Monday, March 31, 2008

Cleveland Indians Preview 2008

by Coast

Finally, I am back blogging. The Cleveland Indians ran away with the American League Central a year ago and tied the Red Sox for the best record in baseball. They are now one year older and have one year more experience and that will do nothing but help this team who last year was still supposed to be a year away. Eric Wedge, the AL manager of the year in 2007, and CC Sabathia, the 2008 Cy Young winner, look to get the Indians over the hump as last year they were one win away from a World Series appearance and a guaranteed championship over the Rockies.


The Indians will return the same infield that led them to a 19-9 record in September a year ago. Returning at first base is the converted catcher Ryan Garko. Garko is improving defensively and will emerge as a force at the plate. Last year Garko hit .289 with 21 homers and 61 RBI. Look for him to improve upon all three of these numbers this season. Ass Dribbler Asdrubal Cabrera will come back as the second baseman. He may be the single player that sparked Cleveland's late season run last year. Ass dribbler may be due for a sophomore slump. It is to be determined if last years .283 batting average and .354 OBP was an aberation. Casey Blake will come back at third base. Blake is a solid player at third but is nothing special...I am still waiting for Andy Marte to amount to something but don't think it will happen. Blake had his best season in 2007 with 18 homers and 78 RBI along with a .270 average. Finally, Jhonny Peralta will return at short stop. Peralta still has a lot of upside but after he emerged in 2005, he hasn't lived up to his potential. Peralta can hit for power but needs to improve his batting average. He improved significantly last season defensively after a disastrous 2006. Finally, the Indians infield is average or slightly above average-a lot will depend on the progression of Asdrubal and Garko.


Let's not waste any time. The Indians have the best center fielder in the game. Grady Sizemore defensively makes spectacular plays game after game and causes all sorts of problems at the dish. Yeah, his batting average could use improvement, but you can't take away from his 24 homers, 78 RBI from the leadoff slot, as well we his 33 steals on .390 on base percentage. Sizemore is a two time all star and is due for a major break out season. Sizemore at 25 could be a legitimate MVP Candidate this season. In right field is the five tool talent Franklin Gutierrez. Gutierrez should improve upon his .266 batting average last year and his 13 home runs should go up as well. Franklin did most of this while platooning in the outfield much of the year. In left field is there the problem lies. The Indians have another five tool talent waiting in the wings in Ben Francisco. Ben tore it up in spring training-in 47 ABs this spring, Francisco hit .362, with 3 HRs, 9 RBI and a .404 on base percentage. Instead, based on seniority and probably money, the Indians will platoon David Delucci (.222 this spring) and Jason Michaels (.269 in the spring) in left field. This makes no sense. Francisco has all kinds of upside and is better than these two bums. Look for Francisco to be starting in left field by the all star break.


Victor Martinez will see the majority of the time at catcher. V Mart, a 2007 All Star is coming off his best season hitting .301 with 25 homers and 114 RBI. He should have similar numbers hitting cleanup for Cleveland. V Mart will also see time at first base when Kelly Schoppach catches. Schoppach catches every fifth day when Byrd pitches and does a serviceable job while giving Martinez a rest.


Travis Pronk Hafner needs to have a bounce back year for the Indians to build on what they accomplished last year. Nafner was awful last year. Yeah he hit 24 home runs and drove in 100 runs, but those are less than what is to be expected from Pronk. Even worse, Pronk's average dropped all the way to .266, the worst of his Indian career. Hafner should bounce back this year which will go a long way in the middle of Cleveland's order.


The Indians may have two bona fide aces on their staff. Obviously, CC Sabathia, last years Cy Young winner is a stud int he regular season. CC was 19-7 with a 3.21 era last year and that wasn't even best on the team. The number two man is Fausto Carmona. Carmona who found his niche as a starter after failing as a reliver has nasty stuff. Carmona was 19-8 with a 3.06 Era last year. He also finished 4th in the Cy YOung voting. Was last year an aberration for Carmona, Indians fans better hope not. Even more impressive, CC and Carmona had 2.76 and 2.26 ERAs after the break respectively. The number three man is Jake Westbrook. Jake had a much improved 2nd half with an ERA of 3.44 semi validating his 11 million per year contract. Westbrook finished 4th in the AL in era in 2005, so he has good stuff. The number 4 man is Paul Byrd who was solid last season winning 15 games. Finally, Cliff Lee beat out Adam Miller, Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey for the fifth starter job. Lee was a disaster last year but is a former 18 game winner. If Lee can get back to that form, the Indians one through five is more likely the best in baseball.

Finally the bull pen. Joe Borowski led the AL in saves last year but gives you a heart attack every game. Raffy Betancourt and Raffy Perez may be the best set up combo in baseball. They had eras of 1.47 and 1.78 respectively. Jensen Lewis was also solid out of the pen with an ERA of 2.15. Look for these three to get the bulk of the middle innings for the Indians.


Yeah, this may have been a biased preview, but let's face it, this is Cleveland's best chance at winning a title since 1998. They have a solid lineup and if Carmona pitches like he did last year, their staff will be dangerous. Hopefully Shapiro hands CC the 6 years 125 million he deserves. At some point you gotta fork over some flow for big time players.

Record, this is being realistic (slightly optimistic), assuming Carmona is the real deal: 101-61.

1 comment:

  1. 1 down 161 to's tribe time now!