2018 Record: 91-71
2018 Finish: 1st Place in AL Central, 5th in the American League
Surprises in 2018
Trevor Bauer finally delivered on his massive potential and superior spin rate by delivering a season where he finished 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA and a 6th place finish in the Cy Young Voting. He also led the league in FIP (Fielding Independent Percentage) with a 2.44 FIP.
Bauer’s rotation mate, Mike Clevinger, emerged as a legitimate frontline starter giving the Indians one of the most feared rotations in baseball when paired with Cy Young candidates Corey Kluber and Carlos
Francisco Lindor put a stamp on his claim to best SS in baseball by setting an Indians franchise record with 38 HRs by a shortstop and a 7.9 WAR. Winning their division proved to be surprisingly easy as they finished with 91 wins and no other AL Central team had a winning record.
Disappointments in 2018
Previously dominant relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen had serious down seasons, both finishing with ERAs over 4.00. After dominant seasons in 2016 and 2017, it was sad to see the downturn for Cleveland’s formerly solid bullpen arms. However, both Allen and Miller will not return to Cleveland, after signing deals with the Angels and the Cardinals.
However, the biggest disappointment for the Indians, was once again getting bounced out of the playoffs in the ALDS, this time in a three game sweep where they were dominated by the Astros. Only two seasons removed from nearly winning the World Series and with their window of contention closing, it was certainly a disappointing end for the AL Central Champs.
Looking Ahead to 2019
After some early offseason trade rumors, the Indians rotation has remained intact and should continue to be one of the best in baseball. Their health will be key as the bullpen looks to struggle again with Brad Hand and Oliver Perez being the only steady relievers on the roster.
Fortunately, the Indians also boast two of the best young infielders in baseball, MVP finalist Jose Ramirez and All-Star Francisco Lindor. Their talent should offset the question marks they have in their outfield, especially with the departure of Indians mainstay Michael Brantley, who signed a 2-year, $32 million dollar deal with the Houston Astros.
While other teams in the AL Central have improved this offseason, count the Tribe as definite contenders, especially since the rest of the AL Central finished below .500 in 2018. The task for this years team is to keep their star players healthy, play better against teams above .500, and better position themselves for the postseason as they try to win their first World Series championship since 1948.
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