Mar 16, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Mike Zagurski (58) pitches to San Francisco Giants right fielder Javier Herrera (80) in the eighth inning at Scottsdale Stadium. The Indians won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly Wroundtable: Season Preview Edition


season

Mar 16, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Mike Zagurski (58) pitches to San Francisco Giants right fielder Javier Herrera (80) in the eighth inning at Scottsdale Stadium. The Indians won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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:

  1. What will be the Indians final record this season?
  2. Where will they finish in the Central?
  3. Will they make the playoffs?
  4. Who will be the best hitter?
  5. Who will be the best pitcher?
  6. Who will be the team’s most valuable player?

Steve Kinsella:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The Kansas City Royals will overcome the impediment of having Ned Yost as their manager and make the playoffs.
  4. Carlos Santana will be the Indians best hitter (using wOBA as metric). I’m expecting a big season.
  5. Justin Masterson will build off last seasons solid showing with an even more impressive year in terms of fWAR (generated off FIP).
  6. Carlos Santana will be the teams MVP and between he and Nick Swisher will lead the team to meaningful games deep into the summer.

Ed Carroll:

  1. season santana

    Feb 24, 2014; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians catcher-outfielder Carlos Santana took part in the annual photo day at Goodyear Ballpark . Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

    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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Evan Vogel:

  1. 88-74
  2. 2nd
  3. No
  4. Jason Kipnis
  5. Corey Kluber
  6. Jason Kipnis

Kyle Downing:

  1. season kipnis

    Feb 24, 2014; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis took part in the annual photo day at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

    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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Jason Kipnis will be the Indians’ best hitter. Carlos Santana will be a close second and with slightly more home run power.
  5. 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.

Merritt Rohlfing:

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.

Brian Heise

  1. The Indians will finish the year 87-75.
  2. Unfortunately, 87-75 will only be good enough for second place in the Central. The Tigers will win it again.
  3. 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.
  4. The best hitter will be either Jason Kipnis or Carlos Santana.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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Tags: Carlos Santana Cleveland Indians Jason Kipnis Justin Masterson

  • Letterman007

    I think you all packed to many wins for the Tribe!! I’m looking at 78 wins MAX. They lost more than they picked up in free agency and the pitching is a bigger ? than last year!! They didn’t get a right handed power hitter and will have problems at third base, both defensively and offensively. They couldn’t hit good pitching last year and did nothing to improve that in the off season!! The Royals will pass the Indians and I look for the Tribe to hang on to third in the division and if they don’t do something better in the next off season, the White Sox will pass them by next year!!

    • DC

      Bigger ? than last year?? When Jimenez was coming off a disaster of a season, and even Masterson had a rough go of it the previous year? When Kazmir, a reclamation project, made the rotation? When Brett Myers was supposed to start, but then it turned out had injury issues, which eventually led to his missing pretty much the entire season? Really? I think you forget what was going on a year ago!! Maybe there’s some optimism in the win predictions, but 78 MAX seems a little too pessimistic. I would call that the low end of reasonable, to be honest. I fail to see what they lost in free agency other than the aforementioned Jimenez and Kazmir, who I don’t think are sure bets to repeat their success from 2013. I’ll miss Joe Smith (hardly irreplaceable though), but not Perez, and Axford, Outman, and Wood to say nothing of a possibly resurgent Pestano will improve the bullpen. Not having Rich Hill be the only lefty will make a huge difference alone. The lineup is pretty much intact, and I really hope you aren’t saying that losing Stubbs and his 10 homers is the big problem from the right side of the plate. Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather bank on Kluber, McAllister, and Salazar continuing to improve than hoping Jimenez and Kazmir don’t regress.

    • Letterman007

      How many one run games did they win last year? Gomes had a heck of a year and so did Rayburn! Ubaldo had a great end, or last month of the season and they won their last ten games and that was amazing! But much of this stuff won’t happen this year! they still can’t beat the good teams and the good pitching, as they have done nothing to improve their hitting and lack of power from the right side! When you tell me the biggest free agent signing is Murphy, who stunk it up last year I have to wonder, what are you thinking??!! Third base is a giant ? and Bourn hurt again doesn’t sound good. Maybe the curse of center field, remember Sizemore, always hurt!! Loosing Smith really hurt and we’ll see about Pestano I don’t think he’s all the way back yet!?
      The starting pitching is another BIG ? Masterson may be a #1 starter with the Tribe, but wouldn’t be with some other good teams! Bauer has a long way to go to make it to the majors and be consistent!! Francona is a great manager and did it with smoke and mirrors last year and when it came to the biggest game of the year, the playoff game, they were at home with a screaming, yelling throng of fans and couldn’t get a measley run off the Rays number 2 or was that their #3 Pitcher!! The smoke was gone and the mirror had cracks in it!! Basically they got lucky and, although I hope they are again. I don’t think so!!!They can’t even resign Masterson with a home town discount!!

    • http://www.wahoosonfirst.com Ed Carroll

      Biggest ? IMO is why we can’t spell out what “?” means. ;)

    • Letterman007

      ? Means they are an unsure bet at that problem area!!

    • DC

      Yeah, nice way to dodge my key point (which is that the pitching was a bigger question mark last season IMHO!!!), but OK. You lost me regarding how the performance in the wild card game has any bearing on how good their season will be. If anything I would think you would avoid discussing it when you are so convinced they won’t make it this year. What does resigning Masterson have to do with their record?

      Oh and to answer your first question they were 29-16 in 1 run games by my count. For what it’s worth I’m not sold on Murphy either, but he doesn’t exactly have big shoes to fill in Stubbs.

    • Letterman007

      Pitching is as big a? this year. Carasco is up and down and very inconsistent! Tomlin, you just don’t know about, is he healthy, how far can he go innings wise or length of season wise? Is Mcalister your number two or three? Will he have a consistent season or could he implode!?? Will he catch the Tommy John syndrome the others have and be gone half the year? They are all unproven over a long haul and you cross your fingers and hope. Kluber is still young and really doesn’t have a track record either. He and Mcalister both looked good last year, but that was last year!! Masterson is the only one with enough starts and seasons to have any kind of track record and when he leaves next year there will be problems!! Resigning Masterson would have told the rest of the team that ownership wants to try and win!! It would have a similar effect as saigning Swisher and Bourn had last year!! Now they see how CHEAP ownership is and wonder am I next to move on?
      They were 29-16 in one run games, what were they the year before? Luck had a lot to do with them winning last year and bad luck had a lot to do with them loosing the previous year! Luck doesn’t usually hold up two years in a row. Look at 2007 then 2008 seasons!
      The wild card game was a microcosm of their season. They could beat up on the lowly teams, but couldn’t beat the teams with good pitching They had enormous trouble with the Tigers, Rays Red Sox and anybody else that had good pitching! They did nothing to rectify that situation in the off season!! They went DUMSTER DIVING for free agents and still don’t have a legitimate right handed power hitter or a good glove and power bat at third base!! They basically have more questions than answers. I am a fan and truly hope things work out and they do well, but I have the same feeling in my stomach, I guess you could say, that I had before the OSU vs. Dayton game in the Dance! and it’s not going away!!

    • DC

      I’m not looking up the record in 1-run games in 2012 (completely different team BTW), it’s not worth my time. Let’s just agree to disagree here. I will say that the wildcard game was not a microcosm of the season, but again just my opinion.

    • Letterman007

      Lets just say it wasn’t as good as last year! The Indians are going to have to have a few players have career years to repeat and hope that Luck they had last year didn’t run out!! We’ll just have to disagree and see who’s closer to correct 161 games from now?!?