The Cleveland Indians came into 2010 with a new manager in Manny Acta, hired after spending two and a half seasons with the Washington Nationals. Following a 65-97 2009, Acta was only able to improve the Indians by four games, as they finished 69-93 in 2010. They were fourth in the A.L. Central, twenty fives games behind division leading Minnesota.
Although the Indians failed to crack seventy wins for the second straight season, there were bright spots for Cleveland in 2010. Shin-Soo Choo proved he wasn’t a one year wonder by putting up an impressive power line in 2010 (22 HR-90 RBI-.300). Fausto Carmona had a bounce back season from a weak 2009 (5-12, 6.32 ERA) establishing himself as a potential No. 1 starter for Cleveland with his 2010 season (13-14, 3.77 ERA, 210 IP).
As you can expect from a team that finished twenty-four games under .500, the Indians didn’t perform too well in the team categories. They were eighth in the A.L. in average (.248), twelfth in runs scored (646), eleventh in home runs (128), and tenth in ERA (4.30). Let’s take a look at 3 areas of strength and 3 areas of potential difficulty for the Cleveland Indians in 2011.
Best Case Scenario: The Indians failed to make significant progress in their first season under Acta. They are returning a majority of the starters from last season as the only major acqusition so far was bringing in Orlando Cabrera as a free agent. The young Cleveland starting rotation have a year under their belts to build on. Unfortunately, the Indians still look to be behind the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox in the A.L. Central. Best case scenario would have them cracking .500 in the 82-85 win range, but short of taking the A.L. Central title.
Most Valuable Players: Shin-Soo Choo in 2010 led the Indians in average, home runs, and RBI. The Indians can’t afford any drop off from Choo to move up in the A.L. Central. It’s important to close out close games when you are looking to improve, and the Indians will look for continued stellar closer work from Chris Perez. 2010 was Perez’s first season as a closer, and he didn’t disappoint saving 23 games out of 27 opportunities with a 1.71 ERA along with 61 strike outs in 63 innings.
Break Out Player: If the Indians are going to move up the A.L. Central ladder, they’ll need a better season from Justin Masterson. Masterson, who came over from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade, had his first full season as a starter last season. He finished 6-13 with a 4.70 ERA in 29 starts. The Indians are hoping to pair Masterson with Carmona for a 1-2 punch at the beginning of the rotation. In his second full season as a starter, Masterson should be ready to raise to his high ceiling.
Worst Case Scenario: For a young team trying to move up the standings, it would be a lack of progress. The Indians will rely on a bunch of young pitchers, and with young pitchers comes growing pains. They also need to stay away from injuries. Grady Sizemore, coming back from a knee injury, may not even be ready until the start of the 2011 season. In the worst case scenario, the Indians win under 70 for the third straight season and get passed by the Royals.
Biggest Area of Concern: The Indians are young, and they have a lot of nice pieces they obtained in trades like Masterson and Matt LaPorta. But with young teams, the question always becomes how will they respond to losses? If the Indians have a prolonged losing streak, will they be able to come out of the slide? Also, the team’s offensive numbers have to improve. Their young pitchers will need runs, and the Indians ranked no higher than eighth in the American league in the three major categories: average, home runs, and runs scored.
Indian needing to rebound in 2011: Grady Sizemore. Sizemore was injured in 2010 limiting his season to a career low 33 games. Even before he was hurt, he had a career low in average at .211 along with 0 HR and 13 RBI. A veteran producer like Sizemore can help improve this Cleveland offense. In 2008, Sizemore batted .268 with 33 HR and 90 RBI. A lifetime .272 batter with a .363 OBP, Sizemore can set the table for the bats behind him to help get the Indians’ run production up.
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