It may only be June, but Cleveland Indians fans still long for another shot to end the now longest active trophy drought in Major League Baseball. With expectations last year fizzling out in Boston after getting swept in 3 games, Tribe fans are hoping this season will be a longer run into the postseason. But how could it be?
Currently, the Indians sit 9.5 games back of the Minnesota Twins in the race for the American League Central Division crown. Cleveland tends to struggle early in the season and then begin to pull things together around the All-Star break. The emergence of Minnesota as a contender for the AL Central crown is a big threat to the Tribe’s chances of making it to the playoffs for the fourth straight year. What is an even bigger issue is some of the confusion in the roster now that Corey Kluber is hurt as he has been the most solid player for the Cleveland Indians, a constant amid unknown variables.
If the Cleveland Indians are going to make a run they need to win the AL Central as they have done the past 3 seasons. The MLB playoff format is too competitive to be able to outpace Boston or New York for a wild card spot. The Indians format for success under manager Terry Francona has been starting pitching giving way to an excellent bullpen which will allow a stodgy offensive output to win close games with smart hitting. This year the formula has to change. Cleveland doesn’t have the 4 or 5 dominant pitchers like it had in 2016. Cleveland will have to learn how to hit themselves to victory as they did against Boston. In years past the goal was to get to the bullpen as quickly as possible but now the format will have to be, get to the top of the order as fast as possible. With Francisco Lindor on the last year of his deal and what is left of their bullpen depth set to hit the market as well, the time is now to either buy offensive production in hopes of figuring out the pitching later or sell the farm. The harsh truth is, the way the Indians were able to climb to the AL pennant is not going to be the way they do it this year.