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Reusse: Modern Game Unkind to Dozier, Plouffe

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Recent Blogs

We Probably Should Still Be Worried About Cleveland

We all love new things. They’re shiny, fun, and they give life some much needed change at times. But the thing about new things is that the excitement of “newness” drowns out the old and leads us to believe that the new is better when the old is still perfectly good.
Image courtesy of © Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Where is this analogy going? Well, the storyline for the offseason was how many upgrades the up-and-coming White Sox made, and how they now appear to be serious threats in a rather weak AL Central. The signing of Josh Donaldson knocked those narratives down a peg but I do still feel as if there’s one team that is getting overlooked in all of this.

That old thing would be the Indians. They just watched as their reign in the AL Central came to a close thanks to the Twins and their efforts (or lack thereof) recently led to a number of stalwart players leaving. Gone are the days of being terrorized by Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. Behind us are the worries of thinking about facing Andrew Miller and Cody Allen late in the game. And thank the lord that the dastardly Michael Brantley is now making a mockery of AL West pitching for a change.

The Indians will still boast a number of highly talented players who could come together and threaten the Twins’ efforts to win their second division title in a row. Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber have taken over the titles for “Cleveland pitcher who is annoyingly good” and Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez remain strong MVP candidates. One could make an argument that the Indians have the four best players in the division even when considering the recent Josh Donaldson signing.

Beyond that, the Cleveland factory of pitching remained as strong as ever as two dudes named Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac put up ERAs of 2.34 and 3.81 respectively over fairly substantial sample sizes last season.Their peripherals tell a less optimistic story but a pitcher not completely falling on his metaphorical face to start his MLB career is noteworthy and they both possess the kind of stuff that can get them outs at the major league level. Throw in the strikeout machine James Karinchak, and the newly acquired Emmanuel Clase, and it looks like the Indians are in prime condition to consistently fool hitters all summer.

Of course, there’s a reason why Cleveland is still mostly considered behind the Twins at this point. Their offseason major league signing has been literally just César Hernández, and their lineup depth beyond the two stars on the left side of the infield leaves much to be desired. The Twins should easily out-slug this team as they could legitimately have a 30 home run-hitter hitting ninth. While Cleveland will likely have Greg Allen, which is like comparing the original Star Wars trilogy to the prequels.

Even with this lackluster offense, Cleveland has two other tricks up their sleeve that will prove to be crucial in the division race. Carlos Carrasco had a poor 2019, and it was eventually revealed that he had been diagnosed with leukemia. A full healthy season from the typically reliable starter would push the Cleveland starting rotation to a higher level. If this happens, it will also show just how far behind the Twins are when it comes to their starting rotation.

The other trick is another bounce back candidate in José Ramírez who, much like Carrasco, had a worse showing in 2019 than many expected. Ramírez basically had two different seasons as his first half wRC+ of 68 would make even the lightest hitting of catchers blush. But he found his groove again in the second half as he scorched the ball to the tune of a 176 wRC+ and even came back from an injury that should have ended his season. If Ramírez is also back to being normal, then the Twins will really have some problems to deal with.

Altogether, I still believe that the Twins have a better squad on paper, but there’s a reason why they play the games: anything can happen. As long as Cleveland has their high end talent and incredible pitching development, they will be an immediate threat to the Twins, and we should be prepared for that.

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26 Comments

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NY Twins Fan
Jan 30 2020 10:56 PM
Nice article. I agree the Indians are a concern. Have to take issue though with: " One could make an argument that the Indians have the four best players in the division even when considering the recent Josh Donaldson signing" I guess you could argue anything but the 3 top players by WAR are not Indians and I don't think there is any logical argument they have the best 4 players in the division.
    • Dman likes this

 

Nice article. I agree the Indians are a concern. Have to take issue though with: " One could make an argument that the Indians have the four best players in the division even when considering the recent Josh Donaldson signing" I guess you could argue anything but the 3 top players by WAR are not Indians and I don't think there is any logical argument they have the best 4 players in the division.

It's mostly personal preference but my thought process was Bieber + Clevinger > anyone else (Clevinger was better on a rate basis last year than Giolito who is the only one that comes close by fWAR). Then Lindor + a better Ramírez is equal or better than every position player except for Moncada who had a massive BABIP last season. It's not an argument I would make but a good one could be made in my opinion.

    • tarheeltwinsfan, jkcarew, DannySD and 1 other like this

It's good to see this article.  We have been in pat ourselves on the back mode, and deservedly so, as we finally made a free agent splash.  I still think good pitching beats good hitting, and Cleveland has that in spades.

 

Do I think they are the favorites?  No, not sure.  But to assume it's clear cut the Twins is silly. The first two months count, and my my recollection we are way short on starting pitching.  I like our bullpen though.

 

it will be interesting to say the least, but as long as they have Lindor and Ramirez, they are big threats, from star power offensively, and of course their starters are elite.

 

Should be fun!!!

    • LA VIkes Fan, mikelink45 and Platoon like this
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Richard Swerdlick
Jan 31 2020 04:46 AM

The Cleveland starting pitching model is what the Twins are seeking. The last half of the season featured 3 starting pitchers all from the 2016 draft. They all pitched well. 

    • LA VIkes Fan, Platoon and bobs like this
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Doctor Gast
Jan 31 2020 06:48 AM

 

The Cleveland starting pitching model is what the Twins are seeking. The last half of the season featured 3 starting pitchers all from the 2016 draft. They all pitched well. 

