Cleveland Indians Last Year: 81-81 3rd in AL Central This Year: 2nd in AL Central
Last year Cleveland had expectations to compete for the division and take a step from 2007's run to ALCS Game 7. It quickly unraveled thanks to the disappearance of Travis Hafner and others. This lead to a sale trading away C.C. Sabathia and Casey Blake. They have re-tooled in the winter by adding Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa. A lot of outlets have the Indians as a favorite in the AL Central but they have a few holes that would need to be patched in order to do so.
Opening Day Lineup w/Projections CF Grady Sizemore .281 33 HR 84 RBI 40 SB 3B Mark DeRosa .287 14 HR 76 RBI C Victor Martinez .297 22 HR 107 RBI DH Travis Hafner .237 19 HR 89 RBI SS Jhonny Peralta .284 25 HR 96 RBI RF Shin-Soo Choo .294 19 HR 83 RBI 1B Ryan Garko .267 14 HR 69 RBI LF Ben Francisco .270 16 HR 62 RBI 2B Asdrubal Cabrera .266 8 HR 52 RBI
Rotation LHP Cliff Lee 16-11 3.79 ERA 143 K RHP Fausto Carmona 16-12 3.89 ERA 119 K RHP Carl Pavano 5-9 4.98 ERA 89 K RHP Aaron Reyes 6-12 5.34 ERA 103 K LHP Aaron Laffey 7-8 4.12 ERA 79 K
CP RHP Kerry Wood 3.14 ERA 29 SV 78 K
Best Case Scenario: Hafner is rejuvenated and once again is a force in the middle of the lineup. Martinez and Sizemore stay healthy. DeRosa and Cliff Lee repeat the career years of last year. Kerry Wood stays healthy and is a dominant closer. Carmona bounces back and is a front-line ace again. Carl Pavano makes at least 15 starts. This team wins the AL Central.
Worst Case Scenario: Hafner can't find the power and is phased out for Matt LaPorta. Cliff Lee returns to his 4.14 career ERA and Carmona repeats last year's performance. Kerry Wood proves it wasn't just the curse of the Billy Goat and he is a oft-injured pitcher. Pavano is Carl Pavano and misses three months due to a paper cut. The team finishes below .500 and 4th in AL Central.
Player Most Important to Success: Kerry Wood. Last year Kerry Wood pitched the most innings he had since 2005 as he moved from a starter to a closer. It worked for the Cubs as he had 34 saves in 40 opportunities with an ERA of 3.26. The question is whether he can stay healthy again this year. The Cubs last year had an insurance plan of Marmol if Wood got hurt. The problem is the Indians don't. If Kerry Wood goes down the closer would likely be Rafael Betancourt who had an ERA of 5.07 last year and was 4-8 in save opportunities. If Wood is healthy they will have the lockdown closer they have not had in a long time. If he is injured this team will struggle mightily to hold leads and keep opposing teams under 6 runs with a mediocre pitching staff.
Outlook: People looking to the Indians as favorites see Sizemore, Martinez, Hafner, DeRosa, Cliff Lee, Carmona and Wood. They fail to see Hafner hit 5 homeruns and batted .197 last year. Martinez and Sizemore are often hurt. DeRosa and Lee had huge career years at age 33 and 29. Carmona had a terrible last year and ask a Cubs fan if you should bank a season on Kerry Wood. People see the names and they are more impressive than Span, Casilla, Slowey, and Kubel so they are made favorites but they have huge holes that are being overlooked. Even if Lee and Carmona pitch well they have no pitching after that. How can you pick a team that has Carl Pavano penciled in as the #3 pitcher. They have holes at LF and RF in Shin-Soo Choo and Ben Francisco. There bullpen is not very good even with a healthy Kerry Wood even worse without. This team will be decent but they are overhyped by those who see the big names and in actuality they are a .500 2nd place team.