The Cleveland Indians 2021 season is a repeat of the 2015 campaign
The 2021 season for the Cleveland Indians has been an interesting ride. From pretty much the entire starting rotation getting injured to deadline trades, the season has been packed full of events that have derailed any sort of progression towards the playoffs. Sprinkle in just an awful month of July and the Tribe are just trying to keep their head about water over a month later.
While Cleveland has been able to stay above .500 every year under Terry Francona to this point, not every year was a cake walk. Specifically, the 2015 season saw Cleveland just barely eek past the .500 mark, finishing up at 81-80 on the year.
With just over 30 games left to play this season, the Tribe find themselves in a familiar situation. Entering the Wednesday night edition of the series against the Royals, Cleveland stands at 65-64, just one game above the .500 threshold.
From the 2015 season to now, only Roberto Perez and Jose Ramirez have remained with the team. Bryan Shaw was on that squad, but he spent a bit of time elsewhere since then. While the 2015 season was a team that struggled, it set the stage for the next five years of success that included a World Series run the next season.
Where the similarities show through is the purpose of the seasons. The 2015 campaign was a major learning season in Cleveland. A 22-year Jose Ramirez and 21-year old Francisco Lindor were introduced to the big leagues. As for the starting rotation, no starters were older than 29 while a 25-year old Danny Salazar and 24-year old Trevor Bauer went through bumps and bruises.
As a team, the 2015 offense slashed .256/.325/.401 with 141 home runs, 303 doubles and 640 RBI. This year, the Tribe are hitting .238/.305/.412 with 169 home runs, 196 doubles and 552 RBI thus far.
Now, this year has actually been worse at the plate in many ways than the 2015 season, but that honestly should have been anticipated. In 2015 the team still had Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Ryan Raburn all hit above .300 to boost those numbers a bit. This year, Amed Rosario is the only one close at .290.
As for the mound, starters struggled more than the pen in 2015 with an ERA of 3.94 compared to the 3.12 mark from the bullpen. The unit totaled 1,407 strikeouts. Again, the 2021 season is posting numbers a bit worse, but not by too much of a margin. Starters have an ERA of 4.88 with relievers at 3.66 while the group as a whole has 1,151 strikeouts so far.
Similar to the offensive side of the game, 2015 pitching had a bit better outlook than this year. The 2015 season saw 32 starts from Corey Kluber. That should be enough to sway the numbers, but Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco had 30 each as well. This year’s numbers aren’t too far off and it was done predominately by random Triple-A starters who needed to come up too early to take over because of injuries.
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So, what are we getting at? What’s the point? Sure, the 2015 season was a struggle. Not as bad as this season, but the difficulty of getting to .500 was the same. What does that matter?
Well, the 2015 season set the stage for the next wave. It introduced key players like Ramirez, Lindor, Bauer, etc. It allowed the team to see where they had answers and where they didn’t and it provided the core and blueprint for what would become the 2016 World Series run.
Before we jump to conclusions, 2022 will most likely not be a World Series run. It’s been made pretty clear to this point that the 2015 team had a bit better of a season than this year. The climb back up will take a bit longer this time around. However, the path is similar.
The struggles that have come with the 2021 season and the difficulty to get to .500 is helping set the stage for the next wave. We’ve been introduced to Amed Rosario, Myles Straw and Bobby Bradley as well as the starting pitcher edition of Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie.
The acquisitions of Rosario and Straw wouldn’t have been possible without the struggles. Giving Bradley, Quantrill and McKenzie wouldn’t have been possible without the difficulties. The 2021 season has been hard to watch at times, no doubt, but it’s necessary for a small-market team like Cleveland.
This has happened before, a season very similar, and the team immediately jumped back. Will Cleveland win 94 games in 2022 like they did in 2016? Maybe not. Could they challenge for 90 wins? I think so. The team is going to be young and it’s becoming obvious that the core is being established. For that reason, this year will have been worth it in the very near future.