HomeTeamsGuardiansFive Reasons That Explain The Guardians’ Hot Start

Five Reasons That Explain The Guardians’ Hot Start

The Cleveland Guardians have the most wins in MLB and the best record in the American League at 18-7 (with a .720 winning percentage), only behind the 17-6 Atlanta Braves (.739). They have been good and consistent, and currently boast the best run differential in baseball at +49.

This is an organization that finished 76-86 last year, missing the playoffs. What changed? How is Cleveland achieving so much early success? These five factors have positively shaped their season:

Enviable rotation depth

The Guardians lost Shane Bieber for the year to an elbow injury after he opened the campaign with 12 scoreless innings and 20 strikeouts. They are also currently without Gavin Williams (3.29 ERA in 82 innings last year) and Triston McKenzie has a damaged elbow. And they are still dominating.

How? Well, they have enviable pitching depth, which is not something that’s exclusively achieved through free agency. You need to create your own solutions from within, with coaching, scouting and player development resources, and the Guards definitely have to this point.

No Bieber or Williams? Enter cheap signings Carlos Carrasco (4.63 ERA), Ben Lively (2.38 ERA) and Young homegrown starter Xzavion Curry (0.00 ERA in 5 IP). These three have joined McKenzie, Tanner Bibee and Logan Allen in the staff and have contributed important, quality innings.

Youth and potential

The Guardians didn’t really make too many offseason moves. They signed backup catcher Austin Hedges and brought in promising outfielder Estevan Florial via trade, and not much more. They didn’t spend much because they are traditionally a low-payroll team, but also because they trusted their young prospects and players to develop into important contributors.

And that’s exactly what has happened. Bo Naylor, Josh Naylor, Andrés Giménez, Brayan Rocchio, Steven Kwan, Tyler Freeman, Will Brennan, Bibee, Allen, McKenzie, Curry, Emmanuel Clase, Hunter Gaddis, Tim Herrin, Nick Sandlin, and Cade Smith are all regulars/members of the rotation or bullpen, and they are all 27 or younger. All of them.

The natural course of time and players’ aging curves mean that having so much youth will inevitably result in many of these contributors improving their skills and, thus, their performance.

Organizational creativity

Before the start of the season, the Guardians made Freeman, a career infielder, their new center fielder after working on his routes and jumps in spring training. They saw he had the tools and the athleticism to thrive back there.

They also turned Hunter Gaddis, who was seen as organizational starting pitching depth and nothing more, into a reliever. This move unlocked an elite fastball, and as a result, the right-hander is sporting an immaculate 0.00 ERA in 12.1 frames, with 16 strikeouts.

There are the moves that a winning franchise makes: making the best out of every situation and seizing every possible opportunity to turn an average performer into a star or a reliable piece of the team.

A trio of hitting stars

The Guardians are deep and creative, yes, but they wouldn’t be where they are without Kwan, Naylor, and José Ramirez.

Kwan has been a breath of fresh air at the top of the lineup, slashing an impressive .346/.382/.452 with 36 hits, 22 runs scored, two home runs and a couple of steals. His OPS stands at .834, and he is enjoying the best year of his young career so far.

Naylor has shown his amazing combination of contact and power. He is hitting .295/.366/.557 with five doubles, six home runs, 20 RBI and a .923 OPS, proving that last year was definitely no fluke.

Last, but not least, J-Ram is finally waking up from his early-season doldrums, but even while slumping for most of the year, he has helped the Guardians with five dingers and 23 RBI. His OPS is trending up, and is at .742 already after being in the .600s just a few days ago.

A dominant bullpen

The Guardians bullpen leads MLB with 1.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) according to FanGraphs, and their 2.31 relief pitching ERA is the second best in baseball after the Detroit Tigers’ 2.06.

Cleveland has showcased its incredible pitching depth by producing effective, competent relievers in bunches. We have already talked about Gaddis and Clase (0.69 ERA), but Tim Herrin (0.77 ERA), Nick Sandlin (3.09 ERA), Eli Morgan (2.16 ERA), Cade Smith (3.00 ERA) and Scott Barlow (3.75 ERA) give the unit length and quality.

Overall, the Guardians have been one of the most impressive teams in baseball as of Friday. With Ramírez getting hot, key defenders like Kwan and Andrés Giménez, and a myriad of quality prospects on the way, Cleveland is looking very, very solid in 2024.


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