Indians Need to do Better Against Lesser Teams
Craig Gifford | On 18, Apr 2014
A quick preseason glance at the Cleveland Indians 2014 schedule gave an indication that the team had a good shot of getting out of the gates quickly this season.
After starting the year visiting the defending American League West champion Oakland Athletics, the Tribe had three consecutive series against clubs that came nowhere near the postseason last year. Two of those sets were against the White Sox and Twins, whom the Indians owned last season.
In 2013, against the two dredges of the AL Central, the Tribe went a combined 30-8. Let that sink in for a second. Then, let this sink in – those 30 wins were nearly one-third of Cleveland’s 92 total in its surge to one of the league’s two Wild Card spots. Taking advantage of the league’s lesser lights was a calling card for the Indians last year. They struggled against the upper crust by losing the season series to the Tigers, Red Sox, Rays and Yankees.
The Indians, due partly to their smaller market status and lack of big spending, have more flaws than some of baseball’s elite teams. Entering this season, the thought was they had the talent to win and compete for the playoffs, but could use more success against the poorer clubs. So far, the Indians have not been able to take advantage of the early season meetings with their softer intra-divisional foes.
After walloping the White Sox to a tune of a 17-2 record last year, the Tribe took just one weekend to drop more games to Chicago than all of a season ago. Cleveland when 1-3 in last weekend’s trip to the Windy City’s South Side.
Likewise, the Indians are already a third of the way to the total contests they dropped to Minnesota. The Indians are 1-2 against the Twins after a strong 13-6 showing against them in 2013.
It all added up to starting the year 6-7 against a top team in Oakland and three lesser teams in San Diego, Minnesota and Chicago. That is not the start the Tribe needed to get off to – especially with the schedule picking up in the second half of the month. It would have been nice to see the Indians build up a solid record against teams they should have been able to handle a little better.
The rest of April will see the Indians play the Blue Jays, Royals, Giants and Angels. All four have the talent to be playoff contenders, though Kansas City and the Angels are below .500.
Getting off to a less-than-good start against a soft early schedule means the Indians will have to pick things up against slightly better teams. Of course, if the Tribe is going to go anywhere this year, the team will have to beat those squads, anyway. Cleveland could have given itself some breathing room, however, and some room for error with more victories against the teams that it had so much success against last season.
The Indians will have a chance to get back on track against their 2013 whipping boys at the start of May. Cleveland opens the second month with three games against the White Sox and four agaisnt the Twins. All seven affairs are at home. Getting it right against those team will be even more important the second time around. After those two stanzas, Cleveland will see the Rays, Jays, A’s, Tigers and Orioles. That is a rough stretch.
Granted, the Indians can not rely solely on winning games against the bad teams. However, last year showed the importance of taking care of business in games that you should win. Defeating the clubs that are worse than you takes the pressure off needing to beat the Red Sox and Tigers’ of the world. Less victories against the Twins and White Sox means the Tribe will have to turn the tables, themselves, against squads it struggled against in 2013.
Obviously, there is still a lot of baseball to be played. Fifteen games in is far too soon to glean anything of much value as to how one club will do against another. It is simply that a hot start against teams that should have provided more wins would have meant the Indians could have had more wriggle room as they venture into a portion of their schedule with far less sure things.
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