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Thanks to the recent curse-busting wins of teams like Chicago and Boston, the Cleveland Indians now claim the title of being the team that has gone the longest in the American League without a World Series win.

It's been about 12 years now since the latest heart break, two years since the Indians gave away a 3-1 ALCS lead to previously mentioned Boston. Things are not getting easier.

Now with Philadelphia winning it all, and the fans rejoicing after, 28 years? Wait a second; they only went about 28 years between titles?

No offense Philadelphia, but it's been 60 going on 61 years that we've had to wait, only the tortured Cubs have more reason to belly-ache about their World Series misfortunes.

So now, here we sit at an odd-numbered year. These seem to be the specialty of the Indians most recently, winning AL pennants in 1995 and 1997, and making a close run for the playoffs in 2005 and an even closer run to a World Series in 2007. 

Could 2009 at least provide we fans with some sort of joy? Hopefully it isn't filled with the season-long heartbreak that 2008 was filled with.

The pressure was on and expectations were high and all the Indians did was trade their franchise ace well before the trading deadline and finish at a dead on .500 record.

With that, this is a fans game and us Indians fans have been craving a title for so long that we hope that heartbreak in 2009 is not longed for us.

I'd like to thank the other five writers of the Cleveland Indians community that answered and participated in the preseason survey. Last year was fun until the lights were turned out on us and the emotion was sucked out with a failed season.

Hopefully with success of the Tribe comes more success of Bleacher Report's Indians community. If you'd like to participate in the goings-on that we'll try to be doing this year within the community, leave a note on my board and I'll put you down. For now, here is what the Indians Community has to say about 2009.

Thanks again to the participants: Jeff Smirnoff, Chris Davies, Kanka, Samantha Bunten, and Ben Johnson

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Which five pitchers will finish the season in the Starting Rotation?

Jeff: Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Carl Pavano, Aaron Laffey, Anthony Reyes

Nino: Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Aaron Laffey, Anthony Reyes, Jake Westbrook

Ben: Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Carl Pavano, Aaron Laffey, Anthony Reyes

Kanka: Cliff Lee, Carl Pavano, Aaron Laffey, Jake Westbrook, Scott Lewis

Samantha: Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Carl Pavano, Anthony Reyes, Scott Lewis

Chris: Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Carl Pavano, Aaron Laffey, Jake Westbrook

 

Finishing Percentage

Cliff Lee: 100%

Fausto Carmona: 83%

Carl Pavano: 83%

Aaron Laffey: 83%

Anthony Reyes: 66%

Jake Westbrook: 50%

Scott Lewis: 33%

 

Which Prospect will make the most impact on the Major League Club in 2009?

Jeff: Matt LaPorta, OF

Nino: Trevor Crowe, OF

Ben: Trevor Crowe, OF

Kanka: David Huff, SP

Samantha: Trevor Crowe, OF

Chris: Trevor Crowe, OF

 

Who will end the season as the starting left fielder?

Jeff: Ben Francisco

Nino: Trevor Crowe

Ben: Ben Francisco

Kanka: Ben Francisco

Samantha: Trevor Crowe

Chris: Trevor Crowe

Fun Bets

Cliff Lee Wins

Average: 17

High: 19

Low: 16

 

Kerry Wood Saves

Average: 38

High: 40

Low: 32

 

Fausto Carmona Strikeouts

Average: 116

High: 170

Low: 17

 

Rafael Perez Innings Pitched

Average: 73

High: 90

Low: 65

 

Ben Francisco Hits

Average: 124

High: 148

Low: 104

 

Jhonny Peralta Walks

Average: 56

High: 60

Low: 45

 

Team Runs Scored

Average: 857

High: 920

Low: 820

 

Date David Dellucci is Released

Average: June 6

High: July 14

Low: May 1

 

Cliff Lee ERA: 3.10

Over: 5

Under: 1

 

