2023 MLB First Half Recap: Cleveland Guardians

Cleveland Guardians logo

The Guardians entered the 2023 campaign with high expectations, after Cleveland won the AL Central and nearly vanquished the Yankees as the youngest team in Major League Baseball. Things didn’t go great for Cleveland in the first half, but the Guardians managed to finish the first half in first place despite a 45-45 record.

Here’s a closer look at how the Guardians’ first half went.

Related: 2023 MLB First Half Recap: Cincinnati Reds

The Good

We’ll get more into the offense in a minute, but let’s quickly go over really the two lone bright spots in the Guardians lineup this season: Jose Ramirez and Josh Naylor. 3B Jose Ramirez has been Cleveland’s most valuable player yet again. Ramirez hit .289/.364/.506 with 14 home runs and 53 RBI over the first half, and his 3.3 bWAR is tied for ninth in the AL alongside Framber Valdez.

Josh Naylor, meanwhile, has continued to develop into a premier hitter. Naylor ended the first half with 64 RBI, fourth-best in the American League. The 26-year-old is a curious hitter, one that has no problem chasing at pitches out of the zone. The Ontario native, though, possesses incredible control of the bat, and his .305 average through his first 320 PA is proof of that.

As far as pitching is concerned, the Guardians are still a force to be reckoned with on the mound. Cleveland sits in the top ten of the league in opponent’s wOBA (.306) and team ERA (3.81), thanks in large part to an infusion of youth in the rotation. Prospects Logan Allen and Tanner Bibee both pitched relatively well for Cleveland in the first half, although the former was sent down by the Guardians after he posted a 5.40 ERA in his last four starts.

The Guardians bullpen has also been a strength thus far. Eli Morgan, Trevor Stephan, Enyel De Los Santos, and Nick Sandlin all own sub-3.00 ERA figures, while flamethrower Emmanuel Clase picked up 25 saves for Cleveland.

The Bad

Last season, the Guardians finished 16th in the Majors in OPS (.699) and 15th in the league in runs scored (698). This season, the Guardians sit fifth-worst in OPS (.689) and fourth-worst in runs scored (365).

Cleveland received abysmal production from Mike Zunino, who was DFA’d in June when the Guardians called up Bo Naylor. Andres Gimenez and Josh Bell, meanwhile, gave Cleveland below-average production in the first half.

On the pitching side of things, RHP Cal Quantrill owns a 6.45 ERA, while Shane Bieber’s K/9 rate of 7.3 would be the lowest of his career should the season end today.

What’s Ahead

In arguably the weakest division in all of Major League Baseball, the Guardians ended the first half in first place. While the first three and a half months were not pretty, Cleveland still has a good chance of repeating as AL Central champions.

It will, however, be interesting to see how the Guardians handle the upcoming Trade Deadline. Bieber has been the target of trade rumors , but would Cleveland actually consider a deal for the former AL Cy Young award winner? Sure, the Guardians could use Bieber, who’s set to enter free agency after next season, to add assets. But with Logan Allen in the Minors and Triston McKenzie on the IL, it might take quite the offer in order for the Guardians to part with Bieber.

And aside from the questions surrounding Bieber, the Guardians will need more from its offense to fend off the Twins.