Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tribe 2014 Predictions, Thoughts, and Analyzations

now is the time where i take a few minutes to talk Tribe 2014.

first i'll go on record with my prediction for the Tribe's 2014 season. assuming everyone plays to the max of their abilities and we don't get hit with too many major injuries, i think we'll finish 84-78. because we won 92 games last year, i think a lot of people will predict wins more towards the high 80s, but i'm not willing to go that high. and regardless of exact record, i don't think we'll be good enough to win our division. it's probably going to take at least 90 wins just to nab a wild card spot because there are a lot of good teams (at least right now on paper) in the AL this season. maybe if the stars align, we could possibly build on last year and bring a little more postseason play back to Cleveland this season. is this the year we finally win a World Series? after glancing at our starting rotation, on good conscience, i can't realistically say yes. but, anything can happen and i'm so ready for the season to get underway.

my PD boys, whom i respect a great deal, have made predictions that i want to keep on record here.

Hoynsie: 90-72, wild card

D-Man: 85-77, no wild card

Terry: 85-77, no wild card

Bud: 88-74, no wild card

Z-Mise: 88-74, wild card

i'm with D-Man and Terry here. i don't think we will crack 90 wins and if we do not, then we are not getting a wild card spot. it's interesting that Bud and Zack are predicting the same record, yet Zack thinks the Indians will get a wild card spot, while Bud does not. and as much as i love Hoynsie, i can only hope his prediction ends up being right lol he's way more hopeful than i can be right now. at least everyone has us finishing over .500!

the majority of players, pitchers and hitters, had successful springs. that is evident by the Indians' record of 20-9-2, best in both leagues. we displayed both great offense and defense. even the kids in the lower levels of the organization demonstrated star play. if anything, knowing we have some stellar athletes coming up in the farm system bodes well for the future of the franchise.

there is pressure on the team this year to prove that last year was not a fluke. it's going to be very difficult to match last season's record of 92 wins. at the very least, it's going to be tough just to put together 2 winning seasons in a row, something the Indians have not done since 2000-2001. a lot of things will have to go right, and sometimes in sports you just have to get lucky. the atmosphere around the Tribe players in spring seemed loose and confident, and if that can carry onto the field this year, then they will be a threat to every team they face.

some things that might make a difference this year that we didn't have last year:

--a full season with Salazar in the starting rotation

--Swisher starting the year without a shoulder injury and hopefully playing a full season healthy

--Bourn being more acquainted with AL pitchers, leading to more stolen bases

--Santana not catching as much, which should help his offense and take the pressure of calling games off him

--having a healthy Vinnie Pestano back in our bullpen for a full season

--having a full season under their belts with Francona as manager

--all of the players who were newbies last year have now gotten familiar with everyone and meshed very well together with the rest of the guys

the Indians did not make any big splashes in the free agent pool this offseason, mainly due to our higher salary acquisitions from the previous offseason. so i cannot honestly say we've improved any from last year. in fact, due to some of the big factor guys we lost, i think we may be, not necessarily worse, but possibly more inconsistent. as was the case last year, i think pitching is once again going to be questionable, both starting and relief.

our starting rotation has potential, but let's face it, it's not great. and it sure as hell is not intimidating to opponents by any means. Masterson is not a true ace, though he is our best starter hands down right now. he is capable of achieving a 20-win season, if our offense wants to help him out when he pitches. unfortunately, because Masterson pitches in the #1 spot, he usually goes against the opposing team's ace, and so it's easy to see why he's yet to have a 20-win season in his career. Kluber and McAllister are more than capable of throwing solid games, but they can also throw some ugly ones. not to mention there's concern that both will regress this year. Danny Salazar is getting his first full year in the big leagues now, and even though this kid has the stuff to be great, i think it's fair to say he will experience some struggles at times this year. and rounding out our top 5 is Carrasco. he would be better suited in the bullpen in my opinion, but what Tito wants, Tito gets. Carrasco has 2 personalities: the one who pitches well and remains focused on the game, and the one who's immature, forgets to use his fastball, and sometimes can't handle the pressure. i just hope that if the Carrasco Fiasco takes over the month of April, a change will be made by May.

