A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Eleven: Cleveland Indians
We return to the American League and a team that was mostly overlooked due to their horrible first half performance and subsequent trading of CC Sabathia. The Indians benefit a bit in these rankings from a tougher than average schedule, but mostly it was their 10th ranked offense that lands them the 11th overall spot.
It seems counter intuitive that an offense that garnered nothing from Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez would be an asset but Kelly Shoppach stepped in and did an adequate job of blunting the blow from the loss of Martinez and while Hafner’s performance was damaging, it was made up for by the unexpected breakout of Shin-Soo Choo. The major issue for Choo going forward will be his performance against lefties. He’s always done a fair job against righties, but he’s had a platoon split of around 200 OPS points over his career including 2008.
On the run prevention side, an under reported regression from 2007 was in the gloves which went from an above average defensive team to a much more run of the mill, slightly mediocre squad. Of course, the big glaring problem was in the bullpen. While Rafael Betancourt pitched tremendously in 2007, the 2008 version was more pedestrian and Joe Borowski simply imploded. All in all, the 2008 bullpen was on the order of 50 runs worse than in the previous year.
Gone also from 2007 was the dynamic and not appreciated enough duo of CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Sabathia was a little worse while in Cleveland and with his mid season trade, obviously didn’t log anywhere near as many innings. Meanwhile, Carmona’s control never made it to 2008 and he finished the year walking more than he struck out.
There were also terrible contributions from Paul Byrd and Jeremy Sowers, but amazingly, those pair plus the regression from CC and Fausto were all canceled out by the incredible comeback of Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee allowed five fewer earned runs in 2008 despite pitching one hundred and twenty-six more innings. And I spell that out to give you some idea of how big a feat that is. Lee also walked two fewer batters, hit two fewer batters and allowed five fewer home runs. In 126 more innings. 126!
Print This Post