CLEVELAND — It is late February which means, while the NBA season is in full swing, Major League Baseball teams are at their respective spring training facilities preparing for opening day. It is an exciting time for all baseball fans and could be especially exciting for the Cleveland Indians.
No, not because we just signed Juan Uribe, though that can’t hurt. It is an exciting time as a Cleveland fan because despite the all too familiar lack of off season moves, the Tribe returns arguably the best pitching staff in the majors.
Cleveland ranked second in opponents batting average last year, giving up just a .237 clip. They were also second in strikeouts at 1407 on the season and pulled off the most complete games in the majors with 11 total.
The staff, led by ex-cy young winning Corey Kluber, did this without great support from their offense or defense. Kluber, for example, had one the top WARS for a pitcher despite compiling an underwhelming record of 9-16.
The Indians also saw two of the brightest young arms in the league, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, take big steps in the 2015 season. Salazar, after being eased in his first couple seasons, broke out last year. He compiled a 14-9 record, finished 19th in the entire MLB with 195 K’s and finished the season with a very solid 3.45 ERA.
Carrasco, one of the most coveted young arms in the league, built off of his dominant finish in 2014 to put together a very impressive 2015. The 28 year old finished ninth in the MLB with 216 strikeouts while putting together a 14-12 record and a 3.63 ERA.
All three of these pitchers could very well be the ace of a respective staff or a #2 arm at worst. In the fourth starter spot is Trevor Bauer, a tantalizing talent that has top of the rotation potential. With three solid arms in Josh Tomlin, Cody Anderson, and T.J. House fighting for the fifth spot, the Tribe has the top of the rotation talent and depth to carry a team into the playoffs.
If injuries or under-performing does happen, which is a pretty good bet during a long baseball season, the Tribe should be in good position to withstand that. Also, with star Michael Brantley out to begin the year, Cleveland’s pitching becomes even more vital.
With a solid bullpen to boot, Cleveland will once again rely on their pitching to be the catalyst for what should be a playoffs or bust 2016 campaign.If they can get a bit of help from the offense and continuous improvement defensively, the Indians could live up to last year’s lofty World Series predictions.