With the Mets and Royals currently in the World Series, I wanted to know if it's crazy to think that the Indians' rotation is up there in the same tier as the Mets. The difference between the two teams seems to be the hitting. Am I a crazy Tribe fan or does this make sense?
-- Lenard K., New York, N.Y.
You're not crazy, Lenard. I think it's been well-documented that the Indians' rotation was one of the top groups in the American League this season, and the reason behind optimism that Cleveland really isn't that far off from being a postseason team. Alas, the Tribe's offense -- mostly in the first half -- cost the team a trip to October this year.
As for how close the Indians and Mets were with their starting staffs, New York had the edge in WAR, 17.4 to 15.9, according to Fangraphs. That said, Cleveland's front four of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer had a combined 15.1 fWAR, which was a touch below the Mets' foursome of Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon (15.2 combined). In 2015, the Indians' rotation led the Majors with a 24.2 strikeout percentage, while the Mets led baseball with a 5.2 walk percentage. Cleveland had the higher rate of strikeouts per nine innings (8.91 to 8.0), while New York had the better staff ERA (3.44 to 3.94). The Indians (1.16) and Mets (1.15) were extremely close in rotation WHIP, while the Mets had the edge in FIP (3.50 to 3.73).
Mets fans would probably be quick to point that their team's offense -- much like Cleveland -- was also subpar in the first half.
The Indians had a 94 team wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) before the break, but the Mets came in at 85 (or 15 percent below league average). In the second half, especially after trading for slugger Yoenis Cespedes, New York soared to a 114 wRC+. The Tribe also improved in the second half (106 wRC+). The biggest difference was in the power production for New York (102 homers, .443 slugging, .185 isolated power) and Cleveland (70 homers, .420 SLG, .153 ISO).
That brings us to Cleveland's biggest need this winter: power production. The Indians obviously have an October-worthy rotation. Cleveland has a solid foundation in the bullpen. The Tribe even has All-Star-caliber and all-around offensive contributors in the lineup. What the Indians lack, and will hopefully address this winter, is the lack of thump in the heart of the order.
What I saw all season was not a lack of talent. The Indians' roster from top to bottom is a every bit as talented as the Royals. The biggest difference was that the Royals pressure their opponent, while the Indians pressure themselves. Do you think that Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis are ready to step up as leaders and start playing like they're going to win instead of avoiding a loss? Francisco Lindor already brings this perspective to the team, which to me was the biggest reason why the Indians turned it around and why he deserves the Rookie of the Year Award. Thoughts?
-- Kevin B., Idaho
I think it's too easy to look at a first-place team and say, "They're playing with confidence and putting the pressure on," and then to look at a team lower in the standings and say, "They need to play with more confidence. They're playing like they're trying not to lose." I'm not sure how you could support either stance with facts or statistics. I do agree that something changed with Lindor's arrival. On the field, the defense and offense improved. And then, as more wins piled up, it looked like the Indians were playing with confidence and putting the pressure on. Success has a way of changing perception. The same applies to leadership or chemistry. It's rare that you hear about a struggling team having great chemistry and lots of great leaders. Win, and those kind of perceptions will begin to form.
Saw the Mariners hired Scott Servais, an ex-catcher with no real managing experience, to be their manager. I want Sandy Alomar Jr. to stay with the Indians, but why can't he land a managing job?
-- @jjsnowcat (via Twitter)
I still believe that Alomar, who has interviewed for a handful of managerial openings in recent winters, will get his shot. But it has to be the right situation. For instance, sources confirmed that the White Sox called Alomar this offseason to see if he'd be interested in being their bench coach. Alomar declined and is expected to stay in Cleveland as the first-base coach. One reason Alomar might've balked at the Chicago opportunity was how it was being portrayed in the media. If he took the job, some reports already tabbed him as the replacement for current White Sox manager Robin Ventura. Talk about a potentially awkward position for Alomar right out of the gates. Like I said, it has to be the right fit, and I still think Sandy's chance will come.
I keep reading Marcell Ozuna linked to the Indians. Are these rumors legit? What's so special about Ozuna?
-- Bill W., Albany, Ky.
Ozuna's name has popped up enough over the past year to think that where there's smoke, there's fire. He's still relatively young (24), under contractual control through 2019 and is two seasons removed from a strong showing with Miami (23 homers, .772 OPS and 115 wRC+ in 2014). Ozuna can play all three outfield spots and has rated as slightly above average overall on defense. I'm not sold on Abraham Almonte as the everyday center fielder, and I'm sure Cleveland is looking far and wide for outfield upgrades.
Could the Indians honestly explore a trade for D-backs slugger Paul Goldschmidt?
-- Aaron A., Huntington, Ind.
I've heard nothing to suggest that the D-backs are remotely willing to listen to offers for Goldschmidt. That said, in theory, I do think the Indians have the pieces to pull off such a trade, especially if they're willing to deal one of their Major League-ready arms. In any trade talks for a slugger, the Indians can ill-afford to break up their rotation too much, but the team does have a wealth of prospects to float in trade talks this winter.