Previewing the 2014 Season
The new season is finally upon us. Well, it’s almost upon us, but you get the point. For this week’s edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, I asked the staff a series of questions, wanting to know how they saw the 2014 season playing out. Bear in mind, this isn’t the bold prediction Wroundtable question where we make ourselves look like idiots 4 months later. This is much simpler than that. So without further ado, here is this week’s edition of the Weekly Wroundtable.
Here are the questions:
- What will be the Indians final record this season?
- Where will they finish in the Central?
- Will they make the playoffs?
- Who will be the best hitter?
- Who will be the best pitcher?
- Who will be the team’s most valuable player?
- 85-77 – Most teams have ifs to answer and as usual the mid-market teams have more than others which limits the amount of certainty in predicting a win total.
- 3rd place – This seems like a poor season but I believe it will be a very close grouping between Cleveland, Detroit, and Kansas City. Only a few “ifs” have to be answered to the positive to flip this to 1st and the win total above to greater than 90.
- The Kansas City Royals will overcome the impediment of having Ned Yost as their manager and make the playoffs.
- Carlos Santana will be the Indians best hitter (using wOBA as metric). I’m expecting a big season.
- Justin Masterson will build off last seasons solid showing with an even more impressive year in terms of fWAR (generated off FIP).
- Carlos Santana will be the teams MVP and between he and Nick Swisher will lead the team to meaningful games deep into the summer.
I have the Tribe at 85 wins, which I think is a fairly-conservative estimate. Though I would have liked the team to sign another starting pitcher (and for the record, re-signing Ubaldo Jimenez would have jumped this prediction up to the 88-90 win range), I sort of admire the dedication to the in-house options, but at the same time I’m a tad nervous at relying on at least one of the Tomlin/McAllister/Carrasco/Bauer group to make an impact in the rotation. That said, there are reasons for hope in the young staff, and my 85 win estimate could look pessimistic by the end of the year.
- If I had been asked this prior to the injury bug hitting the Detroit Tigers (shin fractures to SS Jose Iglesias, Tommy John surgery for RHP Bruce Rondon), I would have said the Indians were fighting for another Wild Card berth, though they could certainly make it interesting in the division. With Detroit’s depth eroded, I think the AL Central crown becomes much more viable for Cleveland (though I will stop short of predicting a division championship). I don’t share the optimism many pundits have towards the Kansas City Royals, but I expect them to be in the mix for most of the season as well. In any rate, it will be nice for the Central to be competitive for the second year in a row. Cleveland in second place.
- I expect the Indians to at least make the Wild Card game, so if you ask the casual Indians fan (or one who listens to former Indians Outfielder Kenny Lofton), no, the Indians won’t make the playoffs.
- Carlos Santana will be the team’s best hitter, regardless of where he plays, as he kinda has been since he came up to the big leagues in 2010. Cleveland fans will still think he sucks.
- Starting pitcher: This could look really dumb by the end of the year, but I would not be shocked to see (another) great year out of RHP Corey Kluber. He may not end up as the “best” on the Indians (though he could well be), but I do expect him to establish himself as an above-average-to-very-good middle-of-the-rotation starter this season. Relief pitcher: Being the best relief pitcher is like saying you’re the best at hackey sack, meaning nobody cares. But I’m going to throw (yet another) plug for RHP Blake Wood. I’ve been saying this since last season, but Wood has a live arm (and has been clocked at 97 MPH this spring), and his control has returned as he’s recovered from Tommy John surgery. He has the potential to be a valuable high-leverage weapon for Terry Francona out of the pen.
- He might not end up the most valuable in terms of WAR or other statistics, but a healthy and productive Michael Bourn in centerfield could be the difference-maker this team needs. Bourn’s 2013 was disappointing, and there are red flags aplenty going forward with the outfielder (anyone hoping for a reduction in strikeouts and increased OBP from Bourn haven’t been paying attention), but Bourn’s sub-par defense really hurt the team last season, and a positive regression in that area could pay huge dividends for this young pitching staff.
- Also important will be my pick for the biggest surprise on the team (and hopefully the last year I ever have to type something like this): Lonnie Chisenhall will (finally) assert himself as a viable starting third baseman, and though Francona may still sit him against tough lefties (think David Price, not Bruce Chen), I expect Lonnie to remain with Cleveland the entire season and surpass 400 at bats for the first time in his career. I expect Santana to move into a role similar to how the Tampa Bay Rays used Ben Zobrist for many years – in different positions simply to keep his bat in the lineup.
- Jason Kipnis
- Corey Kluber
- Jason Kipnis
90-72. I’d like to remain optimistic but I feel as though some regression from last year is in order. The rotation may take a small step backwards but I think the offense will only get better.
- First place. I want to be the one with blind optimism and say that the Tigers’ shortstop situation will hurt them. I also think the loss of Doug Fister and the questions in the outfield will bring them down a peg. I say they finish at 88-74.
- Yan Gomes will hit 25 home runs. Danny Salazar will pitch a no-hitter. David Murphy will lose his starting spot and become the reserve outfielder before June… Oh, and yes, they will make the playoffs.
- Jason Kipnis will be the Indians’ best hitter. Carlos Santana will be a close second and with slightly more home run power.
- Danny Salazar will emerge as a Cy Young caliber pitcher as the season progresses. Masterson will do great work, but Salazar will emerge as the Tribe’s best pitcher.
The Indians’ record will be 91-71, second in the AL Central. They’ll make the play-in game and win, but will probably be bounced in the ALDS. They’re going to do better against the Tigers though, I’m saying at least six wins. Mainly because no Doug Fister.
The Indians’ best hitter will be Jason Kipnis, who will have a career high in homers, an OPS over .875 and have at least eight or nine game-winning hits. He’ll also beat the White Sox in Chicago single-handedly one day, going 4-for-5 with two homers and a triple. We will curse that he didn’t get the cycle. I will be at that game. They’ll win 2-1.
The best pitcher will be Justin Masterson, just to break all our hearts when he leaves, and his inclusion of a new, bad ass change up to his repertoire will make him nigh unhittable. He’ll have four shutouts.
Their MVP will be Carlos Santana, whose versatility in the field (3B, 1B, C) will help them avoid any major drop-offs in production when Yan Gomes and Nick Swisher hit the DL for short stints. He will also lead the team in homers and be second to only Kipnis in OPS/whatever other advanced rate stat you want to use.
- The Indians will finish the year 87-75.
- Unfortunately, 87-75 will only be good enough for second place in the Central. The Tigers will win it again.
- They’ll make the play-in game for the second season in a row. This time, I think they win it but come up short in the ALDS.
- The best hitter will be either Jason Kipnis or Carlos Santana.
- I’m going out on a limb here, but the best pitcher will end up being Zach McAllister. Not that anyone else will fall off, but I think this is the year where McAllister makes the leap.
- The most valuable player will be Jason Kipnis from a statistical standpoint. From a total contribution, meaning his contribution in the clubhouse, on the field and any number of other ways, I think that will be Swisher. I think this is the year we see just how valuable his personality and leadership can be.