COMMENTARY | The Cleveland Indians have not garnered much respect this offseason, that much is for sure.
Despite winning 92 games last season on their way to their first playoff appearance since 2007, one sportsbook has put the Indians' over-under for total wins in 2014 at just 82.5.
I'm not a betting man, but if I was, I'd take the over all day on this one.
I'm not exactly sure what the major factor behind prognosticators pinning such low expectations on the Tribe is, but I'm going to assume it has to do with the turnover on Cleveland's starting rotation. Losing Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir to free agency was not ideal for the Indians, but the fact is that there is not going to be much of a drop off from what that duo was able to accomplish in 2013 to what their replacements will do this summer.
Sure, Jimenez was possibly the best pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break last season, but these critics seem to conveniently forget that he scuffled early in the year, just as he had in his previous season and a half with the Tribe. Even with his second-half mastery, Jimenez still only put up a 13-9 record in 2013. I would not be one bit surprised if 24-year-old phenom Danny Salazar puts up at least that many wins this year.
You can also categorize Kazmir as a player the Indians won't miss quite as much as some people believe in 2014. His comeback from nearly being out of the sport was an inspiring one, for sure, but Kazmir was an adequate fifth starter at best in 2013. While his 10-9 record last season doesn't seem so bad on paper, consider also that Cleveland's offense averaged a little over five runs a game in support of Kazmir in 2013.
If Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, or whoever wins the fifth starting spot in the rotation gets that kind of run support this year, he will put up similar numbers to what Kazmir did last season.
The Indians may have actually improved an offense that was one of the better ones in baseball in 2013, with the addition of outfielder David Murphy and the ascension of catcher Yan Gomes to the everyday lineup. There are some bullpen concerns, but remember that this was the weakest part of last year's wild-card team, and the departure of closer Chris Perez will hopefully lead to some less-stressful ninth innings for Tribe fans in 2014.
Taking everything into account, I strongly believe that the Indians have enough talent waiting in the wings to easily surpass 82.5 wins this summer and once again prove the critics wrong.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Indians for over 25 years.
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- Cleveland Indians
- Scott Kazmir
- Ubaldo Jimenez