While the season came to an end earlier than many of us had hoped, it’s impossible to not look back at the year the 2013 Cleveland Indians had and not be incredibly impressed with the team’s performance.
The Tribe finished 92-70, which was a 24-game improvement from the 68-94 record they posted in 2012. For their efforts, the Indians were able to host the American League Wild Card game, which they unfortunately lost 4-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays.
While the year did ultimately have a sad end for the Tribe, it’s impossible to not be pleased with the improvements that the team made. The foundation is now set for the future as it appears as if the Indians will be contenders for years to come.
This year certainly had its ups and downs (with a lot more ups), but the end result was that the Indians were able to make immense progress in their first year with Terry Francona at the helm. The future is bright, and things can probably only get better from here on out.
But how did we get here? Going from 68 wins to 92 in a year obviously takes some time, so what happened along the way for the Indians to have such a drastic turnaround?
With that being said, let’s take a look back at some of the key moments from the past year…
Year in Review
October 6, 2012: It’s announced that Terry Francona will be joining the Cleveland Indians as manager. And so it begins…
November 3, 2012: In what initially seems to be a quiet move, the Indians trade hard-throwing reliever Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for infielder Mike Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes. Outside of the signing of Francona, it could be argued that this ended up being the biggest move of the entire offseason.
December 11, 2012: The Indians ship longtime right fielder Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds in a three-team trade that also included the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Indians receive highly-touted pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from the Diamondbacks as well as relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. The Indians also receive outfielder Drew Stubbs from the Reds while the Reds received infielder Jason Donald in addition to Choo. For their part in the deal, the Diamondbacks received Didi Gregorius from the Reds and Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp from the Indians. The irony is that Bauer was expected to have the largest impact in 2013, but Stubbs, Albers and Shaw actually had a much larger impact on this club.
December 18, 2012: The Indians seemingly find their power hitter when they sign Mark Reynolds to a one-year, $6 million deal.
December 23, 2012: Christmas comes early for the Indians as the Tribe inks the charismatic Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million contract that also includes a $14 million vesting option for a fifth season.
January 4, 2013: The Indians sign right-hander Brett Myers to a one-year deal worth $7 million. The signing proves to be a total dud as Myers battles injuries all year and makes just three starts before he is released on August 29.
February 11, 2013: In a shocking turn of events, the Indians sign center fielder Michael Bourn to a four-year, $48 million deal with a $12 million vesting option for a fifth year.
April 2, 2013: The Indians open the season with a 4-1 win at Toronto. Right-hander Justin Masterson dazzles on the mound as he allows just one run across six innings of work.
April 19, 2013: The Indians cannot win behind Brett Myers solid, five-inning, three-run effort and fall 3-2 to the Houston Astros. The loss was the Indians’ fifth straight, and the team’s record now sits at 5-10.
May 13, 2013: Justin Masterson throws a four-hit, complete game shutout to lead the Indians to a 1-0 victory over the New York Yankees in the first game of a traditional doubleheader. Jason Kipnis‘ solo home run in the bottom of the first inning proved to be all the offense the team would need as the Tribe’s record now sits at 21-15. The game was the end of a 15-6 run over the past month where the Indians made up significant ground in the American League Central.
May 20, 2013: Yan Gomes hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to lead the Indians to a 10-8 win over the Seattle Mariners. The Tribe moves to 26-17 and has now won 20 of their last 28 games.
June 10, 2013: The Indians fall 6-3 at Texas. With the loss, the Indians now have gone 4-16 in their last 20 games, and the team’s record sits at 30-33.
July 2, 2013: The Indians defeat Kansas City 6-5 behind Nick Swisher’s three hits. With the win, the Indians improve to 45-38, and have now gone 15-5 in their last 20 games. As you can tell, a theme that was developing was the streaky nature of this team, which seemed to be the case throughout the entire season.
July 11, 2013: Heralded pitching prospect Danny Salazar makes his debut for the Indians, and he does not disappoint. The right-hander allows just one run across six innings of work while striking out seven. For his efforts, he’s rewarded with a win as the Tribe also is victorious and downs the Blue Jays 4-2.
July 14, 2013: The Indians close out the first half of the season with a 6-4 win over the Kansas City Royals. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez struggles a bit as he allows four runs in four innings of work, but Asdrubal Cabrera‘s two-RBI double in the sixth inning allows the Indians to come back and earn the victory.
