One season after the Guardians won the AL Central and nearly made it to the American League Championship Series, the Guardians won just 76 games and failed to make it back to the MLB Postseason. There were positives but also questions as Cleveland begins to get ready for 2024. Here’s our 2023 Guardians recap.
Related: 2023 MLB Season Recap: Chicago Cubs
The Offensive Numbers
The Guardians won the AL Central in 2022 thanks in large part to their defensive strength and pitching. While the pitching wasn’t as stout as compared to last year, there were still a number of positives.
Cleveland received impressive results from several under-30 hurlers. Aaron Civale posted arguably his best season as an MLB pitcher when he went 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 58 strikeouts over 77 IP with Cleveland before he was sent to Tampa.
Former FIU standout Logan Allen had his ups and downs but pitched relatively well. The left-hander struck out 119 over 125.1 IP and showcased three above-average pitchers. Hard-throwing right-hander Gavin Williams struggled with command at times but also looked elite at times. Williams struck out 81 over 82 IP and owned a 3.29 ERA.
However, the most impressive performance this year was from Tanner Bibee. The 24-year-old chewed up opposing hitters with his arsenal, which includes an above-average slider, mid-90s fastball, and changeup that he had no problems playing off the heat.
Bibee posted a 2.98 ERA over 142 innings and could have finished in the top five in ERA this year among AL pitchers had he thrown enough innings to qualify.
At the dish, Jose Ramirez proved to be a force yet again. Ramirez hit .282/.356/.475 with 24 home runs, 28 stolen bases, and 65 extra-base hits. Josh Naylor, meanwhile, hit .308/.354/.489 with 17 home runs, 48 extra-base hits, and a team-high 97 RBI.
Cleveland’s offense wasn’t a major strength in 2022 but one had to hope that the addition of Josh Bell would provide a jolt for the Guardians. That didn’t happen, as Bell didn’t catch fire in Cleveland and was ultimately dealt to the Marlins at the Trade Deadline.
Bell did, however, get hot in Miami, as he hit 11 home runs — the same amount he belted in 97 games with Cleveland — and posted a .818 OPS across 53 games with the Marlins.
Cleveland’s other notable free agent acquisition from last winter, Mike Zunino, also didn’t last long. Zunino hit .177/.271/.306 with 61 strikeouts over 42 games before Cleveland cut the veteran catcher in June.
That was unfortunately the theme for the Guardians offense in 2023, as Cleveland ranked as among the worst offensive teams in the game. Amed Rosario owned a .675 OPS before he was traded, while Steven Kwan and Andres Gimenez had fine, but standout campaigns like the duo did in 2022.
As for the pitching, Cleveland’s pen was still good — but the 3.85 ERA in 2023 among Guardians relievers this year was higher than the team’s 2022 figure (3.05).
While Emmanuel Clase continued to be one of the game’s best relievers, Trevor Stephan and Eli Morgan both struggled throughout the year. The same could be said for James Karinchak. The righty — who has had questionable command dating back to his college days — was demoted to Triple-A in June but did post a 1.59 ERA in the second half (11.1 IP).
What to Look For in 2024
Despite a down year for the Guardians, Cleveland does have a very young team. And, several of the team’s key pieces like Jose Ramirez and Andres Gimenez are locked up for the long haul.
On the other hand, Shane Bieber is not. The former AL Cy Young award has just one year left before he can hit the free agent market. Given how Bieber’s production has slipped and his likely demands, it’s fair to wonder whether Cleveland will consider dealing him in the offseason.
Additionally, the Guardians are on the hunt for a new manager after Terry Francona retired.