2015 Cleveland Indians Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
by Alan Matthews - 3/26/2015
Are you one of those believers in the Sports Illustrated cover jinx? If you are, then the Cleveland Indians will not be winning the World Series this year and might actually be a disaster.
To be fair, the Indians are on one of four regional covers this week, but it asks: "Why Cleveland? Why Not Cleveland? Why The Tribe Will Win Its First Series Since 1948." The cover boys are reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and outfielder Michael Brantley.
Not to show my age, but I remember the April 6, 1987, Sports Illustrated cover previewing the baseball season. It was titled: "Indian Uprising" and the caption read: "Believe It! Cleveland Is The Best Team In The American League." The cover boys for that were sluggers Cory Snider and Joe Carter. What did SI base its projection on back then? The Tribe had won 84 games the previous year, a 24-win jump from 1985 and the franchise's most victories since 1968.
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So how did the 1987 Tribe fare? 61-101, the worst mark in baseball. At least Snyder (33 homers, 82 RBIs) and Carter (32 homers, 106 RBIs) had good years. Shoot, even Brook Jacoby hit 32 homers, but the pitching staff was atrocious.
I don't think these Indians, who won 85 games in 2014, win the World Series, but I guarantee you that they won't finish with the worst record in baseball. Cleveland opens the season April 6 in Houston.
Indians 2015 Projected Lineup
Cleveland was very quiet in free agency, and the only guy of note they lost was DH Jason Giambi to retirement, and he wasn't even a regular. So this lineup should look almost the same as the one out there most games a year ago when the Tribe were 11th in the majors in runs.
The leadoff hitter projects to be center fielder Michael Bourn, who definitely has not lived up to the big free-agent money he got two offseasons ago. Injuries limited Bourn to just 106 games last year, and he hit .257 with 10 steals and an on-base percentage of .314. This team isn't winning anything without better production from Bourn atop the lineup. Second baseman Jason Kipnis had a career year in 2013 but totally regressed a season ago, batting .240 with six homers and 41 RBIs in 500 at-bats. He's probably neither the '13 nor '14 guy but in between.
By far the Indians' best player and one of the most underrated in baseball is the left fielder Brantley, who hits third. He led the Tribe in averages (.327), RBIs (97), hits (200) and on-base percentage (.385) while adding 20 homers and 23 steals. He's basically Andrew McCutchen. First baseman Carlos Santana, who no longer catches, bats cleanup. He hit 27 bombs with 85 RBIs but batted only .231 and struck out 124 times. That's probably who he is at this point in his career.
The only newcomer to the lineup looks to be right fielder/first baseman/DH Brandon Moss, who was acquired from Oakland. The lefty slugger batted .234 with 25 homers and 81 RBIs in a career-high 147 games for the A's. He was an All-Star, but his production tailed off in the second half and he had offseason hip surgery. Moss is likely to play all three of those positions, although the Indians would probably not prefer the outfield.
The rest of the lineup: catcher Yan Gomes (.278, 21 HRs, 74 RBIs), a very good player, right fielder/first baseman/DH Nick Swisher (.208, eight HRs, 42 RBIs), who is likely to open the season on the DL due to offseason knee surgery, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (.280, 13 HRs, 59 RBIs) and shortstop Jose Ramirez (.262).
All I can say is Brantley better stay healthy.
Indians 2015 Projected Rotation & Closer
Quick, name me an Indians pitcher other than Kluber....
It's a non-descript staff for the most part, but it has a high ceiling. Kluber surprisingly edged Seattle's Felix Hernandez for the 2014 AL Cy Young, but it was certainly deserved. In just his second full season as a starter, Kluber was 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts in 235 2/3 innings. He led the AL in wins, finished second in strikeouts, third in innings pitched and was third in ERA. Kluber's ERA after the break was just 1.73. The Indians are trying to lock him up long term, but is Kluber a late bloomer (will be 29 in April) or a fluke?
Kluber will be followed by Carlos Carrasco (8-7, 2.55), Trevor Bauer (5-8, 4.18), Danny Salazar (6-8, 4.25) and T.J. House (5-3, 3.35). The team had signed right-hander Gavin Floyd presumably to take a rotation spot, but he needs surgery on a fractured bone in his pitching elbow and likely will miss the season. Floyd missed most of last year with the same problem while with the Braves. House isn't a lock to get that No. 5 spot as Zach McAllister, Josh Tomlin and Bruce Chen are in the mix.
Cody Allen (24 saves, 2.07 ERA) closes things out.
Indians Futures Odds & 2014 Trends
At Bovada , Cleveland is +2000 to win the World Series, +900 to take the pennant, +240 third favorite in the AL Central and with an "over/under" wins total of 84.5 (under -125 favorite). Brantley is +1600 to win AL MVP and Moss is +6600 to lead the majors in home runs. Kluber is the +400 second favorite to repeat as the Cy Young winner. At Sportsbook.ag, he is given a wins total of 13.5. The Indians were 79-83 against the spread last season and 76-83-3 O/U. On the moneyline, they were +126 units on the year.
Indians 2015 Predictions
FanGraphs projects Cleveland to finish 85-77 and tied with Detroit for first in the AL Central. I don't think this team is any better than last year but also no worse. I'm not sure Kluber can be that dominant again, but Carrasco might be better. He allowed only 10 earned runs in his final 10 starts. Salazar and Bauer also were much better in the second half. Offensively, I'm not too excited. Brantley, Gomes and Chisenhall are plus guys at their positions. Santana may hit you 30 homers but will not have a high average. Kipnis is a question mark, Swisher shouldn't be playing every day, and Bourn hasn't been the same since getting paid. Ramirez is just a glove. I'm going slightly over the wins, but I think this club finishes third in the division. I'd still go over Kluber wins as he should get to 15.
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