At various points throughout the season, we try to take a bit of a step back and objectively review what has come to pass and what the future might hold for our Cleveland Indians.
We conducted a survey of Indians fans and experts at the beginning of the season, the All-Star break, and one last time when the 2009 season came to a close. Below, you will find our final conclusions on the Indians' 2009 season, based on the results of our last survey.
Part One of the article compares how our panelists voted on a set of questions at the beginning of the year versus at the end of the year, and also includes poll results on end-of-season issues. Part Two of the article is comprised of a selection of responses from our panelists to a few final short answer questions.
This article was a project shared by my fellow Indians Featured Columnist Nino Colla and I. A huge thanks to Nino, who organized and wrote Part One of this article, sorted through our data until it turned into something that made sense, and honestly did most of the work on this endeavor.
Thanks are also in order for our dedicated, hard-working panelists, who have stuck it out through surveys and Tribe Talk questions throughout this disappointing Indians' season when it would have been so much easier to just give up. So a big thanks goes to Dale Thomas, The Coop, Jeff Poore, Joyce Quayle, Matt Swope, and Kanka for their participation.
Part One: The Numbers
At the beginning of the season, we asked the Cleveland Indians community at Bleacher Report to answer a few questions for the end of the season.
The basic things were asked such as MVP of the team, if the Tribe would make the postseason, and the final starting rotation. Also explored were a few different kinds of questions such as over-unders and if some of the players would match specific statistical goals.
Further proving that baseball is a game where you never know what to expect, half the team ended up gone and most of these questions became ridiculously sad looking. However there is no shame in looking back to see what we thought and just how bad things went.
However, this wouldn’t be a season wrap-up without going back and seeing who everyone thought was the real MVP when all was said and done, so we did that as well.
Sizemore - 5
Martinez – 1
Asdrubal Cabrera – 5
Victor Martinez – 2
Shin-Soo Choo - 1
Carmona - 3
Lee - 2
Pavano - 1
Cliff Lee - 4
Aaron Laffey - 2
David Huff - 1
Carl Pavano - 1
Wood - 3
R. Perez - 2
Lewis - 1
Tony Sipp - 5
Chris Perez - 2
Rafael Betancourt - 1
Trevor Crowe - 4
David Huff - 1
Matt LaPorta – 1
David Huff - 3
Tony Sipp - 2
Luis Valbuena - 2
Michael Brantley - 1
95 - 2
Yes - 6
No - 0
6/6 Cliff Lee
5/6 Aaron Laffey
5/6 Fausto Carmona
5/6 Carl Pavano
4/6 Anthony Reyes
3/6 Jake Westbrook
2/6 Scott Lewis
Actual: Fausto Carmona, Aaron Laffey, Justin Masterson, David Huff, Jeremy Sowers, Carlos Carrasco
Trevor Crowe - 3
Ben Francisco – 3
Actual: Trevor Crowe
Kerry Wood Saves
Fausto Carmona Strikeouts
Rafael Perez Innings Pitched
Jhonny Peralta Walks
Team Runs Scored
Date David Dellucci is Released
Actual: May 29
Average: June 6
High: July 14
Low: May 1
Jensen Lewis Saves: 10
Rafael Betancourt HR: 8
Actual: 3 (W/CLE)
Carl Pavano Starts: 12
Actual: 21 (W/CLE)
Ryan Garko Doubles: 25
Actual: 10 (W/CLE)
Grady Sizemore HR/SB Total: 80
Travis Hafner Home Runs: 14
Shin-Soo Choo RBI: 79
Kelly Shoppach Strikeouts: 150
Mark DeRosa OBP%: .375
Actual: .342 (W/CLE)
Most Costly Injury – Grady Sizemore
Sizemore – 6, Westbrook – 2
Biggest Off-season Need – Starting Pitching
Starting Pitching – 7, Manager – 1
First Player to be Traded – Jhonny Peralta
Peralta – 3, Shoppach - 2, None – 2, Wood – 1
Breakout Player in 2010 – Michael Brantley
Brantley – 5, Marson – 1, Valbuena – 1
Player with the Most to Prove – Fausto Carmona
Carmona – 3, Peralta – 2, Sizemore – 2, LaPorta – 1
Player to Stumble in 2010 – Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona
Carmona/Masters – 2, Sipp, Hafner, Peralta, Everyone – 1
Prospect Most Excited to See – Carlos Santana
Santana – 4 , Rondon – 2, Putnam – 1, Chisenhall – 1
Cleveland Indians Season out of 5 Stars – 1.3
Part Two: Short Answer
In addition to compiling the numbers from our survey results in the questions above, we thought it was important to include a few final thoughts from our Indians' fans and experts which they submitted in the short answer form of our survey.
