Are the Cleveland Indians Already Out of Contention?


The Cleveland Indians’ early struggles will pose an obstacle for making the postseason

It’s no secret: The Cleveland Indians have struggled. Massively.

Their .350 winning percentage is fourth worst in baseball; their run differential, the eighth. While it is still just May, and we are only about an eighth of the way into the season, continuing to stumble for much longer could completely obliterate the Tribe’s playoff aspirations. Just look at this simple table:

Suddenly it is a bit more apparent why the Indians need to start playing well soon, and no time is soon enough. As the losses continue to pile up, not only are the Indians’ division rivals racking up losses, but the odds of winning the Wild Card spot get lower and lower. But before we dive into Post Season odds and the like, let’s go over a basic assumption in this post: 90 games will get the Indians into the Post Season.

This could actually be a bit unfair for the Cleveland Indians, as last season, the Oakland Athletics snuck in with 88 wins. Two years ago, however, the Indians and Tampa Bay Rays both required 92 wins to play each other in the Wild Card showdown. While technically the Rays only needed 91 games – they had a one game playoff against the Texas Rangers – winning 92 games is what got them into the Wild Card game. It’s safe to say that winning 90 games should get the Indians into at least the second Wild Card spot.

For the Indians to win 90 games, they will need to play .585 baseball.

Now back to that initial table. For the Indians to win 90 games, they will need to play .585 baseball, a feat matched last season by three teams last season: the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Nationals, and the Los Angeles Angels. Those three teams played in the following breakdowns:

So maybe the Indians really are still in the playoff hunt. After all, half of the division winners played better than .585 through the final 142 games of the season. There are, however, many differences between the Indians and these three teams.

First of all, the Orioles, Angels, and Nationals all played .500 ball or better in the first 20 games. These teams didn’t struggle nearly as much as the Indians throughout this timespan. While they only won three or four games more than the Tribe, these three or four wins are still a bit difference.

Second, the Angels and Nationals were expected to dominate last season, and even the Orioles were expected to play very well last season. If one had asked a baseball fan if these three teams would make the postseason before 2014, odds are that many of those fans would say yes. We won’t even throw in team payrolls when examining differences between the Tribe and those three teams, but that is obviously an additional factor.

So is it too late for the Indians?

In a word: no. It’s not too late. Playing .585 baseball down the stretch is probably not likely, but it’s not out of the question. The Cleveland Indians are a team that will be very streaky, something evidenced just two years ago when the 2013 Tribe won their final 10 games to snag the top Wild Card spot.

The clock is ticking, and the Tribe’s playoff odds are slipping rapidly. Before they season, FanGraphs gave the Indians a 56.2% chance of making the postseason; now the Indians have a 28.4% chance. The odds have been sliced in half, but the truth is that the same team, expect for perhaps Yan Gomes, that Sports Illustrated projected to win the World Series is taking the field tonight, and they will do the same thing tomorrow night and the night after that and every night after that until the air is crisp and leaves are crunchy.

Next: #TBT Corey Kluber Was Great in 2014, But Not in April