Matthew Houser ‘15
It’s a coincidence that the Indians ended the year by facing Tampa Bay with Alex Cobb, the same starter of the wild card game against the Tribe that ended the season a year ago. It’s fitting that Scott Kazmir, one of the most promising pitchers for the Tribe a year ago, ended our playoff hopes. Scott fitts perfectly to what may be one of the most frustrating and fitting seasons in Indians history. That being a team that fought against themselves.
As disappointing as this season was, the Indians (85-77) managed to do something that they haven’t been able to do since the 2000-2001 seasons, finishing back-to-back years over .500 baseball. Despite the above average record, the Indians had one of the most hair-pulling defenses and offenses in the Majors. It may be a little late, but lets take one final look at the good, the ugly, and future of the 2014 Cleveland Indians.
Brantley, Gomes, and Chisenhall offensively
Michael Brantley,Yan Gomes, and Lonnie Chisenhall combined for 35%(240 RBI’s) of the team’s total 644 RBI’s they had this season. They had a combined batting average of .295 in a combined number of 433 game played. Brantley and Chisenhall both were in contention for the batting title during the month of August before they both cooled down.
I have no idea how they were able to survive with how much they were used this year. The bullpen had a ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality throughout this marathon of a season and did a phenomenal job of doing so. Brian Shaw played in 80 games, most in the American League, followed closely by closer Cody Allen and Marc Rzepczynski(76 and 73 games respectively). They kept the Indians close and in the best position to win every game that they could do so and that is something most MLB clubs can’t say.
Trading Masterson, Axford and Cabrera
I was probably the happiest Indians fan in Cleveland when Asdrubal (“Mr. Double Trouble”) Cabrera left. He gave me and every other Indians fan more headaches than Brandon Weeden did when he was our QB(Yikes!). Not only was he second on the team with errors this year, (14 in 94 games) he was also the biggest inning killer of all time. There isn’t a specific stat for it, but it felt like whenever we had a chance to score, he was up to bat. Result: infield pop-up or a double play.
Masterson and Axford were necessary trades with the way they were pitching during this season. You cannot have your starting ace for the season have an ERA of 5.51(19 starts). John Axford had a couple of shining moments at the beginning of the year, but he overall looked more like Chris Perez as the season went on.
Starters in the Second Half
There is no way that this team would of gotten to 85 wins without the production that the pitching staff put up in the second half. With Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber pitching one of the best season’s in Indians history, (18-9 record, 2.44 ERA, 269 strikeouts, and 3 complete games in 34 starts) the surprise of T.J. House, ( 4-1 record and ERA of 2.25 in the months of August and September) and the resurrection of Carlos Carrasco, (ERA of 1.72 in the months of August and September in 10 games started and 1 complete game) the starting rotation kept the Indians in the hunt for October for 160 games.
The offense as a team:
They may have been 11th in the MLB in runs scored, but a lot of those runs were junk runs that just made some games into a NFL contest. Out of 162 games, 54 games had the Tribe scoring 2 runs or fewer with a record of 12-42. Regardless of what their batting and RISP(runners in scoring position) average was overall, you are rarely going to be successful in the majors with a third of your games scoring 2 runs or less no matter how good your pitching staff is.
Pitching staff (1st half)
The pitching staff in the first half was messy and horrendous. With an original starting rotation of Masterson, Salazar, Kluber, McAllister, and Carrasco, only Kluber made it through the entire season. Everyone else was sent up and down from Triple A Columbus to eventually the bullpen(McAllister), back to the rotation,(Salazar and Carrasco) or traded (Masterson).
There are no right words to say how bad the infield was this year. All I have to say is 116 Errors(According to Sporting Charts), the most in the MLB. I’m honestly surprised the Tribe was able to have a winning record with this many errors. So many bad plays, so many bad memories….
Not Being Clutch
This was the dagger that defines the 2014 Indians season and why they did not make it to October baseball. When the Indians had a chance to make a move in the playoff push against the Tigers and Royals starting in August, (4.0 games or less before the series started) they had a combined record of 2-8 against those two teams. If the Indians ever want to make any noise in the division, they have got to be dominate during crunch time.
Victor Martinez, who is a free agent this year, always talked about coming back to Cleveland. He may be 36 at the start of next year, but if he has anything close to what he had this year with the Tigers, he could be the answer to the enigma that is the Indians offense. Maybe the way the Detroit went out of the playoffs this year could influence his decision. Is it just me or have I heard something similar to this? (“cough” “cough” Lebron “cough”)
How do we fix the defense?
There is no doubt that the defense was the downfall of this team. So how do we fix this defense exactly with nearly everyone coming back? Jose Ramirez has a fantastic throwing arm for a shortstop but he needs to learn to have more control. Second base is a mystery, you could either have Kipnis who just came out of the worst seasons of his career, or the high prospect Francisco Lindor their and Kipnis at right field. There really is no correct answer for this problem. Keep Santana at first base and iron out Chisenhall at third. If the Tribe can make that happen, we may see at least five more wins next year for sure.
Although I won’t be able to see the games anymore in my Section 314 season tickets due to the construction(which is a different topic for another day), the Indians will have me and the rest of Cleveland guessing (and hoping) for what they will do next.
All stats and images except for the errors total were helped provided by ESPN and MLB.com