The unofficial second half to the Major League Baseball season got under way last night and despite falling to the Twins 3-2, the Indians should be in the thick of things in both the AL Central and Wild Card races. The real question is whether or not the Indians will be able to fend off six other teams for one of three possible playoff spots. It’s been a topic of debate recently among Indian fans, especially with the trade deadline looming and speculation running rampant about what the Indians will do. With all of this in mind, I decided to ask the staff for their opinions on whether or not the Indians will actually make the playoffs or not. Here is what they had to say.
Steve Kinsella: The Indians will not make the playoffs. The Detroit Tigers will run away with the Central Division and the Rangers/Athletics will beat up the Astros and at least 2 out of the 3 triad of the Rays/Orioles/Red Sox will have a better record than the Tribe. This is the analyst in me speaking and, of course, I hope the above two sentences haunt me all winter long.
Evan Vogel: No, the Indians won’t make the playoffs in 2013. The Tigers are too strong and have the pieces is Garcia, Castellanos, and Alvarez in triple-a to upgrade via trade or by bringing up to the majors and with a strong, deep AL East and AL West (Orioles, Rays, Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox, and A’s), there won’t be room for a team that is still so full of mediocrity – I’m talking to you rotation and bullpen. There are positives with this roster but they need everything to go right to make it, and it isn’t the year for that.
Kyle Downing: This may be the cautious optimist in me speaking, but I see the Indians making the playoffs. We have a much easier schedule from here on out, and I’m thinking we make at least one major move before the trade deadline that gives us the extra boost to top the Tigers. If we don’t beat the Tigers, I can’t see the Tribe getting a wild card spot, but it’s about time for some injury karma to plague Detroit, and their bullpen remains a huge weakness.
Michael Chaney: I feel like I should say no, because the Tigers seem like a good bet to run away with the AL Central this year. Heavy competition in the Wild Card race doesn’t help matters, nor does the fact that Indians fans are used to seeing this team fade down the stretch.
But that’s the key phrase: “this team”. The 2013 Cleveland Indians are nothing like last year’s team that completely overachieved until floundering in July and beyond. We have a better manager in Terry Francona, improved depth and roster flexibility, and a chip on our shoulder from the past two seasons. I also sense a little bit of magic from this team, and if you don’t know what I mean, look back at the series against Seattle from earlier this season as evidence. Furthermore, the Indians’ Pythagorean Record (which measures what a team’s record truly should be) at the All-Star Break was 50-45, suggesting that the Indians’ 51-44 record is no fluke and is completely sustainable.
I feel that if the Indians play well the next two weeks until the Trade Deadline, Chris Antonetti will do his best to improve the roster, specifically the pitching staff. If he can get a consistent innings-eater (or one of the top starters he’s been looking at), it would put the bullpen under much less duress than it has been this season. That, in turn, could allow the relievers to pitch at the level we had been expecting all along, although it wouldn’t hurt to think about adding a reliever as well. The Indians’ offense is certainly capable of reaching the playoffs, and if the rotation can follow suit, the possibilities are endless.
I don’t want to guarantee that the Cleveland Indians are playoff-bound in 2013, but what I will say is this: I feel much more comfortable with the Tribe than I have in a long time. Besides, anything can happen between now and the end of the season.
Jeff Mount: As presently constructed, the ceiling for this team is 90 wins. That assumes a sightly better offense due to Swisher and Cabrera playing at normal levels. I would have thought the floor for the Tigers would be 90 wins, but they are basically a .500 team when Scherzer doesn’t pitch and there is really nobody on that team you can look at and say they will play better in the second half. Still, I think they have the pitching to win 95, so the Indians need to add talent to win the division.
