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IBI Roundtable: 2013 Indians and MLB predictions

IBI Roundtable: 2013 Indians and MLB predictions
April 2, 2013
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Here it is, the annual IBI Roundtable.

We pooled together 14 writers on the site to get their quick thoughts on the Indians outlook this season and make their predictions on the playoffs and the winners of all the postseason hardware.

I have not included my own thoughts, though you can get them in more detail in my Tribe Happenings piece posted earlier today; however, I did provide my predictions in the chart below. Here is what the rest of the IBI staff has to say about this upcoming season….

Jim Pete: The Indians made a serious move this offseason to become a “contender-in-a-year,” and I’m pretty sure that they have done just that. Their offense, led by newcomers Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, as well as holdover Carlos Santana, will be one of the best and most balanced in the American League. The Bullpen will continue to be one of the best in all of baseball, with Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Nick Hagadone, Joe Smith and Cody Allen leading the way. The only question mark will be the starting rotation. Can Justin Masterson regain his 2011 status of ace? Can Ubaldo Jimenez mirror his spring training numbers? Can Brett Myers return to the rotation with less velocity? Can Zach McAllister take the next step? Can Scott Kazmir return to his all-star form, or disappear as he did two years ago? Can Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer force their way onto the staff and be the top-of-the-rotation starters that the Indians need? There are a lot of questions with this team, but the wildcard here is Terry Francona. He could be the difference maker as the season winds up, and if the rotation can shore up the playoffs could be in sight. They’ll win at least 86 games, and could win a few more if the rotation can balance the offense. Record: 86-76

Steve Orbanek: For me, the key is still starting pitching. We know this team will score runs, but will the pitching hold up its end of the bargain? I happen to think it will. I predict the Indians will finish 89-73 and grab the second wild card spot in the American League. I believe Justin Masterson will rebound, and I really expect big things from right-hander Zach McAllister. Finally, call me crazy, but I do believe there is something to Ubaldo Jimenez's improved command this spring. I do not expect him to revert to his 2010 form, but I expect that he will be a serviceable starter and also show great progress in the walk department. Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But that's the beauty of baseball. We all have an opportunity to dream, and that dream officially becomes a reality tonight when the Indians open the season against the Toronto Blue Jays. Grab your popcorn boys. Record: 89-73

Jim Piascik: It would be hard not to be excited about the 2013 season. Ownership spent money, the big-time free agents came to Cleveland, and optimism reigns. Yet I only have the team going 81-81. As excited as I am for Opening Day and to go see this team in action, it is hard to go from 68-94 to 94-68. This team will be better, but unless Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez pitch like it is 2011 and 2010 respectively, I think Cleveland will finish around .500. Being around .500 is much better than last year and will serve as good place to jump off from in 2014, but expecting the playoffs is too big of a jump for me. Record: 81-81

Charlie Adams:  The 2013 Indians seem like the team that everyone has figured out: great offense, but a horrible rotation. They have a rotation that induces tons of grounders, but a bad infield to field them. They have the best defensive outfield in the majors, but not enough fly balls for them to catch. They signed shiny new free agents, but are heavily dependent on current players to bouncing back from a rough 2012. They have a veteran manager, but are counting on young guys to lead the team. Yes, it is safe to say that the Indians are an interesting and contradictory team heading in to 2013. Accordingly, it has been easy to say: "they look like a .500 team" and leave it at that. That is a safe position to take and one that nobody can begrudge you. The question that remains when predicting the 2013 Indians, of course, is how much each of the positives and negatives are going to balance each other out. There is potential for injuries, bullpen implosions and plain bad luck. However, I am a proponent of making your own luck and the single biggest change from last year to this is at the top; the front office and ownership have changed their approach radically. They are willing to take risks and make the moves necessary to win the division and roll the dice in the postseason. I believe that the Indians are making their own luck and, in doing so, are going to break a few projection systems. I predict that the Indians will win 89 games and tie the Blue Jays for the last Wild Card spot. I believe that they will win that game and make the postseason. Record: 89-73

