10 Reasons Why the Indians Will Win the AL Central

6. Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis.

When the Indians made the AL Wild Card game in 2013, Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis combined for a 7.8 WAR, 161 runs, 298 hits, 90 extra base hits, 134 RBI, and 53 stolen bases in 279 total games.  In 2014 those two combined for a 1.5 WAR, 118 runs, 234 hits, 62 extra base hits, 69 RBI, and 32 stolen bases in just 235 games, as both spent chunks of the season on the DL.  Health is the key for these two, we all know Jason Kipnis can play at an All-Star level when healthy, and he is now a full off-season removed from his oblique injury.

Michael Bourn has also proven to be an All-star caliber player when healthy, he just hasn’t done it with the Indians yet.  Hamstring issues have plagued Bourn since signing with the Tribe, but unlike last offseason, Bourn did not have to go through rehab this offseason.  He has had all winter to get his body into playing shape, and it should benefit the Indians.  A healthy Bourn is an elite leadoff hitter and a Gold Glove caliber center fielder.

7. The Defense.

How can the defense of the worst defensive team in 2014 be a reason that the Indians will win the Central?  Because it can’t get any worse.  For one, the Indians know who is going to be playing where, this season.  We have no more “will Carlos Santana play third base” questions.  After committing 6 errors in just 26 games at third, the Indians moved Santana to first base, where he is a much better fielder.  The Indians shortstop position will have an above-average fielder playing at all times, with Jose Ramirez there to start the season, and Francisco Lindor most likely finishing the year there.

Yan Gomes led the AL in errors at the catcher position in 2014, but that can be attributed to his early season struggles of trying to throw every single base runner out.  Gomes still rates as a top defensive catcher in the league.  The Indians were by far the worst defensive team in 2014 and still finished 85-77, so any kind of improvement will help this team.

8. Terry Francona.

Players play and coaches coach, so naturally people have a hard time figuring out just how much a baseball manager can affect the game.  Back on November 4, 2014, I published an article examining just how to quantify how good a manager is.  You can check it out here.  Using a statistic called Pythagorean W-L, you can determine what the actual record of a team should be.  For instance, the Pythagorean W-L for the 2014 Indians was 83-79, yet they finished 85-77.  It has always been the manager’s job to get the most out of his team, and Terry Francona does just that.  Here is a list of the last 5 Indians managers and how many wins (+/-) they contributed per season, using Pythagorean W-L:

Mike Hargrove: +2 wins.
Charlie Manuel: +0.5 wins.
Eric Wedge: -4 wins.
Manny Acta: 0 wins.
Terry Francona: +2 wins.

9. A young, controllable, power rotation.

Age of Starting Rotation for 2015

Trevor Bauer: 24
Danny Salazar: 25
T.J. House: 25
Carlos Carrasco: 28
Corey Kluber: 28
Gavin Floyd: 32

Free Agency Year

Gavin Floyd: 2016
Carlos Carrasco: 2018
Corey Kluber: 2019
Danny Salazar: 2021
Trevor Bauer: 2021
T.J. House: 2021

Average Fastball Velocity in 2014

Carlos Carrasco: 95.2 mph
Danny Salazar: 94.5
Trevor Bauer: 93.8
Corey Kluber: 93.2
Gavin Floyd: 91.8
T.J House: 91.5

10. Depth.

Over a 162-game season, injuries are inevitable.  Teams can go into a season with playoff aspirations and have them immediately shot down because of injuries (a case in point is the 2014 Texas Rangers).  Sure, the Indians could use one more starting pitcher (cough, James Shields, cough), but having either T.J. House or Danny Salazar as your sixth guy is still pretty good.  Out in the field, the Indians can go three deep at almost any position.  And we still haven’t even talked about the talent that is sitting and waiting in Columbus, including Francisco Lindor and James Ramsey.  Even if these 10 reasons don’t hold up, it should be a fun summer at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

— Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)

Photo via ftw.usatoday.com

 

 

 

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