What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I'm a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2013 title for all 30 teams.
The years of futility by Lake Erie are over, and the Cleveland Indians are World Champions for the first time in 65 years. The 2013 season was the best Indians squad since the 2007 team that went up 3-1 on the Red Sox in the ALCS before getting outscored by 25 runs in the final three games of that series.
Cleveland's revamped offense did wonders for them in 2013. The Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn signings seemed questionable when they went down this offseason, but both paid off in spades after Swisher homered 25 times and posted a .851 OPS, while Bourn stole 47 bases and put together a five win season in center field. I'm sure that's exactly what the Tribe expected when they handed $104 million to those two this winter.
Swisher and Bourn got some help in the lineup from Mark Reynolds, who smashed 37 homers and provided the team with a three win season, no doubt bolstered by him not needing to wear a glove for much of the year. Catcher Carlos Santana remained a building block for the future in Cleveland, OPSing .810 with 22 homers behind the dish. Finally, second baseman Jason Kipnis had a 20/20 season, staking his claim towards being one of the best second basemen in all of baseball.
The Indians rotation was spotty at times in 2013, but they did enough to hold their own. Justin Masterson rebounded from his poor 2012, posting a 3.66 ERA and controlling opposing offenses with a 57% groundball rate. Ubaldo Jimenez recovered from a pair of lost seasons, and threw 195 innings with a 3.83 ERA and 170 strikeouts. Trevor Bauer got called up to the majors at the beginning of May after Daisuke Matsuzaka got slaughtered a few times, and the former Diamondback didn't fail to impress with his new club. In the 136 innings Bauer threw in the majors, he struck out 141, limited his walks to 57, and posted a 3.57 ERA. All's well that ends well, I guess.
Over in the bullpen, Vinnie Pestano ripped the closer's role away from Chris Perez when Perez was forced to start the year on the DL due to a strained shoulder, and Pestano didn't bother being polite and giving the job back to Perez. Pestano threw 72 innings as the Tribe's primary closer this season, saving 43 games and striking out 82 with a 1.88 ERA. Perez did a solid job in his new role as setup man, striking out 60 hitters in 62 innings while putting together a 2.18 ERA.
The Indians shockingly won the AL Central, besting the heavily favored Tigers by two games. In the ALDS, the Indians took on the Tampa Bay Rays, and beat the AL champions in a five game series thanks to an offensive outburst in game five. In the ALCS, the Tribe faced off with the wild card Tigers, and they beat their divisional rivals from Detroit in seven despite Justin Verlander throwing a pair of shutouts in the series. Finally in the World Series, the Indians once again took on a team from the NL East. This time, it was the Washington Nationals, and this time, the Indians prevailed in six.
It's amazing what can happen with just a vast retooling of an offense. The veteran core of Swisher, Bourn, and Reynolds provided the Indians with a solid complement to the Kipnis/Santana/Asdrubal Cabrera youngster core, and they meshed perfectly. Sometimes, shaking up the status quo works out at the end of the day.