This was supposed to be the Indians’ year.
Expectations were high – most notably, Sports Illustrated predicted a World Series win – but the Indians struggled to get to the .500 mark, and then struggled to get over it.
But even in the preseason, those expectations might have been misguided. The Detroit Tigers had won the previous four American League Central Division titles, and the Royals went from the wild card to the World Series last year.
The Tigers immolated spectacularly this year (at one point, stories indicated that manager Brad Ausmus would not return for 2016), but the Royals more than held up their end, winning the division and finishing the regular season with the best record in the American League.
Prior to 2001, each team played every other team the same amount of times. The Indians would play just as many games against the New York Yankees as they would the Minnesota Twins. But Major League Baseball changed the schedule. The new “unbalanced” schedule would see teams playing what amounted to home-and-home series with opponents outside of their division, and a total of 19 games against each divisional opponent.
The road to the postseason – or even to a good record – has been through the division. And this year, the Indians failed miserably at it, without a winning record against any team in the American League Central.
As has been almost a tradition over the past five years, the Tigers had a winning record against the Indians. But even though the Tigers ended up in last place in the division in 2015, they actually won as many games this year against the Indians (11) as last year. (One Indians-Tigers game was rained out this year, and wasn’t made up.)
The Indians went 9-10 against the White Sox and the Royals (with a winning record at Kauffman Stadium), and 7-12 against the Twins. In a way, the divisional record turned out to be a microcosm for the Indians’ season as a whole: They flirted with .500 against each opponent, but were unable to consistently beat any of them.
The best record for the Indians this year came against a team that was in the National League Central. The Tribe went 5-1 against a Reds team that turned out to have an even more disastrous year. The Indians fared reasonably well in interleague play, going 12-8, with season victories against the Brewers (ironically, a former AL Central opponent) and Reds and a split against the Cubs.
Photo: Associated Press