The Indians shot out of the gates to lead the AL Central through the first couple months last season. Cleveland went 18-8 in April and 14-12 in May. The summer months weren’t kind to the Indians, however, and Cleveland finished 15 games behind Detroit in the division. Cleveland certainly wasn’t thrilled to finish just below .500 last year, but it was a big step in the right direction after the team won just 69 games in 2010.
Indians fans were heartbroken in 2007 when Cleveland blew a 3-1 lead over the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. Since that time Cleveland has traded away a plethora of top talent. It has been very tough for Indians fans to watch guys like Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia, and Victor Martinez star in the playoffs after being dealt away from Cleveland.
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Cleveland has quite a bit of young talent, but they did give up a lot last year to pick up Ubaldo Jimenez. Grady Sizemore has been constantly injured the last couple years. And while no one expects him to return to his 2007 or 2008 form, a productive year from him would help this team a ton. Recent news that Sizemore will be out until at least June was a big hit to the Indians hopes this year.
The Tigers are the clear favorites in this division, but no one else in the division appears stacked. Can Cleveland keep going on the upward trajectory in 2012?
Here are Doc’s Sports 2012 Cleveland Indians predictions and MLB futures odds:
2011 Record: 80-82
2012 Wins Over/Under: 78.5
Odds to Win 2012 AL Central: +900
Odds to Win 2012 AL Pennant: +3,000
2012 Cleveland Indians Odds to Win World Series: +6000
Jimenez was a disappointment in 2011, but expectations are still very high for him. This is a guy that excelled in Colorado, which is certainly no easy place to pitch. While I don’t expect him to be dominating, I do think he can be a solid pitcher for the Tribe.
Justin Masterson was tremendous last season. Masterson threw 216 innings and had a spectacular ERA of 3.21. He was just 12-10 due to terrible run support. If Masterson can keep his form from last year the Indians could have a very nice one-two punch at the top of the rotation.
The rest of the rotation looks to include Derek Lowe, Josh Tomlin, and Kevin Slowey. Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, will find his way into the rotation once he gets his legal issues cleared up. Lowe was just 9-17 with 5.05 ERA last year for the Braves.
Cleveland took a gamble on Lowe, and it is hard to tell how that one will end. Josh Tomlin isn’t spectacular, but he has great control and he is consistent. He led the American League in walks per game last year with just 1.14. Slowey probably isn’t the long-term solution, so Indians fans will have to hope Hernandez gets back in the rotation sooner rather than later.
The Indians bullpen was fifth-best in the American League last year. Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez give the Indians two solid left-handed specialists. Chris Perez isn’t an overpowering closer, but he has done a pretty good job in his time at the back of the bullpen. Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith are two middle relievers that have great stuff. Overall, the bullpen is an area of strength for Cleveland.
Asdrubal Cabrera was being mentioned as a possible MVP candidate early last year. Cabrera cooled off as the season progressed, but he still finished with 25 home runs and a .273 average. Carlos Santana led the team in home runs last year, but he has to improve on his .239 average. Shin Soo-Choo had his worst season as a professional last year, but I would expect him to be much better this year.
Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall both came up from the minor leagues late last year. Kipnis led the Indians with a .507 slugging percentage over the last three months of the year. Chisenhall struggled through the last few months, but he is a guy the Indians should be able to count on for 25 home runs or more in the coming years.
Michael Brantley improved quite a bit last year, and he is a candidate for a breakout season. Travis Hafner isn’t the hitter he used to be, but he can still hit for a decent average.
2012 Cleveland Indians Predictions
The Indians certainly have a couple quality starting pitchers, but there are question marks at the back end of the rotation. The bullpen should be good again this year, and that will likely win them quite a few close games. Overall, the Cleveland offense should improve because of young talent like Santana, Chisenhall, and Kipnis.
2012 Cleveland Indians MLB Season Win Totals Predictions
Take ‘over’ 78.5 wins.
The Indians farm system has been very good the last few years and this team started to benefit from it last year. I expect the team to get a little better again this season. There are no glaring weaknesses here like there are with some other teams, but the Indians definitely don’t have as many sluggers as they would like.
Cleveland will likely compete for the second spot in the AL Central again this year. Don’t be surprised if Cleveland finishes a couple games above .500 this year.
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