April 1, 2007

It's Logical

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Jason Stark's estimation of the prospects for the 2007 Indians is based on simple logic, and the law of averages:

Start with this: What happened to this team last year can't possibly happen again, if only because it was practically impossible in the first place.

There's an old saying in baseball -- that you're only as good as your record.

But not in the Indians' case.

It's never safe to say how many games a team should have won. But based just on their run differential, which is almost always a reliable barometer, the 2006 Indians should have been a 90-win kind of team -- not a 78-win kind of team.

How hard is it to outscore your opponents by 88 runs and still have a losing record?

Well, no other team in history had ever done it. So we wondered what a "normal" team's record would have been in a season like that. We found 11 other teams in the last decade that outscored the opposition by 85-100 runs. They averaged 93 wins.

Let me see if I have this right. Stark has the Tribe pegged as a surprise team this year, because they played so much worse than they should have last year. This is obviously a man who has not been paying close attention to the Cleveland Indians in recent years. Last year's team managed to be less than the sum of its individual components. They had good players who played well, putting up impressive individual statistics, but the brand of baseball they played as a team was decidedly poor.

To be fair, the club has tried to address the weaknesses of the 2006 team, by re-tooling the bullpen, bringing in veterans like Dave Delucci, Roberto Hernandez and Trot Nixon, and making moves to improve the infield defense, but only time will tell if the chemistry is any better this year. The team's tendency under Wedge has been to fold when the going gets tough. The end-of-season collapse in 2005 is just the best remembered example.

The field manager is the person accountable for the quality of the baseball being played on the field, and for the mental and emotional preparation of the players for each of 162 games. When a team fails to cohere as a unit, and under-performs based on its talent, there is only one place to point the finger. I think the Indians will win if and when Eric Wedge learns how to better push those buttons, or when he is replaced by someone who can.

But I'm all for the April optimism. The consensus is that the AL Central is brutal, and that as many as four teams could win 90 games. I see the Twins and the White Sox going into this season with starting pitching that is down a notch or two from last year. The 2006 Tigers did it with pitching and Leyland...that Detroit lineup wasn't that good...and I'm not convinced all the stars will align for them again.

So it turns out that the Tribe is a trendy pick with lots of the pundits in addition to having the law of averages and the power of logic on their side. As if I needed logic to jump on the Indians bandwagon.

Related:

ESPN.com Indians Preview

SI.com Indians Preview

Fox Sports Indians Preview

Deadspin.com Indians Preview

David Pinto's AL Central Preview

Baseball Savant Indians Preview

BA's Indians Top Ten Prospects

Posted by dan at April 1, 2007 10:24 PM