What’s there to know about the Cleveland Indians?
Remember when the Indians won like a billion games in a row at the end of last season and then they lost to the New York Yankees in the playoffs and everyone forgot about them?
The Tribe hasn’t really been relegated to a non-factor. They’re still the obvious favorites in the American League Central, they’re just two years removed from almost winning the World Series, and they’re still the same team that won a billion games in a row at the end of last season.
Playoff flame-out aside — they went up 2-0 on the Yanks, then fell asleep, scored five runs over the next three games and blew a two-game series lead in crushing fashion for the second straight October — this is still one of baseball’s best squads.
The top four in the lineup is eye-poppingly good: Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion. Longtime slugger Carlos Santana has gone off to record another hit song with Rob Thomas (jk he’s on the Philadelphia Phillies), but the replacement, Yonder Alonso, is coming off an All-Star season in which he posted an .866 OPS.
And if it weren’t for the perpetually injured Danny Salazar and his continued injuries, this would be arguably the best rotation in baseball. Corey Kluber is your reigning AL Cy Young winner after that ridiculous 2.25 ERA. Carlos Carrasco joined Kluber in the 18-win club and had a stellar 3.29 ERA of his own. Mike Clevinger’s ERA was an even-lower 3.11. Trevor Bauer was right behind with 17 wins and had a 3.01 ERA after the All-Star break. Josh Tomlin, pressed into the rotation because of Salazar’s latest malady, had a 3.19 ERA in the second half last season.
So, you know. Really, really good.
And that bullpen still has two of baseball’s best at the back end in Cody Allen and Andrew Miller. Losing Bryan Shaw to the Colorado Rockies’ attempted super bullpen might not matter too much if those two can stay lights out.
You get it, the Indians are awesome. In a division with three teams not expected to do much of anything and a fourth with playoff hopes but anything but playoff guarantees, the Tribe should rack up the wins like they did last season. Maybe they won’t get them all in a row, but who knows.
The thing this time is they’ve got some big-time competition in the AL, something that maybe didn’t seem the case as recently as September of last year. But then the Houston Astros became baseball’s newest indestructible object, and the Tribe didn’t even get to get run over by them in the playoffs because they were stopped by the Yankees, another team with World Series expectations as 2018 gets going.
The AL doesn’t look very deep, but its teams at the top look incredible. The Indians are in that group. Let’s see if they can hold onto a two-game series lead this fall.
2017 record: 102-60, first place in AL Central, lost in ALDS
Offseason additions: Yonder Alonso, Rajai Davis, Matt Belisle
Offseason departures: Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson, Craig Breslow, Boone Logan, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith
X-factor: The Tribe's bullpen, perhaps the best in the game last season, saw a mass exodus this offseason, with Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith, among others, departing. But the new addition out there, Matt Belisle, could be a very solid under-the-radar pickup. Pitching for the division-rival Twins in 2017, he was sensational after the All-Star break, posting a pencil-thin 1.71 second-half ERA with nine saves and 28 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.
1. Francisco Lindor, SS
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B
4. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
5. Yonder Alonso, 1B
6. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF
7. Tyler Naquin, LF
8. Roberto Perez, C
9. Bradley Zimmer, CF
1. Corey Kluber
2. Carlos Carrasco
3. Trevor Bauer
4. Mike Clevinger
5. Josh Tomlin
Prediction: First place in AL Central
Catch up on the AL:
Los Angeles Angels
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Kansas City Royals
Catch up on the NL:
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets
St. Louis Cardinals