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AL Central Rountable: Cleveland Indians

Here's the Indians' portion of the rountable. A big thank you goes out to Marc Normandin of Beyond the Box Score for setting this up and serving as moderator.

Marc Normandin of Beyond the Box Score: According to many statistical measures, the Cleveland Indians were actually the best regular season team in the league last season. Can their actual record reflect that sort of statement in 2006?

Ryan of Let's Go Tribe: Sure, they could win 95 games this season. But "could" and "will" are two separate entities. The Indians' rotation and starting lineup was very healthy last season, and their bullpen, even with a couple of injuries, was one of the best in the AL. They still have the talent in place to be that good again, but a lot of things have to go their way in order for them to have the best record in the AL.

The Cheat of South Side Sox: I heard the Indians are raising the AL Pythagorean Championship banner at the home opener this year. ;-) - Offensively, the Indians could be even better in `06, but I wouldn't bet on their pitching being anywhere near what it was in `05. To answer your question, I don't think the Indians will be raising any AL Pythorean banners in `07, but that won't prevent them from making another run at the playoffs.

Jay of Let's Go Tribe: Now see, that's just poor sportsmanship, Cheat. Can't you just sit back beatifically, knowing that all the stats in world don't change the fact that the White Sox won more games in the regular season, and got every last job done in the postseason? Do you really have to rub our faces in it? I think you should remember that the way you, as a White Sox fan, deal with your championship has a massive effect on the public's perception of White Sox fans. Especially since there are only eleven of you.

The Indians were one of the very best teams in baseball by any measure last season. That's all we have to hang our hat on, and it is painful - just as it was in 2000. Counterbalancing that, we have a few crap Division championships from the late-90's when we were the only halfway-decent team. The likelihood is that in 2006, the Indians will once again be one of the very best teams in baseball. The likelihood is that in 2006, as in almost every season, every team with 93 wins (or a 150-run differential) will make the playoffs. But there's no guarantees. That's what we have to live with.

Jesse of Twinkietown: The Indians came on so very strong the last couple months of the season in 2005, it's difficult for me to see them taking too much of a step back, if they take one at all. But that's one of the problems in sports-everyone has a short memory. If a team was strong in an area, even for just one season, we expect that trend to continue. With Cleveland, even though I don't quite have the same faith in their starting rotation this year as I did last, they still should be a force to be reckoned with, and they'll be one of three teams jockeying for the AL Central title in 2006 with Chicago and Minnesota.

Marc: What transactions will work out the best for Cleveland in 2006? The worst?

Jesse of Twinkietown: There are two acquisitions I see as beneficial to the Indians organization. One is Andy Marte who, if he sees any time at all, will have every chance to steal the everyday job at third base. The sooner the Indians get him into the lineup, the better that offense will be. Second is Paul Byrd. While his pick up doesn't balance the loss of Kevin Millwood, he's going to bring something stable to that rotation. Sabathia will be solid, Lee may have another good year, and Westbrook may surprise some, but Johnson is lucky to still find himself in anyone's rotation (his WHIP ratio is a killer). Byrd is a nice bridge between the front of the rotation and the back.

Ryan: I'd say the signing of Paul Byrd will help the most in 2006. It's doubtful that he can replace Kevin Millwood's production, but I don't know if Kevin Millwood v. 2006 could have done that. If Byrd is healthy, he's a good pitcher, and he was a (relative) bargain compared to other free agents. There aren't any moves the Indians made that really stand out as horrible, but if I had to choose the worst move of the bunch, it would be the Jason Johnson signing. Yeah, he just has to replace Scott Elarton in the rotation, but I think the signing was unnecessary. Innings eaters have some value, but the Indians could have gone with Jeremy Sowers and been much better off, results-wise and money-wise.

Down the road, the Coco Crisp deal will probably be looked at as the best move of the offseason, but I don't think we'll see much of Andy Marte in 2006.

The Cheat: In the long run, the Marte deal could end up being a huge steal. I don't know how it's going to play out for this season, however.

Jason Johnson, who never has been particularly good at anything other than eating innings, is easily the Tribe's worst move of the off-season.

Marc: Andy Marte has been traded by two organizations; once for Edgar Renteria, and another time as part of a larger deal for Crisp. What is his future outlook, as far as Indians debut, securing of a job, statistical line, etc. look like in your mind?

Jesse of Twinkietown: I don't know enough about the way Cleveland's management works to predict when Marte will get his shot as the everyday hot-corner pencil-in. The note should also be made that his involvement in these recent transactions shouldn't be viewed as a question mark on his ability, but rather a stressed point on his potential. He was a pivotal piece of two trades where there was a proven performer involved. Other teams wanted a player, and Marte was the cost of admission. To me that's a compliment.

My prediction for 2006 is that Marte secures 3B by July. He won't have a great line, but I could see .263/.330/.460/.790. He may not be a Hall of Fame player, but he'll have a nice career.

Ryan: Aaron Boone will probably be the biggest indicator for when Andy Marte gets the call. Boone was actually half-way decent (.276/.336/.394) after the All-Star Break, which makes sense given he missed an entire season due to a knee injury. If Marte is torching the International League, there might be some pressure to deal in June or July, but judging from the comments by the Indians' brain trust, they'd like to see Marte get most of his at-bats with Buffalo this season. If Boone does struggle again, then all bets are off. If Marte does get the call, I think a .260/.340/.430 line is within reason.

I don't see being traded twice in an offseason to be a mark against Marte. The insinuations of an elbow injury appear to be false, and in both cases the organization that dealt him had more established players in front of him and a large hole elsewhere to fill.

Will of Royals Review: Ryan, .276/.336/.394 is decent? Although maybe it is at this point. Short of Arod, third base is quickly becoming part of this weird melange blending with SS, which is where the great atheletes go. It used to be the more skilled brother of 1st base. All this aside, Boone can probably perform better. Either him or C. Blake need to.

Marc: The average Equivalent Average (EqA) for third base in 2005 was .265 (where .260 is league average for all hitters). At shortstop, the figure was .256...that is the lowest of any position, with CF and 2B tying for second least offensive at .261