Jim Berdysz: Expectations are high and why shouldn’t they be. It was an offseason unlike any other in recent memory, as Indians ownership finally opened their wallets and shook out their piggy banks to give fans a new and exciting product for 2013. The additions of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Mark Reynolds will certainly help a lot, but the biggest impact will definitely come from new Tribe manager Terry Francona. He’s a proven winner and a leader the Tribe desperately needed if they want to contend going forward. Yes, the starting rotation is somewhat of a question mark, but I realistically believe the Indians will contend for the AL Central crown this season. Bottom line, Trevor Bauer and the Indians beat out Detroit on the last day of the season to win the Central Division by one game. I’m not predicting a World Series title, but I will say that Tribe fans will have an October to remember in 2013! Record: 90-72

Andrew Clayman: It certainly appears as though Ubaldo Jimenez has taken over for "Fausto Carmona" as the Indians' perennial preseason X factor. Rather than hoping for the lights-out Ubaldo of 2010 to miraculously reappear, however, we all seem collectively resigned to the fact that 12 wins and an ERA under 5.00 is pretty much where we're setting the bar for our "ace" in 2013. So yeah, starting pitching is the big, glaring obstacle between Tito's Tribe and a postseason spot. But what about those shiny new bats? Well here are three random predictions: Lonnie Chisenhall outslugs Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs steals more bases than Michael Bourn, and Mike Aviles becomes a local folk hero. Record: 83-79

Kevin Dean: Somehow, I am giving the Indians less credit going into 2013 than I did going into 2012 (wins-wise, at least). I have them at one less win (83) compared to last season's survey, but that has far more to do with unrealistic expectations one year ago than with their impactful winter. Speaking of, the only complaint I can possibly muster is signing Brett Myers. I foresee a disastrous season from him, on par with Ubaldo Jimenez, who turns in a second consecutive dud. One way or another, neither will finish the season in the rotation. Offensively, Lonnie Chisenhall is finally afforded regular playing time and his exposure to left-handed pitching makes Terry Francona look like a genius for doing what Manny Acta wouldn't. Jason Giambi announces his retirement somewhere along the way, and immediately joins Francona's staff as an assistant hitting coach. Record: 83-79

Jake Dungan: After an offseason beyond our wildest dreams, Cleveland has a team that everyone is excited about. From Tribe first baseman Nick Swisher clubbing a 3-run home run in spring training to Terry Francona shaking his stuff in the Tribe Harlem Shake video, this is a rejuvenated team with boundless potential and newfound camaraderie virtually unmatched in the league.  But despite the improvements made this offseason, the Indians still have a lot to prove since they did finish fourth in the division in 2012. The lineup is definitely better, but they’ll only go as far as the starting pitching takes them. If the rotation comes through, though, I’m seeing playoffs. Record: 87-75

Jeff Ellis: I am not as high on the Tribe as most because of the starting pitching. Masterson is the ace, and when you look at his numbers it is pretty clear two years ago was a major outlier. He is a back of the rotation starter. Jimenez has been worse than a Triple-A pitcher the last two years. Kazmir has been out of baseball for basically two years and hasn't had a good season since 2008. I would be shocked if he lasts the whole year.  Myers and McAllister are going to eat up innings but both are more backend guys.  I love what the team did with the offensive signings, but the problem for me is there is a very good chance this is the worst starting rotation in baseball.  I see a 75 win team. The offense will keep them in it, but I just have no faith in the starters. Record: 75-87

Michael Goodman: It seems clear to me what the Indians need in 2013 to compete. The season will live or die on the arms of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, and Zach McAllister. I think the offense and bullpen are going to be really good. As far as the rotation is concerned, I’m optimistic of a bounce back year for Masterson. I think he’s going to be really good in 2013. I don’t expect the same for Ubaldo Jimenez. I expect another inconsistent year from him, but still better than 2012. I could see him posting middle of the rotation numbers. A lot of people are down on him right now, but I think Brett Myers will do exactly what the signed him to do, pitch 180-200 innings with an ERA around 4.25-4.50. I see Zach McAllister putting up similar numbers to Myers. With that said, I don’t think that’s enough to challenge Detroit for the division crown. I still expect a much better team and a much more enjoyable summer in Cleveland. Record: 84-78

