2018 Season Preview Cleveland Indians
You could easily make the argument that no team in no division in all of Major League Baseball should have an easier road to clinching their division title in 2018 than the Cleveland Indians. Each of their American League Central rivals the Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, and Chicago White Sox find themselves at varying stages of a rebuilding process.
If not better then the Houston Astros
Meanwhile, legendary baseball writer referred to the Indians as ““best run team in professional sports.” They’ve have won 196 regular season games over the last two seasons. They’re two years removed from going to extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series. They were the third-highest scoring team in the American League last year. An argument could be made that the Indians pitching rotation heading in 2018 could be just as good as that of the World Series champion Houston Astros, if not better.
But none of those accolades mean anything if the Indians don’t finish the job they started in the 2016 postseason, especially after falling way short of expectations in 2017. Everyone expected to see the Indians square off against the Astros in a (likely) seven-round heavyweight fight to determine the AL Pennant. Instead, the New York Yankees shockingly rocked the seemingly invincible Corey Kluber of the Indians in Game 7 of the ALDS, sending Cleveland home much earlier than anyone rooting for the Indians would have expected.
Some big leagues would kill to have
Cleveland’s pitching staff is still lethal enough to where it would be shocking if they didn’t win at least 90 games this year. Despite Kluber’s very “human” performance in the ALDS (amidst rumors that he was playing with an injured back), he’s still the reigning Cy Young award winner. Carlos Carrasco won 18 games in 32 starts, with an ERA under 3.3 runs. Trevor Bauer won 17 of his 32 starts; you could do a lot worse than that from the #3 pitcher in your rotation. Mike Clevinger as the fourth pitcher, and Danny Salazar as the fifth pitcher (when he returns from injury) rounds out a rotation that virtually any other team in the big leagues would kill to have.
The batting line-up
Cleveland’s batting order will once again be anchored by their pair of Silver Slugger infielders in shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jose Ramirez. Lindor is legitimately a five-tool player, having won a Gold Glove in 2016, hitting a career-high 33 home runs in 2017, with a slugging percentage of .505. He finished among the top five players in AL MVP voting last year, and with good reason.
While Lindor is the face of the batting order, it was Ramirez who actually placed third in the AL MVP voting last year (ahead of Lindor), hitting 29 home runs (smashing his previous career-high of 11) and 83 RBI, all within his .318 batting average.
Plenty of time on the clock
Even with all that talent, that’s why there’s the saying that “games aren’t won on paper.” The Indians have started the 2018 season losing five of their first eight games, with Kluber picking up his first loss of the season on opening day, and Lindor and Ramirez in the midst of a nasty slump to start the season. Still, there’s plenty of time to for the Indians to turn things around.