Posted August 25, 2013

The Upside Down Indians: The Indians’ unlikely push for a playoff spot without Trevor Bauer

Cleveland Indians
Corey Kluber is one of the Indians' starters who has positively contributed. [AP]

Corey Kluber is one of the Indians’ starters who has surprised with his consistency this season. [AP]

By now, Trevor Bauer was supposed to be a Cleveland Indian for good. The mercurial top pitching prospect, acquired from the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal last December, was supposed to have already reached the apex of his minor-league developmental curve, and to have provided a mid-season boost to a rotation – and a pitching staff, generally – that seemed thin, on a club that seemed poised to be driven by its powerful offense.

It hasn’t worked out that way for a series of reasons. For one, Bauer still hasn’t figured out how to harness his considerable gifts: His Triple-A ERA stands at 4.18 (he allowed six earned runs over just two innings of work in an outing last week), and he is still walking way too many batters – 66 of them in 116 1/3 innings, or 5.1 per nine innings, a rate worse than that of every qualified starter in the majors.

Another is that the Indians’ pitching, surprisingly, has been just fine without him, particularly recently. After the rejuvenated Scott Kazmir threw six strong innings in which his average fastball exceeded 94 miles an hour in Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Twins, the staff’s second half ERA stands at 3.04, baseball’s fifth-best. Since the ALl-Star break, starters Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and the currently injured Corey Kluber all have ERAs lower than 3.00, and rookie strikeout artist Danny Salazar has provided the depth that once figured to come from Bauer.

The Indians’ pitchers have kept the club in the thick of the American League playoff race, and they have done so without much help from the offense, which was designed to be the team’s strength. Cleveland ranks fifth in the majors in runs scored overall, but just 18th in the second half, at just under four runs per game.

On Sunday, it was Mike Pelfrey, he of the 5.19 ERA coming in, who shut the Tribe down, allowing one run over five innings. Not a single Indians regular is having even an average second half: not the free agent duo to whom the club gave a combined $104 million last winter, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher (through 35 post-break games, Bourn is batting .224, Swisher .248); not Carlos Santana (.242); not even Jason Kipnis, who had 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases before the All-Star Game to which he was named, and just three homers and two steals after it.

In fact, none of the eight Indians who have accumulated more than 80 post-break at-bats is batting better than .250, none has an OPS better than .770 and none has hit as many homers as the seven Miguel Cabrera has slugged in just the past two weeks.

And yet, after Sunday’s win and Oakland’s loss to the Orioles, the Indians sit just 1 1/2 games out of a Wild Card berth, with 32 games to go. Their next nine games will be challenging – they play three at Atlanta, three at Detroit and then three at home against the Orioles – but they could hardly ask for a more inviting schedule thereafter, as the remainder of their slate will include only the Mets, Royals, White Sox, Astros and Twins.

A pessimist would say that Cleveland’s pitching can’t possibly perform to its current standard, but we’ll take the optimist’s view. Which is that to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Indians don’t need a late season savior like Trevor Bauer – or the idea of Trevor Bauer. All they might need is production from their hitters that is in line with their abilities.

13 comments
TheUnchosen_1
TheUnchosen_1

If it makes you feel better, yes the AL East has the toughest division. No question there.

Kenny12
Kenny12

Let's try this another way kids......

From June 17 on the Cleveland Indians had 29 series scheduled. 8 of them were against winning teams.

Please do not tell me that any of the other wild card contenders have only 8 series against winning teams since June 17 (and the Indians schedule was not terribly difficult before then, but they went on countless losing steaks because they cannot play with good teams). My goodness, the other contenders have 8 and more series against teams with winning records from the 3rd week of August to the end of the season.


TheUnchosen_1
TheUnchosen_1

I like how some people cherry pick the stats to fit into there nice tiny box of excuses. Indians swept big mighty Oakland 4 games in May. Indians have struggled against the Tigers and Yanks.But many other teams have struggled against the Yankees and Detroit as well. 

 Detroit has a 44 winning percentage against the Yankees. Oakland 32% and Baltimore 39%. So the Indians aren't the only team who struggles against the Yankees.Or Detroit for that matter.  

Cleveland had Detroits number last season despite being pathetic otherwise . This year the shoes on the other foot. In the end ,a team has no control of who they play. To suggest that the Indians schedule is any weaker than the Wests sounds like sour grapes. Who cares anyway ?  Shall we bring up Cleveland's record against the West's  teams ?

