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Least Valuable Pick To Win The AL Pennant

Team sports is one of the most uncertain in any sport, things can change in a jiffy and the output of one can mar the game while it is only the net output of all that makes a game. Thus, it becomes extremely difficult to say anything for sure, in case of a team sport and yet for any wager, a certain amount of speculation is absolutely necessary and for that reason alone, we look for ‘Value’, that will provide us with a if hints.

While trying to predict the future the oncoming MLB season too, the value that each team adds must be kept in mind. And currently, with the way the odds are stacked, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros seem likely to add most of the so-called value.

And if this system of valuation provides us with teams most likely to succeed, they also provide us with the one that seems the least likely:

Cleveland Indians (+700):

The last three seasons have seen the Indian do well, however, it might not be the same this year, even though the rest of the division is in re-build mode and the Indians still seem to possess a decent starting rotation.

The Rotation

In 2018, Cleveland received a 3.39 ERA from their starting pitching, good for the third-best mark in baseball behind the Astros and Dodgers.They sport a deep and lethal rotation with a well above-average hurler taking the mound every fourth day, at the minimum.

Indians Rotation – 2018
Player ERA FIP
Trevor Bauer 2.26 2.44
Corey Kluber 2.89 3.12
Carlos Carrasco 3.02 2.98
Mike Clevinger 3.02 3.52
Shane Bieber 4.25 2.96

Those FIP number, in particular, are outrageous as even Shane Bieber, Cleveland’s fifth starter, deserved an ERA much closer to three than well over four. Each of the top four were worth at least 4.3 WAR while Bieber’s 110 innings pitched limited him to an impressive 3-WAR season.

But looks can often be deceiving, thought this rotation will easily get them at the top of a weak AL Central and even close to a play off berth it will never be enough as it was proven last season, where they managed to win only 91 games in probably the worst division.

Cleveland’s 91 wins in 2018 were only the fifth-most in the AL behind the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, and A’s.

The Lineup:

If plotted in a graph, the line representing it would be seen falling down rather rapidly after two very high peaks, which will be the two MVP-caliber players at the top of their lineup.

After the duo of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez at the top, the rest of the line up looks something like this-

Player 2018 OPS 2018 Home Runs
Carlos Santana (DH) .766 24
Jake Bauers (1B) .700 11
Jason Kipnis (2B) .704 18
Leonys Martin (CF) .748 11
Tyler Naquin (RF) .651 3
Jordan Luplow (LF) .631 2
Roberto Perez (C) .519 2

The lineup lacks power and the authorities concerned did little to strengthen it. And the ones who left the team, and there is a considerable number of them are:

Player 2018 OPS 2018 Home Runs
Edwin Encarnacion .810 32
Josh Donaldson* .920 3
Lonnie Chisenhall .846 1
Michael Brantley .832 17
Yandy Diaz .797 1
Melky Cabrera .755 6
Yonder Alonso .738 23
Yan Gomes .762 16

The .766 OPS Carlos Santana posted in 2018 would rank sixth among the list of players that departed in the off season. As the OPS leader after Lindor and Ramirez, that cannot bode well for the depth of production Cleveland will receive from their projected everyday lineup in 2019. Cleveland’s offense, at least at this point, looks like the second-best offense in the Central behind the Twins while the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, A’s, Angels, Mariners, and even Rays or Rangers could all sports offenses that produce more than that of the three-time defending AL Central champs.

Bullpen:

The team has done precious little during the off season to strengthen the bullpen, their two trade deadline acquisitions from the Padres last year, are set to anchor them this year in the form of Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. They have lost the likes of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen to free agency over the last two years. It’s hard to imagine Cleveland’s bullpen being worse than the 25h-ranked group that concocted a 4.60 ERA last season, but it’s possible.

The good news for Cleveland is Hand’s 2.28 ERA with the team last year was the second-best mark among pitchers with at least five innings pitched.

The remaining arms from last year are as follows, aside from Hand and Cimber.

Indians Bullpen Holdover From 2018
Player 2018 ERA 2018 FIP
Jon Edwards 3.12 5.24
Tyler Olson 4.94 3.45
Dan Otero 5.22 4.76
Neil Ramirez 4.54 5.03
Ben Taylor 6.00 5.33

Given that the bullpens of some other clubs will be competing for the postseason spots in the American League, the Indians’ look a very uninspiring group, especially with the World Series aspirations in mind. Perhaps some additions are on their way as Spring Training moves along, however, whatever lead the strong starting pitching can give this bullpen looks like it could be in jeopardy.

Competition:

Last season, the Twins cake walked into the playoffs. The second-best record to Cleveland’s 91-71 mark from last season was the Twins who went 78-84 and finished the season on a six-game win streak. After that, the Twins further added the likes of Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron before adding perhaps the top super-utility player in baseball in Marwin Gonzalez late in the off season.

Now, the Indians do have a much superior starting pitching, but the one at the disposal of the Twins is way deeper.

The AL East will feature three teams with playoff aspirations in the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays while the Astros, A’s and Angels will have their sights set on October baseball in the AL West. Add in the Twins in the Central and there is some decent competition for a Wild Card spot as well.

And thus, it seems that there is a possibility that the Indians might just not make playoffs this season and seem to be the least valuable bet in the junior circuit.

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Utsha Roy
Utsha is a handicapper with a great amount of experience breaking down the game in every single manner possible. She aims to take the bull shit out of sports handicapping while emphasizing impeccable money management. She is eager to help you succeed on your sports picks.
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