I see the Red Sox fading, but we probably need to win more than 90 to win the wild card as well. In order to do that, we need at least four solid starters, defined as averaging six innings per start with an ERA under 4.00. I include Masterson and Kluber already at that level. McAllister would be three if he comes back at his prior level, but that’s a crap shoot at this point. I won’t include Kazmir because he hasn’t done it consistently and because at some point the fact that he hasn’t logged this many innings since 2010 will catch up with him, so he is best pegged as a fifth starter/swing man the rest of the way. So the choices for the fourth guy are to trade for someone who would be an upgrade on Jimenez or to roll the dice on Salazar, Bauer, or Carrasco. There are too many teams in on guys like Garza; we would end up losing Lindor or Salazar to make that deal and that would be a huge mistake. That leaves calling up Salazar as the best option, but I don’t think they will do that unless McAllister is out for a while longer, and if that happens the rotation still has a hole.
Matthew Trevathan: I see this team with only one avenue to the playoffs, which is usually the case for the American League Central: winning the division. I’m not a typically optimistic person, and this situation really doesn’t bode well for that changing that anytime soon. Now that the prospect of having a significant pitching upgrade in the likes of Matt Garza are kaput I just don’t see this team being able to break out of its streakiness. A winning record is a definite possibility, especially since the rest of the schedule is heavily in our favor, but the Tigers don’t exactly have the hardest final two months of the season, either. They face the White Sox 15 more times alone, and most of those will be after they gut their team for prospects. Sure, they managed to dig in and take two of three the first time, but I wouldn’t expect the Pale Hose to take the season series by any stretch (remember, we took two of three from them the first time, too, and what have we done against them lately?)
Anything is possible, but the Tiger’s only real weakness, its bullpen, is starting to come around with Smiley and Benoit making a formidable 8-9 combo. I’m looking forward to the final two months, and I see a bright future ahead for this team, especially if we can pull the admittedly unpopular trade of Asdrubal for a strong, young starter to round out a suddenly formidable looking starting rotation for years to come. However, I am not holding out hope for this team this season; hope springs eternal, but my feet are on the ground.
Katrina Putnam: I really do think the Tribe will make the playoffs. Do I necessarily think they’ll win the division? No, because Detroit’s offense and rotation are a very deadly combination, especially considering the amount of game they’ll be playing against teams below .500. Before the season I said they would have 90 wins, which was on the high side compared to most predictions. However, even some of ESPN’s analysts have conceded that they may have underestimated the Indians’ off-season roster moves. The team is very streaky, but both the lineup and rotation have been surprisingly solid. It’s easy to get caught up in whatever side of the streak they’re on, but they have a consistent approach and have enough depth that they don’t need to rely on one or two guys to carry the team. Even when they lost key players like Cabrera and Swisher to injury, everyone else was able to play well enough to keep the team in contention.
The biggest weakness has been the bullpen, especially the lefties. Without the blown saves, the Indians would be even further above .500. If the team can add another left-handed reliever before the deadline, there’s no reason why they can’t make the playoffs.
Merritt Rohlfing: In short, yes, the Indians will make the playoffs. It seems bold and almost impossible because the Tigers are really good and the Wild Card is reserved for the American League Coasts, but I like where the pitching is going. The offense will score runs because Jason Kipnis has found himself, Nick Swisher will get better along with Asdrubal Cabrera and eventually Mark Reynolds will start hitting again. But the pitching has been getting better every week and every rotation of the … rotation. Masterson? Known quantity. Kluber? Emergent number 2. Ubaldo? Doesn’t suck as much anymore. Kazmir has found redemption and his fastball again and our boy Zach McAllister is coming back. If any of that fails I have hope Danny Salazar will give some solid innings down the stretch and the bullpen will recover from this swoon and even Trevor Bauer could make an impact. Plus Antonetti might actually make a move at some point, even if it’s for Matt Garza. Tom Hamilton noted a last week ago during the Royals series that KC is bound to have a better second half because of the pitching, and the Indians are just as good from top to bottom. No, realistically it’s not a sure thing that the Indians will play in October, but I feel like it’s a better chance of happening than not.
Brian Heise: You know what? Yes, the Indians will make the playoffs for no other reason but “Why not us?” We’ve seen that when this team plays well they are damn near unstoppable. Why can’t they get hot in the second half and run away with the division or a wild card spot? Everyone else talked about stats, and roster moves, and any number of situations to support their answers. I’m going with old fashioned blind faith on this one. Roll Tribe.