New Standard of Success

Indians season hints at new era of baseball prowess

David Hoffman, Staff Reporter

What a difference a year can make. Just a year ago, the Indians’ recently completed season would have been considered a great success. After last year’s run to the American League wild card game, though, this season doesn’t quite stack up. Nevertheless the Tribe enjoyed a respectable campaign, finishing with a win-loss record of 85-77. The last two seasons mark the first time the team has posted consecutive winning seasons since the glory days of the late 90’s and the turn of the millennium, when they recorded eight straight winning campaigns from 1994-2001. There were plenty of highlights to go around, and a couple of breakout seasons from young players beginning to come into their own.

Perhaps the biggest revelation of the year for the Tribe was the emergence of starting pitcher Corey Kluber. Kluber, who also goes by the nickname “Klubot”, overcame a subpar defense behind him to win 18 games over the course of the season, which placed him in a three-way tie for the American League lead. He also finished second in the major leagues with 269 strikeouts and third in the American League with 235.2 innings pitched, helping to preserve the bullpen for another day when he toed the rubber. With the season now in the books, Kluber possesses a legitimate case to take home the American League Cy Young Award, with his main competition coming in the person of Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. Ironically Kluber’s best start of the season came against Hernandez and the Mariners at Progressive Field on July 30, when he fired a complete game shutout on just 85 pitches, 69 of them for strikes, in a 2-0 Tribe victory. The Klubot gives the Indians something they haven’t had since the days of Cliff Lee: a legitimate ace in their starting rotation. Moving forward, he should be one of the major building blocks of the team as they attempt to remain playoff contenders.

The other significant breakout star was outfielder Michael Brantley, who made the proverbial leap from a solid player to an all-star. He posted career-best numbers across the board en route to his first All-Star Game selection, hitting 0.327 with 20 home runs, 97 RBI and 23 stolen bases. Additionally, he also recorded 200 hits throughout the season, becoming the first Indians player to reach that plateau since Kenny Lofton in 1996. Brantley also came up clutch for the Tribe at times, smacking a pair of walk-off home runs this year. On the other side, he played sound defense in left field for a team that led the major leagues in errors. After coming to Cleveland as a secondary piece in the CC Sabathia trade in 2008, Brantley has emerged as the best player acquired by the Tribe in that deal. Seemingly entering the prime of his career, he should have several more All-Star caliber seasons ahead of him.

The Indians have opened the Terry Francona era in impressive fashion, posting consecutive winning seasons and proving to have several key cogs on the roster who can lead the team back to relevance. Even though they reside in the same division as the perennially contending Detroit Tigers and the up-and-coming Kansas City Royals, the Tribe’s future appears rather bright. Cue the drumbeats by John Adams up in the bleachers.