Indians Are Legit Contenders in 2016

As a Pittsburgh native and a lifelong “yinzer,” it feels quite awkward writing about future success up in that city on the lake that they call Cleveland. While there are certainly some question marks about the current roster, there is also a lot to be excited about. As I was looking through the 2016 Steamer projections the other day, I thought it would be fun to compare the Indians 2016 rotation to the New York Mets 2016 rotation. Before I go into my findings, I would like to add that I am not declaring the Indians’ rotation to be on the same elite level as the Mets’ rotation right now. I am merely comparing some advanced statistics and showing the great potential of this young rotation.

If the season were to start tomorrow, the Indians would have this 5-man rotation:

  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Carlos Carrasco
  3. Danny Salazar
  4. Trevor Bauer
  5. Josh Tomlin

The “KluBot” has been a strikeout machine since becoming a regular in the Indians rotation in 2013. He is known for his cutter, fastball, and changeup that produce a high number of swing and misses. His sinker has above-average velocity and produces a lot of groundballs. We also can’t forget that slider that has outstanding depth. That gives him a five-pitch repertoire, which makes him incredibly effective. The 2016 Steamer projections have Kluber producing a 3.04 FIP, 5.3 WAR, and a 9.5 K/9. These numbers represent a true ace and that’s what we should expect from the former Cy Young Award winner.

After spending most of 2014 as a reliever, Carrasco emerged as a starter this past season and made a strong 30 starts for the Indians. Carrasco has been effective by throwing all five of his pitches with the same intensity and producing a lot of whiffs. He has a fastball that sits around 96 mph, a changeup and slider that sits around 89 mph, a curve that sits in the mid 80’s, and a sinker that is thrown around the same speed as his four-seam. Steamer projects Carrasco to produce an excellent 2.96 FIP with a 4.8 WAR and 9.7 K/9. Carrasco should continue to be a valuable workhorse for the Indians in 2016.

At only 25 years old, Danny Salazar was able to make 30 starts for the Indians in 2016 along with Carrasco. Salazar has the ability to throw six solid pitches, which includes his four-seam, cutter, splitter, sinker, slider, and curve. His cutter, four-seam, and sinker all show above-average velocity and generate a large number of groundballs. Steamer projects Salazar to generate a 3.53 FIP, 3.2 WAR, and 9.4 K/9. As a spectator, it is easy to be fascinated by high velocity numbers. However, I have always been a huge fan of a pitcher that can put the ball on the ground and get quick outs. These three pitchers have done that very well early in their career, which should benefit the Indians in the long run.

Trevor Bauer has been an interesting player up to this point in his career. Unlike the first three pitchers, Bauer produces a lot more fly balls on the mound. The Indians will most likely start him in the rotation in 2016, but I think a move to the bullpen is inevitable. We have seen a few unsuccessful starters rejuvenate their careers in the pen, such as Wade Davis and Andrew Miller. For now, I believe that Bauer can still be a workhorse number 4 starter and give the Indians some good innings. Steamers projects Bauer to produce a 4.39 FIP, 1.2 WAR, and 8.3 K/9.

Like Bauer, Josh Tomlin has been known to produce more fly balls that most. However, he is a solid number five starter with below-average velocity on his four-seam and sharp 12-6 curve. Last year, Tomlin put up a 7-2 record with a 3.02 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in just ten starts. Steamer projects Tomlin to generate a 4.07 FIP, 1.5 WAR, and 7.2 K/9 in 2016. Tomlin is not going to overpower anybody, but will provide a good amount of innings at the back end of the rotation.

Below, I have listed the projected Mets rotation for opening day 2016 along with steamers projections.

