As of the All-Star break, the Cleveland Indians sit with a record of 51-44, in second place, 1.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for the American League Central Division lead. According to the math department over at ESPN.com, the Indians have a 38.5% chance of making the playoffs this season. To me, this number is embarrassingly low as the Indians are through the toughest portion of their schedule and have come out of the first half better than almost anyone could have anticipated. Things are also about to get much easier.
As it stands now, the Indians are on pace to win 87 games…a number that is right in the ballpark of where most people originally thought that they would be. What isn’t taken into consideration, however, is the relatively easy schedule that the Tribe will face on their march towards October. The Indians have 21 series’ left that will encompass 67 games and 13 different opponents. Nearly all of the series are winnable for various reasons.
19-21 at Minnesota, 22-24 at Seattle, 26-28 vs. Texas, 29-8/1 vs. Chicago (AL)
The month of July should be viewed as the month that the Indians need to catch the Tigers. Chicago, Minnesota and Seattle are statistically the second, third and fourth worst teams in the American League and the Indians will get 10 games against these foes.
Thus far in 2013, the Tribe has accumulated a 4-2 record against the Twins, 4-0 record against the Mariners, 2-1 record against the Rangers and a 7-2 record against the White Sox. The toughest foe, Texas, will have to battle the Indians in Cleveland as well, where the Tribe holds a very solid 30-19 record.
Objective for this stretch: 8-4 record (plus help acquired at the trade deadline)
2-4 at Miami, 5-8 vs. Detroit, 9-11 vs. LA/Anaheim, 12-14 at Minnesota, 16-18 at Oakland, 19-21 at LA/Anaheim, 23-25 vs. Minnesota, 27-29 at Atlanta, 30-9/1 at Detroit
August is by far the toughest month that remains, but still has some breathers in the schedule as well. This should be the month where the Indians simply try to keep pace with the Tigers.
Record-wise, Miami is currently just the second worst team in baseball, but they have recently traded their most accomplished pitcher and rumors say that they may also send Giancarlo Stanton out as well. The Marlins are a really bad team and are probably only going to get worse as the trade deadline approaches. Six games against the Twins are also nice and six against the 44-49 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are nothing to be really scared of either. That’s nine games against bad teams and six against possibly the biggest disappointment of the year. The real bear of the schedule comes in the rest of the games, where the Indians will face off against the Tigers, Athletics or Braves 13 times.
The Tribe has unquestionably struggled against the Tigers this season with a 3-9 record and they will face the Motor City Kitties seven times from August 5-September 1. The Indians are going to have to kick it up a notch against their biggest rival and hopefully will have some trade deadline acquisitions to help do it. The Braves and Athletics are on the short list of the best teams in baseball as well, but the Indians certainly handled the A’s earlier this season when they swept them in four games in Cleveland.
Objective for this stretch: 15-13 record (stay within striking distance)
2-4 vs. Baltimore, 6-8 vs. New York (NL), 9-11 vs. Kansas City, 12-15 at Chicago (AL), 16-18 at Kansas City, 19-22 vs. Houston, 24-25 vs. Chicago (AL), 26-29 at Minnesota
The Indians couldn’t have asked for a better September schedule, because after the 53-43 Orioles leave town, the Tribe has a cake-walk. This should be viewed as the month where the Indians pass the Tigers.
It really could not have set-up better for Cleveland. They face the Orioles—the team that they split four games with in Baltimore—at home, then face the scum of the rest of baseball for the rest of the season. The Mets are 41-50 and currently hold the seventh worst record in baseball. The Indians will play them at home, as well.
The Royals are 43-49 and hold the 11th worst record in the game, but are also expected to be sellers at the trade deadline and may get even worse than they currently are.
The Indians currently hold an 8-5 season advantage on Kansas City.
The White Sox should have far less of their good players by this time as well, and Houston currently holds baseball’s worst record at 33-61. The Indians will then end the season with a four-game set in Minnesota, a team that also may trade away some veterans.
All-in-all, the Indians could be set up for a very fun September that could see a bunch of wins. The Tribe boasts a 23-12 record against these foes this season and all teams except for Baltimore should be sellers at either the July or August deadlines.
Objective for this stretch: 18-9 (92-70 overall record)
The Indians have the nail set up for them; all they have to do is drive it home. The Tribe has done marvelously against the teams that “they should beat” this season and they should find themselves playing in October if they keep it up.