The powers that be, don't know who is going to be good when schedules are made anyway.And obviously a team can only control their destiny by beating whoever is on the schedule.

The only thing that matters at the end of the day is getting to the playoffs. The Indians will have to survive the next 9 games against Atlanta,Detroit, and Baltimore. Then on paper, have an easier schedule till seasons end, than many other teams.  

And Francona will get an award hopefully. Its called a playoff appearance. Sorry, but at the end of a 162 game schedule, there is little doubt who deserves a playoff appearance., Deal with it.  

Kenny12
Kenny12

As of Sunday morning, the Indians record against teams with teams playing over .500 ball was 19-34.

This past week the pitching staff faced an Angels team without Puhols, Trout or Kendrick. It has been like that most of the year - they beat the A's 4 straight in Cleveland when all the A's starting OF's were out injured.

The Indians have had the softest schedule in MLB. When you play 19 games each against the Royals, White Sox and Twins, and your NL opponents include the Marlins and Mets, that sort of thing happens. It's easy to run up stats when 1/3 of the team you're playing should be in Triple-A. 

It's a pity that the Indians are going to take a wild card spot from the A's, Rays, Yankees or Orioles. All of those teams have beaten the Indians and all are better than them. MLB needs to review how they allow a schedule to be so unfair. 

As for the glorifying the Indians starting pitching - the bullpen has been on fumes for 3 months, and more that one guy is going to have arm problems from the overwork. Kazmir and Jiminez seldom get to the 7th inning, and other than Masterson, the other guys aren't much better. The Indians starters have to have one of the worst records for pitching into games in MLB (a few weeks ago the Royals had the best). Francona and Callahan have been doing this with smoke-and-mirrors all season. They deserve some sort of award.





TheUnchosen_1
TheUnchosen_1

@Kenny12 Do we simply handpick certain times of the season to make our arguments ? Here is the SOS. As in strength of schedule from opening day till now. http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/rpi/_/sort/sos

If I am misinterpretating that , then I apologize and retract my statement. If not , then please acknowledge that you are incorrect. The Indians opponents cumaliative winning percentage is .503. Tied with S.F. Giants for 7th most  difficult schedule.


Kenny12
Kenny12

@TheUnchosen_1 It is you that is cherry picking.


The Indians record against teams with winning records is 19-34 - .350.


Are you telling me that all this contenders have worse records then .230 against teams with winning records?


You are not even in the ballpark.


And now of those teams have played so low a percentage of games against good teams.  

TheUnchosen_1
TheUnchosen_1

@Kenny12

"The Indians have had the softest schedule in MLB."

That is a categorically false statement. The Indians schedule in fact has been stronger than the following teams.

Team          SOS

Tigers       .501 

Braves      .494

Pirates       .499

Cards         .497

Dodgers      .494

Reds            .500

Rangers       .495

Athletics       .492

Indians         .503


See how stats work when you want to use them to prove a point ?

Kenny12
Kenny12

@TheUnchosen_1 @Kenny12 

Excuise me -


The Indians have played over 2/3'rs of their games against teams with losing records.


I have no idea where you get your stats from.

TheUnchosen_1
TheUnchosen_1

@Kenny12 


And those are just the teams that are still relevant. There are 23 teams  that have had a weaker schedule than the Tribe so far.

TheUnchosen_1
TheUnchosen_1

@Kenny12 @TheUnchosen_1  The Indians stats against winning teams is a bit skewed because they have an awful record against Boston,Detroit and New York. Mainly Detroit., they have won 2 times out of 15 games. Last year the Indians were awful yet won the season series against Tigers. Thats how baseball is sometimes. The Tigers and apparently Boston have just had their number. Also as I pointed out, They played many of those series in the midst of the slump in june and july.

robby1001
robby1001

@TheUnchosen_1 @Kenny12 Kenny you are kind of clueless on this one. . . . . We faced the Marlins when they were at the biggest upswing of their season.  And we faced their two aces.  Your complaining about us facing the A's when their starting outfield was out.  Really?  We beat them four straight - - I don't care if we were playing a triple A team . . . It's nearly impossible to beat a team 4 straight.  You need to deal with it man - - Screw the Yankees, Screw the O's, and Screw the Angels too.  The Indians have had their injuries too, but are overcoming it because that's waht a good team does.  Open your eyes!