This was supposed to be a season that saw the Indians struggling to keep up with the Twins and White Sox as the days passed by until Francisco Lindor was inevitably traded. Instead, there is going to be a 60 game sprint to the finish that should benefit the Indians the most.
The Indians have been a notoriously slow-starting team since 2013 when Terry Francona took the helm. Part of that is to blame on the weather as well as Francona’s insistence to stick with struggling veterans early in the season. The Indians, according to baseball-reference.com, have a .537 winning percentage in the first half of the season compared to a .597 second-half winning percentage. The sum of all of this is that the Indians heat up as the weather does. This year, baseball has started in July, so expect the Indians to be hot out the gate.
The bullpen is a concern coming into the season with Brad Hand hoping to bounce back from an up and down second half last year and question marks litter the remaining spots. As seen in the first series of the season against the Kansas City Royals, the strength of this Indians team will the starting rotation and with all three starters going at least six innings to start the year the Indians haven’t had to go to the bullpen a whole lot. Of course, they did blow the second game of the season in extras but that’s to be expected from time to time. The team shouldn’t have to rely on a deep ‘pen to get through 60 games, especially with this type of rotation. Gone are the days of Trevor Bauer throwing one hundred pitches yet only going five innings, the rotation as a whole can go longer and more efficiently which takes the pressure off the pen.
August 31 is the expected trade deadline for this shortened season per mlbtraderumors.com, and with the expansion of the playoffs from ten to sixteen teams, the idea that Francisco Lindor will be traded is highly unlikely. With Lindor knowing that he will be in Cleveland for the whole season, that should cut down on any distractions he would normally face and allow him to have fun and play his best baseball. He is off to a slow start going two for fourteen against the Royals, but Lindor has consistently shown he is one of the best in the game since he broke out in 2015. A lineup with Jose Ramirez, Lindor, Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes will be one that no team wants to face come playoff time.
The shortened season will give the Indians one last chance to make a run to the World Series with Lindor at shortstop and the peculiarity of the season has the possibility to create that lightning in the bottle the Tribe needs. All the pieces are in place for the Indians to take advantage of the 60 game season. The depth of their rotation will help mask any deficiencies in the bullpen and the shortened season should keep all the arms fresh come playoff time which in past seasons has come to bit the Indians in the playoffs. In conclusion, knowing the Indians will have Lindor in what is an underrated lineup for the whole season will be a big boost on the offensive side as well. If any team is due to win a World Series especially one with an asterisk it might as well be the team from Cleveland.