With the Cleveland Indians rocking a new-look bullpen, the team is likely to rely heavily on their new closer. He’ll need to live up to expectations in 2019.
The main reason that the Cleveland Indians were comfortable letting Cody Allen and Andrew Miller walk is that they made a huge move in acquiring Brad Hand. Hand came to Cleveland and immediately made a strong impression.
He gave the Tribe a new reliable closer option while Cody Allen was struggling in 2018. Hand eventually assumed the closer role for the Tribe on the tail-end of the season. In 28 games with Cleveland, Hand had a 2.28 ERA with 41 strikeouts. He is also one of two relievers with 100 or more strikeouts in the last 3 years.
In 2018 Hand had a career-high 13.25 K/9 between San Diego and Cleveland. He’s completely turned his career around since going into the bullpen. So now that he’s found his home, it’s time to continue to build on that success.
Hand has been an All-Star in the last two seasons and they could certainly use that level of play again. He’ll be the leader of the Tribe bullpen. Guys like Oliver Perez, Dan Otero, and Adam Cimber who came with Hand in the trade will all play pivotal roles for the Tribe ‘pen.
Last year, the Indians bullpen was 25th in baseball. They can’t afford to be that bad again, which is why a full year of Hand can help them. Hand has continued to improve each season, but Fangraphs projects him to regress a bit. The Steamer has his projected 2019 ERA at 3.41 which seems a bit high, while ZiPS has him projected with a 2.95 ERA.
As far as the playoffs go, Hand needs to do better. He was awful for the Indians in his two appearances (although the whole team was awful). If the Indians want to get deeper into the playoffs, Hand will need to improve that 10.80 postseason ERA.
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It’s important that the Indians use Hand wisely. They don’t want to overwork him and they’ll have time to sort the rest of the bullpen (and they really need to). But down the stretch, the Indians will lean on hand a lot more.