The Cleveland Guardians have been one of the most consistent teams in baseball during the last 7 years. Manager Terry Francona’s team has made the playoffs 5 times in that span, and have shown a tendency to combine strong pitching, solid defense and clutch hitting.
While this has been going on, the Guardians have been given short shrift by experts and non-Cleveland fans alike. They don’t see big-name superstars on the field, so the belief is they can’t compete with the likes of teams like the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays and the better teams in the National League.
While they don’t have superstars, they do have Jose Ramirez, who is one of the top clutch hitters in baseball. He has demonstrated he can face the best pitchers, control his at bats and find a way to win the battle. Ramirez may not get the recognition that some of the top players in the game receive on a regular basis, but he fills the bill with his excellent production.
Francona is widely recognized as one of the best managers in the game, and he usually has the edge on the large majority of his competitors. Francona has the ability to build a great locker room environment and he also excels at in-game maneuvers. Few managers can do both as well as he does.
The Guardians also have the pitching to get the job done. While the game has changed in many ways, pitching can still be the difference maker for any team.
The experts have bypassed the Guardians once again this year, but they will win the franchise’s first World Series since 1948. Here are 3 reasons why:
Jose Ramirez will come through
Ramirez is clearly the leader of this franchise, and he figures to be the dominant bat in the lineup once again this season.
Ramirez slashed .280/.355/.514 last year with 29 home runs and 126 runs batted in. The 3rd baseman accomplished this even though he had a thumb injury that bothered him throughout much of the season.
As long as Ramirez is healthy this season, there’s an excellent chance that his power numbers can increase. He hammered a career-best 39 home runs in the 2018 season, and he also hit 36 dingers in 2021. There’s no reason he can’t hit 35 or more in 2023.
The switch hitter excels in late-game situations, and opponents know this. As a result, they often try to pitch around him. This can lead to putting extra base runners on base, something that can lead to more runs over the course of the season.
Aaron Judge won the Most Valuable Player Award last year after breaking the American League home run record. If Judge had not broken that venerable mark, Ramirez would have been a prime contender as he finished 4th in AL voting.
It would not be a surprise if Ramirez won that honor this season.
The Francona factor
Terry Francona has been one of the best managers in baseball throughout the 21st century.
He is excellent in the short team and the long term. He knows how to put his team in a position to win a game without risking their success in upcoming games.
Francona has battled health situations in the past that have forced him to take time away from his team, but his experienced coaching staff knows how to handle all game-changing situations. His calm demeanor helps his team play its best when the game is on the line.
Francona has 2 World Series championships to his credit and both of them were with the Boston Red Sox. He has an American League pennant with Cleveland that was won in 2016. His 3rd World Series title comes in 2023.
Starting pitching is a positive
The Guardians have the ability to trot out a strong starting pitcher nearly every game.
Shane Bieber is the ace of the staff and he figures to maintain that role in 2023. He had a 13-8 record with a 2.88 ERA in 200 innings last year.
Triston McKenzie is a solid No. 2 hurler who had an 11-11 record last year with a 2.96 ERA in 191.1 innings.
Cal Quantrill was quite dependable a year ago and he had a 15-5 record. He had a 3.38 ERA and made 32 starts while giving the Guardians 186.1 innings pitched.
Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac can also get the job done as starters.
The Guardians don’t have to take a back seat to other American League teams in terms of pitching, and that could be the decisive factor in Cleveland raising a World Series flag.
Their long-suffering fans have certainly waited long enough.
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