Jensen Lewis Saves: 10

Over: 0

Under: 6

 

Rafael Betancourt HR: 8

Over: 2

Under: 4

 

Carl Pavano Starts: 12

Over: 6

Under: 0

 

Ryan Garko Doubles: 25

Over: 5

Under: 1

 

Grady Sizemore HR/SB Total: 80

Over: 3

Under: 3

 

Travis Hafner Home Runs: 14

Over: 4

Under: 2

 

Shin-Soo Choo RBI: 79

Over: 6

Under: 0

 

Kelly Shoppach Strikeouts: 150

Over: 1

Under: 5

 

Mark DeRosa OBP%: .375

Over: 4

Under: 2

End of the Year Awards

Team MVP

Jeff: Grady Sizemore, OF

Nino: Victor Martinez, C

Ben: Grady Sizemore, OF

Kanka: Grady Sizemore, OF

Samantha: Grady Sizemore, OF

Chris: Grady Sizemore, OF

 

Team Cy Young

Jeff: Cliff Lee

Nino: Fausto Carmona

Ben: Fausto Carmona

Kanka: Cliff Lee

Samantha: Fausto Carmona

Chris: Carl Pavano

 

Relief Pitcher

Jeff: Kerry Wood

Nino: Jensen Lewis

Ben: Kerry Wood

Kanka:  Rafael Perez

Samantha: Rafael Perez

Chris: Kerry Wood

 

Win Total, Win AL Central?

Jeff: 91, Yes

Nino: 95, Yes

Ben: 95, Yes

Kanka:  90, Yes

Samantha: 93, Yes

Chris: 89, Yes

 

Extended Opinion

What's the biggest key to the Indians' 2009 success?

Can the bullpen be deep enough and effective enough to keep the Indians in games for 162 games.  Eric Wedge has a habit of sticking with one or two guys he trusts at the end of games and burning them out, IMHO. 

He now has a bona fide stopper in Kerry Wood and at least four guys (Betancourt, Lewis, Perez, Smith) tht he should be able to count on with plenty of young arms in AAA and AA ready for action.  It has always come down to the bullpen and 2009 is no exception. – Jeff

They just need to stay healthy. Not just the guys like Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, but that starting pitching and bullpen. There are depth options in a lot of spots on this team, but they still can't afford to be dealing with a rash of injuries like they did last year.

Along those lines, if Hafner can be a respectable hitter and Victor Martinez returns to MVP form, the offense will be very successful with the growth of players like Shin-Soo Choo, Jhonny Peralta, and Asdrubal Cabrera. – Nino

Travis Hafner – Ben

The pitching staff. In my mind, offense isn't an issue—even in a bad year they put up over 800 runs. But as Cleveland's pitching goes, so goes their season. – Kanka

All the pieces are there—the Indians just need everything to actually work at the same time. The biggest key to the Indians' success will be whether they are able to take a group of talented players and have them function effectively together as a team. Hitters and defense need to pick up their pitchers, and vice versa.

The team also needs its former underachievers and players who have struggled to rise up to the potential we've seen flashes of (Hafner, Garko, Cabrera, etc.). – Samantha

Carl Pavano. The hope is that in a low pressure environment with an incentive laden contract he can right his ship and become the dominant pitcher that he was in Florida. I see it happening and Pavano flourishing in an Indians jersey.

He has already proclaimed his admiration for the organization and he seems to have more confidence about him. Without the heavy media glare that New York provides he can be himself and he can be the pitcher that earned the contract that screwed the Yankees. – Chris

What's the biggest concern for the Cleveland Indians in 2009?

Starting pitching. Can the Indians effectively manage their starting rotation over the course of 162 games as not to tax the bullpen? Someone is going to get hurt and someone is going to struggle.

I fully expect Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, David Huff and even Zach Jackson to start a game this season.  Anything they get from Jake Westbrook is a bonus. 

