Keith's Worst Team Predictions of 2009

Cleveland Indians

by Keith Glab,
November 16, 2009

Many people considered the Colorado Rockies to be the biggest surprise team of 2009 and the Chicago Cubs among the biggest disappointments.  Both teams did about what I had expected them to do.  I missed Colorado's win total by five wins, but had them winning the NL West, a division I had underestimated as a whole.  I also correctly predicted the Cubs would miss the postseason, overshooting their overall winning percentage by just 15 points.

This isn't to say that my predictions were immaculate.  I missed three teams' actual win totals by more than 15 games, the worst of which was a 27-win differential.  That's pretty embarrassing, so I sat down to examine why I was so wrong about each club.

Bad Predictions: Mets | Indians | Giants

2009 Standings
Keith's 2009 Predictions

Cleveland Indians Actual Record: 65-97
Keith's Indians Prediction: 89-73
Difference: 19 games

Apparently, it is a kiss of death for me to predict that a team will win 89 games.  Unlike my Mets prediction, this one wasn't a mistake that practically everyone made.  Many analysts saw that Eric Wedge's Indians had a knack for failing to meet expectations.  Furthermore, few people thought that Cleveland could improve on its .500 mark last year without C.C. Sabathia in the fold, although the team actually performed much better after trading him in 2008.

Eric Wedge Ledger
Year Actual
2009 65 73 -8
2008 81 85 -4
2007 96 91 +5
2006 78 89 -11
2005 93 96 -3
2004 80 81 -1
2003 68 73 -5
Total 561 588 -27

History began repeating itself in 2009.  After the Indians traded Cliff Lee on July 29th, the Tribe won seven of its next 10 games and 15 of its next 25.  Unlike 2008, however, Cleveland closed out its final 35 games with a dismal seven victories, "good" for a .200 winning percentage.  For the sixth time in seven years as the Indians manager, Eric Wedge fell short of his team's Pythagorean win projection based on runs scored and runs allowed. 

So on one hand, yes, I should have seen the failure to reach their potential coming given Wedge's history.  On the other hand, while it was obvious that the Indians would trade Sabathia in 2008 if the team weren't in contention - and possibly even if they were - no one could have foreseen the Great Cleveland Fire Sale of 2009.  Lee and Victor Martinez were both dealt even though the Indians held affordable 2010 options on both players.  Neither Ryan Garko nor Ben Francisco had even reached arbitration eligibility prior to being shipped out.  Mark DeRosa , Carl Pavano, and Rafael Betancourt were quality players who were also dealt, but at least their contract statuses warranted their movement.

Of course, things would had to have gotten pretty bad for the fire sale to occur, and they had.  Grady Sizemore endured his worst major league season due to various injuries, when at age 26 he should have been enjoying his finest season to date.  Similarly, Jhonny Peralta had his worst-ever season at age 27, but could not even blame injuries the way Sizemore could.  Travis Hafner also spent a lot of time on the DL, and was only able to play up to his 2007 form when healthy, rather than the 2004-2006 form the Indians were hoping for. 

Nevertheless, offense wasn't Cleveland's problem.  In fact, they scored more runs than a half dozen other AL teams and only scored 11 fewer runs than the Texas Rangers despite the trades and the injuries.  A full season of C Victor Martinez, 1B Ryan Garko, 2B Mark DeRosa, 3B Jhonny Peralta, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, LF Ben Francisco, CF Grady Sizemore, RF Shin Soo-Choo, and DH Travis Hafner would have ranked among baseball's best offenses.  As it was, they were at least adequate, bordering on good.

The pitching and defense were just terrible, though.  Fausto Carmona, whom you figured was going to land somewhere between his 2007 ERA of 3.06 and his 2008 mark of 5.44, decided that he did not want to be predictable and wound up with a deplorable 6.32 ERA.  For some reason, Tomokazu Okha (5.96 ERA) was allowed to pitch 71 innings and Rafael Perez (7.31 ERA) was brought into 54 games.  At least Fausto had upside; no reason to keep trotting these two failures out there. 

Okay, okay.  Perez fanned 86 batters in 76.1 innings last year, so obviously he had some upside.  For some reason, his K rate dropped to 32 in 48 innings this year.  Jensen Lewis also took a pretty big step backwards.  The additions of Kerry Wood and Joe Smith were supposed to turn a lackluster 2008 bullpen into a strength for 2009.  Contrary to popular belief, Smith and Wood actually performed pretty well.  It was the regression of Lewis and Perez - along with the trade of Betancourt -  that doomed this bullpen.

So I was wrong about the Indians, no doubt.  But it was something of a snowball effect that was difficult to foresee.  The starters were even worse than advertised, which overtaxed the bullpen.  There were a few more injuries than anticipated.  Then half of the team is traded in a fire sale, which stretched the remaining talent too thinly.  Plus, all the while, you have Eric Wedge using every trick in the book to get his team to play below its potential.

Well, Indians fans do not need to worry about Eric's antics any longer.  They might be a bit concerned about the sudden lack of talent in the organization, however.

Bad Predictions: Mets | Indians | Giants

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at