About 45 days ago, I went out “on a limb” and predicted that the Cleveland Indians would win 90 games, be in contention for the American League Central Division pennant, and get into the 2011 American League playoffs.
On July 4, the Cleveland Indians are in first place in the AL Central with a 44-38 record.
Who would have guessed that on April 1? April 15? May 1?
With July 4 being the traditional “midway” point in the season, I’m sticking with my prediction. The Indians will win about 90 games this year, will be in the playoff “hunt” until the very end of the season, and – somehow – get into the playoffs.
…If we don’t have any more major injuries to overcome. It would be helpful if Shin-Soo Choo gets back in mid-August and is in mid-season form right away.
…If we play well against our AL Central competitors, especially in August and September.
Look at the pitching. Look at the schedule. Look at the contenders in the AL Central. You too might reach the same conclusion.
Analyze it one portion at a time:
PITCHING – The Tribe has the second best bullpen (ERA-wise) in the American League, and its starters are pretty solid. If Fausto Carmona can come around and improve in his starts, if the Indians catch an injury “break” for a change once Alex White returns, and if the other starters stay solid, they are right there at the end of the season. There are some bothersome things with the starter (Mitch Talbot lately can’t seem to stem the tide when an opposing team scores a run), but Carmen Carrasco, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin have been anchors in the rotation. Carrasco deserves strong consideration as an addition to the AL All Stars if one of the pitchers selected can’t go due to injury.
SCHEDULE – Cleveland has 42 home games remaining, 25 of them against AL Central opponents With a 24-14 home record already, it’s reasonable to assume that the Tribe should win 26 or 27 of these games. There are 38 away games remaining. If Cleveland wins 18 or 19 of these, it gets the Tribe to 88 to 90 victories on the season. What’s more, 15 of the Tribe’s non division games are against under .500 teams and 28 games are against division opponents with sub-.500 records.
Now, look even closer at the schedule. Cleveland has completed its “long distance” away games, but Minnesota, Detroit, and Chicago all have at least one West Coast trip remaining on their slates. The schedule seems to favor the Indians.
CONTENDERS – Terry Pluto’s column in yesterday’s Plain Dealer really spelled out the prospects for the Tigers and White Sox well. Chicago has better pitching and more hitting than Detroit, although the Tiger have perhaps the best starter in the show in Justin Verlander.
Those “IFs” – Cleveland’s chances to be in the post-season get better if:
Orlando Cabrera continues his hot hitting streak. Cabrera knows playoff baseball, having been with the Cincinnati Reds last season. He, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and a couple of other hitters (C-IB Carlos Santana and 3B call-up Lonnie Chisenhall) have to get hot.
Lately – Some friends have chided me about my May 20 prediction I wrote at that time knowing that Cleveland was facing the toughest part of its schedule from then through July 6. But after the Yankees leave town, only nine of the Tribe’s remaining 76 games are against teams currently in first place. It matters very little if the Indians go out and find another quality hitter, and I’d oppose giving away any great young talent to “rent a bat” for two months of this season. Manager Manny Acta believes in this team, which it appears will grow “younger” with a couple more call-ups from AAA as the season continues. We should have faith too. The talent here can compete for the World Series in 2013 or 2014, so let’s be patient.
MOST FITTING – Thee is only one person who both earned the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller, who’s being honored at the Indians vs. Yankees game tonight.
GREAT MOVE by the Cleveland Indians. Nothing could be more appropriate than remembering Cleveland’s greatest pitcher on the 4th of July. Some players say their proudest accomplishment is making the Hall of Fame. Not Bob Feller. The eight battle stars and five campaign ribbons he earned on the USS Alabama during four years of World War II meant more to Feller. Before you fire up that grill today, pay tribute to Feller and the millions like him who made our nation’s freedom possible.
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