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The Two Faces of the 2013 Cleveland Indians

Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis/Ubaldo Jimenez USA TODAY Sports

The Indians have improved on offense. There’s no denying it. With the luck of good health, the new offense will reach above and beyond the 2012 lineup’s paltry .251 BA, .324 OBP and stupendously low slugging percentage of .381 (Hafner led the team last year at .438). More runs will be stolen, created and scored. The offense has a new face, and it doesn’t look half bad.

And then there’s the other face of the Indians – the face that gave up 4.78 runs per game last year, and will likely repeat the same failure this year or at least come close to it.

The Houston Astros are “rebuilding.” The Miami Marlins are “rebuilding.” It can be fairly stated that the aforementioned teams are actually rebuilding  from the ground up, but the Cleveland Indians won’t benefit from the excuses this word provides, at least not this year.

Or perhaps they will.

Last year, the Indians came in at 21st in MLB team salary ($78.4MM), and the year before that, they only spent $49.1MM. Their 2012 record of 68-94 was not an improvement on their 80-82 2011 finish, even though they spent more on team salaries than they have since 2009 when they spent $81MM and still finished third in the AL Central.

This year, they’re looking at spending around $76MM, so long as they don’t make any more moves before opening day, which brings me to my question:

Have you thought about getting a pitcher to go along with that lineup?

CBS Sports projects the Indians’ opening day lineup as the following:

Probable Lineup
NO. PLAYER POS.
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera SS
3. Jason Kipnis 2B
4. Nick Swisher 1B
5. Carlos Santana C
6. Mark Reynolds DH
7. Michael Brantley LF
8. Lonnie Chisenhall 3B
9. Drew Stubbs RF

Note the lack of Hafner, the addition of a real leadoff hitter in Bourn, and a couple refurbishing projects in Reynolds and Stubbs. This lineup, if functional, could deal heavy losses to the AL Central. However, even if Stubbs and Reynolds pan out, this lineup will not be getting much help from a pitching staff rife with has-beens and one-season-wonders.

Imagine buying yourself a new car. You pick the make, model, color, specs. You’ve spent the last several months dreaming of sitting in it, rolling the window down, and feeling the local breeze blow through your hair. The day finally comes and you find yourself driving along, enjoying  the countryside, sipping on an iced coffee, and putt, putt, putt – you’re dead on the side of the road. You forgot one thing: gas. The Cleveland Indians forgot starting pitchers.

Disappointment is in store for the Indians as the reality of their pitching staff comes to bear early in the season. Picture a lot of runs being scored, both by the Indians and against them. You get out of the stalled car, look around at the vast hills and grass, wondering how you could forget something so important.

CBS has projected the Tribe’s starting rotation thus:

NO. PLAYER THROWS
1. Justin Masterson RH
2. Ubaldo Jimenez RH
3. Brett Myers RH
4. Zach McAllister RH
5. Daisuke Matsuzaka RH

Problem #1: Forget about the lack of a lefty, focus on the numbers. The combined 2012 numbers of the Indians’ 2013 projected rotation is one of the more disgusting sets of stats you’ll see in a long time. If this rotation doesn’t change before opening day, even the Royals and Rockies will put up better numbers.

Without further ado, this is what things might look like to start season:

Pitcher/2012 Numbers

W-L

ERA

WHIP

BB

SO

HR

HBP

BB/9

SO/9

Justin Masterson

11-15

4.93

1.45

88

 159

18

13

3.8

 6.9

 Ubaldo Jiminez

9-17

 5.40

1.61

 143

95

25

 8

 4.8

 7.3

 Brett Myers

 3-8

 3.31

 1.22

15

 41

8

3

 2.1

5.6

 Zach McAllister

6-8

4.24

1.36

38

110

19

 1

 2.7

 7.9

 Daisuke Matsuzaka

 1-7

 8.28

1.70

 20

 41

 11

3

3.9

8.1

Combined Totals

 30-55

 5.23

 1.46

304 

446 

 81

28 

3.46 

7.16 

It’s my inclination that Matsuzaka will not win the fifth starter’s spot. I expect him to do poorly in spring training, but I also don’t expect much of Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber or Scott Kazmir, either. For the sake of worst-case scenarios, we’ll leave Dice-K where he is.

Matsuzaka’s bloated 2012 ERA badly scars this chart. If, somehow, he manages to make it out of spring training, 2013 could be his last chance to make good on the hype that landed him in Boston.

Terry Francona

Dec 5, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona answers questions from the media during the Major League Baseball winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Myers didn’t start a single game last season, so whether he can repeat last year’s success working out of the pen is largely a  question mark. He and McAllister are glimmers of hope in this rotation – glimmers nonetheless.

Former Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson are hardly a one-two punch; they’re more like a one-two grazing jab, or a hard slap.

What Terry Francona is left with is a two-headed monster, one head roaring and spitting fire, the other one battered and dangling listlessly from the monster’s shoulders, looking around for something to put it out of its misery.

That is, unless, of course, things go well. Things could always go well. Sometimes they do.

UPDATE: 3.24.13 – Dice-K released by Indians (link to tweet)

 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com, Baseball-Reference.com and USAToday.com

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