No Soft Spots in American League This Year.

The baseball schedule watchers make me laugh.  They analyze the upcoming schedule and determine in advance whether or not a team can successfully navigate their way through the upcoming games or not.

When a team defeats an inferior team, the wins are discounted like it would be better if the squad would lose to these opponents so as not to get an advantage on the other teams in competition with them.

Right now, the schedule watchers are predicting doom and gloom for the Cleveland Indians because of the upcoming slate which includes games with Toronto, Texas, Minnesota, New York, Detroit, and then 15 games of play against the National League.

Among those games is a three game set in San Francisco against the world champion Giants.

However, a check of the American League standings shows there aren’t really any bad teams in the league, save for the Minnesota Twins, the only ballclub in the AL with a winning percentage under .400.

Only two other teams are under .450, Kansas City (23-29) and Chicago (24-31), and the Royals would be virtually  a .500 team if it weren’t for a 2-7 record against…the Indians. 

The point is that parity has come to the AL this season and there are no soft touches on the schedule right now. 

Critics will point out that the Tribe has played an easy slate so far, but they are 4-2 against Eastern Division leading Boston.  Against three other teams right around the .500 mark, Cleveland is 4-0 against the surprising Mariners, 3-0 against Detroit, and 3-0 against the Orioles. 

The schedule was supposed to toughen up starting with last weekend’s series against Cincinnati, but the Indians are 5-4 in the first nine games of this stretch, sweeping the Reds, while losing 2 0f 3 to both the Red Sox and Rays.

This week, Cleveland has a three game set in Toronto against the Blue Jays (27-26) before coming home for a four game series versus the AL defending champion Rangers (28-25), so it doesn’t get any easier. 

Outside of Mitch Talbot’s disastrous outing against Boston last Wednesday, the starting pitching for the Indians continues to keep them in most games.  Even Josh Tomlin’s hiccup on Friday was a case of one bad inning, as Tomlin still gave manager Manny Acta six solid frames. 

As long as the starters hold up, why can’t Cleveland survive and even win more than their share of these games.

Talbot is a concern, as two of his three starts have been problems, although both were against Boston.  He is a guy to observe because outside of April and September, he didn’t pitch well last season.  And for a hurler who throws in the low 90 MPH range, he doesn’t pitch ahead in the count often enough.

That said, he did throw eight innings of shutout ball in his one start against somebody besides the Red Sox, that against Los Angeles.

He should watch Tomlin, who doesn’t throw hard either, but is usually ahead of the hitters, making them hit his pitch.

Carlos Carrasco has pitched well since his return to the rotation, and Jeanmar Gomez has thrown very well in Columbus after going back there earlier this month.  Gomez is now 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA and 32 strikeouts against 13 walks in 38-1/3 frames in AAA. 

He could be back soon if Talbot does struggle more. 

Also, don’t count out right hander Zach McAllister, picked up from the Yankees in the Austin Kearns deal last season.  McAllister is 7-0 with a 2.29 ERA and 47 whiffs vs. 10 walks in 59-1/3 innings this season.

Remember this, for all the hand wringing about who the Indians are about to play, they have a six game lead on Memorial Day.  Compare that to the AL East where all five teams are within five games of each other, and the AL West, where the four teams are separated by just a game and a half.

Who’s spot would you rather be in?

MW

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