  1. Jacob deGrom – 3.18 FIP, 4.4 WAR, 9.3 K/9
  2. Matt Harvey – 3.11 FIP, 4.6 WAR, 9.2 K/9
  3. Noah Syndergaard – 3.07 FIP, 4.1 WAR, 9.9 K/9
  4. Steven Matz – 3.66 FIP, 2.3 WAR, 8.8 K/9
  5. Bartolo Colon – 3.90 FIP, 1.3 WAR, 6.4 K/9

There is no doubt that the Mets have the best rotation in the league right now. It will only get better in June once Zack Wheeler makes his return from Tommy John and Bartolo moves to the bullpen. When comparing these two rotations, I found that the Indians have a slightly higher FIP of 3.59 compared to the Mets FIP of 3.38. However, compared to league average, both of these FIPs would be considered above average. When comparing the WAR of both rotations, the Mets are projected at 16.7 and the Indians are at 16 (just a 0.7 win difference). Last but not least, the Indians rotation projects to sit around an 8.8 K/9, while the Mets rotation projects to be at an 8.7 K/9. While this is not a huge difference, I found it eye-catching that the Indians rotation were projected at a higher K/9 than the likes of deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard, and Matz. This is one of many reasons to be excited about this young Indians rotation going into the 2016 season.

After looking at the rotations, I took a sneak peek at the projected bullpens for each team. Before even looking at the steamer projections, I saw more promise in the Indians bullpen. With Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, and Zach McAllister in the later innings and Jeff Manship, Shawn Armstrong, Kyle Crockett, and Austin Adams in middle relief, the Indians bullpen is by no means excellent. However, there is some potential with the young hard-throwers of Allen, McAllister, and Armstrong. The Mets are projected to have Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles in the later innings along with Carlos Torres, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel, and Logan Verrett in middle relief. The Indians pen is projected to have better numbers across the board in FIP, WAR, K/9, and many other key statistics. However, both teams will be relying on their great starters to go the distance in many games.

Offensively, I have been hearing many Indians fans getting frustrated over a lack of big offseason moves by Chernoff and Antonetti to improve their lineup. Personally, I do not see a reason to worry just yet. Michael Brantley is expected to be back early in the season and Rajai Davis will play his role of a fourth outfielder for most of the season. I would be content with Rajai Davis being my fourth outfielder, even though he’s mostly limited to the corners. Abraham Almonte is not the most exciting player, but it could be a lot worse (Michael Bourn) and he should provide some defensive value. If anything, the Indians should look to add a third basemen. One person that comes to mind is David Freese, who is projected at a .320 wOBA, 101 wRC+, and a 1.2 WAR. Even though we have seen a small sample of Urshela, those numbers would provide a huge upgrade at third base. Also, a healthy Yan Gomes should provide some value behind the dish for this young staff. Entering the 2015 season, many were skeptical about the Mets offense and they were projected to produce around the same WAR as the season before (18.2). Steamers projects the Indians’ batters to produce a WAR of 18.4 in 2016.

The hard truth is that we don’t know who will underperform or over perform their projections before the season starts. Lindor could end up being a 5-WAR player rather than a 3-WAR player and Kipnis could be a 1-WAR player rather than a 3-WAR player. These are purely just projections based off past performances and league averages. I chose to compare these teams because I see a lot of similarities. Until adding Yoenis Cespedes during the trade deadline this past season, the Mets offense looked underwhelming, but survived with a strong staff. Going into the 2016 season most likely without Cespedes, the Mets offense still has question marks. However, with their strong rotation, they should be right at the top of the NL East along with the Washington Nationals once again. With Kluber, Carrasco, and Salazar, I see three powerful and healthy arms that produce a ton of groundballs and strikeouts. The offense will survive with this powerful rotation and decent bullpen. Therefore, as a Pittsburgh native, I urge my fellow Believelanders to get excited about this young team in 2016 as I believe they have the potential to be something special.

Hope you enjoy and had a happy New Years!

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I am currently a junior at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, PA majoring in Economics with a concentration in Entrepreneurial Studies. Baseball is the love of my life.

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Davr
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Davr

Yes….but the AL is better than the NL, especially the AL central over the NL east. The Marlins, Phillies, and Braves are tanking on purpose, and nobody in the AL central is trying to lose.

sam
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sam

Yeah yeah we have been hearing this lecture for 3 years,they wont play defense and another team in the division is going to outplay them.