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2006 Cleveland Indians Baseball Preview

Cleveland Indians Predictions – AL CENTRAL

OVERVIEW:

Last season, the Indians looked like they’d make it into the post-season as the Wild Card or as the Central Division winner. Then they hit the skids, which included a final-week hitting and scoring slump. They’re back again and can certainly be in the mix in 2006.

PITCHING:

The departure of free agents Kevin Millwood (RHP to RANGERS) and Scott Elarton (RHP to ROYALS) will hurt the team but the meat of the pitching roster is still intact. C.C. Sabathia (15-10) is the team’s ace with Paul Byrd (12-11) and Cliff Lee (18-5) following him. This is a rotation with two starting left-handers, which is rare and, often, effective.

Last season, Cleveland tied Chicago for best team ERA (3.61) and finished on top in the AL in opposing team BA (.247).

Closer Bob Wickman may have lost something on his fastball, but he is still effective due to his ability to spot pitches. Opposing teams hit .247 against him as he saved 45 games with a 2.47 ERA. He tied for most saves and had the second highest save percentage in the AL—90%.

HITTING:

This is a good hitting lineup that can pound the ball out of the park. DH Travis Hafner is what you want in a designated hitter—aggressive and powerful. In smacking 33 homeruns last season, he hit at a .305 clip while knocking in 108 runs.

Grady Sizemore is a solid leadoff guy (.289 BA) who created 81 RBI and scored 111 runs. He can spray the ball around the park and also has power—22 HR. Jhonny Peralta (.292 BA) contributed 24 homers and began to hit more to the opposite field. Look for continued improvement from him this year.

The team also boasts of one of the best hitting catchers in baseball—Victor Martinez (.305 BA, 73 R, 20 HR, 80 RBI). He has power to all parts of the park.

DEFENSE:

On the corners, Aaron Boone (third base) and Ben Broussard (first base) offer the Indians fine defense, while in the middle Ronnie Belliard and Jhonny Peralta may not look like your typical second baseman and shortstop, but they offer a lethal double-play combination.

In the outfield, Grady Sizemore is an exceptional athlete and right fielder Casey Blake has a sure glove and a strong arm (although he needs to control it better).

Behind the plate, Matinez improved and should continue to do so. He’s a hard worker.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

• At 38 and still the youngest manager in baseball, Eric Wedge starts his fourth year in Cleveland. He knows how to do this thing.
• This is a well-run organization, with two outstanding owners—Paul and Larry Dolan.
• Good people all-around in the front office and on the field coaching.

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

• Small market team, but expanding and broadening payroll. Must use draft effectively and make sound trades.
• Coco Crisp has gone to Boston and with him a fine work ethic and a .300 BA.
• Will loss of key pitchers to free agency affect staff?

CONCLUSION:

In 2003 Cleveland was 68- 94. Last season they were 93-69! They missed the 2005 playoffs on the last day of the season. People are expecting them to be playing in through October this year. Can they meet those expectations? They have a good chance.

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