In the interest of keeping this article at a reasonable length, the following is just a small selection of the responses we received to our short answer questions.
1.What are your final words to Eric Wedge?
Nino Colla: Good luck. Seriously, good luck. Eric, wherever you may go, I'll support you. A class act and great man. Not the best manager, but no doubt not the worst. I wish there was a better fate for him here in Cleveland, but it is nice to see that some of the fans realize it wasn't all his fault.
Dale Thomas: Thanks very much for very little. In seven years: Three times in 4th place, two times in 3rd, one time in 2nd, one time in 1st, then we blow a three-game lead to Boston in the ALCS. Overall .495, with four seasons under .500.
Samantha Bunten: Don't let the door hit you on the way out, good riddance, but yet, thank you for your years of service. Despite struggling at a major league level, you are an outstanding Triple-A manager and I wish you great success in such a job that is more suited to your skill set. And thank you for always, always, always being a class act, no matter how tough things got. That's worth a lot in my book.
2. Now that the season has finally come to an end, how would you sum up what went wrong for the Tribe this year?
Kanka: It was just the perfect storm of injuries, under-performing, and gambles that didn't pay off.
Jeff Poore: The team's insistence to throw retread veterans in the bullpen and the field instead of letting the young talent prove themselves on the field and in the bullpen came back to bite the Indians again.
The Coop: The slew of injuries and devastating trades certainly did not help, but the Indians were extremely inadequate when it came to objectively evaluating their roster and addressing their needs coming into the season, such as in their holes in the bullpen and in left field and third base.
I also think one of the biggest issues the Indians faced this past season—one which will continue to be an issue in the years to come—is their inability to develop their young players. I see prospect after prospect being called up and given a shot, but hardly any of them have truly "wowed" me to the point where I believe they will be cornerstone players for the Indians in the future. With such little organizational depth and delayed prospect development, injuries and trades of star players will consume any team.
3. What, if anything, do you feel actually went RIGHT for the Tribe this season?
Nino Colla: I think the bright spots of this team are the ones they're going to focus on for the future. I'm talking mainly about two players, Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera.
I called the Cabrera draw-back in 2008 unfortunately. But it was something that was bound to happen for a young player that the league was now aware about. However Cabrera did what he had to do, went down to Triple-A, fixed things and he's now a better player. I never expected him to be the hitter he was this season, I really didn't. I'd have been happy with a .260-.270 hitter that just plays stellar defense and makes a good 8-9 hole hitter. But Cabrera is doing more and he's going to be a superstar.
Shin-Soo Choo on the other hand, we expected greatness from him and he was great. He's a 20-20 man and he's only getting better. He's got a great arm in right field and he's that corner outfielder the Indians have needed for a long time. There were high expectations for Choo to do well this year and he did just that. He'll be a cornerstone of this franchise going forward.
Dale Thomas: This is a really tough one ... I mean they gave out Victor Martinez bobble heads at the game on the same day they traded him after he begged not to be traded? How wrong is that? That said, here's some things that went right: 1. We escaped having the worst record in the AL. 2. Peralta doesn't play shortstop anymore. 3. Wedge was fired.
Samantha Bunten: Amid the rubble that was the 2009 season, the Indians did do a few things right: drafting and signing the first solid class of draft picks in years, repositioning players like Matt LaPorta, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jhonny Peralta to maximize their potential (or lack of Potential in Peralta's case), and working toward fielding a team with improved speed and defense for the future.
