Thursday, September 28, 2023

Tribe Swap

 After a season of being the logical 2nd place team in a division that the Twins essentially clinched months ago, the Cleveland Guardians are now looking at a third place finish as the Tigers have a strong surge to end it all. No wonder Francona's walking.

Clearly the 'contact above all else' plan that made the Guardians division leaders in 2022 did not carry over to this year. So many things that the Guardians relied upon last year, including a lot of rookie hitters, a well-developed rotation, and a lot of the quality of the bullpen, weren't really there for them this year. And in some respects, they could rise beyond that, like with the rookie-centric rotation they used this year, but it wasn't every aspect. Only Josh Naylor was a .300 hitter out of this lineup, meaning even Kwan, Ramirez and Gimenez, as awesome as they are, couldn't crack that average. Several players that were once crucial at that plate, including Myles Straw, have struggled to deliver similar contact. And even some of the young, multi-faceted guys, like Will Brennan and Bo Naylor, still have a ways to go til they can be relied on consistently.

The pitching depth is what kept this team afloat, but everybody kept getting injured. Even now that they've cracked a winning formula, Bibee and Allen are injured, and now they have to meld the newer starters, like Curry and Williams, with the now-activated Shane Bieber, Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie. And also Lucas Giolito is here, don't mind him he's completely screwed himself up since leaving Chicago. I reckon one of those guys will be traded for a contact bit during the offseason or something, cause if they're all healthy going into Spring Training that's 7 guys fighting for 5 spots, and even if Curry can be a long relief man like he is this year, it's not gonna be easy for one of the other 6 to settle. 

What will be interesting is how the Guardians do next year without Terry Francona, who's been managing the team since 2013, before the 2016 AL Champion team. They've been working with someone who'll likely be a future Hall of Fame manager for over a decade, and next year they'll have to start over and get someone less experienced. It may go as well as Oli Marmol and Pedro Grifol did this year. However, it could also go as well as it went for Rob Thomson. I just know the kind of hole Francona's absence leaves, and I remember Boston struggling to fill it immediately before eventually finding John Farrell. 

Hopefully the right guy isn't too far away, because the Guardians aren't too far from competing again, and just need the right circumstances, and less injuries.

Coming Tonight: Ironically an ex-Guardian, someone who's always been an underrated piece of competitive teams.

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