If you are someone who follows projection systems or any kind of advanced analytics, you have probably noticed that the Cleveland Indians look like contenders this year. Maybe not World Series favorites or runaway American League Central winners, but the Tribe should be in the thick of things when summer turns to fall later this year. And now, mainstream analysts like John Smoltz seems to agree.
As part of MLB Tonight's 30 Clubs in 30 Days series yesterday, they talked a lot about the Indians. When talking specifically about the predictions, Smoltz had the following to say:
I think the Cleveland Indians are going to be a Wild Card team. I think their starting pitching is good enough, their offense is good enough, it’s going to be tremendous balance in the American League and I think the only thing that keeps them from potentially winning the division is their bullpen. So, yeah I’m buying a little bit, I think the balance of the American League gives everybody a chance to get to that second Wild Card position.
Dan Plesac had the Indians third, so who cares let's ignore that one, but Smoltz's thoughts are interesting. Pitching good enough, fine, offense good enough, shaky but okay, but the bullpen being the big question mark in Smoltz's eyes caught my attention. Maybe I am just too much in agreement with the Indians' strategy of throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks, but I am not at all concerned about the bullpen anymore.
Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw locking down the back end of the pen is encouraging, and the mix of Kyle Crockett, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister and one of the dozen other players the Indians signed to minor league deals this Spring makes me think it will not be an issue.
It should be noted that this is far from a ringing endorsement, as Smotlz notes that the biggest driving force for the Indians getting a Wild Card birth is a wide-open American League, but hey, I will take it.