Still don’t believe in the Indians this season, too busy watching the Cavs to care? To all you Tribe pessimists, here are the reasons why the Indians can still make the playoffs. Note: All stats as of 5/26/15:
- Starting Rotation.
The front four of the rotation is exactly what most people thought it would be, good. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar have combined for a 3.69 ERA, and the only reason it is that high is because of the horrendous defense that plays behind them. The FIP (fielding independent pitching) comes in a 3.36, indicating that these four guys haven’t had the best of luck. One way to prevent the defense from committing errors is to strike out batters, and the Indians starters do that at a high rate. The four guys above have struck out 256 batters in 219 innings. As a team, the Indians pitchers rank first in the league in strikeouts. This is where the injury to Gavin Floyd really hurts the Tribe, because he would have given them a solid rotation one through five: with T.J. House and Shaun Marcum waiting in the minors. So without Floyd, the fifth spot has been a black hole for the Indians. However, if the Indians were to make the playoffs, a four man rotation of Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, and Salazar would be tough to beat.
- Yan Gomes is now healthy.
For the seasons of 2013 and 2014, only three catchers ranked higher than Yan Gomes in total WAR (Buster Posey, Jon Lucroy, and Russell Martin). So far in 2015, Yan Gomes has played six games thanks to Rajai Davis deliberately sliding into his knee. Luckily, Gomes rehabbed his butt off and has returned from the DL. Gomes brings a plus bat and plus defense behind the plate, something that about five catchers in the league have. Gomes playing every day pushes Roberto Perez to a bench role, and that’s where Perez should thrive. It is clear that he is not an every day player, but he does bring some positives. Perez is an average defender and brings some power, with a decent walk rate.
- Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley are doing what they do.
Since the start of May, Jason Kipnis has hit everything in sight, on his way to a .447 batting average during the month, and a .337 batting average on the year. Of course, we’ve seen Kipnis play this way before in the 2013 season, when he batted .419 in June of 2013. Nothing suggests Kipnis can keep up his torrid pace, and he is known to have always played better in the first half of the season, than in the dog days of summer. Until he starts to slow down, Kipnis will continue to be the cog that makes the Indians offense go. Two batters later in the lineup, and you get one of the best hitters in the game in Michael Brantley. Who, surprisingly, is in a bit of a slump, batting only .206 over his last nine games. Even with that slump, Brantley still sports a .315 average on the season, and leads the AL in doubles. Still the hardest player in the game to strike out, you can always count on Brantley to put the ball in play. When he isn’t driving in the runners, he is moving them over for the next batter. Both of these guys seem like a lock for the MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
- Terry Francona.
Since the year 2004, Terry Francona has managed a team to an above .500 record every year except 2012, and that’s only because he didn’t manage that year. I think that statement is enough to inspire hope.
- Nick Swisher.
Yep, that’s right, a guy batting .226 and making $15 million is a reason that the Indians will make the playoffs. Oh look, there goes half my readers (what’s half of 0?). Hear me out, the loss of Jason Giambi in the clubhouse has been noticeable. Nick Swisher is a guy players look up to during tough times. Swisher always keeps a positive attitude, and is the clubhouse leader that rubs off on the other players.
- The Cavs.
The Cavs will, at bare minimum, be playing basketball for at least three more weeks, meaning that the Tribe will continue to be in the background. If the Indians can continue to play at the level they have been playing the past week and half, then once the Cavs season ends, the Indians will be back in contention. The longer the bad Indians can remain out of the spotlight, the better.
- Francisco Lindor.
While the Indians front office may be worried more about service time than actual talent right now, make no mistake, Lindor will be in an Indians uniform this season, and most likely sooner rather than later. Lindor will be an immediate defensive upgrade over Jose Ramirez, and will most likely be an offensive upgrade as well, unless you expect him to play below the Mendoza line. Bringing Lindor up is just as good as making a trade.
- The trade deadline.
Now, the Indians are unlikely to make a serious move at the deadline, but they do have the assets to make one. Prospect-wise, only Francisco Lindor should be untouchable. The Indians have a glut of outfield prospects, and I would love to see them go after Adrian Beltre (but that’s another article for another day.) But at the end of the day, the Indians need a fifth starter and a bullpen guy: both are always available during the deadline.
- They’ve done it before.
In 2013, the Indians were 30-33 and were able to finish on a 62-37 run and made the playoffs as the top wild card team. In 2014, the Indians started 24-30 and finished on a 61-47 run to finish with a 85-77 record. To get to 90 wins this season, the Indians have to finish on a 70-48 run.
— Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)
Photo via Yahoo Sports.