Orginally presented on February 4 for the Cleveland chapter of SABR (Society of American Baseball Research), an in-depth player/positional analysis was performed to see how the 2012 Indians will fare. This is part one of a 15 part series that will be released over the following two weeks. Part I and Part II.
The Cleveland Indians, fresh off of consecutive seasons where they failed to win at least 70 games, demonstrated an 11-game improvement in 2011, tied for the fifth largest total in baseball. After beginning the season 30 – 15, the team fell back to earth, winning only 50 of the remaining 117 games. The 80-win mark was the highest total since 2008, a year in which the club won one game more, finishing at .500. But the improvement, however great it might seem, was more based on regression to the norm, rather than overall development.
Both Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana, the team’s most productive everyday players in 2010, lost significant time due to injury in 2010. Cabrera, who underwent surgery to repair a fractured forearm, missed 57 games because of it, and looked like a shell of the player he was once he returned. Santana lost 56 games as a result of an ugly home plate collision in early August. Outside of losing two solid contributors the team also suffered from down years by several other players including Jhonny Peralta and Jake Westbrook, both of whom were dealt before the trade deadline. Other players like Justin Masterson and Michael Brantley were, simply, unlucky. And, still, other players like Trevor Crowe were forced into starting roles, exposing their noticeable weaknesses.
The improvement in 2011 was foreseeable: full seasons from Santana and Cabrera generated nearly five additional wins; after Masterson’s ERA began to normalize – his true performance indicators like FIP, xFIP, and SIERA were all markedly better than his ERA – his production began to reflect it, and he was worth two more wins; Michael Brantley also improved by nearly two as his batting average on balls in play in 2010 began to regress back towards the league average, and by simply replacing less productive players with better options resulted in additional value.
The 2011 season was more about players’ performances normalizing and introducing new prospects than anything else, and the 2012 season should be the organization’s first true step towards playoff contention.
Simply put, the Cleveland Indians, losers of 272 games over the last three seasons, should win between 85 and 88 games, putting the organization one step closer to its ultimate goal: playoff contention.