With four games to play, the Indians are currently one game ahead of the Texas Rangers for the second wild card position in the American League. They are one game behind Tampa Bay for the #1 wild card spot. While Cleveland gets to play the Twins, the Rangers will be hosting the Angels for four games.
In 2012, Cleveland finished 68-94 after a massive second-half collapse. This year, they are 88-70 with four games to play and a playoff spot well within their grasp. I thought it would be interesting to check out the Cleveland roster to see how this team came together. It was quite interesting to see how they acquired their key 2013 contributors.
2B Jason Kipnis - 2nd round in 2009
3B Lonnie Chisenhall - 1st round in 2008
RP Cody Allen - 23rd round in 2011
RP Vinny Pestano - 20th round in 2006
RF Drew Stubbs (12/11/12 - acquired from Cincinnati for Shin-Soo Choo in 3-team trade)
IF Mike Aviles and C Yan Gomes (11/3/12 - acquired from Toronto for Esmil Rogers)
SS Asdrubal Cabrera (7/30/06 - acquired from Seattle for Eduardo Perez)
LF Michael Brantley (10/3/08 - acquires as the PTBNL from Milwaukee in the CC Sabathia trade)
C Carlos Santana (7/26/08 - acquired from the Dodgers for Casey Blake)
SP Justin Masterson and RP Nick Hagadone (7/31/09 - acquired from Boston for Victor Martinez)
SP Ubaldo Jimenez (7/30/11 - acquired from Colorado for four players including Matt White and Drew Pomeranz)
SP Corey Kluber (7/31/10 - acquired in 3-team trade from Padres. Cleveland sent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis)
SP Zach McAllister (8/20/10 - acquired as PTBNL for Austin Kearns from Yankees)
RP Chris Perez (6/27/09 - acquired with Jess Todd for Mark Derosa from Cardinals)
RP Joe Smith (12/11/08 - acquired as part of 3-team deal from Mets)
11/19/12 - signed former Twins OF Matt Carson to a minor league deal (OK, not a significant contributor throughout the year, but since his recall in late August, he is 7-10!)
1/4/13 - signed 1B Nick Swisher to a four-year deal
1/8/13 - signed SP Scott Kazmir to minor league contract
1/21/13 - signed IF Ryan Raburn to a minor league contract
2/15/13 - signed OF Michael Bourn to a four-year contract
12/18/12 - signed IF Mark Reynolds
1/1/13 - signed Brett Myers
2/19/13 - signed Jason Giambi
Here is where Cleveland ranks in the American League in the following statistics:
- Runs Scored - 6th (717)
- OPS - 8th (.734)
- ERA - 7th (3.84)
- Strikeouts - 2nd (1,331)
- Errors/Fielding Percentage - 11th (99, .983)
The offense has just two players (with enough at-bats to qualify) with an OPS over .800. Carlos Santana's OPS is .824, and Jason Kipnis's OPS is .804. Nick Swisher (.758) and Michael Brantley (.730) are the only others with an OPS over .700.
All five starters who have made at least 23 starts have ERAs between 3.38 and 4.14. Four of the five starters have struck out at least 8.3 batters per nine innings.
- Justin Masterson's 2012 ERA was 4.93, and it dropped to 3.52 in 2013.
- Ubaldo Jimenez's 3.38 this season is impressive, especially considering it was 5.10 in 2012.
- Scott Kazmir pitched in the independent leagues in 2012 after making just one big league appearance in 2011. He had a 5.94 ERA for the Angels in 2010. The last time he was a solid MLB pitcher for an extended period before this year was 2008.
- Corey Kluber posted a 5.14 ERA in 12 starts in 2012 before posting a 3.61 ERA this season.
- Zach McAllister dropped his ERA by nearly a half-point from 2012 to 2013.
- Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, Joe Smith and Matt Albers did very well in extensive relief duties.
So, if you're looking for the reason that Cleveland will win 20-plus more games in 2013 than in 2012, look no further than a pitching staff that went from worse-than-the-Twins to league-average.
Oh, I nearly forgot...
On September 27 of last year, Cleveland fired manager Manny Acta. Sandy Alomar finished the season, but in early October, Terry Francona left his ESPN gig to be the team's new manager. Mickey Callaway was named the team's new pitching coach. Ty Van Burkleo was named the hitting coach.
Cleveland made several changes to their roster from 2012 to 2013, but the most significant difference between the two seasons was the performance of their pitching staff. That can't be over-emphasized.
They signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to four-year contracts. Swisher has always been an on-base machine who provides power. He is an Ohio native who played his college ball at Ohio State. Bourn was a Boras client who didn't have as many teams interested in him as they had projected. He was available to Cleveland, in part, because the Twins traded Denard Span to the Nationals and Ben Revere to the Phillies.
Mark Reynolds was a nice signing, for the season's first month, and Brett Myers was hurt most of the season. However, they got lucky with the minor league contracts of Scott Kazmir and Ryan Raburn. Jason Giambi provides value off of the bench.
The team's core came via trade. Jimenez had a successful run in Colorado. Masterson had done well in the Red Sox bullpen. However, guys like Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister all came to the organization as minor leaguers.
It will be a nice story if Cleveland is able to get to the playoffs in 2013. It's fun to see a team make that kind of improvement from one season to the next. The Twins will come from different direction with so many potentially high-impact minor leaguers on the horizon. Maybe in 2015 the Twins will be able to make a 20+ game improvement and contend for a playoff spot.