Well we've got 23 days left until Opening Day, which means it's season preview time. We'll be running it down team by team, with an added new wrinkle this time around: the beer of choice for fans of the team to enjoy whilst watching their team take the field! Nothing like that to help get you through a baseball season, especially if you're from Pittsburgh. Up next: the Cleveland Indians.
Lineup: This is one of the better-hitting outfields in baseball. Grady Sizemore is already a superstar centerfielder, and Shin-Soo Choo had a breakout '09. Matt LaPorta remains a bat to watch in left, as he projects to be a star-caliber hitter, and Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe are two other high-upside guys that could get some play here. Russell Branyan showed that he's been disrespected throughout his career last season, but serious questions remain about his ability to repeat the campaign, given his alarming second half and bad back. Travis Hafner hasn't been the Pronk that earned the big-money deal from the Tribe for several years now, and Jhonny Peralta is coming off a very disappointing season. Luis Valbuena and Asdrubal Cabrera aren't star-level bats, by any means, but they are a capable double play duo, which combined with the upside of Carlos Santana and the somewhat lesser upside of Lou Marson, make them stronger up the middle than most clubs, particularly in the weak AL Central.
Rotation: There is precious little to like about this rotation. Really, unless Fausto Carmona shows that he actually has some clue of where to throw the baseball - see e.g. his near-Cy Young season in 2007 - there is just about zero talent in this rotation. Jake Westbrook is middling at best, and Justin Masterson, David Huff, Aaron Laffey, and Jeremy Sowers are guys whose talent has either gone by the wayside or wasn't there to begin with. Of the group, we'd bet on Masterson having the best season, but he'd be the first sidearming starter we can think of that would have real success.
Bullpen: This group was so atrocious last season that it inspired what is probably our most popular post (here, if you need a refresher and aren't above indulging our shameless self-promotion), and there's not much improvement to be found. Masahide Kobayashi is gone, mercifully ending that experiment, but they're still relying on an aging Kerry Wood to hold down the closer job, and a bunch of guys that we've never heard of to get the ball to him. Ok, well, we've heard of Joe Smith, but that's not necessarily a good thing.
Overall: This team is going to need to flat-out outhit its opponents if it wants even a prayer at .500. When CC and Fausto were at the top of their games, their pitching was gangbusters. But those days are long gone, so it's on Sizemore, LaPorta, Choo, Branyan and co. to keep this team afloat...and we don't think they're really up to the task. There's hope for the future, though, particularly given the weak division and up-and-comers like Santana, Brantley, Crowe, and Marson.
Predicted Record: 68-94, 4th place AL Central
Beer: Great Lakes Brewing Co's Blackout Stout. It's a local beer, which is a nice touch, and with a name like that, it'll help Cleveland fans forget the atrocious efforts of their pitching staff. Bullpen blew a 5-run, 8th-inning lead? No problem if you don't remember it! Plus, it's a 9% beer, so it packs punch like the lineup should. If you wanted a more wholesome, less enjoyable reason to choose this beer, there you go.