Cleveland Indians still in midst of AL Central race despite struggles

Relief pitcher Kyle Nelson #30 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Relief pitcher Kyle Nelson #30 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Nick Sandlin
Relief pitcher Nick Sandlin #52 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Indians still in midst of AL Central race despite struggles

The Major League Baseball season has already surpassed the 25% mark for the 2021 campaign and fans of the Cleveland Indians have seemingly experienced all of the emotions that normally come with a full 162 games. From being no-hit twice to a near no-hit bid of their own, the Tribe have sustained a roller coaster of a season that could rival any ride at the relatively nearby Cedar Point. Despite the inconsistencies of the season thus far, Cleveland still finds itself in the midst of the race for the American League Central.

The 26-21 record for the Tribe isn’t one that makes people think of a division winner, but that’s the pace that the team is currently on. Thanks to the rest of the division struggling just as much as Cleveland, the race is still close. Currently, the Chicago White Sox are leading the division, but sit only 1.5 games ahead of the Tribe. With four games between the two teams on the docket for next week, including a Memorial Day double-header, things could get really interesting in the standings.

It’s not just the division race that the Tribe are still well within reach of. While a division title is the hope, there’s still the chance that a postseason berth could be achieved with a wild card spot. Despite the early struggles of the team, Cleveland is the first team on the outside looking in for the two wild card spots. Currently, they trail the New York Yankees by just 1.5 games for the last spot and the Boston Red Sox by 2.5 games for the top spot.

It might seem too early to be talking wild cards, and that’s probably true, but it shows that while the Tribe have struggled they have still managed to be among the top teams in the American League. In fact, they are the sixth best team in the AL by record as well as being just one of seven teams in the AL with a positive run differential.

So why are the struggles being highlighted so often? Well, all of baseball has had an up-and-down season so far, not just Cleveland. The reason for the Tribe still being so high in contention isn’t the amazing play by them, but rather the equal struggle across the landscape of the league. Because of that, a few adjustments could make a world of difference for the Cleveland Indians through the rest of the season.

For example, the Tribe are nearly in last place for runs scored by teams in the American League with 186. Only the Detroit Tigers have scored fewer with 175. What has helped counteract that has been the pitching. Cleveland is third in the American League for fewest runs allowed with 185, creating a +1 run differential. The only teams to have allowed fewer runs this year are the two teams Cleveland is chasing. The Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees are tied for allowing the least amount of runs this year, both at 171.

The pitching staff is doing their job. If the offense can just start being more consistent and scoring more often, then the Cleveland Indians could very quickly climb to the top of the division. Unfortunately, that seems much easier said than done.

Another aspect that has kept Cleveland in contention is their ability to win both at home and on the road. The Tribe are one of just four teams in the American League to have a winning record both at home and on the road. The other three are once again the teams they are chasing in the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

While an 11-9 record at home is technically a winning record, the Tribe would benefit from a better home field advantage. Winning on the road is great, but it should be a compliment to dominating at home not an equivalent mark. If Cleveland can begin to make Progressive Field a difficult place to play for opposing teams, that could be a big advantage through the rest of the season.

There’s obviously a lot of other aspects that could be improved, and we’ve probably highlighted most of them at some point, but somehow the Cleveland Indians are still one of the better teams in the American League. In fact, they are still in the top 10 for all of baseball. Frustration for fans in a season that has produced a record only five games above .500 through the first fourth of the season is understood. Luckily, almost every team is having similar struggles and the postseason, whether it be winning the division or getting a wild card bid, is still very much within reach.

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