#Indians Are Down But Not Out ….. Yet

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Right now the Cleveland Indians do not look like a very good baseball team and are certainly not playing like one. Even though I certainly knew that the Indians roster construction was not ideal, I was hoping it would be better than last year. So far, that is not the case.

l had put together two Indian season previews before the start of the season and decided not to run them because of the plethora of preview articles out in cyberspace. However, now that the season is well on it’s way, I found reading these previews more interesting than they would have been prior to the season. That is because we now can see early returns and compare them to the previews.

I will run the preview from CWinsMichelle first and then contrast it with the start of the season. Tomorrow, I will run my preview (CwinsJim) and contrast it with the current reality. Here is how CWinsMichelle viewed the Indians going into the season:

Starting Pitching:

The Indians are going to be counting on Kluber and Carrasco to anchor their rotation, but to me the keys are the other guys.  I feel Kluber will regress a little, but his stuff and composure will still make him the ace of this staff.  The key is can Bauer finally come around? Can McAllister return to his 2013 form before his finger injury? Can House be a reliable #5 starter? Can the depth in the minors come through if needed?  Salazar has a lot to learn, but I think we might see him play a big role.  Bauer needs to keep his walks down and not lose his composure.  He can learn from Kluber.  Can Carrasco stay consistent all year? That is a big question, but I think he can.  He’s gone through a lot to get to where he was last year. We also have to remember how good Callaway is as a pitching coach.  There is actually 1 ESPN guy that picks Carrasco to win the CY Young. I don’t see that happening, but that’s how good his last couple months were.  He has some of the best stuff in our rotation. Only time will tell.  Tomlin is a big blow to the depth, but I wasn’t counting on him. Hopefully, when he recovers, he can help us if needed down the stretch.

Relief Pitching:

The bullpen is always an up in the air thing. You really never know what might happen year to year.  For once, I feel good about our closer.  We know Allen can be dominant.  Granted he’s never been a closer all year, but he’s been an 8th inning guy and totally dominated that spot for years.  I think he’s mentally tough enough to be fine.  Only time will tell.  I really like Crockett.  Great young kid with great stuff.  He’s very young and going to be a big part of our pen.  Hagadone is a guy I have never really had confidence in, but hopefully he can be another good lefty in the pen.  We pretty much know what we can expect from “Scrabble” and Shaw.  Shaw’s spring wasn’t the greatest, but I think he will be fine.  Again, like I said, the bullpen is something you just aren’t sure about until the year starts, but it’s a HUGE part of your team. Just ask the Tigers. Their bullpen is the very reason they have not gotten that World Series Championship and it’s one of the main reasons the Indians were so successful in the 90s.

Fielding:

The fielding was so awful last year, that I can’t imagine it being any worse.  It can only get better.  I think it will help knowing that Chisenhall is there at 3rd and Santana at 1st.  There’s no question this year.  Jose Ramirez is a solid SS.  I think the fielding will improve.

Hitting:

The big key to the lineup this year is if Moss can come through and provide the power he has shown this spring.  We all know Brantley will be Brantley.  He’s such a solid hitter.  He might not put up the same numbers, but there’s no one I would rather have up there in the clutch.  One of the major factors will be health.  As much as Swisher bothers us at times, he is a big part of our team.  Also can Bourne provide the top of the lineup spark that we have been waiting for?

Biggest Strength:

I feel one of our biggest strengths is our manager.  Granted you have to have the roster as well, but Francona always gets his guys to play hard. I mean last year there were so many guys having off years and he had them in contention for almost the whole year.  It’s a LONG season.  He’s been through it all.  If anyone can win with this team, it’s him.  If you ask me what is the biggest strength baseball wise?  I would say our pitching.  I think we have a nice balance in the starting rotation and bullpen.

Biggest Weakness:

I feel our biggest weakness right now is still fielding.  I saw the other day that Chisenhall had an error that lead to 2 runs.  You have to field the ball.  Last year it was the littlest plays that cost them games.  Until they prove to me otherwise, our defense is still our biggest weakness.

I’m Worried: About the hitting mostly because I don’t know what we are going to get from Moss.  Also I’m still worried about Bourne and Swisher.  Without them, we don’t contend in my opinion.

I’m Not Worried:

About our guys playing hard every day/night.  Francona will get these guys to go out and give their all every game.

Biggest Positive Surprise:

If I had to predict, the biggest surprise this year will be our hitting.  If you look up and down our lineup, I truly believe it’s well balanced even without a big RH bat.

Biggest Negative Surprise:

I hate to look at negatives, but last year it was our defense. I was surprised it was that bad. I mean who throws a ball directly into the ground? (Raburn)  I’m not really sure what to put here.  Maybe Kluber and Brantley not having as big a year, but I don’t think that’s really a surprise.

Prediction:

I predict the Indians will contend for the division this year. Will they win it? Not sure, but I don’t see them being out of contention in September.  I feel better about this year than I did last year.  The Tigers lineup is the only thing that scares me. Their pitching without Sherzer definitely does not.

Michelle hit solid singles with her analysis of the starting pitching, biggest strength, biggest weakness, and the “I’m worried”. She so far has a big “swing and miss” in her fielding and biggest positive surprise sections. I would rate her as “working toward a walk” in the other sections based on what we know so far this season.

From this first preseason analysis it seems clear that some were hopeful the hitting and fielding would improve. I am seeing no substantive improvement in either area thus far. That is, in itself, a huge disappointment. How did your preseason thoughts match up with the Indians early season reality and Michelle’s preseason thoughts? Please let us know with a comment.

Tomorrow, I will put my preseason analysis out there and critique it based on early season returns. My guess is that I didn’t do much better considering how bad the early season has gone.