Roll Tribe: 2013 Cleveland Indians Preview and Predictions

Here are some projections and predictions for our 2013 Cleveland Indians…

The Lineup

Michael Bourn:  The only stat I really care about with Bourn will be On-Base Percentage.  If he can keep it around .380 or so, he’ll help this lineup significantly with his speed on the base paths.  Prediction:  .265 Avg, 7 HR, 42 SB, .330 OBP

Asdrubal Cabrera:  He’s been a first-half All-Star and a second half chump the last few seasons.  I suspect he’ll be more consistent this year.  Prediction:  .275 Avg, 18 HR, 55 RBI

Jason Kipnis:  I love Kipnis, but he had a horrible second half last year and it seemed to carry over into spring training, so there is certainly some reason for concern.  Prediction:  .275 Avg, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 20 SB

Nick Swisher:  Swish’s numbers have been very consistent over the last five seasons, but I expect them to dip slightly given his new home ballpark and lineup protection.  Prediction:  .260 Avg, 21 HR, 75 RBI

Carlos Santana:  I’ve given up on Santana ever hitting for average like we thought he would, but he has some pop.  Prediction:  .235 Avg, 22 HR, 60 RBI

Mark Reynolds:  I’m not sure Reynolds will make it through the season as a regular in the lineup.  He strikes out a ton, and if he doesn’t hit a bunch of bombs he’ll become a real liability in the lineup.  Prediction:  .210 Avg, 12 HR, 35 RBI

Michael Brantley:  Dr. Smooth had a great spring.  I think his upside is limited, but he’s a decent player and I don’t believe a drop in the lineup will affect him any.  Prediction:  .280 Avg, 10 HR, 20 SB

Lonnie Chisenhall:  I was thrilled when they traded Hanahan and decided to give the job to the Chiz Kid.  They should have done it last year.  He had a terrific spring.  Prediction:  .280 Avg, 21 HR, 70 RBI and a move up in the order.

Drew Stubbs:  In three seasons as a full-time player, his batting average, on-base percentage, home runs and RBI have decreased each season.  I’m not sure if a change in leagues will help and he might force Swisher into playing RF full-time.  Prediction:  .220 Avg, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 10 SB

The Starters

Justin Masterson:  I don’t believe Masterson is as good as he was in 2011 or as bad as he was in 2012.  He’ll revert back to what he is– a solid starter who is by no means an ace.  Prediction:  13-12, 4.25 ERA

Ubaldo Jiminez:  We can only hope for a Cliff Lee-type of career turnaround.  I don’t see it from Scrubaldo, though.  Prediction:  5-11, 5.50 ERA and a demotion from the rotation.

Brett Myers:  He got lit up this spring, but he’s a solid pro and should be OK.  Prediction:  11-11, 4.50 ERA

Zach McAllister:  He had a good run last season and I think he’ll be consistent but not great.  Prediction:  11-9, 4.25 ERA

Scott Kazmir:  I liked that the Indians kicked the tires on Kazmir because there is some upside here and he’s LEFT HANDED.  I hope his career rebounds, but the odds are against it.  Prediction:  5-9, 5.00 ERA

Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco:  I believe both of these guys will make a significant number of starts this season because it is likely that at least two of the starters will either get hurt or pitch their way out of the rotation.  I’m high on both, and if there’s any hope for the next few seasons, it’s because of these two.

The Bullpen

The Bullpen Mafia was good last season and should be good again, but with the pen you never really know what you might get from year to year.  I put the odds of Vinnie Pestano taking over the closer role from Chris Perez at 50/50.  I hope that doesn’t happen, but while Perez has gotten the job done in his career, I’m not sure he has the stuff to be a consistently good closer.

The Defense

This is one of the most improved areas of the team.  The outfield defense, which was one of the worst in the league last year, will cover as much ground as anyone with the addition of Bourn and Stubbs.  The infield defense might not quite be as good with the loss of Hanahan and Kotchman, but it won’t be bad, either.

The Coaches

I’m still pinching myself to see if Terry Francona actually did come here to manage.  I would be fine if they signed him to a 10-year deal today.  If the Indians lose, it won’t be because he doesn’t know what he’s doing.  Two key players I’ll be watching closely to see if the coaches can help are Kipnis and Jiminez.

2013 Season Prediction:  The Indians will be a better team than they’ve been since 2007.  They’ve added some speed and power to a lineup that has had neither for a long time.  The base running and defense will be much improved as well.  However, there are just way too many issues in the rotation to expect a breakout year of 90-plus wins.  If the team does manage to get some solid starting pitching (which I suspect would have to come from Carrasco and Bauer later in the season) the Tribe will challenge for a division title or wild card.  Unfortunately, I see too many “ifs” to expect a contender this season.  I do expect an entertaining and encouraging 83-79 season, though.  Roll Tribe.


