AL Central Heavy April Will Test Cleveland Indians
There is a saying we hear every year when the baseball season begins. Usually, analysts begin uttering it sometime after the conclusion of the first week when some team they all picked to win the world series gets off to a rough start. Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one, kids.
“You can’t win the division in April, but you can definitely lose it.”
As crazy as it sounds given the fact that the Major League Baseball regular season is a seven month marathon, an endurance test that challenges even the most talented of teams, that statement continues to ring true. Get out to a big league and there is plenty of time to stumble and fall. But, trip up right out of the gate and it’s nearly impossible to make up ground.
Mar 23, 2015; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (8) fields the ball in the third inning for the out against the Oakland Athletics during a spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Sure there is always an exception to every rule and the creation of a first and then second wild card spot has helped. The 2003 Marlins are probably the most prominent example. They got off to a 16-22 start, one of the worst in baseball that season and rebounded to win the World Series. However, for most teams a bad start to the season can submarine the entire thing before the calendar flips over to May.
That will be the challenge facing the Indians once the 2015 season starts and the games start counting for real. In the month of April the Indians will play a total of 21 games. Of those, 20 will be against AL Central opponents. To take things even a step further, the Tribe will square off against the perennial AL Central favorite Tigers six times and the up and coming White Sox five times. The remainder of April’s games will come in series against the Astros, Royals, and Twins along with one game against the Blue Jays as the calendar turns to May.
So, if that old saying is truly correct, the Indians can’t win the AL Central with a strong April showing against their division rivals, but they can certainly dig themselves one hell of a hole should things go south. With the way the Indians have been playing this spring, record aside, it seems like Terry Francona has them in a position to get off to the hot start they so desperately need.
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It won’t be easy, though. The Tigers have seemingly had the Indians number over the past few seasons. And while a team’s record against a single opponent cannot be sole cause or blame for their failures, it certainly doesn’t help things any. A record of 28-44 against the Tigers over the past four seasons has led to a lot of frustration on the part of both the players and fans. With six games against Detroit right off the bat, the Indians can do a lot to help put that nightmarish past behind them.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Central has not been anywhere near as troublesome for the Indians, a 119-97 record over that same period of time. With the Twins still toiling away in rebuilding mode and the Royals severely weakened after last season’s World Series run, the Tribe should be in prime position to continue that trend. The White Sox may pose more of a problem than they have in year’s prior, what with the emergence of Jose Abreu and the plethora of talent they have brought in, but on paper the match-up should still favor the Indians.
So, with the start of the season on the horizon, the Indians need to start gearing up for the challenges ahead, both the marathon that is the season as a whole, but also the initial sprint out of the gate. So, all together one more time.
You can’t win a division in April, but you can definitely lose it.