When the Cleveland Indians completed the first half of their 2016 schedule, they had just ended a club record 14 game winning streak, and were on pace for 98 wins for the season, sitting at 49-32.
In the next 27 games, 1/6th of the season if you will, they didn’t continue the torrid pace they were on leading up to the halfway point, but they weren’t exactly awful either. Here is how they have handling each 27 game stretch thus far:
First 27 games: 14-13, 5 games out of 1st place
Games 28-54: 16-11, total record 30-24, led AL Central by 1/2 game
Games 55-81: 19-8, total record 49-32, led AL Central by 5-1/2 games
Games 82-108: 13-14, total record 62-46, lead AL Central by 2 games
So, as ghastly as the last week has been, with the team’s strength, the starting rotation getting cuffed around by the Twins and Yankees, the last sixth of the season hasn’t been much different than the beginning of the campaign.
And in reality, most teams, even teams that reach the playoffs don’t play .700 baseball all season long. If the Tribe played the entire season like they did from game 55-81, they would have ended the season with a record of 114-48.
Cleveland’s starters had an ERA of under 3.00 during the month of June, a month in which Terry Francona’s squad went 22-6 and didn’t lose a home game. Although we predicted a division title before the season started, even we didn’t think that the Indians are as good as they played in that stretch.
The pitching as a whole did drop off, falling off the top spot in ERA to ranking 3rd in the AL currently, but much of that was due to the past week, when opponents were scoring 10 or more runs per night on a regular basis.
Danny Salazar’s absence will be felt, but if Cleveland is to maintain its grip on first place, they will need Trevor Bauer to pitch like he did before July 1st. He has struggled since pitching five innings in relief on July 1st, the 19 inning win over Toronto.
They will also need Mike Clevinger, or someone else from the Columbus roster to provide some solid outings. Clevinger has proved he can dominate at AAA, but his starts in the bigs have been tainted by an inability to command the strike zone. Perhaps getting comfortable up in the majors will help this.
The addition of Andrew Miller gives Francona the ability to put games away if the Tribe leads after six. For all the criticism around him (we have done it too), Bryan Shaw is a solid arm, and Cody Allen is too, although he would be better if he threw more strikes.
The offense continues to surprise, ranking 2nd in the league in runs scored.
Mike Napoli continues to bash the baseball, closing in on a career high in HRs, and Jason Kipnis has always topped his career best in that category.
And Francona has done a great job getting the most out of Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall, new acquisition Brandon Guyer has contributed already.
Tyler Naquin has shocked everyone (except Peter Gammons) by blossoming into a Rookie of the Year candidate, but with Davis, Guyer, and now Abraham Almonte performing well at the dish, it’s hard to argue with the skipper’s handling of his playing time.
Does the Tribe need to go on a nice winning stretch again? Of course, but the last 27 games haven’t been as bad as people have made them out to be.
If Detroit can stay this hot, then tip your cap to them. Our guess is they will have a slump just like Cleveland, and the lead in the Central will grow once again.