Reasons to hope/despair next season: Part II, Despair

All is not roses and happy clouds in the Dawg Pound. If it were, we wouldn’t have just come off a 5-11 season, fired our entire Front Office and Coaching Staff, and be looking at being termed “rebuilding” for yet another season. So, I gave you the good yesterday, now today is the suck. Here are the things that should make you weep at night, alone, in your beds…


1. The Quarterback(s)

While there may be a healthy debate over whether or not Brandon Weeden deserves another shot at developing into the Browns’ permanent solution at quarterback, there may be debate over whether or not he will be able to thrive in a Chud/Turner system.  Weeden loves to point out his good size, cannon arm, and relatively high IQ.  Weeden detractors point out his poor performance in his rookie season, his high number of interceptions, and his seeming timid on the field.

Whatever side of this debate you come down on, there is one thing that I believe we can all agree on.  Brandon Weeden will not be an “elite” quarterback in 2013, and probably not in 2014.  Weeden will be 30 years old in 2013, 31 in 2014.  The average starting quarterback begins to decline significantly around 35.  Knowing these things to be facts, Browns fans and the Browns organization need to accept that this guy is not the long term answer at the most important position on the team.  So, even if he gets another year starting in 2013, don’t expect it to extend much further than that.

Also, many of the rumors leaking out indicate that the Browns intend to bring in other options to compete for the starting job with Weeden.  Free Agents, possible draft picks, maybe even a trade for someone like Ryan Mallet or Alex Smith.  Regardless, Browns fans should get ready for another inglorious showcase to see who’s less awful enough to “earn” the starting slot.  It will not be pretty.


2.  Mike Lombardi

Of all the front office hires recently made, this is the one that rubs most Browns fans the wrong way.  Mike Lombardi was never a very popular figure when he was in Cleveland before, and has generally picked apart (typically accurately) the old regimes missteps very publicly.  He is an outspoken critic of Brandon Weeden (making #1 even worse), and has a lot of enemies in the Cleveland media.  He will be the drama epicenter until the regular season starts.
Here’s the thing.  I haven’t made up my mind on if I am apathetic to or outright dislike the Mike Lombardi hire.  I don’t love it though, I know that.  And, given the fact that I think Tom Heckert did a solid job drafting, scouting and signing young talented players, Lombardi will have good sized shoes to fill.  And Lombardi’s draft record (see Jamarcus Russell) certainly should leave Browns fans pretty wary.


3.  Defensive Changes/Firing of Dick Jauron

The defense was a bright spot on an otherwise struggling team in 2012.  They kept the Browns in games that could have easily turned into blowouts, they forced turnovers and gave the offense solid field position regularly.  They got into a good rhythm throughout the season, and seemed to really come together under Dick Jauron’s coaching.

Now, since we should keep the majority of our defense team, and should see them back healthy next year, whats the problem?  Well, first I feel like karma is bound to take a bite out of us for firing a good coach who did a great job last year.  I don’t think that the football gods are likely to let that slide.  And its not like Cleveland Football has been in their good graces since before my parents were even alive.  Why, oh why, would we flick a lit match at the gasoline of fate?  Will we never learn…

Seriously though, I don’t think Ray Horton is a bad coach.  Quite the contrary, I think he’s a great d-coordinator.  But, the 4-3 that we have established in Cleveland is not what he prefers to run, and its going to take time to get the personnel to run his system.  YEARS.  MORE YEARS OF SUCKING.  That’s not speculation, its fact.  As optimistic as I pretend to be about running a “hybrid” defense, the fact is that it will take some doing.  And will cost us precious time.

4.  Lack of Offensive Line Depth

For having a solid core along the offensive line, the Browns are desperately thin.  Meaning, we have no back up Right Guard  and no back up Center.  The Browns should address some of this in the draft, perhaps by snagging up Larry Warford in the second or third round, the Browns are either going to have to dig late in the draft, or hope to make a few acquisitions in free agency.  In any case, an injury to the somewhat injury prone Alex Mack, or god forbid an injury to Joe Thomas, and the Browns are going to be in serious trouble.


5.  Lack of Passing Attack/Offensive Firepower

Even though I think the receiving corp will improve substantially from 2012, I by no means think this is going to be the multi-threat offense that most top teams have.  Look around the league.  New Orleans can kill you with the deep ball to several high caliber receivers, run the ball with a backfield full of speedy runners, toss the ball out to the flat to those RB’s with great hands, and eat you alive in the short game with their TE threat.  New England has a similar approach, solid run game, fantastic deep ball threat, dangerous TE’s.  Add in teams like Washington or San Francisco that have Quarterbacks who provide a valid run threat, and you see how the differences are highlighted to the Browns offense.  Right now, the Browns offense has one dimension, the run (thanks Trent).  The receivers don’t have chemistry with the quarterback, so the timing routes and the big down field throws don’t work.  The TE’s have yet to show a consistent level of play.  There is no threat of short yardage throws that eat up the field.  And none of this is going to be fixed overnight.  It can be improved, and we certainly can (see: should) in 2013.  But it won’t be enough, it won’t be elite. Not yet.

