After a first half of ups, downs, injuries, call-ups and errors, the Indians find themselves at an even .500 record (47-47) with nearly 70 games left to play in the season. The Tribe is still 7.5 games back in the division race and just 3.5 games back in the Wild Card race, so there is still uncertainty about what Mark Shapiro both at the trade deadline and in October. For reference, the 2013 Cleveland Indians were 3 games out of the second Wild Card spot exactly one year ago. So, yes Cleveland, there is still hope.
As we head towards the late months of summer, and as baseball games get a bit more meaningful with every scoreboard update, it is hard not to highlight some seriously important series’ that loom in the Indians’ future. Of course, there will always be intense battles with the Tigers and Royals, but with the recent expansion of the playoffs to include two teams in the Wild Card game, teams have to start watching how many other teams are faring from around the league. So, let’s take a look at some of the series’ that could potentially make or break the Indians’ season.
July 18-20: Away @ Detroit (4 games) – Coming out of the All Star break with the trade deadline approaching, this series could really set the tone for the remainder of the season. It only fits that its against the division-rival Tigers.
July 29-31: Home vs. Seattle (3 games) – Seattle currently holds the second Wild Card spot that the Indians, like so many other teams in the AL, have their eyes on. Not to mention this series takes place the weekend of the MLB Trade Deadline.
August 8-10: Away @ New York (3 games) – Although the Yankees have been faltering lately because of injuries, going to Yankee Stadium has always been tough for the Indians, and I don’t expect that to stop this year.
August 29-31: Away @ Kansas City (3 games) – The Royals are right with the Indians in both the division and Wild Card races. You have to think this late-August match-up will have some kind of playoff ties to it.
September 22-24: Home vs. Kansas City (3 games) – The Royals come to town for the second last series of the season and what could potentially be a critical set of games for the playoff race.
Trade Deadline Preview
As of now, with the way the Indians’ season has gone, the Tribe could still be either a seller or buyer when July 31st rolls around. If the next couple weeks do not fare well for Cleveland, the front office will likely shop both Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson, each of whom have contracts that expire at the end of the year. Cabrera and Masterson have both had below-average seasons, but the Indians would be smart to get something for them while they still can, as they are both projected to sign elsewhere in the offseason.
On the flip side, if Indians find themselves in a buying position at the end of July, things get a little more vague. As Mark Polishuk of MLBTradeRumors.com reports, Indians’ scouts have been told to focus their attention on Tampa Bay prospects, reviving rumors of a potential David Price deal. While landing Price, who will be a free agent this winter, is unlikely, expect the Indians to at least make a shot for him, as he would instantly bolster the front of the starting rotation.
Realistically, if the Tribe do end up playing the role of buyers at the deadline, you can expect a minor move that will help with depth, much like the trade that the Indians made for Mark Rzepczynski last July. Also, given the defensive struggles that continue to appear, a move to help the infield could be in the Indians’ future as well.
End of the Year Predictions
Making predictions in baseball is much like playing the game itself; it’s hard. Luckily, we are at the midpoint of the 2014 campaign, so we actually have something to base our projections off of, unlike the beginning of the season. Let’s take a look at who might be leading the various stat categories come late-September.
- Michael Brantley – .309
- Lonnie Chisenhall – .302
- Jason Kipnis – .270
- Michael Bourn – .265
- David Murphy – .262
Brantley stays smooth, Chisenhall cools off, Kipnis and Murphy bounce back up above .260.
- Carlos Santana – 24
- Michael Brantley – 22
- Yan Gomes – 21
- Nick Swisher – 16
- Lonnie Chisenhall – 14
Don’t let the poor first half fool you, Carlos Santana still has a solid power bat that can really catch fire in the second half.
Runs Batted In:
- Michael Brantley – 103
- Carlos Santana – 70
- Lonnie Chisenhall – 68
- Yan Gomes – 67
- David Murphy – 65
Hopefully, Nick Swisher cracks this list in the second half; the team sure needs him to.
- Corey Kluber – 16
- Josh Tomlin – 11
- Trevor Bauer – 10
Well this sure isn’t what we thought we would see at the beginning of the season. The wins count will be deceiving with this rotation that has shuffled around so much.
- Corey Kluber – 3.18
- Trevor Bauer – 3.68
- Josh Tomlin – 4.08
Kluber continues his breakout year, and Bauer continues his development into a solid MLB starter.
- Cody Allen – 2.25
- Bryan Shaw – 2.65
- Scott Atchison – 3.10
I sure don’t want to jinx him, but Cody Allen sure looks like the closer of the future for the Tribe.
As a whole, this Tribe team has been extremely inconsistent for the duration of the first half, which can make predictions like these difficult. But, through all of the inconsistency, there seems to be one constant: this club sure knows how to hover around a .500 record. Here is how I see the playoff picture shaping up:
- Detroit Tigers (92-70)
- Kansas City Royals (85-77)
- Cleveland Indians (84-78)
AL Wild Card
- Los Angeles Angels (94-68)
- Toronto Blue Jays (90-72)
- Seattle Mariners (86-76)
- Kansas City Royals (85-77)
- Cleveland Indians (84-78)
While I don’t think this team will end up making the playoffs, mainly due to starting pitching issues, I will never count out a club with so much resiliency and a manager as strong as Terry Francona. The most important sign right now is that the Indians are still in the playoff hunt and have a chance to strike. This can still be a fun second half, Cleveland, just remember to buckle your seat belts.
By Jay Cannon
Image credit to: www.foxrio2.com