2019 Cleveland Indians
2019 Cleveland Indians / Franchise: Cleveland Indians / BR Team Page
Managed by Terry Francona
History, Comments, Contributions
Coming off three straight division titles without encountering much opposition, the 2019 Cleveland Indians were prohibitive favorites to repeat coming into the season, and were mainly focused on ending the long title drought they had failed to snap in their epic loss to the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series. Their main assets heading into the season were a tremendous starting rotation, four members of which had passed the 200 strikeout mark in 2018 - Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger - and two of the best all-around players in baseball in SS Francisco Lindor and 3B José Ramírez. That said, there were also some cracks starting to show, with the loss of some big bats - OF Michael Brantley via free agency and DH Edwin Encarnacion via trade, as well as IF Yandy Diaz, a top hitting prospect who had not yet had a chance to play regularly in the Show. The bullpen had also been a disaster area in 2018, and it remained to be seen if a rebuild had patched all the leaks.
The Indians got off to a good enough start, going 16-12 in March and April, but that still left them behind the Minnesota Twins, who were showing their poor performance the year before had been a fluke. Significantly, there were some serious injury concerns: Lindor had missed most of that period, only making his debut on April 20th, and the Indians had lost Clevinger for an extended period when he had had to leave a start on April 7th with a back issue and was now on the shelf until July. Things went from bad to worse on May 1st when Kluber suffered a broken forearm after being hit by a line drive, and also went down for an extended period, leaving the Indians short of starting pitching, in addition to the concerns about their bats and the bullpen. The Indians had a rough month of May, going 12-17 to finish the month one game below .500 at 28-29, and 10 1/2 games behind the division-leading Twins.
After falling to 11 1/2 games back on June 3rd, Cleveland began a remarkable turnaround when they won 5 of their next 7 games and went an excellent 17-9 during the month. They then won their first 5 games in July to enter the All-Star break with a record of 50-38, having cut 5 games from the Twins lead, which now stood at 5 games. They hosted the 2019 All-Star Game at Progressive Field and one of their players, second-year P Shane Bieber won the Ted Williams Award as the game's MVP when he pitched a perfect inning in relief, striking out all three batters he faced. Bieber was one of those who had stepped up during the early injuries, going 8-3 over the first half. A couple other young players were doing well and they were both in the spotlight on July 16th, when the Indians defeated the Detroit Tigers, 8-0, on a one-hitter. Rookie Zach Plesac pitched three hitless innings before a rain delay of over two hours ended his night prematurely, and another rookie, OF Oscar Mercado, homered, walked twice and drove in 2 runs in the win. Both youngsters had made their debut that season, Mercado on May 14th and Plesac on May 28th.
When the trading deadline arrived at the end of July, the Indians had almost managed to catch up to the Minnesota Twins, who had got off to a scorching hit start, and were leading the wild card race as well. It was widely expected that they would make some sort of deal to address remaining issues, such as the lack of offensive production from their outfielders, but the deal they did pull off was a surprise. The traded ace pitcher Bauer, who had burned his last bridges with a temper tantrum that had seen him heave a baseball over the center field fence in frustration over being taken out of a game, and turned him into two solid outfielders, Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes, a major-league ready pitcher in Logan Allen, and a couple of prospects. For his part, Bauer landed with the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Diego Padres were also involved in the trade. With pitchers Kluber, Carrasco and Danny Salazar all about to return from injuries, the Indians were willing to part with a top-notch starter to address other areas of concern. On August 9th, they defeated the Twins 6-2, behind another excellent start by Bieber to reach a tie for first place; they had gone 41-16 since June 3rd. It was incidentally the Indian's 70th win of the year.
However, after catching the Twins, the Indians were unable to pass them, and by the end of August had fallen back to 4 1/2 games off the lead. They recorded win #81 on September 4th, but were continuing to lose more often than they won while Minnesota had turned the afterburners back on. The hope was now to make it into the postseason as a wild card, but even that was going to be a struggle as both the Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays were ahead of them and playing well. One of the factors that really helped the Indians get back into playoff contention was their absolute dominance of division rivals the Detroit Tigers. They won 18 of the 19 games they played against Detroit, the most ever wins by one team against an opponent in major league history. This included the final 17 meetings between the two teams.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Shane Bieber, Brad Hand, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana
- AL Comeback Player of the Year Award: Carlos Carrasco
- AL Gold Glove: Francisco Lindor (SS) and Roberto Perez (C)
- AL Silver Slugger Award: Carlos Santana (1B)
- Associated Press: "Indians reloading bullpen after down season, departures", USA Today, February 21, 2019. 
- Anthony Castrovince: "In unique move, Tribe trades starter to improve", mlb.com, July 31, 2019. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Trevor Bauer trade was the right move for everyone – especially the Indians", USA Today, July 31, 2019.