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Three Final Takeaways From 2021 Cleveland Indians Season
As the 2021 regular season came to a close on Sunday, so too did the Cleveland Indians’ season.
At 80-82, the Indians finished in second place in the AL Central, 13 games behind the Chicago Whtie Sox. With a sub-.500 record, the Indians finished 12 games out of the second wild-card spot.
Interestingly, the Indians were consistent both at Progressive Field and on the road. In fact, they finished with the exact same record, 40-41, for both.
As a result of their overall record, the Indians will have the 16th pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.
While the Indians’ 2021 season was largely a disappointment, there are a few key takeaways for the club as they head into the offseason and look to the 2022 season.
Jose Ramirez Needs Help
Once again, Jose Ramirez proved why he is a perennial MVP candidate this season. In 552 at bats, Ramirez hit .266/.355/.538 with a team-leading 36 home runs, 103 runs batted in, 111 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases (versus just four caught stealing).
The 29-year-old third baseman is still on a very team-friendly deal as Cleveland has club options for him for both 2022 ($12 million) and 2023 ($14 million).
Unfortunately, Ramirez cannot carry the offense all on his own. To end the season, Cleveland ranked 18th in scoring (4.43 runs per game), 21st in batting average (.238), 26th in on base percentage (.304), and 15th in run differential (-10).
To their credit, Franmil Reyes (30 HR, 85 RBI) and Bobby Bradley (16 HR) showed flashes, but there are still a lot of holes in the lineup.
It will be interesting to see how general manager Mike Chernoff approaches the offseason. If they are going into a rebuild, he could get a king’s ransom for Ramirez, but hopefully for Cleveland fans, management will look to build around players like Ramirez and pitcher Shane Bieber.
Rotation Needs More Depth
Speaking of Shane Bieber and the pitching staff, another takeaway from the season is how important pitching depth is.
Bieber, Aaron Civale, and Zach Plesac all spent time on the injured list this season, and the Indians’ lack of depth showed at times.
Cleveland’s pitching ranked 18th in earned run average (4.34), and the team ranked 15th in scoring defense allowing an average of 4.49 runs per game.
When the trio of Bieber (7-4, 3.17 ERA), Civale (12-5, 3.84 ERA), and Plesac (10-6, 4.67 ERA) were healthy, they were good. Unfortunately, averaging just under 20 starts between the three, the depth of the pitching staff was challenged.
Also of note for Cleveland’s pitching, the Indians have to be encouraged by Emmanuel Clase’s season. The 23-year-old went 4-5 with a 1.29 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and had 24 saves in 29 chances.
Goodbye Indians, Hello Guardians
Back on July 23, the Cleveland organization officially made the announcement that the club would stop using the name Indians at the end of the 2021 season, and they would instead go by the Cleveland Guardians starting in 2022.
As homage to the “Guardians of Traffic” that stand on the Hope Memorial Bridge, the team is embracing the concept of progress and protectiveness that the Guardians represent, both for the community and for the club.
The Indians' name is retired for the first time since 1915 when the team first adopted the nickname. Most importantly, though, while the name may change, the city on the front remains the same: Cleveland.
For Cleveland fans, there is hope that as the era of the Guardians begins, so too can a new and exciting chapter of Cleveland baseball.
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