[Dear Reader: Go ahead and insert your own obligatory "Hope springs eternal" reference here, then join me in the next paragraph. Just say the phrase to yourself. If you do so out loud, however, beware of coworkers or strangers nearby who might think you're a crazy and possibly dangerous person who likes to say hackneyed, optimistic phrases to yourself. You can rectify this by saying, "That's right, you heard me. Hope springs eternal, bitch, wanna go?" You'll still be a crazy optimist who says hackneyed phrases to yourself, but you'll also be an intimidating badass and confirm their fears that you're a crazy and possibly dangerous person. It's their fault, really, for eavesdropping. Either way, I'll wait. Thank you.]
By most accounts — okay, almost all accounts — the Cleveland Indians are going to be bad this year. Very bad. Like, one of the worst in the majors bad. Like, only describable in terms of quotes from Major League bad. (And because I can't pass up a chance to quote the movie, here's my favorite exchange, and one that's certainly to be apropos for this year: Harry Doyle — That's all we got, one goddamn hit? Assistant — You can't say goddamn on the air. Harry Doyle — Don't worry, nobody is listening anyway.)
You all know how we got to this point, so there's no reason to rehash the trades and injuries and free agent flops and Dolan's insufferable cheapness. Okay, maybe one note on Dolan's cheapness, because it really has reached a truly epic and insufferable level. Scott Sargent of WaitingForNextYear.com provided the best description of our penny-pinching owner on Twitter recently. He wrote, "Larry Dolan just saw the iPad - decided to buy seven TI83's instead #selltheteamdolan." The truth warms the cockles of your little baseball heart, doesn't it? Dude's probably still rocking a VHS player, too.
And now, here we stand, on the precipice of Opening Day and a healthy Jake Wes... Hey, look! Z's back! The Cavs are going to clinch home court through the playoffs! I bet LeBron will be unanimous MVP this year. I really really think he's going to stay in Cleveland. Sorry, where was I? Right. A healthy Jake Westbrook and a more consistent Fausto Carmona will be ess... I wonder who the Browns are going to draft? I hope Eric Berry falls to them at No. 7. I know Mike Holmgren was going to focus on making the defensive backfield stronger this year, and the team has to target that area of need in the first two rounds. I apologize, again. It's just, even for a hardcore baseball fan like myself, who lives and dies with the team, the Indians are a bit of an afterthought right now. No hype, no ticket sales, the Cavs, the Browns, and all seven of Larry Dolan's TI83's have combined into a perfect storm of "Cleveland doesn't really give a shit right now." At best, it's apathy. At worst, it's a severe level of pissed off fans who are pledging not to go to any games this year.
But there are many of us who care deeply and will go to games and want to know if the doomsday predictions are really true. Short of Bif Tanner showing up on Twitter somewhere, the best we can do is sort through the endless projection models out there, consult our guts, and listen to the experts. In that vein of investigation, I rounded up predictions from three reputable sources.
1. PECOTA. Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. Pioneered by stat guru Nate Silver and used by Baseball Prospectus. Input lots of numbers and ages and stuff, and out comes predictions. They tend to be pretty accurate. At least that's what experts tell me.
3. Sonya Horstman. Psychic Sonya (440-775-1217; hauntedclevelandtours.com). Diviner of the future. Incidentally, Psyhic Sonya will be live with WTAM's Mike Trivisonna on the plaza outside the Jake before Opening Day to perform a ceremony to break the curse of Cleveland. That makes her an authority on baseball and the truth of all future happenings. Also, after she gave a reading on the Indians, she told me my future, and it involves meeting and marrying a 21-year-old who looks like Wonder Woman, and that is absolutely going to happen. I will punch you if you say otherwise.
(Indians' stat guru Keith Woolner suggests using the acronym TEALEAF for Sonya's predictions — Telepathic Estimates Assembled by Learned Experts in Auguring and Fortune-telling.)
We'll bypass discussing role players and low-level bullpen guys and useless, aging veterans, because there's only so much space here and no one wants to read about
Jason Michaels David Dellucci Russell Branyan. We'll just focus on the big picture and the big players.
The 2010 Cleveland Indians
PECOTA: 79-83, fourth in AL Central.
Castrovince: Honestly, I had more fun watching this team's young guys develop at the end of last season than I did watching a more-veteran version labor through the first half before the fire sale. Hopefully, this year they'll provide me with something to write about and the fans with something to believe in.
And if not, well, there's Pierre's ice cream in the press dining room every Friday night. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.
Psychic Sonya: There's a storm brewing here, dear. You have a storm brewing in May. This is what's going to happen. They'll start the season really strong, building up, building up, but a big storm comes in May. Is there a man with a 'howl' or a 'wolf' name? Is there a wolf? Something with a wolf. 'Howl' could be part of a name. The wolf, he's like a firestorm. He's going to be a big deal. I see... which guy has stomach problems, or Crohn's Disease. This is not just an upset stomach. It's a dark haired man. I see that could be one of the major players. I see major problems with the stomach of a major player. There's going to be a strong year for the Indians, but definitely a major storm. Major controversies in May. I see a rainbow over the whole reading, though. That's elements of good and bad. I see a strong start, a good two year run, and then a bad three years."
Comment: Perhaps controversy over playing Michael Brantley or Matt LaPorta more in May? Maybe Branyan will be too injured or too inept to be functional and he'll still be getting playing time over the youngsters. Otherwise, maybe Anthony Castrovince eats too much Pierre's ice cream and develops an ulcer. I think that's what Sonya might be seeing.