it's comforting to know that we have Tomlin starting in Columbus, ready to be called up at any time. he's been very reliable, always pitching at least 5 innings when he starts. on the flip side, he hasn't pitched a full year in the bigs since 2011. he could struggle as well. we also have Bauer in Columbus, another pitcher with potential that has not yet been reached. he's young, unreliable, and not ready to be a current fixture in our rotation. after that, we really don't have any other strong pitching prospects. TJ House and Tyler Cloyd are both wild cards who would probably labor if brought up.

so there are definite question marks here with our rotation, and in order to win close to 90 games again, we will undoubtedly need our starting 5 to be spectacular. to have a chance at postseason, ideally, we need 3 or 4 of our starters to win a dozen games each. they'll need to be innings eaters, so we don't have to depend on the bullpen to bail us out on the regular. and speaking of that...

besides starting pitching, a team also needs a strong bullpen to be successful. our bullpen this season is very different from years past, and that may cause some problems. John Axford and Josh Outman are basically replacing the holes left by Chris Perez and Joe Smith. while Axford has looked great in spring games, Outman had some trouble with the long ball. that said, you never know how either will perform during the season. we don't know if Axford can close, he lost his closer job last year after all, and we have to be prepared that he may not be able to. then the entire bullpen will have to be shuffled around as far as who takes on which roles.

Vinnie Pestano is back with the club and he looked very good in spring. he's not hurt this year, which was his main problem last season. he's not going to return to his old role of set up man right away, but regardless of what inning he comes out for, if he can pitch like he did in 2012, that's a nice weapon to have.

of course our bullpen wouldn't be complete without a veteran presence, and this year that role is being filled by Scott Atchison. he had a nice spring, but we've seen in the past that the older bullpen guys can be disasters when they get in the real games. he could be this year's Hill or Durbin and get DFA'd before the All Star break. and you can't rule out that a guy his age might suffer a freak injury or two.

Blake Wood is also breaking camp with the Tribe this year. he's had surgery in the past and while that sometimes makes pitchers stronger, it's hard to say if Blake is really going to be a reliable part of the pen yet.

the final 3 making up our bullpen this year are Allen, Shaw, and Rzepczynski, all of whom were with the Tribe last year. these guys pitched very well for us in 2013, and the same is expected from them this year. although again, some regression could be a realistic possibility. if that happens, we have guys in Columbus with big league experience that we can call upon for help. but overall, i think the bullpen definitely has the potential to be one of the strongest in the league and lock down games for us.

i always say, good pitching means nothing if the offense can't score, and a few question marks remain in our lineup as well. Bourn really needs to prove himself this season. he has to do better than last year in order for us to put together a run towards the World Series, not to mention show everyone that he is worth his giant contract. how did he do in spring training? well he didn't play very much because he strained his hamstring. yes, the same hamstring he had surgery on during the offseason. with him starting the year on the DL and not having a full spring in preparation for the year, that doesn't exactly give me a vote of confidence in our center fielder. he needs his legs to be that speed demon on the basepaths, and with a hamstring issue, it's hard say how much that will affect his ability.

Swisher is another big piece of our team who needs to improve his numbers from last season if we want to make a push towards October. hopefully his shoulder won't give him any trouble this year and he can produce when we need him to.

is Cabby going to have a better year? you would think so, especially considering this is his last year before free agency and players have a tendency to step things up during their walk year. if he can improve in any way, that will be a big help for us. the fact that he's had a great camp is encouraging.

last year Jason Kipnis had a cold spring and slow start to the regular season. this spring, his bat was hot. if that can carry over into April, it would give the team a boost that it did not have a year ago.

David Murphy was a new addition to the team this offseason. he's set to platoon in right field with Raburn. unfortunately, Murphy didn't blow anybody away with his spring play. he's also known to have slow starts and unproductive numbers in April. so right now it's anyone's guess if he will even be an asset to this team.

another somewhat new addition to the team is Santana at the hot corner. he is going to play 3rd base this year. he's done a decent job in winter league and spring training, but he still has not played very much there. the Indians have basically said Santana will continue to "try out" at 3rd while the season gets going. we don't know for sure that this experiment will work out well, and if it doesn't, that could cause problems such as affecting his hitting and/or the outcomes of our games. i'm not saying this is something that could ultimately ruin the team, but it's a variable that we didn't have last season. best case scenario, Santana proves he can handle 3rd base and we finally get some nice production from that spot on the field.

because Santana is going to be playing more 3rd, that means Gomes will be our starting catcher. he did quite well coming off the bench last year. will his bat remain hot now that he's going to get more playing time, or will there be a regression?

