From 2009 to 2012, the Cleveland Indians were in a funk. Under Eric Wedge, Manny Acta and Sandy Alomar, the Tribe averaged just 70.5 wins per season. But then everything turned around in 2013 when Cleveland hired Terry Francona. Over the past seven seasons, the Indians have gone 638-494 (.564) under Francona, averaging 91.1 wins per season. Cleveland nearly won the 2016 World Series but came up just short against the Cubs in Game 7.
Last season, the Tribe went 93-69 (.574), their fourth straight 90-win season. Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough to make the playoffs as Cleveland finished 8 games back of the Twins in the division and 3 games back in the Wild Card. It broke a string of three consecutive AL Central titles and postseason appearances for the Indians.
Cleveland has the longest World Series drought in all of baseball. The Indians haven't won a championship since 1948, making it 71 years and counting.
It has been an eventful offseason for the Tribe. In an attempt to cut payroll, Cleveland traded away longtime ace and 2-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to the Rangers for outfielder Delino DeShields and a prospect. The Indians also let Jason Kipnis and Yasiel Puig walk in free agency. The Tribe signed former Phillies infielder Cesar Hernandez (.279, 14 homers, 71 RBIs in 2019) to take over at second base and also added former Mariners outfielder Domingo Santana (.253, 21 homers, 69 RBIs).
Francona also won't have his bench coach and right-hand man Brad Mills to lean on this year. Mills opted out of the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns.
Cleveland's lineup is deep and balanced, led by 26-year-old star shortstop Francisco Lindor (.284, 32 homers, 74 RBIs). The Indians also have a plethora of big boppers in first baseman Carlos Santana (.281, 34 homers, 91 RBIs), third baseman Jose Ramirez (.255, 23 homers, 83 RBIs) and outfielder/DH Franmil Reyes (.249, 37 homers, 81 RBIs).
Here is Cleveland's projected 2020 lineup:
1. Francisco Lindor SS
2. Oscar Mercado OF
3. Carlos Santana 1B
4. Jose Ramirez 3B
5. Franmil Reyes DH
6. Cesar Hernandez 2B
7. Domingo Santana OF
8. Roberto Perez C
9. Delino DeShields OF
Despite losing Kluber, the Indians have one of baseball's most dynamic starting staffs. The Tribe will lean on the two-headed monster of 25-year-old Shane Bieber (15-8, 3.28 ERA) and 29-year-old Mike Clevinger (13-4, 2.71 ERA). Cleveland also welcomes back veteran Carlos Carrasco, who missed significant time last season with a cancer scare.
Here is their projected starting rotation:
1. Shane Bieber
2. Mike Clevinger
3. Carlos Carrasco
4. Zach Plesac
5. Adam Plutko or Aaron Civale
Cleveland's bullpen is led by closer Brad Hand (3.30 ERA, 34 saves) and set-up men Nick Wittgren and Adam Cimber.
At BetMGM, the Indians' win total is 32.5. This translates to 87.75 wins based on a 162-game schedule. The interesting part about the win total is that the over is being juiced up to -120 with the under + 100. Why are oddsmakers forcing bettors to pay an expensive price on the over? Likely because they took in respected action on the over and the house has liability on Cleveland winning 33 games or more.
Interestingly, FanGraphs, one of the most respected sites for advanced baseball analytics, projects the Indians to go 31-29.
Cleveland is a virtual toss-up to make the postseason, with an ever so slight lean on the "no" option. The Indians are a -115 favorite to miss the playoffs and -105 to make the playoffs.
The Tribe have the 2nd-best odds to win the AL Central at + 300. The Twins are the favorite at -159. The White Sox are + 320, followed by the Tigers and Royals both distant longshots at + 8000.
Cleveland is + 1200 to win the American League, tied with the White Sox for the 5th-best odds. The Yankees are + 170 favorites, followed by the Astros + 380, Twins + 800 and Rays + 1000.
The Indians are + 2500 to win the World Series.
In terms of player props and futures, Lindor has the 3rd-best AL MVP odds at + 1100, trailing only Mike Trout (+ 130) and Aaron Judge (+ 850). Ramirez is + 2800.
Lindor is + 800 to lead the AL in hits and + 500 to lead the AL in runs, second only to Trout (+ 400). His over/under home runs is 12.5 (-115 both sides), RBIs 30.5 (-115 both sides) and runs 38.5 (over -110, under -120).
Cleveland has two of the top Cy Young candidates with Clevinger + 1000 and Bieber + 1100.
Bieber has the 3rd-best odds to lead the AL in strikeouts at + 700. Clevinger is + 2000. Bieber is + 900 to lead the AL in wins and Clevinger is + 1600.
Bieber's over/under wins is 6.5 (over -120, under -110) and strikeouts 82.5 (over -120, under -110). Clevinger's over/under wins is 5.5 (-110 both sides) and strikeouts 84.5 (-115 both sides).
Hand is + 600 to lead the AL in saves, tied with Taylor Rogers for the 3rd-best odds. Aroldis Chapman (+ 400) is the favorite, followed by Roberto Osuna (+ 500).