July 30, 2013: The Indians acquire left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski from the St. Louis Cardinals. Rzepczynski proves to play a big role down the stretch as he finishes the year with a 0.89 ERA in 27 appearances.
August 4, 2013: Scott Kazmir strikes out seven across seven shutout innings to lead the Indians to a 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins. The Indians’ record improves to 62-49, and it appears as if the team is peaking right before it’s set to start the biggest series of the season against Detroit. Unfortunately, we know how that went…
August 8, 2013: Zach McAllister allows six runs in just 2 1/3 innings of work as the Tigers earn a 10-3 win over the Tribe to complete a four-game series sweep. After the game, the Indians’ record stood at 62-53 while the Tigers’ was 68-45. There’s no way to for sure say that the division was lost during this series, but it seems to be a fair assumption.
August 12, 2013: The Indians officially call it quits with Mark Reynolds as the right-handed hitting slugger is released. Reynolds was a force from April 2 to May 31 as he hit .255/.336./.505 with seven doubles, 13 home runs and 41 RBI. However, from that point until his release in August, Reynolds hit just .166/.272/.212 with one double, two home runs and seven RBI.
September 1, 2013: The Indians salvage a series against the Tigers thanks to Mike Aviles, who hits a grand slam in the top of the ninth inning to lead the Tribe to a 4-0 win. With their record at 72-64, the Indians seem to be a longshot to make the playoffs, but that would all change over the course of this final month.
September 19, 2013: The Indians begin the final stretch of their schedule where they close out the season against Houston, Chicago and Minnesota. Things get started off right as Ubaldo Jimenez strikes out nine while allowing just one run in seven innings of work to lead the Indians to a 2-1 11th inning win over the Astros. Of course, the unlikely heroics of Matt Carson cannot be discounted as the right-handed hitting minor league journeyman hit a walk-off single to clinch the win.
September 24, 2013: In what was perhaps the most stunning win of the season, Jason Gimabi hits a two-out, two-run, pinch hit home run to lead the Indians to a 5-4 walk-off win over the Chicago White Sox. Giambi’s blast was especially important because it followed a Chris Perez blown save in which the right-hander allowed two home runs.
September 29, 2013: Ubaldo Jimenez continues his impressive second half of the season as the right-hander allows just one run across 6 2/3 innings while striking out a career-high 13 batters as the Indians win their 10th straight game and clinch home-field advantage for the American League Wild Card game. With the win, the Indians find themselves back in the postseason for the first time since 2007.
October 2, 2013: The Indians’ offense cannot come through as the Tribe falls 4-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card game. In particular, the top of the lineup seemed to struggle as Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher combined to go 0-for-12 in the contest.
Standout Stat From the Season
The Cleveland Indians surged to the finish line as the team went 21-6 in the month of September to claim the Wild Card spot. The miraculous thing of it is that the team needed all 21 of those wins. In fact, if the team even won one less game, they would not have been able to host a playoff game, and would have been stuck competing in a play-in game to even qualify for the postseason.
Player of the Year
Ubaldo Jimenez — Starting Pitcher
32 GS, 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 182.2 IP, 163 H, 75 R/67 ER, 16 HR, 3 HB, 80 BB, 194 K, 8 WP, .239 AVG
While it may be true that this year’s Indians team was the ultimate “team,” if there is one person who can be identified as a possible MVP, it’s Jimenez. This is certainly something that’s up for debate, and there will be a number of people who will disagree with this designation. However, it’s hard to argue with what Jimenez did in the second half. Following the All-Star break, Jimenez posted a 1.82 ERA in 13 starts and 84 innings of work. He also showed much better command and strikeout stuff over that stretch as the right-hander recorded 100 strikeouts in those 13 games while walking just 27. Above all else, the best thing about Jimenez is that he was able to step up and play such an important role when the team needed him most. When Justin Masterson went down with an injury in the beginning of September, it seemed quite likely that the Indians would not be able to recover. However, Jimenez was more than up to the task as he posted a 1.09 ERA in six September starts. One could make a case that Masterson was just as important to the Indians in the early part of the season, but the bottom line is that Jimenez’s top performances came at a more crucial time. It’s hard to believe the turnaround that has happened for Jimenez. When the Indians traded away Drew Pomeranz and Alex White back in July of 2011, they believed that they were receiving an ace in return. As it turns out, they did receive that ace, but it unfortunately just took two years for him to surface.