After a subpar 2021 season, let’s take a look into the state of the Cleveland Guardians before spring rolls around.
Posting a record of 80-82 last year was not part of the Guardians’ plan, especially after finishing over .500 for the past eight seasons. For starters, in 2021 Cleveland seemed to be riddled with bad luck. Star pitcher and 2020 AL Cy Young award winner Shane Bieber went down with a shoulder injury in Mid-June, ending the majority of his season. Bieber was only able to appear in 16 starts for the Guardians; no doubt a huge loss.
Another stroke of bad luck came when veteran skipper Terry Francona was forced to step down due to an illness. Tito had to miss the remainder of the season after he went down in late July, shaking things up in the locker room for a young team.
The Major League Baseball season is a long and grueling one, in order to be successful through all 162 games, and in October, luck needs to be in your favor. After losing their superstar pitcher and respected manager, it was extremely hard for the Guardians to make noise, especially in a loaded American League.
Not all was lost for the Guardians in 2021. Many youngsters took important steps up, such as Emmanuel Clase, who was dazzling. The twenty-three-year-old emerged as a great bullpen piece for Cleveland, tossing almost 70 innings while posting an ERA of 1.29. Clase finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting and looks to be an elite arm Terry Francona can rely on in the future.
Another stud arm the Guardians produced in 2021 was Cal Quantrill. Quantrill, 26, had some previous big-league experience, but never found his groove until this past season. The right-hander tailed up almost 150 innings and amassed an ERA of 2.89, good enough for producing a 4 WAR season. He should pair up nicely with Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, and Zach Plesac. The young pitching staff looks to be a major bright spot for Cleveland moving forward.
Lastly, in 2021 Jose Ramirez added to his already decorated career. The switch-hitting infielder hit 36 bombs and drove in 103 while slugging .538. Ramirez also made his third all-star game and finished sixth in AL MVP voting. He is undoubtedly the best bat in Cleveland’s lineup.
With ups and downs throughout the 2021 season, the Guardians are currently in a tough spot. Do they load up on free agents and key players to try to get back to the postseason? Or should they trade big names like Jose Ramirez and play for the future? I honestly don’t think either option is a bad one.
The AL Central is a very weak division in the Majors and personally, I can see the Guardians taking back the throne from Chicago. At the same time, the Tigers are a young and hungry team looking to make noise as well. Once again, a tough spot.
Mike Chernoff and company sure have some work to do. 2022 should be a make-or-break season for the Guardians, time to put up or shut up.
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