Michael Hattery: I suppose anyone who follows the Indians with any sort of commitment knows that starting pitching is the pivot point on which this season turns. However, whether it is some regression to the mean for Masterson, the additions of McAllister and Myers for a full season is set to improve it to a middle of the pack rotation. Coupled with vast offensive improvement and an above average bullpen spells a legitimately improved team. I think a conservative projection is .500. This is going to be a really fun team to watch and an enjoyable season to take part in as it unfolds. Record: 84-78

Sean Mahon: The Cleveland Indians transformed their roster, outlook and brand with a winter that I think will really set up their three-four year forecast and direction. The worrisome thing, of course, is the rotation. Beyond maybe Masterson, none of the starting five from Opening Day are the guys that are really in the long term plans.  Drafting, developing and acquiring young arms with potential must be an underlying theme for the front office during the season as they evaluate what they do have around the diamond. All in all, this looks like the best product they've put on the field (or at least on paper) since their 2007 roster that had three All-Stars. This team potentially has four to five All-Stars if all goes according to plan and I don't think it's out of the realm to seek a slightly above .500 record, though it will be reliant on how consistent that staff is and how much the offense can limit their strikeout proneness. Regardless of the outcome of the 2013 season, at least we can contently say the Dolan’s spent some real money in attempts to bring home a winner and rest peacefully now that concession prices were collectively lowered. Record: 83-79

Andrew Zajac: The Indians made significant strides in the off-season to improve this team and it was a great step in the right direction. That being said, there's still holes on this team, including a starting rotation that still has many question marks. Ubaldo Jimenez has shown improvement this spring, although he still doesn't look like his former self. Justin Masterson has been roughed up here and there, while Brett Myers has had a forgettable spring. Can Scott Kazmir stay healthy? I expect a big year from Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana. Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn will be steady contributors. Jason Kipnis will improve his average and home run totals while seeing a slight decline in stolen base numbers. Michael Brantley is also primed for another solid year. My only question mark in the batting order is Drew Stubbs. Other than that, I expect the Indians to finish in third place, only a game or two behind Chicago for second. The Indians will flirt at, above, or slightly below .500 for most of the season. Record: 82-80