* * * *
PECOTA: .256/.362/.418 (Batting Average/ On Base Perecentage/ Slugging Percentage)
Castrovince: It won't quite be a return to Pronkville, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of 30 homers if he stays healthy. Finally seems to be driving the ball to all fields again.
Psychic Sonya: I'm picking up a blank on him. He might not be even playing.
Comment: Like I said, I'm marrying Wonder Woman, so my guess is Hafner gets injured again.
* * * *
Castrovince: Still a bit miscast, this time as a No. 2 hitter, but he's back to being the picture of health (as opposed to being a picture-taker) and he'll produce at his old clip. Still needs to shorten his swing.
Psychic Sonya: Does he enjoy sailing or boating? I see red sails. Red sails mean luxury — very expensive. It's a winning color. I almost see him going to another team, towards the water. He ain't going to New York, he's going somewhere warm. I have no bad feelings about this guy. He just longs for the water. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a boat docked in Cleveland somewhere.
Comment: Grady's on a boat, on a motherfucking boat. Well, crap. Leave it to the cards to say what every Indians fan is afraid of. Whenever it happens, enjoy him L.A. At least it won't be New York.
* * * *
Castrovince: Enjoy him while he's here, as the Scott Boras affiliation probably killed any hope of a long-term deal with the Tribe. A five-toll player who works harder than anybody else on this team, "Big League" Choo has a bright, bright future. And on a programming note, I'm planning to begin a new segment on my blog this season called "Choo On This," in which I'll get Choo's take on various issues Big Fun.
Psychic Sonya: Didn't see anything.
Comment: Choo's a freaking rock star. Seriously, best player in baseball that no one besides Clevelanders and baseball nerds know about. He posted the highest WAR (Win Above Replacement) on the team last year — 5.0. Don't understand WAR? Doesn't matter. Just know he's ours until 2014 and try to forget that he just hired Scott Boras as his agent. Also, a note to Castrovince: I want to hear Choo's take on the pie vs. cake debate, psychics, and the Americans he sees when he shops at Wal-Mart. Make it happen.
* * * *
Castrovince: Great talker and a real breath of fresh air, especially on a young ballclub. There were only two managerial openings in baseball this winter, and Acta was offered them both. Alas, his in-game abilities, which were knocked in Washington, will be in question until he proves he can win at this level.
Psychic Sonya: Does he have a really big belly? Maybe he's the one with stomach problems. It brought me right back to the stomach problems. He's got to watch his digestion. I feel like he's a real straight guy — no drinking or anything. Maybe because his stomach is delicate.
Comment: I'm a Nexium believer myself, but whatever floats your boat, Manny — Prevacid, Prilosec, Tums, etc.
* * * *
PECOTA: 4 IP, 3.51 ERA
Castrovince: His back muscle injury is a blessing in disguise for the Indians, because now his $11 million option for 2011 (which would have kicked in with 55 games finished this year) has no chance of vesting and he'll be all the more movable come the trade deadline.
Psychic Sonya: I see him hitting people. He might be doing it on purpose. I'm picking up injuries.
Comment: He'll pitch sparingly until we trade him. Yes, we trade everyone, and sometimes that's bad, but we should absolutely trade Kerry Wood.
* * * *
PECOTA: 133 IP, 23 games, 4.45 ERA
Castrovince: Jake will be Jake. He'll have his days when he flies through the lineup, and he'll have his days where his sinker won't sink and the hits and runs will pile up. He's not a No. 1, but he's the only proven veteran they've got.
Psychic Sonya: I don't know what's going on with him.
Comment: Two out of the three seem to indicate Jake will pitch a full season. After Tommy John surgery, that's hard to believe, but you got to hope they're right.
* * * *
PECOTA: 139 IP, 25 games, 4.80 ERA
Castrovince: People keep asking me about this guy because they want to know if they should draft him as a fantasy sleeper. I'm past the point of knowing what to expect from Fausto or guessing if he can get back to '07 form, but I do know he has great stuff and he's pounded the strike zone all spring.
Psychic Sonya: There's like Mayan ruins here. He's the one related to the dog or wolf, I think. There's something coming up with him in May. I'd watch around the full moons. Something with the howl or the moon. If he keeps his mouth shut he'll be alright.
Comment: I'm not sure, but it seems like Sonya is seeing that Carmona should stop trying to learn how to speak English, and that will make him pitch better.
* * * *
PECOTA: 14,768 birds, 1 hit by a ball
Castrovince: The Indians found ways to chase them away pretty effectively last season. Unfortunately, a lot of fans were chased away, too, by the 97 losses. Hopefully the fans will come back and the gulls won't.
Psychic Sonya: In the cards, there is a bird, an isis. It's an ancient sacred bird, it hangs off the tree of life. This bird is white. It's like a stork. I don't know what that means. If you look at the page of swords, you'll see a pack of vultures.
Comment: The seagulls may be annoying, but I'd like to see them return if only so I can use the acronym created, specific for Scene by request last year, by Keith Woolner, the Indians' stat guy: WHAM (Waterfowl Hitting Average Metric). Vultures would be bad, though. Probably would mean that Russell Branyan's husk of a carcass is sitting in the stadium somewhere and no one has found it yet.
* * * *
And two final miscellaneous notes:
Psychic Sonya: Who wears red shoes? There's somebody with red shoes. He's standing on the mound. This could definitely be something strong.
Comment: I do, sometimes, but they're heels, and I don't wear them when I play baseball. Anyone else have any guesses?
And, the most important prediction:
Castrovince: Big year for Mustard. Perennial champ Ketchup distracted by sultry affair with Onion. As the great trainer Mickey Goldmill once said, "Women weaken legs."
Comment: You're telling me. I'm all wobbly already thinking about Wonder Woman.
Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.