5 Reasons The Cleveland Indians Will Win The 2013 World Series
Can the Cleveland Indians Pull Off a Fall Classic Victory?
The Cleveland Indians have come out of nowhere to give themselves a shot at World Series contention. After being 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot on Aug. 31, they've been spectacular in September, going 18-6 en route to a one-game hold of the final playoff spot. If they can fare favorably in this weekend's series over the Minnesota Twins, they should be able to edge out the Texas Rangers and advance to the one-game Wild Card round against the Tampa Bay Rays. It will certainly be tough to knock off the Rays, who, like the Indians, have won seven straight, but if they can, Cleveland will rightfully be considered one of the toughest teams in the postseason.
The Indians haven't made the playoffs since 2007, when they lost in the ALCS to the New York Yankees, so this experience will be a welcomed change. The team hasn't won the World Series since 1948, so there's no telling what a championship would do for the loyal fan base. Ultimately, the greatest quality that this Indians team seems to have is the excitement and unpredictability that comes night after night, and it truly will be exciting to see if they can keep that going as the postseason starts.
There are plenty of things to love about this Indians team, but here are five in particular that give the Indians an edge as they look for a World Series victory.
5. Their Role Players are Insanely Clutch
The Indians may end up having the most dynamic bench of any team in the playoffs. Over just 233 at-bats, utility player Ryan Raburn has 16 homers and 53 RBI. Though he's struggled throughout the season with making contact, 42-year-old Jason Giambi has nine homers, and his walk off home run on Sept. 24 delivered the team perhaps its most inspirational win of the year. Beyond those two, the team has utility infielder Mike Aviles, who has been very effective while delivering a veteran presence. And though he's not guaranteed a spot on the postseason roster, career minor-leaguer Matt Carson has been on fire since coming up at the end of August. He's hitting .636 with a homer and three steals over 11 at-bats, and he too delivered the team a walk off hit last week.
4. They're Hungrier Than Ever for a Championship
The Indians now have the majors' second longest drought without a World Series victory, having gone since 1948 without a championship. As they approach the 66th anniversary of that victory, this Indians' organization and fan base are ready for something to go their way. Sure, the same thing has been occurring for the Chicago Cubs since 1908, but in the end, there can only be one Cubs organization, and it's time for the Indians to win it all again.
3. They Have a Shutdown Bullpen (Besides Their Closer?)
The Indians will have plenty of candidates for their playoff bullpen, but there are a few who stand out as being particularly effective. Lefty specialist Mark Rzepczynski has a 1.02 ERA in 24 appearances since being acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline. Sidearming right-hander Joe Smith has been reliable all year, as has second-year righty Cody Allen. Perhaps the biggest asset to their 'pen during the playoffs could be All-Star starter Justin Masterson, who was recently moved to relief after returning from an injury, and is capable of overpowering hitters with his 94 MPH fastball.
The major issue lies with the team's closer, Chris Perez. Though the 28 year old had been one of the best closers in the big leagues for the past several years, he's struggled with off-the-field issues this year, and those troubles have followed him to the mound. He has a 5.60 ERA since the All-Star break, including a September that has seen him blow a save and give up 18 hits, 10 earned runs, and four homers over 10 appearances. If Perez continues to struggle, the Indians may need to change things up in the ninth.
2. Yan Gomes is the League's Hottest-Hitting Catcher
Take a glance at this stat: in each of the past two seasons, the player who has had the highest post-All-Star-break average among catchers with at least 100 second-half at-bats has gone to the World Series. Buster Posey's .385 second-half clip led the San Francisco Giants to a victory in 2012, while Texas's Mike Napoli's .383 average helped the Texas Rangers advance to the Fall Classic in 2011. Yadier Molina of the champion St. Louis Cardinals wasn't far behind, hitting .337 over the second half. This year, Cleveland's Yan Gomes holds this distinction, as he is hitting .325 over 151 second-half at-bats. The value of good offensive catching cannot be overstated, and if Gomes keeps hitting like he has, he gives them a great chance at a World Series victory.
1. The “Magic” Factor is There
There's just something that feels special about this Indians team. Their September rally, filled with clutch hitting and enticing victories, is reminiscent of other teams that have won the World Series over the past few years. The 11 walk off wins have provided tremendous excitement, and their underdog quality makes them even more likable. As Indians play-by-play announcer Matt Underwood said after Tuesday's victory, “If you don't believe there's something special happening with this bunch, then you haven't been paying attention.”
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