The Curious Case of the Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians have won five consecutive games and eight of their last 10. They have allowed more than three runs to cross the plate in just one of their last seven games. They have hit at least 10 hits in their last 12 home games. The franchise record is 13 games and it was set in 1936. Right now, the Indians look like the team Sports Illustrated, along with many other national media sources, predicted them to be in 2015.

What is wrong with this picture? The Indians record after their sweep of the Los Angeles Angels is 63-66, which puts them a humbling 17 games behind the Kansas City Royals for first place in the American League Central Division. Last week, the Indians had a 2 percent chance to make the playoffs according to MLB.com. Today, it has increased to 10 percent.  In that time, The Indians have surpassed both the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers in probability to make the playoffs. In addition to that, they have hunted down out of division opponents Tampa Bay and Baltimore as well.

As it stands right now, The Indians are 4.5 games out of the Wild Card with 39 games remaining in the season.  While it may be a stretch for Cleveland to make the playoffs, the league has learned quite a bit about this Indians team over the course of the year – particularly in the last month.

First, many people could have predicted that Cleveland’s rotation be one of the top rotations in the league, but would they have predicted that they would be on the verge of making history? Four Indians pitchers, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, have more than 150 strikeouts this season. The last time four pitchers had over 175 strikeouts in the same season for the same team was when the 1990 Mets did it. No American League team has ever accomplished this task, according to MLB.com.

Secondly, Francisco Lindor may be the most exciting player to watch for years to come. While the shortstop has outstanding range in the field, as advertised during his tenure in the minors, he has shown the ability to hit the baseball as well.  The rookie is hitting .312 and is currently on a nine-game hitting streak. He hit two go-ahead home runs in a four game series against the Yankees – and has seven in 67 games.

Lindor is a dark-horse in the Rookie of the Year race, but if the young star continues to play the way he has in the month of August, he could emerge as a favorite.

Finally, the Indians one-two-three hitters have the potential to be the best, not only in the division, but in all of major league baseball. Yes, that includes the Toronto Blue Jays. Those hitters are Jason Kipnis, Lindor and Michael Brantley. Last year, Brantley finished fourth in American League MVP voting and this season he has the second highest batting average in the American League, batting .325. Kipnis has the third highest batting average in the American League at .319. In August, Brantley has been on fire. While batting .420 in the month, he has driven in 16 and scored 16 runs to go along with nine doubles and three homers.

The Indians are opening up a three-game series in Toronto tomorrow. After the series, the remainder of their games will be played against divisional opponents until the final series of the year when the Boston Red Sox travel to Progressive Field. Will the Indians prove to be this year’s sleeper team after a dreadful start to the season?

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