While it is certainly a shock to our system that the Cleveland Indians’ season ended abruptly Wednesday night, our biggest takeaway is that it’s baseball.
Look at it this way, the best team in football wins around 85% of the regular season games. In basketball, that figure is around 75%.
In baseball, a team that wins 100 games in the regular season, is victorious in 62% of the contests. A five game period like the one the Tribe just went through in the Division Series, occurs in June or July all the time.
The Indians didn’t hit, scoring just five runs combined in the last three games, and that isn’t going to get it done. You have to get more offense.
Players like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion couldn’t get a hit, let alone one in the clutch, and all three had slumps during the regular season.
We questioned not using Mike Clevinger as a fourth starter in this series and not starting Yandy Diaz at third base, and those are legitimate now as well. The former wasn’t the bullpen weapon Terry Francona thought he would be, and perhaps Diaz’ bat could have helped the offense.
However, people thinking there will be drastic changes, or need to be drastic changes are just wrong.
As it stands right now, the Indians are the favorite to win the American League Central Division in 2018, and their roster is set up to contend for the next few years.
And as we just learned and should remember from last year’s run to the World Series, once you get in the playoffs, you have a good chance to win it all.
We have said many times that the best thing about the Indians is their two best players are 25 (Ramirez) and 23 (Lindor). And they have one of best prospects in the game in Francisco Mejia coming soon.
Where Mejia will play is up for debate at this time.
And don’t forget about Bradley Zimmer, who tailed off after a hot start, but should improve in his second big league season.
They still have the best starting rotation in the game, and if Trevor Bauer has found some consistency, they could have a top three that is the envy of any GM in the game, and Clevinger went 12-6 in his first extended big league experience.
They also have Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin, and Ryan Merritt to fill out the rotation.
Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith are free agents, so there may be a couple of holes in the bullpen, but we wouldn’t be surprised if one or both are back in 2018.
The front office does have some decisions to make. Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce are free agents, and Michael Brantley has a club option for ’18.
Our bet on the free agents is that it will come down to years, because the Indians can’t afford to pay a player big money (over $10 million per year) for someone who isn’t producing.
And where will Jason Kipnis play in 2018? It’s pretty clear the Tribe wants to use Ramirez at 2B going forward, so is Kipnis’ move to the outfield permanent. A lot could depend on what happens with Santana and Bruce.
We think many fans got caught thinking the playoffs would be a cakewalk because of last year. The Yankees were a better club than either the Red Sox or the Blue Jays, and most of the key players stopped hitting.
It’s a reminder of how special last year’s run to the Fall Classic with basically three starters was.
It’s painful now, but the future is very bright for the Cleveland Indians. Just win the division next year and take another shot at winning the whole thing.