After underachieving for the first month of the season, it appeared that the Cleveland Indians were finally hitting their stride; they had won 12 of their last 18 games and held a 17-13 record – good enough for the top spot in the AL Central. Since then, the Tribe has dropped six of their last nine games and find themselves in third place behind the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers for the AL Central lead. With a record of 20-19, the reigning American League champs are in danger of falling below .500 a quarter of the way through the regular season. Cleveland boasts one of the most talented rosters in all of baseball and – for a team picked by many to reach the World Series – it’s hard to believe that they are still struggling nearly 40 games into the season.
After signing Edwin Encarnacion, one of the best power hitters in the MLB, to a 60-million-dollar contract in the offseason – and finally getting Michael Brantly back in the lineup – the Indians were supposed to field one of the league’s most potent offenses; the offense overall has been inconsistent thus far into the season, but has shown flashes of greatness. Over the past four games since inserting Jason Kipness into the leadoff spot, the Tribe has averaged just over seven runs per contest; even with such a high average run total, the team only won two out of those four games – mostly due to poor pitching.
On paper, the Tribe has one of the best pitching rotations in the MLB, and starters Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Corey Kluber all have the potential to win a Cy Young – Kluber already has one Cy Young award to his name. Thus far into 2017, the starters have greatly underachieved; Cleveland’s starting rotation ranks 28th in the MLB and dead last in the American League with an atrocious ERA of 4.86. However, if there is a silver lining, it’s that the starters rank 2nd in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings, which would suggest that the pitchers are still throwing quality stuff and the ERA should eventually regress back down to the mean.
Although Cleveland has not performed to expectations thus far into the season, there is still no need to hit the panic button. The team may not be quite the dominant force that their talent and championship pedigree suggests they should be, but they are only one game back from the AL Central division lead and have shown flashes of brilliance when both their pitching and hitting are on. The MLB regular season is a long one, with every team experiencing ups and downs, and the Indians are just one of several other underachievers; both the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox – the former being the defending world champions and the latter being considered by many as the only team in the American League who can challenge Cleveland – sport a mediocre record of 21-19.
It hasn’t been pretty so far, but it feels like the Indians are going to figure it out and catch fire at some point – they’re too talented not to. However, now that we are a quarter of the way through the MLB season, the team needs to find their groove soon or they could find themselves fighting for their lives just to make the playoffs.