Sep 28, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23) and second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) leave the field after the Indians
We all know what Forrest Gump’s momma said: “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”
The saying Mrs. Gump was so fond of could have been also describing the 2014 Cleveland Indians. From good to bad, the season was full of unexpected outcomes.
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In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s look at what was inside Cleveland’s ‘box of chocolates’ — the 2014 Indians. And since Valentine’s Day is a day to be all warm and gooey (and because the weather in northeast Ohio is ignoring the Mendoza line completely, sitting around zero degrees) let’s look at the 2015 Indians through a dozen rose-colored glasses, in honor of the holiday.
Sep 21, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Jose Ramirez (11) and second baseman Mike Aviles (4) celebrate the win against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Cleveland Indians win 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
1. 2014 warm nougat-ey center: Corey Kluber‘s Cy Young season.
While Kluber was somewhat of a trendy dark horse pick for a breakout 2014 season, to say in March last year that he was going to beat Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young award would have been considered ludicrous. His 2013 22.4 strikeout percentage fell in line with his awesome rate in the minors, he dropped his walk rate to a career-low 5.4 percent.
2015 rose-colored glass: Late in 2014, Kluber struggled through a few starts and some suggested he was tiring under a career high in innings. All he did was go 5-1 in the seasons final month posting a 56-7 strikeout-to-walk rate in 43 innings. I don’t think workload will be a concern in 2015, despite the team’s caution.
2. Salted caramel: Jason Kipnis‘s disappointing season
Kipnis’ .240/.310/.330 slash line left a salty taste in fans mouths and I’m sure it didn’t taste too good in his own mouth, either. After his All-Star season in 2013, where he produced a.284 average (.345 BABIP), there was bound to be some regression.
2015 rose-colored glass: No way his 4.8 percentage flyball-to-home run rate stays so low in 2015. His stolen bases were still there in 2014, as he swiped 22. A return 2013-era Kipnis would be nice.
3. Missing a piece: The Indians’ 2014 defense
A League-high 116 errors. 70 unearned runs. Nothing sweet or chocolatey about that.
2015 rose-colored glass: Asdrubal Cabrera finished second on the team with 14 errors despite not playing for the Indians for the final two months following a trade to the Washington Nationals. Lonnie Chisenhall‘s 18 errors are back but they can’t be worse, right?
4. A broken piece: Nick Swisher‘s 2014
His walk rate plummeted to a career-low nine percent and his strikeout rate was a career-high 27.7 percent, all while battling through two bad knees. In 2013, Swisher hit just about the lower end of his career averages, which is in other words, what the Indians paid him to do. It’s possible a career-average season by Swisher in 2014 would have meant a playoff appearance.
2015 rose-colored glass: Health is always hard to predict, but it’s also hard to see him doing worse than his 2014 season on two healthy knees.
Jul 22, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher (33) congratulates first baseman Carlos Santana (41) after his home run in the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Cleveland Indians win 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
5. The old standard: Like a nice piece of milk chocolate; solid season by Michael Brantley
Brantley had been trending up since 2011. He hit a career high in every category. The piece you can count on always liking.
2015 rose-colored glass: He’ll be 28 years-old this season and stands to make just under $6 million. He would be a $10-million-a-year player on the open market.
6. Truffle: Yan Gomes‘s blossoming season
Gomes has gone from an underrated piece to one of the fancier names. After a brief footwork problem in April that led to seven of his nine errors, he went on to throw out 31 runners stealing (good for third in the game). His 21 home runs were third among catchers and his 121 wRC+ was second.
2015 rose-colored glass: Now Gomes is mentioned in the same breath as Buster Posey and Yadier Molina — but Gomes will earn just $1 million in 2015.
7. Cashew cluster: Jose Ramirez‘s nice debut
Some people like chocolate covered nuts, others want something fancier (like Francisco Lindor). Nobody wants to hear Ramirez led all of baseball in sacrifice bunts despite not playing full-time till August or that he hit .283 in the second half. They all want Lindor. I can be happy with what Ramirez gives the Indians.
2015 rose-colored glass: Short term, he can do everything Lindor can. Which is what the Indians need this season, or at least until July, when Lindor is given the call.