You took the words right out of my mouth! Cleveland has established a pitching factory! The ability to draft, trade for young raw potential talent & create aces! They don`t depend on going after old past pitchers hoping for a bounce back or had 1 good partial season. Emmanuel Clase is a diamond in the rough that Cleveland could see & develop. Expect great things from him! Cranking out aces puts them in a position to be able to trade for any weakness they may have & more prospects.That`s what I aspire for the Twins. The Twins aren`t there yet so they may have to go after bounce backs to compete now

 So don`t count Cleveland out yet! As long they still have that old factory operating

    • mikelink45 and Platoon like this
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howieramone2
Jan 31 2020 08:28 AM
Give Cleveland credit for being a well run organization. IMHO, we are roughly following their model for developing starting pitching.
    • railmarshalljon likes this


It was nice to see Graterol on this list... It’s not nice that the first 2 pitchers play for Cleveland.
    • Blake, mikelink45 and dbminn like this
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howieramone2
Jan 31 2020 09:17 AM
We've already won the numbers game for relievers.

The very existence of Cleveland scares the crap to of me.

    • USAFChief, birdwatcher, Riverbrian and 1 other like this

You forgot to mention their coach - I think future HOF manager is fitting for Francona and he deserves it.What is amazing to me is that with all that you wrote about the Indians still have the worst OF in the division and that is usually one of the easiest positions to upgrade.Maybe they see a big uptick in the performance of the guys that they have, but our OF really leaves them behind.

 

The other item that was not covered in this article is defense.On MLB fielding the Twins are 25 and Cleveland is 7 in fielding pct.Not the overall best comparison, but it works here.Defense still matters and I do not know how much Donaldson improved the team in that area. 

    • LA VIkes Fan and adorduan like this

 

The very existence of Cleveland scares the crap to of me.

They have a literal river of fire!

 

https://clevelandhis...g/items/show/63

    • USAFChief, Riverbrian, Craig Arko and 1 other like this

Nice article. Great point on Ramirez...in the 2nd-half, he was absolutely 100% the player that finished third in MVP voting the two prior seasons. He's a star. He's 27. Lindor just turned 26. We still talk about our 26-27 year-olds in terms of 'taking the next step'. What if Ramirez and Lindor can have even bigger seasons than they've had. Still very good chance of that...even likely at some point. And the pitching...so, yeah. Last year, pretty much everything that could go wrong for them, did go wrong. Lost some pitching...but still have pitching. We'll see...I still think they finish first or second.

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
    • dbminn likes this

You can never under estimate the value of good starting pitching and what it can do for your team. Just look at Washington last year. Add in an above average to good bullpen and I consider Cleveland a viable threat to take the division title away from us.

    • tarheeltwinsfan and dbminn like this
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howieramone2
Jan 31 2020 12:00 PM

MLB.com currently has Cleveland rated 14th on their power ranking, down from 11th where they ended lasted season. They spent pennies in free agency. I don't expect them or America's Team even hanging around til the deadline.

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diehardtwinsfan
Jan 31 2020 12:03 PM

 

The very existence of Cleveland scares the crap to of me.

Imagine living there.

 

MLB.com currently has Cleveland rated 14th on their power ranking, down from 11th where they ended lasted season.

The Twins were 16th in those "power rankings" a year ago. How much stock did you put in that?

 

https://www.mlb.com/...-power-rankings

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Tyler Roepke
Jan 31 2020 12:47 PM

Franmil Reyes is also a blooming stud. His numbers dipped after he was traded from San Diego but I think he'll bounce back. I'm a big fan of his, was bummed to see him traded to Cleveland.

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this
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howieramone2
Jan 31 2020 12:49 PM
The Twins ended 4th. All's well that ends well. Also, they recently said our overall offseason was excellent.

 

Give Cleveland credit for being a well run organization. IMHO, we are roughly following their model for developing starting pitching.

I don't even think it's "roughly".I think it's dead on following it.  

All I have to say is Clevelands OF. That is a big area of substandard production.
    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

 

They have a literal river of fire!

 

https://clevelandhis...g/items/show/63

Well, that was 50 years ago.....

 

https://www.npr.org/...-caught-on-fire

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Brock Beauchamp
Feb 01 2020 12:04 AM

 

It's mostly personal preference but my thought process was Bieber + Clevinger > anyone else (Clevinger was better on a rate basis last year than Giolito who is the only one that comes close by fWAR). Then Lindor + a better Ramírez is equal or better than every position player except for Moncada who had a massive BABIP last season. It's not an argument I would make but a good one could be made in my opinion.

I agree on the pitching side but I'll take that bet all day long on the hitting side. I suspect any one of the Twins or Sox hitters outpace either or both of the Cleveland hitters and I'd actually put 3-4:1 odds on it happening.

 

If you put that many good young hitters in the same equation, at least one or two of them will truly step out and become great.

I might even put even odds on no Cleveland hitter being one of the best two hitters in the ALC.

 

And that's no disrespect to Lindor, as he's amazing... but in a single season with a ton of breakout hitters ready to happen, it's easy to get lost in the mix, even without an injury (which is always a factor).

I’m definitely not taking the Indians lightly and I don’t think the Twins should either. I think it’ll be a closer race than last year, both teams winning 90 something games. 
 

Their pitching is still superior. Relying on both Dobnak and Thorpe (or whoever) for the first month worries me. I was worried last season too but Perez surprised in the beginning. Not sure it’s smart to hope for magic again, especially in two spots. 

 

The Twins offense is superior, but I think the ball will go back to a more normal ball. I think the Twins were a great offensive team last year and many players made legit sustainable improvements but I see them scoring fewer runs. 
 

should be a good fight the whole season.