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The Least Valuable Pick to Win the AL Pennant

Worst Value Pick to Win the AL Pennant - Cleveland Indians

Always look for value, that’s a rule.

When gauging MLB futures, or any wager for that matter, value must be considered. Nothing is guaranteed in the world of sports and betting longshot favorites is never the sure-thing it appears to be on paper.

So while we search for value for the upcoming MLB season, we should also probably eliminate teams that don’t provide us much value at all.

Looking at the current odds to win the American League Pennant, we have a three-headed monster at the top in the form of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Houston Astros, all of which would seem like quality options to win the AL.

However, there is one club that I am looking at that isn’t quite giving us what we need in terms of value to outlast these clubs en route to a World Series appearance.

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Let’s get to it and see who is carrying the least amount of value to win the American League Pennant.

*Odds courtesy of MyBookie

Cleveland Indians (+700)

The Indians have been the kings of the American League Central for the last three seasons, but I believe that stretch is in jeopardy this season despite most of the division sitting in rebuild mode.

Sure, the Indians sport a very good starting rotation, but that’s right about where it ends for me.

Let’s start by breaking down that rotation before I get into why the Indians aren’t worth the futures bet you might think they are.

The Rotation

In 2018, Cleveland received a 3.39 ERA from their starting pitching, good for the third-best mark in baseball behind the Astros and Dodgers.

They sport a deep and lethal rotation with a well above-average hurler taking the mound every fourth day, at the minimum.

Indians Rotation – 2018
Player ERA FIP
Trevor Bauer 2.26 2.44
Corey Kluber 2.89 3.12
Carlos Carrasco 3.02 2.98
Mike Clevinger 3.02 3.52
Shane Bieber 4.25 2.96

Those FIP number, in particular, are outrageous as even Shane Bieber, Cleveland’s fifth starter, deserved an ERA much closer to three than well over four. Each of the top four were worth at least 4.3 WAR while Bieber’s 110 innings pitched limited him to an impressive 3-WAR season.

There’s no doubt Cleveland’s starting pitching is going to get them at or near the top of a weak AL Central and thus real close to a playoff spot without even considering anything else.

However, there are holes in the armor.

I mean, why did Cleveland, with this rotation, win only 91 games in easily the worst division in baseball last season? Heck, the Tampa Bay Rays won 90 games without a starting rotation and in the same division as two 100-win clubs in the Red Sox and Yankees.

Cleveland’s 91 wins in 2018 were only the fifth-most in the AL behind the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, and A’s.

Let’s take a look at the chinks in the Indians’ armor.

Lineup

The Indians have two MVP-caliber players at the top of their lineup, however, it falls rather steeply after that.

After the duo of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez at the top, let’s have a look at the remainder of the Indians’ projected lineup for 2019.

Player 2018 OPS 2018 Home Runs
Carlos Santana (DH) .766 24
Jake Bauers (1B) .700 11
Jason Kipnis (2B) .704 18
Leonys Martin (CF) .748 11
Tyler Naquin (RF) .651 3
Jordan Luplow (LF) .631 2
Roberto Perez (C) .519 2

That is not a deep lineup, a powerful lineup or a productive lineup. There wasn’t much done to improve this group in the offseason, and the contrary actually took place.

Let’s look at the names that were on Cleveland to end the 2018 season that is no longer with the club.

Player 2018 OPS 2018 Home Runs
Edwin Encarnacion .810 32
Josh Donaldson* .920 3
Lonnie Chisenhall .846 1
Michael Brantley .832 17
Yandy Diaz .797 1
Melky Cabrera .755 6
Yonder Alonso .738 23
Yan Gomes .762 16

The .766 OPS Carlos Santana posted in 2018 would rank sixth among the list of players that departed in the offseason. As the OPS leader after Lindor and Ramirez, that cannot bode well for the depth of production Cleveland will receive from their projected everyday lineup in 2019.

Cleveland’s offense, at least at this point, looks like the second-best offense in the Central behind the Twins while the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, A’s, Angels, Mariners, and even Rays or Rangers could all sports offenses that produce more than that of the three-time defending AL Central champs.

Bullpen

Over the last two offseasons, the Indians have lost Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen to free agency. It’s hard to imagine Cleveland’s bullpen being worse than the 25h-ranked group that concocted a 4.60 ERA last season, but it’s possible.

The two trade deadline acquisitions they grabbed from the Padres last year are set to anchor the ‘pen this year in Brad Hand and Adam Cimber.

Oliver Perez and his team-leading 1.39 ERA out of the bullpen is gone. The good news for Cleveland is Hand’s 2.28 ERA with the team last year was the second-best mark among pitchers with at least five innings pitched.

The remaining arms from last year are as follows, aside from Hand and Cimber.

Indians Bullpen Holdover From 2018
Player 2018 ERA 2018 FIP
Jon Edwards 3.12 5.24
Tyler Olson 4.94 3.45
Dan Otero 5.22 4.76
Neil Ramirez 4.54 5.03
Ben Taylor 6.00 5.33

That is certainly an uninspiring group when we factor in World Series aspirations and the bullpens of some of the other clubs that will compete for postseason spots in the American League this season.

Perhaps some additions are on their way as Spring Training moves along, however, whatever lead the strong starting pitching can give this bullpen looks like it could be in jeopardy.

Competition

Last season, the Twins cake walked into the playoffs. The second-best record to Cleveland’s 91-71 mark from last season was the Twins who went 78-84 and finished the season on a six-game win streak.

Now, the Twins went out and beefed up their lineup in the offseason with some power bats in Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron before adding perhaps the top super-utility player in baseball in Marwin Gonzalez late in the offseason.

There’s little doubt that the Indians have the far superior starting pitching, however, there’s also little doubt that the Twins have the much deeper lineup.

In other words, there’s no guarantee the Indians even make the playoffs in 2019.

The AL East will feature three teams with playoff aspirations in the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays while the Astros, A’s and Angels will have their sights set on October baseball in the AL West. Add in the Twins in the Central and there is some decent competition for a Wild Card spot as well.

At the end of the day, the Indians are not guaranteed anything this season, and I certainly don’t believe the front office has set the team up for much current and/or future success given the makeup of the roster outside of the starting rotation.

I’m going to need more than +700 to have the Indians beat out the elite teams in the AL as I name them the least valuable AL Pennant bet in the junior circuit.