Cleveland Indians Report Card: Grading the first 81 games
The Cleveland Indians reached the halfway mark of the 2021 season with an extra innings loss to the Astros on Sunday, finishing the first 81 games of the season with a record of 42-39. Yes, the Tribe dropped six straight to get here, but the fact the team is was just six games back of the White Sox in the Central and 4.5 games back of a Wild Card is astounding.
The first half of the season for Cleveland was largely defined by late inning heroics, a strong bullpen and of course, a debilitating amount of injuries. Seriously, what did this team do to provoke the baseball gods? It is immensely difficult not to view the season up to this point in a glass-half-empty manner, but the Tribe wouldn’t have been nine games over .500 just a week ago without surprising sources of production and strong team chemistry.
Much of that can easily be attributed to Cleveland skipper Terry Francona who may have an argument at another AL Manager of the Year Award if this team even sniffs the postseason. The rest of the credit belongs to a relatively easy schedule and some fairly hot bats in the month of June, as the Tribe rolled off a 13-11 record while driving in a season-high 128 runs in the month, good for a 4.92 runs per game average.
On the surface those numbers are rather pedestrian, but considering the Indians have been without the likes of Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Franmil Reyes and Roberto Perez for a significant stretch of these first 81 games their performance is something to be marveled at. Looking back on the first half of this season, how did Cleveland reach 10 games over .500 at any point in 2021?
Let’s break down the Tribe’s position groups and look at which players and positions embraced the next man up mentality. Have Cleveland’s replacement starting pitchers held a candle in the wind to to team’s Big Three? Has the outfield, a position group many have questioned this season, popped or flopped? As we approach the trade deadline and figure out if the team is buying or selling, Cleveland could use a report card. Whether or not they want to put it on the fridge is a different matter entirely.