Monday, March 24, 2008

Cleveland Indians 2008 Season Preview

If it weren't for a fluke grand slam and two exemplary starts from Josh Beckett, Cleveland very well could have been World Series Champs. Yet its hard to find a more forgotten team heading into 2008. For all the flash and dash of other AL teams like the Sox, Tigers and Yankees, the Indians are still the most complete team in baseball. And while they may not have the names the other teams do, they definitely have to be considered a threat to once again win it all, with that said lets see how this year's edition of the tribe is shaping up.

2007 Finish: 96-66, AL Central Champs

Key Additions: Masa Kobayashi, RP

Key Losses: None

Projected Lineup:
1 Grady Sizemore CF
2 Asdrubal Cabrera 2b
3 Travis Hafner DH
4 Victor Martinez C
5 Ryan Garko 1b
6 Jhonny Peralta SS
7 Jason Michaels LF
8 Franklin Gutierrez RF
9 Casey Blake 3b

Lineup Grade: B+. The Indians have some excellent hitters in their lineup and have begun to develop batters who can compliment their main run producers. If the young hitters like Cabrera, Garko and Gutierrez can play to their potential, the Indians could have a top-5 offense in all of baseball. Even if they are just average the Tribe will score plenty of runs thanks to a dangerous row of hitters at the top of the order.

Projected Rotation:
1 CC Sabathia
2 Fausto Carmona
3 Jake Westbrook
4 Paul Byrd
5 Cliff Lee
CL - Joe Borowski

Pitching Grade: A-. The Indians probably boast the best 1-2 combination of starters in baseball at the moment. Sabathia has entered certified ace territory, and Carmona's development was the reason why the Indians became such a threat last year. There is no reason why these 2 can't rack up near 40 wins between them. Cleveland also has solid 3-4-5 starters who will eat innings and keep the team in ballgames. Their bullpen is also very solid with the Hot Dog King Kobayashi on board to compliment the most underrated set-up man in all of baseball in Rafael Betancourt. Joe Borowski is the human heart attack at closer, but he did save 46 games last year, and if he falters this year the Tribe have other options they can feel comfortable replacing him with.

Projected Outlook: It took a few years longer than expected, but Cleveland has rebuilt and is now a serious threat to win the AL. Their younger players are only going to get better and their solid front office and manager will be sure to have the right pieces in play to be successful. Other teams in the AL have made big moves to make their team stronger, but Cleveland didn't really need to and will still be able to match up with any squad in baseball. Their left-handed dominant lineup will benefit from not facing Johan Santana 10 times a season and the young players developing plus a Travis Hafner return to form could make the offense downright explosive. Between that and a rock solid pitching staff, the Indians should come close to possibly replicating last seasons 96 wins and may even get close to 100.

Projected Finish: 99-63, 1st or 2nd in AL Central


Young Knuckleballer said...

Best 1-2 pitching punch in the AL maybe, but aren't you forgetting about a team called the Diamondbacks? Brandon Webb > CC's close, but he gets the edge. Dan Haren >> Fausto Carmona. This one isn't really an argument.

Young Knuckleballer said...

Also it's crazy to think that 1 of these 4 teams won't make the playoffs: Yanks, Sawx, Tigs, Injuns...all would be favored to win the NL.