Reasons to hope/despair next season: Part I, Hope

Trent Richardson

1.  Trent Richardson

T Rich is a beast, plain and simple.  Physically and mentally tough, he’s built like a steam roller but runs like a cheetah.  Trent gives the Browns offense something they haven’t truly had since they’ve come back in expansion form – a talented young superstar to build the next decade around.  He takes pressure off the Quarterback by being a constant threat out of the backfield, and keeps the defense off the field by eating the clock up chomp by chomp.  While the QBs (RGIII, Luck, Wilson) got most of the headlines from this past season’s draft class, Richardson had a great rookie season.  Browns fans should be excited to see this guy carry the rock for the foreseeable future.

Offensive Line

2.  The Offensive Line

Joe Thomas (LT), John Greco (LG), Alex Mack (C), Shawn Lauvao (RG), Mitchell Schwartz (RT)

This is a solid group.  Joe Thomas is one of the best O Linemen in the NFL, hands down, and Alex Mack is one of the best centers in the league.  With a full off season to get healthy, look for the Browns’ offensive line to win the war of the trenches in 2013.  There is not a lot of depth, as we don’t have a true back up at Center or Right Guard on the depth chart, but there are a plethora of great Offensive Line options in this year’s draft class, even in the later rounds.  Since the Browns aren’t forced to take the best available option at every pick this year (we have some talent for once!), we can actually look to build depth at positions.  How odd a spot to be in as a Browns fan.

Chris Tabor

3.  Coach Tabor and the Special Team Unit

The Browns wisely denied as many as 6 other NFL teams the permission to interview Coach Tabor, the Browns Special Teams Coordinator.  This should speak volumes about both the level of interest in this man and how much he is valued by this organization.  Outside of obviously money guys like Kicker Phil Dawson and lethal return man Joshua Cribbs, Tabor’s schemes proved to create big play opportunities in the kicking and returning game.  The value of those type of points and yardage cannot be overstated.  Having him on staff next year with most of his personnel returning will give the Browns an advantage in every game.

Coach Chud

4. The Coaching Staff

There’s no two ways about it, the 2013 Browns coaching staff is going to be better than last season. The Browns got better at Head Coach, infinitely better at Offensive Coordinator, and stayed about the same Defensive Coordinator. New Head Coach Rob Chudzinski is everything that fired Head Coach Pat Shurmur was supposed to be. He’s an actual offensive innovator, with actual results, even on teams lacking the best talent (see 2007 Browns and Derek Anderson). While it remains to be seen whether or not he can manage a football team, you can bet the young offensive unit will shine under Coach Chud, especially in the areas that it underperformed under Shurmer (QB/WR). While Norv Turner’s exact role in the offensive coordinator spot has yet to be seen, he is an infinitely better architect at creating offenses and play calling than the released Brad Childress. Even the way former players and coaches refer to Turner and Childress highlights the differences in the two. Childress is hated by most everyone who’s ever worked for him, while Turner’s players speak highly of him even in defeat. And Coach Chud thought enough of him to make him his first coaching hire. As far as the defense goes, I’ve been pretty clear that I was less than pleased with releasing Dick Jauron from his role as defensive coordinator. Jauron has more experience than virtually every DC in the League, and his 4-3 defense here was showing real strides. They kept the Browns in almost every game last season. That said, if Jauron was to go, the Browns got the best possible replacement in Ray Horton. Like Jauron, he put together a tough defense on a team with little to no offensive support last season. Horton is tough, respected by his players and can create aggressive schemes that force opposing offenses to account for them. This coaching staff is one of the best I’ve seen the Browns with in my lifetime.

Josh Gordon

5. The Receiving Corp.

While they didn’t have a ton of opportunities to shine due to Quarterback Brandon Weeden’s struggles, this is a solid 1-2 punch in Josh Gordon and Greg Little. I realize that Little has his critics, but he’s big, physical, and fast. With Gordon playing a similar physically driven game on the other side, these two are going to create match up nightmares for opposing secondaries once they get a QB who can deliver the ball consistently. Benjamin Watson wasn’t overly mind blowing at TE, but with Coach Chud that stands to change. Watson has good size and great hands, and Coach Chud has helped coach numerous pro bowl caliber TE’s. Expect the entire depth chart of TE’s to increase in looks and touches in 2013.