While the Chicago White Sox are viewed as the odds-on-favorite to win the American League Central division, one team to look out for is the team that made more news for subtracting in the offseason than it did add.
The Cleveland Guardians’ major move in the offseason was changing their name from Indians to Guardians. Aside from that, the team did little in the way of making any moves that would indicate the team is ready to take a run at the AL Central title.
The Guardians signed a number of prospects but traded away outfielder Harold Ramirez, pitcher J.C. Mejia, and lost pitchers Scott Moss and Kyle Nelson who were claimed off waivers.
Many projections had the Guardians finishing near the bottom of the division, which could still happen as we are only several weeks into the season. But so far, they have played well and could surprise some people before all is said and done.
The Cleveland Guardians are finding ways to win games so far this season.
Cleveland finished second in the division to the White Sox last year with an 80-82 record despite having lost starting pitchers Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale for good portions of the season.
However, the pitching has started off well as Guardians’ pitchers currently are sixth in the majors in earned run average at 2.90, just behind the White Sox at 2.87. The staff is near the bottom of the league in strikeouts at 51 but is second-best in walks as they have only given up only 17.
The offense has been on fire led by Steven Kwan’s breakout performance to begin the year. The Guardians currently lead baseball in batting average (.286), RBIs (45), on-base plus slugging percentage (.847), triples (5), and runs scored (46). In addition, the team is second overall in hits (73), on-base percentage (.361), and slugging percentage (.486). They are tied for ninth in doubles with 14.
Although it is early, those numbers are trending in the right direction which is a vast turnaround from how they finished last season. The Guardians hit .238 as a team last year, were 17th overall in RBIs with 686, and 22nd in hits at 1269.
Owen Miller, Jose Ramirez, and Kwan are sitting two, three, and four in overall batting average behind Tampa’s Ji-Man Choi. Ramirez leads the majors with 14 RBI with Miller atop baseball in doubles with six. Ramirez and Miller are each in the top five in hits with 13 and 12 respectively as well as top five in OBPS.
Miller (1.043) is sitting second behind St. Louis’ Nolan Arenado in slugging percentage with Ramirez tied for third (1.000). Myles Straw is tied with Washington’s Josh Bell for runs scored at nine with Miller sitting one behind.
Since 2013, the Guardians have won 80 or more games in each season with the exception being the COVID shortened 2020 year when they went 35-25 and made the playoffs as a wildcard. They were one of the tougher opponents the White Sox faced in the division last year, finishing with a 9-10 record against the Southsiders.
The baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint. Chances are that the numbers posted now by the Guardians might not be sustainable over the long haul. They didn’t make splashy moves in free agency to upgrade the team like the Detroit Tigers did in signing Javy Baez or the Minnesota Twins did by bringing in Carlos Correa.
Still, manager Terry Francona has found a way to keep this team competitive year in and year out. Should things fall right for the Guardians, they might be able to make things a bit uneasy for the White Sox. Maybe, they could even find themselves in the mix for a wild card.