The Minnesota Twins are chasing the Cleveland Indians for the division crown. In order to learn more about the Indians we did a little question and answer.
The Minnesota Twins have had one thing (or team) in their sights the entire offseason, the Cleveland Indians. The Twins have the task of running down the 102-60 American League Central champions from a year ago. The front office did all they could do to be able to compete with the Indians. Was it enough?
We recently caught up with Steven Kubitza of Believeland Ball to see what he thinks about this years Cleveland Indians. If you want to check out what I had to say about our Twins on their site go here. Otherwise, enjoy what the view from the division front-runner!
1. Who is a player Twins fans don’t know that they need to know?
SK: This is a tough one given just how similar the 2018 roster is to the one featured in 2017. But I will go with Tyler Olson, who burst onto the scene as a relief pitcher in the second half of 2017. He made 30 appearances and pitched 20 scoreless innings, basically becoming Andrew Miller‘s understudy. The lefty is known by Indians fans, but this will be his first full season with the team. He has the ability to replace Bryan Shaw and form his own dominant trio with Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, filling a role similar to what Miller already provides.
2. Has the gap between the Twins and Indians truly shortened? Are Indians fans taking notice of the Twins moves and Indians losses of Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw, and Jay Bruce?
SK: I wouldn’t say the gap has shortened, but it is clear that the Indians can’t coast to another AL Central title. I do think the Indians will win the division, but I also see the Twins as a Wild Card team in 2018. The only way this comes down to the wire is if the Indians are dealing with some major injuries, or the Twins pull off a historic win streak like the Indians did last year. However, given everyone is healthy, this Indians team is better overall and will find a way to win the division without any major stress. That doesn’t mean the Twins couldn’t beat the Indians in the postseason, where anything can happen.
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The loss of Santana, Shaw and Bruce hurt, but the core already in place is still good enough to make a deep run in the postseason. Whether or not the team performs well in October is a different story.
3. Did you have any sense of Derek Falvey and who he was before he made the move to Minnesota? Any Indian philosophies that are obviously carrying over to the Twins?
BK: I personally did not know of him during his time in Cleveland. As for philosophies, I think the main one being seen in Minnesota is patience. The team is being built up at a steady pace, and there was never any sense of desperation to compete right away. That led to a playoff berth in 2017, and a system was in place to where the team was able to attract some better talent this offseason. And aside from Joe Mauer‘s contract, the team isn’t paying any absurd deals to players who are simply taking up space. It isn’t exactly Moneyball, but it has allowed the team to add pieces all over the roster that set up the team to compete for postseason berths for the foreseeable future.
4. Who will give the Twins nightmares in 2018?
BK: My main choice is Corey Kluber. He has the ability to stop a win streak before it can get started, and could give the Twins problems in 2018. He has a career 3.31 ERA against the Twins with a 10.1 K/9 in 19 career starts. He is fresh off his second AL Cy Young Award and is aging like a fine wine. If these two teams were to meet up in the postseason, or in a do-or-die game for the division, Twins fans may be wondering who is capable of beating the Indians when Kluber takes the mound.
5. What is your prediction for the Indians record and finish in the standings?
BK: I think the Indians are going to win the division by at least five games. Maybe less if the team wraps it up early and gives some young guys a chance to play in the final week. I’ll go with a record of 96-66 for the third straight division title.
That concludes Kubitza’s take on the 2018 Indians. Keep checking back to Puckett’s Pond for more as Opening Day approaches!