Predictions

  Tony Lastoria Jim Pete Steve Orbanek Jim Piascik Jeff Ellis
AL East Rays Rays Blue Jays Rays Rays
AL Central Tigers Tigers Tigers Tigers Tigers
AL West Angels Angels Angels Rangers Rangers
AL Wildcard Blue Jays Blue Jays Rays Angels Angels
AL Wildcard Athletics Rangers Indians Blue Jays Blue Jays
NL East Nationals Nationals Nationals Nationals Nationals
NL Central Reds Reds Reds Cardinals Cardinals
NL West Giants Giants Giants Dodgers Diamondbacks
NL Wildcard Dodgers Dodgers Braves Braves Reds
NL Wildcard Braves Cardinals Dodgers Reds Braves
World Series Rays over Giants Reds over Angels Angels over Nats Nats over Rays Nationals over Rays
AL Cy Young Justin Verlander Justin Verlander Justin Verlander Justin Verlander Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young Clayton Kershaw Stephen Strasburg Stephen Strasburg Stephen Strasburg Clayton Kershaw
AL MVP Mike Trout Josh Hamilton Prince Fielder Evan Longoria Mike Trout
NL MVP Bryce Harper Joey Votto Matt Kemp Matt Kemp Bryce Harper
AL ROY Wil Myers Jackie Bradley Jr. Wil Myers Wil Myers Jurickson Profar
NL ROY Jedd Gyorko Jedd Gyorko Oscar Taveras Oscar Taveras Jedd Gyorko
AL Manager Joe Maddon Terry Francona Terry Francona Joe Maddon Joe Maddon
NL Manager Davey Johnson Fredi Gonzalez Fredi Gonzalez Davey Johnson Mike Matheny
  Charlie Adams Jim Berdysz Andrew Clayman Kevin Dean Jake Dungan
AL East Rays Blue Jays Rays Rays Rays
AL Central Tigers Indians Tigers Tigers Tigers
AL West Angels Athletics Angels Rangers Angels
AL Wildcard Rangers Tigers Blue Jays Blue Jays Rangers
AL Wildcard Indians Angels Athletics Athletics Indians
NL East Nationals Nationals Nationals Nationals Nationals
NL Central Reds Reds Reds Reds Reds
NL West Giants Dodgers Dodgers Giants Dodgers
NL Wildcard Cardinals Braves Giants Cardinals Giants
NL Wildcard Braves Cardinals Braves Padres Braves
World Series Rays over Nats Nationals over A's Tigers over Nats Rays over Nats Angels over Reds
AL Cy Young Justin Verlander Jered Weaver David Price Brandon Morrow Jered Weaver
NL Cy Young Clayton Kershaw Clayton Kershaw Clayton Kershaw Stephen Strasburg Stephen Strasburg
AL MVP Miguel Cabrera Yoenis Cespedes Mike Trout Miguel Cabrera Mike Trout
NL MVP Joey Votto Bryce Harper Andrew McCutchen Joey Votto Justin Upton
AL ROY Wil Myers Wil Myers Wil Myers Aaron Hicks Wil Myers
NL ROY Julio Teheran Billy Hamilton Adam Eaton Jedd Gyorko Julio Teheran
AL Manager Joe Maddon Terry Francona Joe Maddon Joe Maddon Terry Francona
NL Manager Mike Matheny Davey Johnson Don Mattingly Bud Black Davey Johnson
  Michael Goodman Michael Hattery Sean Mahon Andrew Zajac
AL East Blue Jays Rays Rays Blue Jays
AL Central Tigers Tigers Tigers Tigers
AL West Angels Athletics Angels Angels
AL Wildcard Rays Angels Athletics Rays
AL Wildcard Rangers Blue Jays Blue Jays Athletics
NL East Nationals Nationals Nationals Nationals
NL Central Reds Reds Reds Cardinals
NL West Dodgers Dodgers Dodgers Dodgers
NL Wildcard Giants Braves Giants Braves
NL Wildcard Phillies Cardinals Braves Reds
World Series Nationals over Angels Nationals over Rays Nationals over Angels Tigers over Nationals
AL Cy Young Justin Verlander Felix Hernandez Chris Sale Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young Clayton Kershaw Stephen Strasburg Stephen Strasburg Stephen Strasburg
AL MVP Mike Trout Evan Longoria Robinson Cano Mike Trout
NL MVP Joey Votto Joey Votto Justin Upton Joey Votto
AL ROY Aaron Hicks Wil Myers Dylan Bundy Wil Myers
NL ROY Shelby Miller Jedd Gyorko Oscar Taveras Julio Teheran
AL Manager John Gibbons Joe Maddon Terry Francona Joe Maddon
NL Manager Charlie Manuel Dusty Baker Clint Hurdle Don Mattingly

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

Brad
April 4, 2013 - 4:11 AM EDT
No way the Tigers run away with the ALC. They have no closer and a terrible defense....and they have to play 3 competitive teams (Cle/KC/Sox) over 50 times......and they have no depth.....one key injury and they're .500 team.
jmast
April 3, 2013 - 9:56 AM EDT
"hope" right "there"...I should proof these things before I hit submit.
jmast
April 3, 2013 - 9:53 AM EDT
I just don't see all the hate for the Indians' rotation. Yes, it has some question marks, but it's not like it has no hop of being solid or even good. Masterson and Ubaldo obviously have talent, they've done it before, as has Myers. McAllister always keeps his team in the game, and Kazmir knows what it takes as well. The key here is that the Indians have QUALITY DEPTH behind them. They aren't counting on Dave Huff and Corey Kluber to save the day in the event that someone in the rotation goes south. It's Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, two young guys with high-end stuff whom I can't wait to see pitch consistently. Sure, one or two of the rotation will tumble, but not all of them, then the young guys come in and do their thing. With the upgraded offense, the pitchers don't need to be Cy Young, they just need to be solid. And I think they will.

