Opening Day is Here…FINALLY!

It’s Opening Day once again for the Indians and I couldn’t be more excited.  The Cavs are terrible.  The Browns are terrible and the NFL is in the midst of a lock out.  Ohio State was knocked out of March Madness and the football program is one more scandal away from being thrown into complete shambles.  Needless to say things have been better for Cleveland.  But all of that is a moot point today.  Today is a day when hope springs eternal.

Opening Day should be a national holiday in this country.  How many people do you know that are skipping work or school to attend the Indians home opener today?  How many others do you know who won’t be worth a damn at work because they’ll be focusing all their energy on listening to Tom Hamilton call the game?  Exactly.  It happens in every city that has a major league team and to every person that still considers baseball to be America’s past time.  It should be a free day for everyone on the level of Christmas and Thanksgiving.  What other sport provides this much hope?  None of them.  Football, basketball, and to an extent even hockey do not really allow for the Cinderella seasons.  Baseball is different.

The Indians aren’t projected by anyone to win the AL Central, or even be competitive.  They’re predicted to finish 4th or 5th and be lucky to finish at .500.  That’s fine, but on a day like today that doesn’t keep us from optimistically thinking, “why not?”  What if the young guys figure it all out?  What if the pitching staff as a whole has career years?  These things can happen in baseball.  Teams can get off to a hot start, build confidence, and force everyone else to play catch up.  The 162 game schedule is a marathon, not a sprint and as a result anything can happen.  The Tampa Bay Rays anyone?  What about the 2007 Colorado Rockies?  I rest my case.

Unfortunately, while I’m cautiously optimistic about this team I’m also not crazy.  I’m not going to go out on a limb and actually say that this team will compete for a playoff spot.  It’s not going to happen.  They’re at least another year or two and multiple pieces away from those types of expectations.  So what should we expect from the Indians in 2011?  I’ve done my positional previews (links posted below) now it’s time for the predictions.

What will the Indians record be in 2011 and where will they finish in the Central?

  • I expect the Indians to finish with a record of 82-80.  Two games over .500 isn’t an outrageous goal.  In all honesty they could also do much worse than that.  What will matter to everyone I believe is how they look in acquiring the record.  If they’re enjoyable games and everyone performs like we expect them to, then it will be a successful season.  If they finish below .500 with fill ins and replacements and the team just looks terrible, then no one will be pleased.  This year will be crucial in building momentum for next year.  With that said, I expect the Indians to finish 4th in the central behind Minnesota, Chicago, and Detroit, but still ahead of Kansas City.

Will the Starting Rotation perform well?

  • Simply put… no, I don’t think so.  Fausto should be fine as the ace, but after that is when it gets sketchy.  It’s a jumbled combination of inexperience and youth.  There are going to be growing pains and to expect anything else isn’t logical.  I do expect big things from Carrasco given all the hype surrounding him this year.

What will Hafner and Sizemore do for the Indians in 2011?

  • I have a crazy hunch that Hafner might surprise us all in 2011.  He’s had a few bad years, but for the first time in a long time he’s healthy.  I also think expectations of him are so low that the pressure might finally be off.  I might be crazy in the minority, but I feel like he has one more solid year left in him somewhere.  Sizemore is a different story.  He’s basically missed two full years and he’s still not healthy.  I expect him to look rusty once he comes back.  Don’t expect Sizemore to look like Sizemore until August, at the earliest.

Are there any all-stars on this team?

  • I feel like there are four potential all-stars.  Fausto Carmona, Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Shin-Soo Choo.  Fausto was an all-star last year and if not for a thumb injury a week prior Choo would have been too.  Cabrera has been a solid player that has gotten better every year and could make a push for it.  Perez will get a spot if and only if the Indians can score runs and get the ball to him in the 9th.

When will we see Chisenhall?  Will we see anyone else?

  • Chisenhall will be on the major league roster by June.  The other possibility to get called up will be starting pitcher Alex White.  He’s progressed along nicely and looks like a stud.  If someone gets hurt or struggles he could get a shot later on this year in July or August.  Outside shot… second baseman Jason Kipnis.

and finally…

Will there be another fire sale at the trade deadline?

  • I don’t think so.  Not because the Indians don’t have assets that could be valuable to other teams at the trading deadline, but more so because I think they understand the negative impact another fire sale would have.  Besides, mostly everyone on this team is under contract for two or three more years at least with the exception of Orlando Cabrera, Austin Kearns, and Adam Everett.  In reality they seem like the most likely candidates to be traded.  They aren’t part of the long-term solution and could be used to pry more prospects away from the top contenders.  The bottom line is that I fully expect the Indians to end the season with Fausto, Grady, and Pronk all still on the roster.

So there you have it.  Those are my predictions for the Indians in 2011.  Not great, but not exactly awful.  The record probably won’t back me up, but I feel like this team will be much more fun to watch than the teams we have been forced to watch since the start of ’08.

Play ball… play ball indeed…

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