No one can or should complain about a 5-3 start for the Cleveland Indians. As former major leaguer and broadcaster Mike Hegan used to say, if you win three out of every five, you end the season at 96 wins, and that gets you in the playoffs more often than not.
And if the Tribe just splits the next two games, they will have accomplished that at least for the first ten games of the season.
But the next three weeks should give us an idea of how good the 2021 Cleveland Indians are.
Through May 2nd, the Tribe takes on a quartet of teams who are projected to be serious contenders to be playing baseball in October: The White Sox (9 games), The Reds (3), the Yankees (4), and the Twins (3).
Chicago and Minnesota rank 3rd and 4th in the American League in runs scored per game (Cleveland is 7th) while the Reds led the NL in scoring. To be fair, they haven’t faced the Cleveland staff, which is tied for the league lead in ERA with the Twins.
While the Tigers’ offense ranks 14th in runs, perhaps because they have played six games vs. the Indians’ staff, let’s look at the Royals. KC has scored 37 runs in seven games, ranking sixth in the AL at 5.29 per game.
However, in the two games against the Indians’ pitching staff, they scored five runs in two games. So, when they aren’t facing Cleveland, they are averaging 6.4 runs per contest, which would be second in the Junior Circuit.
It will be interesting to see how the Pale Hose, Reds, and Twins fair against the Tribe staff, which hasn’t allowed more than five runs in a contest to date.
And while the Cleveland hitters knocked around the Detroit pitching staff, the series in the Windy City will see Indians’ hitters facing some accomplished hurlers like Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance Lynn, while they will also probably see the Reds’ Luis Castillo in the last game in the Queen City.
We have already noted the Twins’ pitching ranks tied for first with the Tribe in ERA, and the Yankees are currently third. Will the Tribe be able to score runs against real good pitchers, which honestly, the Indians have not faced yet.
And will the contact Cleveland hitters have been making, they have still struck out the least amount of times in the league, suit them well and can it continue against top flight pitching?
Look, we aren’t downgrading the Tribe’s success to date. We have always said when folks have complained about beating bad teams, would they rather they lose to them? Of course not, there is something to be said for beating teams you are supposed to have success against.
Unfortunately, the schedule makers have only allowed Cleveland 38 opportunities to play the Royals and Tigers, meaning there are 124 other contests on the slate.
There is an old baseball adage that says you split with the contenders and beat up on the poor teams on the schedule, so we aren’t looking for Terry Francona’s team to dominate over the next three weeks, although that would be nice.
They just need to hold their own against them. And as we said, we are anxious to see how the lineup cobbles together runs against the likes of pitchers like Giolito, who has pitched well vs. the Tribe in the past two seasons, and Lynn.
That might give us a truer picture of how the 2021 edition of the Indians will fare this season.