|2008 Cleveland Indians Team Preview|
Written by Paul Keen (Contact & Archive) on March 27, 2008
2007 Regular Season Finish: 96-66, First in AL Central
Drew Careyâ€™s New Best Friends
Didnâ€™t think Cleveland rocked
The Skinny: Clevelandâ€™s bid for October almost knocked the socks off the Sox, and itâ€™s no surprise as both teams had the same record at the end of the season.Â However, they are not alone in the category of giving the top AL teams a run for their money anymore.Â Detroit and the Chi Sox have both been building strength over the winter, and even though some of Minnesotaâ€™s power players have left, their hand is still in too.Â There can be no doubt that Clevelandâ€™s squad is a force to be reckoned with in the AL Central.Â The Tribe will be able to pull off a post-season like last year, but the rest of the Midwest is making sure it doesnâ€™t happen without a fight.Â
Strengths: The Tribeâ€™s strengths are coming mostly from individual players who elevate the overall status of the team.Â C.C. Sabathia is one of their best pitchers. He won 19 games last year and recorded 209 strikeouts.Â Their second man in the rotation, Fausto Carmona, also came close to being a 20 game winner last year (19-8, 3.06, 137 SO).
The Tribe is also making sure they have plenty of back ups in case of injuries.Â Many of these understudies can handle at least two different positions.Â Not only that, but some of these guys (such as Franklin Gutierrez or Jason Michaels) have batting averages that outshine starters for other teams.Â All in all, the Tribe is well insured this year.
Weaknesses: While the pitching and the back ups are good, Cleveland batting is something of an oddity.Â They have some fantastic hitters on their team, but some of them are just barely good hitters.Â Most of their batters would be just barely too good for San Diego this year, but if youâ€™ve seen the Padres offense this year, you know that isnâ€™t saying much.Â Even on their worst days, Cleveland still has a good offense, but this is where Cleveland should be a bit nervous.Â
Another thing is most AL squads get an extra boost from their DH.Â Most AL squads also have a DH who far outshines Travis Hafner.Â Cleveland either needs to make sure their position players can pull off something at the plate, or think about getting a different DH.Â Fortunately, they have a back up there as well.
Cleveland has three injuries right now.Â The first is Brendan Donnelly.Â Donnelly is out until August at least, and while this is a long time to be out of commission, he is a relief pitcher.Â Clevelandâ€™s bullpen is in pretty good shape with or without Donnelly.Â Left field, however, has two things to think about: Shin-Soo Choo and David Dellucci.Â David Dellucci is currently day to day on the DL, and as Clevelandâ€™s starter, one would hope he gets healthy soon.Â Shin-Soo Choo is out until early May; but once again, Cleveland has good back up players for this spot.
Keys to Success: The AL Central has been beefing up their squads so the Tribe wonâ€™t have it as easy as last year going to the post-season.Â They may have to go via the Wild Card, which means they will have to try and stay ahead of the Yankees or Seattle.Â However, Cleveland still has the power to make it to the post-season.
Prediction: A lot of people are putting Detroit on top of the AL Central or the Yankees to take the Wild Card.Â Detroit may take the division, but the Bronx Bombers are in a state of decline.Â I expect to see Cleveland in the post-season through the Wild Card.