I also think that many underestimate the importance of veteran leadership, both on the field and in the clubhouse (including the manager). I'm guessing we see huge strides by guys like Chisenhall, Santana, Brantley and Kipnis this year as they move into the quasi-veteran stage. Guys hit their prime at some point in their career, and especially Brantley and Santana are right their. The Indians could really surprise this year, and if the staff locks in, they could make a deep run in the playoffs.

PREDICTION: 88 wins, in the mix for a wild card spot.
Tony
April 3, 2013 - 12:31 AM EDT
Common Cents, the free agent spending was not all about winning this season. It was about starting a process to give this team some building blocks from which to build on. Yes, the goal is to win, but for as productive of an offseason as the Indians had, they still have some way to go to be a legit World Series contender. This offseason was but (hopefully) the first step and they were able to get a few core pieces in Swisher and Bourn with which to add to going forward. The great thing is they have shown they are committed and are willing to take some risks, so if by chance things shake out for them this season and they are in the thick of things in July, they have the assets to add more to this team.
Nick
April 2, 2013 - 5:40 PM EDT
Matthew, I think most would utterly shocked if this rotation didn't have some additional pieces via trade later in the year. Doubt they stand pat with the rotation.
Roger
April 2, 2013 - 4:43 PM EDT
here is my nickels worth: First of all with the astro twins and RED SOX in the league losing as many games as they are gonna lose 89 to 90 is too low for the division title or wild card berth. The tigers have underachieved for the past two years while winning the division. the 2012 team should have won at least 98 games and ended up with 88. I should think that this year they should be 96-66 with any health. So the tribe at about 85 wins will be far out of first and at least half a dozen games out of the wild card race. As for the summary of 2013 it is a huge step in the right direction and adding guys like carlos bauer and salazar to the rotation full time bodes very well for the future, all with out a player making 15 million a year
whereas detroit has several over 20 million and anything short of world series championship they come up short.
Rich Smith
April 2, 2013 - 3:20 PM EDT
If you take the average of all of the above predictions it comes out to 84 wins, which I believe is about right. If most things go south, then the low end prediction of 75 wins will happen. If everything clicks, then upper 80s will happen.

I believe Masterson, Jiminez, and McCallister will have good years. The only signing I didn't like is the Myers deal. But I do believe Carrasco and Bauer will help the club this year.

It has to be a good sign when Indians players who wouldn't make the team are on the opening day rosters of other teams - Francisco & Hafner for the Yankees, Gomez for the Pirates, Rondon with Cubs, & McFarland with the Orioles.

Here's to a much more enjoyable year for all of us diehard Indians fans!!!
Andrew
April 2, 2013 - 2:21 PM EDT
Common Cents: It's about steps in the right direction. Unless you're the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels.. i.e. big market teams, you can't BUY your way into the playoffs over night. The Indians made these moves to make themselves competitive. Mind you, Bourn and Swisher weren't brought here on one year contracts. Reynolds was.. but point being: BUILDING a contender.
Matthew
April 2, 2013 - 2:18 PM EDT
The point of the free agent signings was the make the team competitive. If they're a .500 team on paper, then they have a very good chance of contending for a wildcard and maintaining fan interest through the season.

Meanwhile, the franchise has time to try to improve via trades and minor leaguers graduating to the big club. That's why the big free agent spending was on 5 year contracts. They added to their "core" of Santana, Kipnis, Brantley, and Chisenhall with Bourn and Swisher.
Common Cents
April 2, 2013 - 1:50 PM EDT
I'm offended I was not included in this segment.

The Indians will be 80-82 in 2013.

Have to ask the obvious question...what was the point of all the Indians free agent spending if only 4 of 15 of you expect the Indians to make the playoffs, especially considering all of you are Indians fans and are naturally biased.

This franchise needs to go in one direction; rebuild or contend. Playing for .500 never leads to winning titles.
Matthew
April 2, 2013 - 1:49 PM EDT
I agree with Jeff Ellis almost 100%. There is still a very good chance this is the worst rotation in the AL other than the Astros. We would have to get very lucky with some pitching performances over the year to get above .500

76 wins seems just about right.

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