Back in the old days, Johnny Carson used to put on a silly turban and play The Great Carnac, who would tell you the answer to a question before it was asked. To the best of my knowledge, none of my fellow bloggers have a turban at home, but we felt that, with Opening Day just one day away, we had to make some predictions for the upcoming season.
We came up with five questions, each of which was answered by each ItsPronouncedLajaway.com blogger. The responses are below. Check back with us at the end of September to see which of us should invest in a goofy turban.
1) How many games with the Indians win this season?
Brenden: As optimistic as I am, I am looking for the Indians to finish around the .500 mark, so my vote is for 82 wins. This would put them finishing at 82-80.
Ryan: 84. They’ll be slightly better than most are expecting, but still at least 10 games behind the Tigers.
Vern: Bearing in mind that I am not under oath here: 85.
2) Who/what will be the biggest surprise?
Stephanie: Jeanmar Gomez. He looked great this spring, and don’t forget that he pitched a perfect game for Akron in 2009. My only concern is that he may have some lingering knee issues.
Susan: Shelley Duncan. I think at the end of last season, he found his swing. That, coupled with the opportunity to play ever day, is bringing out a different ballplayer than the bench/utility backup role he’d been locked into for years.
Brenden: I really think it will be Jeanmar Gomez. The kid is only 24, and has shown signs of being able to pitch at the major league level. After a good spring, it would not be out of the question to see Gomez come out dealing. All Jeanmar has needed is an opportunity, and it seems like he is going to get it due to Carmona/Hernandez’s situation and Carrasco’s injury.
Ryan: Derek Lowe. I expect a solid bounce-back year from Lowe due to his groundball rate
and the Tribe’s solid defensive infield.
Vern: I wouldn’t exactly call it a surprise, but I don’t think that Vinnie Pestano will pitch as well in 2012 as he did last year. People tend to regress to the mean, and I think it’ll be hard for him to replicate his 2011 performance standards.
3) Who/what will be the biggest disappointment?
Stephanie: Dan Wheeler. Can it even be considered a disappointment though, if I expect him to be terrible? I’ll go with Josh Tomlin instead – I have this bad feeling he’s going to end up spending extended time on the DL.
Susan: Dan Wheeler. No contest.
Brenden: I am not being very bold here, but I will go ahead and say Grady Sizemore is a lock here. Grady has been one of the more disappointing players for each of the past two seasons, so until he proves me wrong, he wins my vote yet again. All of the injuries keep piling up, preventing Sizemore from ever returning to even 25% of what he was earlier in his career.
Ryan: Jason Kipnis. His power surge after being called up last year was a fluke, but his
high strikeout rate wasn’t. He’s probably a year away from really been an effective starter.
Vern: The pitching and behavior of Ubaldo Jimenez. I see him putting up an ERA of over 5.00 and losing his position in the starting rotation by the All-Star break.
4) What must happen for the Indians to win the AL Central?
Stephanie: I can’t think of anything that’s not “magical ponies” or “the apocalypse.” Seriously though, they need to keep people off of the DL. The offense and Ubaldo Jimenez should also work on being less terrible.
Susan: Our batters have to give their pitchers run support. I’m not entirely confident that our aces will be shut-em-down aces. The opposition will hit against us. We have a strong enough defense that, hopefully, we can minimize the damage, but we have to score runs. Either that or Justin Verlander’s son needs to get a trampoline.
Brenden: Ah, I am glad you asked. Listed below is a telling chart about all of the past several seasons the Indians either won the division or made the playoffs. See if you can understand the riddle:
The pitcher slated to be the Cleveland Indians 3rd starter to begin the season? Josh Tomlin. Aside from 1997 when our line-up won us games, every season the Indians qualified for the playoffs, the 3rd starter won double-digit ball games. I do understand that Tomlin did this last season, going 12-7, but the other starters seemed to flop so much that his record was not enough to push the team into playoff contention. Basically what I am saying here is that if Masterson and Ubaldo can hold their own (a BIG if for Ubaldo’s sake), a good season from Tomlin would definitely put the Tribe in playoff contention at season’s end.
Ryan: A significant injury to Justin Verlander. If he misses 10+ starts, the Tribe couldhang around.
Vern: 1. My being wrong about Pestano, Jimenez, and Sizemore; 2. Two or more starters having 16 or more wins; 3. Decent power numbers from Choo, Hafner, Kipnis, and Santana; 4. A steady diet of pizza, fried chicken, and pasta for Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and for Justin Verlander to start dating a Kardashian.
Will: Zombie Apocalypse
5) Who will spend the most days on the DL during the regular season?
Stephanie: Duh, Grady Sizemore. Runner up: Travis Hafner
Susan: I don’t want to jinx anyone.
Brenden: I could be extremely boring, and vote for Grady Sizemore (and I really believe it will be him as far as current players on the roster), but I refuse to use Sizemore for two out of these five questions. I instead will go with Carlos Carrasco, since he is out the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. No one said I could not pick the guy who just had Tommy John, so that’s my pick!
Ryan: Oh so many choices. But I’ve gotta go with Grady since he’ll have a head start.
Vern: Grady Sizemore, alas, who will play in no more than 75 games in 2012.
Year 3rd Starter Pitcher’s Record
1995 Orel Hershiser 16-6
1996 Jack McDowell 13-9
1997 Chad Ogea 8-9
1998 Dave Burba 15-10
1999 Charles Nagy 17-11
2001 Dave Burba 10-10
2007 Paul Byrd 15-8