The Cleveland Indians were the most disappointing team in baseball this season. I know that is a weird thing to say about a team that won 91 games and its division. However, a team that could have won the World Series got booted in three games in the ALDS. Yes, they lost to a supremely talented Astros team, but still, the Tribe will undoubtedly look back on 2018 as a team that could have done so much more.
This team’s offense is very talented. They had two players who are going to finish in the top 5 in the MVP race in Jose Ramirez and Fransisco Lindor, followed by a deep lineup that features six OTHER players who have made at least on all-star team. Michael Brantley was one of the most consistentt hitters in baseball. Yan Gomes was one of the best hitting American League fathers this season. They had four players steal at least 20 bases, as well as four who hit 30 plus home runs. They did not have many week spots, and they were a threat to put up ten runs on any given night.
Their starting rotation might have been better than their offense. Of the six pitchers with more than ten starts, four finished with 200 strikeouts and ERA’s below 3.50. Those four, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger, rounded out one of the most successful rotation in the history of the league. No rotation has ever had four reach the 200 K mark, The highest ERA in the group was 3.38, and you could rely on any one of them to give quality innings every time they took the mound. A rotation like this, along with that lineup, should have been pushing 100 wins. In fact, their Pythagorean W-L had them at 98 wins, which is significantly more than their 91.
Even though the fact that their bullpen was the problem was obvious, it did not make sense either. Cody Allen’s struggles came out of nowhere, and Andrew Miller just couldn’t stay healthy enough to get consistent. Still, them at half strength could have usually been enough when the rest of the team is as good as it is. However, Allen couldn’t even get to half strength, and he finished with a 4.70 ERA. Still, a midseason trade for the best reliever in baseball, Brad Hand, couldn’t save them. Although they improved, they still were not playing like the team they should have been.
The most problematic things that happen with seasons like the Tribe had in 2018 is that it is very difficult to know what to do in the offseason. They need to fix their ‘pen, but how do they know who to get rid of. Can you really part ways with a player who did as much as Cody Allen did? is it worth flipping Miller for a few pieces with the idea that a couple consistent arms are better than one great one? Do they ship some of the excess talent that they have elsewhere, and, if so, who? These are the questions that Cleveland will need to think about, because they cannot afford to have another year like 2018.