If they can effectively plug and play the rotation the bullpen has enough depth in Cleveland and Columbus to keep the Tribe in every game provided they are not burnt out too early in the season. – Jeff

Finding consistent starting pitching. Without starting pitching, teams just do not go far in the season or in the playoffs. The Indians need to find capable bodies behind Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona, at some point in the season, and get good performances out of them.

With a deep bullpen, complete game shutouts won't be needed every night, so as long as someone can give six solid innings of work, that will be good. Reliable starting pitching, 1-5, could lead the Indians much farther than a division title as well. – Nino

Travis Hafner – Ben

Again, the pitching.  Right now, we're relying on six guys who we hope can repeat their past success (Lee, Lewis, Perez, and Wood from '08, and Carmona and Betancourt from '07) and the rest are big question marks. Even as an optimist, I'm a little worried.

I think injuries to the pitching staff are the thing that should scare us the most, mainly because our staff has been tenuously assembled around a few key players who are huge injury risks.

And as always, the Tribe ought to be concerned about a lack of leadership on the team. After years of speculation that the Tribe was hurt by its lack of true veteran/clubhouse leadership, it still remains a ship without a captain. – Samantha

Injuries, see: 2008. If this team can keep their fingers bending, unlike über-prospect Adam Miller, they can compete for not only the Central Division but a World Series title. Last year we saw what happens to a team that is ravaged by injuries and how devastating it can be.

However, we also saw how deep the Indians talent pool is in the second-half and the good news is that talent is still available. If the team wants to contend they can't depend on their depth, however. – Chris

 

What offseason acquisition will make the most impact for the Tribe?

On the field, Kerry Wood. Off the field, Mark DeRosa. Wood allows the bullpen to have a hierarchy so that everyone knows their role and can be comfortable in their place.  DeRosa will be fine in the field but he brings that "clubhouse presence" that the Indians had with Trot Nixon in 2007. – Jeff

I will take Mark DeRosa on this one. He's a reliable position player on the infield first of all. That's the only real reason the Indians needed to get him. But there are bonuses around every corner. He fills the long-time need of a No. 2 hole hitter, something this team hasn't had in awhile.

He could solidify the top of the lineup. He also is a huge clubhouse presence, something the Indians lost when they dealt veterans CC Sabathia, Casey Blake, and Paul Byrd away last year during the season. DeRosa is going to impact the Tribe in more ways than one and he needs credit for all of them. – Nino

Kerry Wood. – Ben

I was excited when I heard the news about Mark DeRosa, and even more excited when Eric Wedge announced he'd be batting second. On defense, DeRosa gives the Tribe flexibility in figuring out where to play Peralta and Cabrera. 

On offense, he gives the lineup a legitimate two-hole hitter. I love Franklin Gutierrez for his defense, but there's no way a .220 hitter should be that high in the lineup. – Kanka

If he stays healthy for the entire season, it has to be Wood. But I wouldn't count on that. Over the long haul, I think DeRosa, thanks to his versatility and hard-nosed style of play, will prove to be the offseason acquisition of the greatest value to the team. – Samantha

Mark DeRosa/Kerry Wood, tie. DeRo and Kid K are clubhouse leaders, and it was evident as soon as they stepped in to the Goodyear ballpark. The fact that they are very good friends and good ball players helps, too.

DeRo's versatility will be priceless during the stretch run when players will need to rest. Wood's power arm will give the bullpen, which has been very good, the edge that it has needed to become great.

As long as both stay healthy this season their impact will be immeasurable except in the number of carats the championship ring has. – Chris

 

Will Travis Hafner return to form, or at least stay healthy enough to contribute?

I expect nothing from Travis Hafner.  He has been so out of whack since early 2007 I need to see the old Pronk Hafner on a consistent basis before I count on him for anything.  If they get anything from him by the end of the year I will consider it a bonus. – Jeff

I think he will. The surgery he had seems to have made him healthy and I love the approach he took in spring. He didn't try to do too much and he focused on getting his timing and focus back rather than just start slugging away.