Santana's time at 3rd also means we won't need to use Lonnie Chisenhall as much. a good strategy for the team would be to simply use Chiz against right-handed pitchers, and don't let him go near the lefties. there's also a chance Lonnie gets sent down to Columbus if the Indians feel like they can't regularly find playing time for him.

the last two additions to the team are Elliot Johnson and Nyjer Morgan. Elliot had a big spring. Tito likes him because he can play every position in the infield and outfield, and he's even been named the team's emergency catcher. his defense is stronger than his offense, so it's possible that once the season gets underway his bat will cool down. Morgan also had a nice spring, but he didn't play in the big leagues last year (he played in Japan) and had a somewhat disappointing year in 2012. if he's only a part-time player here, will he be productive? and will his alter ego "Tony Plush" cause any on- or off-field distraction or drama?

and the questions don't end there. as well as Brantley did last year and this spring, who's to say he won't face any adversity this year? will he still be as clutch as he was a year ago? and Raburn, will he be able to carry over his hot spring to the regular season, or will leg injuries slow him down? will the Goon Squad be as productive as it was last season? will Giambi still be a force, or is he just too old to help us now? and can Aviles continue to be a productive utility man for this team? i'm really not trying to be negative, i'm just pointing out how many question marks there are surrounding this team.

bottom line, this is not the same team that won 92 games last season. it's not a totally different team, but we have changed some of the pieces in our puzzle. it's unclear how any of the new guys will adapt to their new city and new roles. so far everyone's said the right things, but their true characters will come out when we encounter the inevitable tough times that always strike at some point.

this team is not going to be perfect. there are gonna be times when our starters have bad games. and there are gonna be times when the bullpen can't get anybody out, and when our closer blows games. there will be games where we're shut out because our offense can't hit their way out of a wet paper bag and bring anybody home. but there will also be times where we shut the other team out and win blow out games. there will be amazing comebacks and exciting walk-off wins. in order to succeed, we need to believe. hopefully we won't suffer through any long losing streaks, and if we're going in a bad way, that we can turn things around quickly and get back on the right path. the path to winning.

after reviewing the Tribe's spring and looking over the roster, i do think we have a good chance to finish the season with a winning record. i also think it's feasible that we could grab a wild card spot again. how far might we go in the postseason this time? it's hard to say. the odds will be best if everyone can stay relatively healthy, if the players who had bad years last year improve this year, and if our starters can consistently give us 6-7 innings every time out. that's a lot of ifs, but with Tito leading the way, it's not impossible.

i have spent the last 3 seasons arranging my schedule to ensure that i didn't miss any Tribe games. and that was a challenge last year considering all the health issues that popped up on me that i had to take care of in-season. going for a 4th straight year might be impractical because my health is still not 100%, but i will try my best to not miss any games that i can control without life getting in the way of my baseball habit lol based on the promos they're offering this season, i'm aiming to go to at least 8 games this year. and i won't give that up without a fight.

regardless, i am more than ready for baseball to begin. it's been a long 183 days. as always, i will be cheering the team on for all 162 games, through the good times and bad, with unwavering support. what else would you expect from me? ;D Ride or Die Tribe! Let's Go! =D

for the record, i'm picking the Dodgers to go all the way this year. i picked Washington to win it all last year and they disappointed. i think they'll do better this year, but i'm not picking them again lol i'm sure some sportswriters still see the Tigers as the favorites to come out of the AL, but i'm not sold, especially after losing some key players this offseason. i am going with a matchup of the Dodgers and Rays. i believe the AL will beat the NL once again in the All Star Game, so Tampa Bay will have home field advantage in the World Series, but i like the LA Dodgers to win it in 6 games.

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