The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Indians Indians Archive Handicapping a Three-Horse Race
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

3horseraceAre we where we wanted to be at the All-Star Break? If Miss Cleo looked into the future and told Indians fans that we’d be 44-41, three games back in the division and one game back for the second wild card, would you take it? Would you have to know the context of our record – injuries, underachieving, overachieving, etc – before you answered the question? Or would you just smile, nod your head, and prepare for some second half fireworks?

Frankly, given Mount Fielder and the Motor City Kitties, most of us expected the division leader to have a better record than 47-38. A lot of us took the projected second place finish for granted, assuming that the Royals were at least a year away, the Twins were a doormat, and the White Sox were in a transitional phase and looked like a non-contender. Instead, as we look toward the start of the second half on Friday, the White Sox lead the division, the Tigers needed a five-game win streak to climb over .500 by the break, and the Indians are holding their collective heads above water.

It’s been an interesting first half with plenty of ups and downs for all of the teams in the AL Central, and especially the Indians. During the first half, the Indians spent 48 days in first place, had a lead of as many as four games, and have been .500 or better since April 15.

The Indians have had three separate four-game winning streaks, one five-game losing streak, and three three-game losing streaks. Despite being outscored by 41 runs from April-June, the Indians were one game over .500 over those first 77 games.

All in all, it adds up to being in contention into the dog days of summer and hopefully having an October to remember. With 44 wins in 85 games, the Indians are on pace to win 84 games. With the third-best run differential in the American League, the White Sox are on pace for 89.5 victories. The Tigers, and their highly-touted offense that has scored just two runs more than the Indians, are on pace to win 83 games.

Will it finish that way? Who has the upper hand entering the second half? Will it all depend on injuries, trade acquisitions, and pure dumb luck to separate from the pack? I’ll attempt to answer some of those questions as I breakdown what to expect in the remaining 77 games for the Indians.

Schedule Breakdown:

Home Games Remaining: CWS: 35; CLE: 36; DET: 39

Road Games Remaining: CWS: 42; CLE: 41; DET: 37

Head-to-Head Matchups: CWS/CLE: 6 games (9/24-26; 10/1-3); CWS/DET: 10 games (7/20-22; 8/31-9/2; 9/10-13); CLE/DET: 12 games (7/24-26; 8/3-5; 9/3-5; 9/14-16)

v. Win% > .500: CWS: 40; CLE: 42; DET: 48

v. Win% CWS: 37; CLE: 35; DET: 28


1. Assuming Oakland falls below .500, Detroit’s final 16 games will be against teams under .500 (3 v. OAK, 6 v. MIN, 7 v. KC)

2. Indians have three separate nine-game, three city road trips in the second half. Both Chicago and Detroit each have a 10-game road trip.

3. 12 of Chicago’s final 19 games are on the road. 12 of Cleveland’s final 19 are at home.


As you can see, the schedules are fairly similar, with the exception of Detroit having a more difficult schedule. However, Detroit’s schedule is backloaded with teams who are likely to finish lower than .500, so, if they navigate through the hard part of their schedule, they’re in good shape. If it comes down to the Indians and White Sox, both teams should control their own destiny as they play each other six times in the final nine games.


Statistical Breakdown:

Runs Scored: CWS: 409; DET: 387; CLE: 385

Runs Allowed: CWS: 346; DET: 381; CLE: 414

Team Slash Line (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS):

CWS: .260/.323/.419/.742

CLE: .258/.333/.402/.735

DET:  .269/.333/.420/.753

Team Slash Line v. RHP:

CWS: .266/.326/.426/.752

CLE: .275/.345/.425/.770

DET: .275/.338/.426/.764

Team Slash Line v. LHP:

CWS: .244/.314/.399/.713

CLE: .222/.308/.354/.662

DET: .254/.320/.408/.728

Starting Pitching (IP, W-L, ERA, WHIP, K/BB)

CWS: 533.2, 34-27, 3.96, 1.19, 445/156

CLE: 507.1, 33-34, 4.59, 1.44, 325/192

DET: 497.2, 30-28, 4.21, 1.34, 451/152

Relief Pitching (IP, W-L, ERA, WHIP, K/BB, SV/BS)