I would also like to call out Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin Soo Choo, Tony Sipp, and Michael Brantley for their excellent play despite a disappointing season overall for the team, and the fans, for hanging in there and staying loyal to the Tribe even when the Tribe let them down.
The Coop: I suppose that, even if none of the Indians' young guys really stood out and impressed, they did get valuable experience which will hopefully be the basis for growth and development. With a few more seasons under their belt, guys like David Huff, Justin Masterson, Luis Valbuena, and Matt LaPorta might grow into decent major leaguers.
Jeff Poore: They finally let the young guys like Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Tony Sipp and Chris Perez play and develop in the major leagues. It has been long overdue for some time and it will help the Tribe reload sooner than later.
4. What are your expectations for the Indians in 2010?
Nino Colla: I'm expecting a lot. I'm not expecting a ton of wins though. However I'm not giving up hope that next year is going to be totally horrible like everyone thinks.
For one, I think whatever manager that is brought in will want to win now. That's just the mentality you take. That won't effect how he manages, but I think it effects how he motivates. I'd have these guys hungry. Young players for the most part could be dumb and young. If they start playing well, there's no telling what they'll do, especially in this horrid division.
It would not shock me if things started to click for a few players, Aaron Laffey, David Huff, Justin Masterson on the pitching side, LaPorta, Brantley, Valbuena on the offensive side and this team hangs around. But if it doesn't, I won't be disappointed, because I know it's young.
However I will be disappointed if strides aren't made. I think it will be an individual basis. The coaching staff, each player, Mark Shapiro. That's how I think 2010 should ultimately be evaluated at this time next year. Did players make the strides they were supposed to make? I'll set expectations and ideas for where I want Matt LaPorta. And if he doesn't meet them, then I'll be pretty disappointed.
That's basically how I want to look at 2010. No one thinks we'll contend, not even some of the most optimistic Cleveland fan. But I expect this team to play hard and reach individual efforts I expect.
The Coop: It's not going to be pretty. I have been living in Pittsburgh for several years now and have seen this movie many times. First of all, the Indians have major issues with pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Seriously, who can they really count on? The way it looks right now, they don't have one starter who would even be a No. 3 on a contender. And everyone knows how awful their bullpen is.
Their lineup is going to be mediocre as well. You've got to hope that Sizemore will rebound and get fully healthy. If he does, that will be a start. With a healthy Sizemore and Cabrera, along with Choo, they'll have a decent top third of the order. But they've got to get rid of some of the dead weight. I'm talking to you, Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta. Other than that, you've just got to hope you see some good things from the young guys who will get a shot. I don't know if you can really count on any of that either.
I expect a truly uninspiring choice for manager. Rather than get someone with a proven track record, Dolan and Shapiro will get someone who is just happy to have a job as a manager and will be a Yes Man.
Finally, I expect Dolan and Shapiro to trim payroll even more (if that's even possible) and trade anyone who is doing well at the All-Star break, for a handful of prospects. I expect the Indians to lose at least 90 games next year. If they finish .500, there should be a parade.
Jeff Poore: I expect them to develop into a solid offensive ball club that plays hard. Until we know who is the manager is it is hard to be specific. I do NOT expect them to contend, however, because of the lack of major league starting pitching in the system.
Kanka: The Tribe will finish in the top three in the AL Central, surprising a lot of people and giving Cleveland fans hope for the future.
Dale Thomas: My expectations for 2010 are pretty much the same as they are each and every year.
I expect the players to pay attention during the game and not let people steal third because nobody was looking. I expect our management to totally enforce a winning attitude, and a strong work ethic.
I expect ownership to settle their debt with the city of Cleveland by fielding a solid if not formidable baseball team at a small market price from tapping a good minor league system, making prudent off season acquisitions and by retaining those talented players that we already have.
I expect refinement in our pitching staff, improved plate discipline from our hitters and better game time decision making from our coaches. I expect a team with something to prove, and maybe most importantly, I expect a stop sign to be erected at third base.