Cleveland Indians

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Cleveland Indians?

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USA TODAY

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Cleveland Indians?

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.

Projected lineup:

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

Projected rotation:

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:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Minnesota Twins
Cleveland Indians

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Washington Nationals
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals

Where does the Cubs lineup rank in MLB?

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AP

Where does the Cubs lineup rank in MLB?

It's that time of the year — a week out from Opening Day where all the predictions and rankings come through.

The latest coming through the baseball world is MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince creating a list of the Top 10 lineups in baseball in 2018.

The Cubs come up lower than I expected — sitting sixth.

Here are Castrovince's rankings:

1. Houston Astros
2. New York Yankees
3. Washington Nationals
4. Boston Red Sox
5. Cleveland Indians
6. Chicago Cubs
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
8. Minnesota Twins
9. St. Louis Cardinals
10. Oakland A's

We broke down our own rankings of the Top 10 lineups in Major League Baseball:

Here's how I would rank the top lineups:

1. Houston Astros
2. Washington Nationals
3. Chicago Cubs
4. New York Yankees
5. Cleveland Indians
6. Boston Red Sox
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
8. Milwaukee Brewers
9. St. Louis Cardinals
10. Minnesota Twins

The Astros should be atop everybody's list.

The Nationals may actually be an underrated powerhouse offense, even with Daniel Murphy currently injured. Once he returns, you're looking at probably the best 1-6 of any lineup in baseball with Adam Eaton and Trea Turner (two premier leadoff-type hitters) setting the table for Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Murphy (three MVP candidates) and Ryan Zimmerman cleaning things up.

The Cubs may not have the sheer strength and power of the Yankees, but the Chicago lineup is deeper and more well-rounded. Regardless of who leads off and who plays on a given day, this Cubs team will batter opposing pitchers on a nightly basis and feature what very well could be three MVP candidates — Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras.

The Yankees would see a boost here if Brett Gardner shows no signs of aging at 34 and Greg Bird finally stays healthy.

The Indians are stacked, but don't quite boast as much depth 1-9 as the other lineups ahead of them with Tyler Naquin, Roberto Perez and Bradley Zimmer projected to make up the bottom-third of the order.

The Red Sox feature a dynamic young core despite a lineup that is coming off something of a down 2017 campaing. Adding J.D. Martinez to the mix is an incredible boost, as is a full season of phenom Rafael Devers.

The Diamondbacks have Paul Goldschmidt and a few question marks — including how the new humidor will affect the way the ball jumps in the dry Arizona heat. 

With new additions like Lorenzo Cain and former Marlins outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the Cubs' main division rivals (Brewers, Cardinals) see a jump in lineup rankings.

The Dodgers are noticably absent given the injury to Justin Turner. Without him anchoring the order for the first month or so, this lineup absolutely needs Chris Taylor to turn in a repeat performance after a breakout 2017.

Michael Cuddyer's story about Jim Thome is awesome

Michael Cuddyer's story about Jim Thome is awesome

There were tons of people across the baseball world congratulating Jim Thome on his election to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday night.

But Michael Cuddyer's story on Twitter was definitely one of the coolest.

Cuddyer and Thome played together with the Minnesota Twins the season after Thome's White Sox tenure came to an end. As Cuddyer tells it, in the middle of an August 2010 game against the Cleveland Indians, Thome leaned over and asked if standing on the field was what Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig felt like back in the day — only to hit a two-run homer shortly thereafter. The two-run shot was actually the start of a five-run inning that erased the Indians' four-run lead and sent the Twins to a 5-4 win.

That's a fun moment right there, but Cuddyer goes on to explain that after the game, Thome left a signed bat on Cuddyer's chair with the inscription: "It must have been what Ruth and Gehrig felt like! Thanks for keeping old-school alive. HR #578."

That's just awesome.

Thome has a reputation for being as good a guy as he was a player, and stuff like this shows it.