It is no secret as to what makes the Cleveland Indians go.
It has been that way since at least the 2015 season.
Cleveland has relied on its starting pitching and play of star players to carry the load and get wins. That has no doubt been the case the last three seasons when the Tribe has won the AL Central each year in that span.
In 2014, Kluber was the standout player on a team that missed the playoffs. He won the Cy Young Award with an 18-9 record (the most wins in the AL) and 2.44 ERA. No other starter had a double-digit win total.
The next season, Kluber took a step back, only winning nine games and owning a 3.49 ERA.
But, in 2015, three starters had double-digit wins: Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco both with 14 and Trevor Bauer with 11. This was the season that Francisco Lindor made his debut in the majors.
It all then started to click for Terry Francona and his team.
The win total jumped from 84 to 91. Lindor and Jose Ramirez were both fully arrived and becoming stars on the left side of the infield. Kluber’s ERA dropped and all five rotation starters had a win total over 10, a loss total under 10, and all made 25-plus starts. The bullpen, especially after the trade for Andrew Miller midseason, was lights out (of course, now, that is much different story).
Since then, that has been the recipe for success for Cleveland.
It has one of the best and most dominant starting staffs in the MLB. Starting spots one through three have a legit chance to win the Cy Young award (Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer). Mike Clevinger made leaps and bounds in his first full season as a starter. And Shane Bieber looks to follow Clevinger’s path and improve in season two after an impressive rookie campaign.
Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, and Clevinger all pitched more than 175 innings and struck out over 200 batters- the first time four pitchers on the same staff has accomplished that in history. This staff has the ability to shut down any lineup on any given night. All of the starters have nasty movement on their pitches any have options on what to throw in a count with two strikes.
The other half of this equation is the left side of the infield in Ramirez and Lindor.
Both players were All-Stars last year and had career years.
Ramirez finished third in the AL MVP voting and was the AL’s starting third baseman in the mid-summer classic for the second straight season.
Lindor led the league in runs scored and set a career-high with 48 home runs.
Both players led the Indians in wins above replacement (WAR) with a 7.9 mark.
The duo combined for 339 hits, 80 doubles, 77 home runs, 239 runs and had a combined slash line of .273/.369/.535
After those two, the Indians do not get too much production on offense and will struggle to get production in 2019 with the losses of Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion, and Yonder Alonso.
The Indians are going to need Ramirez and Lindor to maintain their high-level production at the plate for Cleveland to get back to the playoffs and have any short of chance at making it past the ALDS (the Indians should make the playoffs fairly easy based on how weak the other four AL Central teams are).
The trend will continue into 2019 and it will keep going until Cleveland decides to open its wallet and spend more money in free agency and be more aggressive on the trade market. One of those things is bound to happen eventually, right (see: signing Lindor to a long-term extension)?
The success will be based on the right arms of the rotation and the production of MVP candidates at the plate. More will be needed from other players and positions, no doubt, but this is a good start.