that makes me think of Jim Brower? Maybe the “poor man’s Seth McClung”?
Scott Kazmir won the #5 starter position. Hey, good for him. He has gone from “hottest prospect in baseball, hey girls you wanna see my wiener?” to “Didn’t that guy used to be a big deal, why is he playing semi pro baseball?” pretty quickly. Guys usually don’t come back from that, so kudos to him for doing it. Can he regain what made him a monster young talent? No. Did he learn to pitch with what he has left and can he be an effective #5? Sure. Well, maybe… He’s worth a shot until Carrasco is ready.
The Vegas number on the Indians is 79.5 wins. Last year the Indians won 68 games. Have they improved by 12 wins? I just don’t see it. You will need three of those starters to have amazing years. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine. While it is really great to hope Aerosmith will release “Toys In The Attic”, you know they are going to release “Done With Mirrors”. Why are you thinking “Get Your Wings” is coming, when you got “Honkin With Bobo” last? Another bad analogy? Don’t think that Lindsey Lohan is going to turn into Mila Kunis. She’s not. She’s Lindsey Lohan and she’s going to wreck your car while high on cocaine and meds she stole from your bathroom.
I see the Indians winning 76 games. The Tigers will win 91. The Royals win 81. The White Sox will be right there with the Indians, and the Twins will be totally awful. The good news is that they won’t lose games 7-2 anymore. They will lose them 7-5 though. They should be just good enough to keep your attention until your hopes naively move to Browns training camp.
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