CWS: 230.2, 13-11, 3.78, 1.28, 209/83

CLE: 254.2, 11-7, 4.31, 1.25, 241/97

DET: 262.2, 14-14, 3.60, 1.31, 264/98

Record v. RH Starter:

CWS: 36-24

CLE: 35-25

DET: 31-29

Record v. LH Starter:

CWS: 11-14

CLE: 9-16

DET: 13-13

Record v. AL East:

CWS: 10-11

CLE: 7-11

DET: 11-9

Record v. AL Central:

CWS: 17-12

CLE: 17-15

DET: 17-14

Record v. AL West:

CWS: 11-6

CLE: 12-5

DET: 5-12


Comparing the Indians side-by-side with the White Sox and Tigers, it’s hard to see how they’re in the race. They’re decidedly worse against left handed pitching, have far and away the highest ERA, and have given up the most baserunners. Part of the problem is that the Indians have had some really awful performances from DFA’d guys like Jairo Asencio and a string of bad starts from Derek Lowe, Jeanmar Gomez, and the first two months of Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. The other two teams have stayed most consistent with their pitching.

Teams will continue to throw left handers at the Indians, even if it takes shuffling their rotation. Of course, the Indians beat three lefties in the series at Baltimore and beat Tampa’s Matt Moore in the final series before the break. Is there a chance that the Indians are going to continue to improve on that trend? If they do, it could give them a big lift in the second half.

Who wins it all?

Unfortunately, as the rosters stand right now, I can’t project the Indians to win the AL Central. Only one team last year, the Arizona Diamondbacks, overcame a three-game deficit in their division to win it. That doesn’t take into account the Cardinals taking the wild card from the Braves epic collapse, but it does put the odds against the Indians.

The Tigers are the team with the potential to get the hottest and rip off seven or eight wins in a row to put them in the driver’s seat. Neither the White Sox nor the Indians could bury the Tigers when they had the chance and so the Kitties are still hanging around in the race.

Both Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers GM, and Kenny Williams, the White Sox GM, have shown a penchant for being proactive at the deadline and, ultimately, that’s what will decide the division. The White Sox already acquired Kevin Youkilis who looked like a new man during his first 10 games as a Pale Hoser. Indians GM Chris Antonetti will have to step up to the plate with a depleted farm system, limited financial resources, and a very competitive buyers’ market with the extra wild card spot in play. The odds aren’t in his favor.

As much as it pains me to say this, I believe the Chicago White Sox will win the AL Central. I’m not high on them at all and firmly believe that they get swept by either New York or Texas in the first round, but they’re the best of the worst division in baseball. Their pitching will be the deciding factor, along with the fact that they have the three-game cushion as of now.

This division could come down to the three weeks after the All-Star Break. The White Sox start on a ten-game trip to Kansas City, Boston (4), and Detroit. When they come home, they host Minnesota and then Texas. The Indians start with seven on the road against Toronto and Tampa before hosting Baltimore and Detroit and then going back on the road to Minnesota. The Tigers head to Baltimore for three before a big homestand against Anaheim and Chicago and then head off on a nine-game trip to Cleveland, Toronto, and Boston. Whoever gets off to the hottest start can build momentum for the rest of the season. With the exception of the games against Minnesota and Kansas City, all three Central Division contenders play teams in the playoff picture.

With any luck, the Indians will stay in the hunt for the duration and have an opportunity to get revenge on the 2005 White Sox. The Indians controlled their own destiny that season entering the final week and got swept in the final series by the White Sox, who eventually won the World Series. Five of the Indians final six losses that season were by one run and that sweep knocked the Indians out of the wild card. With six of the final nine against the Sox, the goal is to have the chance to control their own destiny, because nobody will run and hide atop this division.

The best division record will win it. Will the runner-up in the Central have a good enough record to snag the second wild card spot and get a shot in the play-in game? Who knows? All that matters is playing well enough to be in playoff contention. That’s the focus and should be the ultimate goal. Stay in the hunt and anything can happen.

If nothing else, it should be an exciting ride for the next two-and-a-half months.

The TCF Forums