He's purposely forgotten about hitting for power as of right now, which is a smart move when you are just trying to get your swing back on track due to a long layoff. Remember he did play last year toward the end, but it couldn't have been the same for him with the pain in his shoulder.

He might never hit 40 home runs again, but he'll at least start hitting the ball. – Nino

 

He will be in the lineup nearly everyday, but he will not return to pre-2007 form.

He'll contribute, and he may even have a signature Pronk streak or two left in him.  At worst, he'll be the world's slowest .275/.360/.375 hitter. – Kanka

 

I doubt it, mostly because I'm not sure the monster numbers he put up in say, 2006, really were his "true form." That said, Hafner can certainly still be a productive player - if he stays healthy. I'm skeptical about whether the problem has truly been fixed, but I do think it is well within the realm of possibility. – Samantha

Travis Hafner will not be the 2006 monster ever again. That being said if his shoulder stays healthy and he continues to be confident and hit the ball solidly he will contribute a significant amount. No longer is he the most feared hitter in the lineup, but that could work to his advantage.

He will see more pitches to hit at first, and if his timing is back like it should be, he could take full advantage and return to become a similar hitter as he was in '06. I don't think he will ever be the same, but even a return of a large percentage of his power numbers would be a boon to this team. – Chris

 

Sum up any of your picks, or add any additional comments you want here.

Cliff Lee won't be untouchable like 2009 but will have his usual 18 win, 3.30 ERA season as he did before 2007. Kerry Wood will solidify the bullpen but still go on the DL at least once and Jensen Lewis will do fine in his place. 

Grady Sizemore will have another great season come pretty close (if not make) 30-30 again and go unnoticed by the national media once again. – Jeff

I struggled to pick five players that will be in the rotation by the end of the year. It's such a crap shoot.

In the end, I have a feeling Anthony Reyes is going to be special, and I think Carl Pavano will contribute, but he'll get to a point where he isn't contributing enough to earn the incentives that are kicking in and they'll make a change.

I think Trevor Crowe goes twofer and ends the year as the starting left field and also becomes the most impactful rookie.

Victor Martinez's return to form leads me to believe that he's going to be the team MVP, but I wouldn't be shocked if Grady Sizemore contended for the AL MVP. Fausto Carmona in my mind can contend for the Cy Young the way he's looked so far.

He's bound to bounce back as well. I picked the Tribe to win the Central and hope I'm not being overly optimistic, but I feel good about this team and really hope this is finally the year! Go Tribe! - Nino

Spring is here, and I couldn't be more excited.  Go Tribe! – Kanka

-Anthony Reyes, like fellow-USC prospect Mark Prior, will pitch well for a little while then fall apart again.  

-Aaron Laffey will figure it all out and take his spot when Westbrook returns.

-Trevor Crowe is going to steal Ben Francisco's outfield spot. 

-Francisco will then steal Dellucci's bench spot, forcing his release. 

-Dellucci's release will come too late, much like Andy Marte's. 

-Cliff Lee will be dominant, but not that dominant. Not everyone can be that good all the time. 

-Kerry Wood is going to earn his extra contract year, just not all at once.

-Carmona will be Carmona again: infielders get ready. 

-Raffy Left is a beast, still.

-Jensen Lewis is still the future of the bullpen. 

-I think this team is a base hit machine. 

-Ryan Garko, limited in playing time, will shine. 

-Sizemore will make ladies, and gentlemen, love him the same, and when he plays baseball he will raise his batting average. 

-Shin Soo Choo, if he stays healthy, will lock down right field. 

-Shoppach will prove that last year was no fluke, then become trade bait after the season. 

-Mark DeRosa will drive in more runs this season, if only because he will hit behind Grady. – Chris

Again. Thank you to all the participants for their time and responses and Go Tribe in 2009!

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