Unfinished business for Tribe
Although the wait has been, well, excruciating for some of us, by the time you get the next issue of the Observer, the Cleveland Indians will have opened the 2018 campaign. And after the topsy-turvy results the Tribe experienced the past couple of seasons, it is probably foolish to try and predict what the 2018 season will bring. But the threat of good sense has never deterred me in the past, so why start now?
After all, the 2016 Indians were never expected to reach World Series – never mind play a 7th game – but they stunned baseball and did exactly that. Then last year, the 2017 edition, appearing far superior to the 2016 version and everyone’s choice to reach the World Series again, stubbed their collective toes (and that’s understating it a bit). The Tribe did a pratfall in the first round of the AL playoffs – losing a best-of-five series with the Yankees after being up 2-0 in the series.
So, with all of that befuddling recent history in mind, let’s (attempt to) take a look at the 2018 Indians.
The starting pitchers were without question the best in baseball last year. They show no signs of slowing down and, as hard as it is to imagine, there is no reason they can’t be even better this year, either. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin could easily win 75 games between them.
Of course, the way the game is structured today, you need a good bullpen for your starters to win games, since relief pitching has become much more important than 10-15 years ago. Fortunately, the Indians have two of the best in Cody Allen and Andrew Miller at the back end of the ‘pen. Much has been written of the exodus of Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, et al, but manager Terry Francona excels at in-game strategy with his pitchers. Besides, with even an average group of relievers, the starters can take this team a long way. Not to worry.
An infield featuring Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and a rejuvenated Jason Kipnis has plenty of offensive firepower. Toss in the parrot man, Edwin Encarnacion, and you have at least 100 homers between that quartet.
Everyone seems bent out of shape with the outfield – primarily because of the precarious (unstable) physical condition of Michael Brantley – but I’m not overly concerned. First of all, I think Bradley Zimmer is the real deal, and this season he will establish himself as the Tribe’s center fielder for possibly the next decade. If Lonnie Chisenhall can keep himself healthy – and he’s due for a stretch of good health – he’s proven he can carry the team with his bat.
Lastly, people like to complain about the catching duo of Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, but the pair ranks very high in all of baseball in run production.
So what do I see for 2018? I’m thinking about 97 wins, and I expect someone in the division – maybe the White Sox or Twins – to give the Tribe a run for their money. And in the playoffs, look for the Indians to thrive once again as underdogs and at least make it to the ALCS. Then, with a little more luck ...
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!