- The Cleveland Indians round out the top four AL pennant contenders
- Cleveland’s odds have improved from +720 on March 12th to +650 on March 25th
- Are the Indians worth it in a top-heavy American League?
It’s only March, but it’s not far-fetched to say that the Cleveland Indians are heading to the playoffs. Likely as the AL Central champions.
It may seem a touch hyperbolic, but there isn’t a lot to challenge them in their division. It’s the Indians, the Twins, and the rest. But could a weak division spell doom for the Indians once again in a top heavy American League?
2019 American League Pennant Odds
|Team||2019 AL Pennant Odds at Bovada|
|New York Yankees||+280|
|Boston Red Sox||+300|
*Odds taken 03/26/19
The Indians won the AL Central by 13 games in 2018, finishing with a 91-71 record. They were the only team in their division with 40 wins at home and on the road. They were also the only Central team to finish over .500.
The Indians were the only team in their division with 40 wins at home and on the road in 2018.
The lack of a challenge in the regular season spelled doom come playoff time. They were easily ousted by the Astros in the Division Series, getting outscored 21-6 in a three game sweep.
So could this year be different?
AL Central Should Belong to Cleveland
FanGraphs has released the projected WARs for every MLB team, and the Indians stack up favorably. Especially in their own division.
Ahead of Opening Day, the Twins are the only team close to the Indians in WAR among lineups, starters and bullpens.
Projected AL Central WARs
|Team||Lineup WAR||Starters WAR||Bullpen WAR|
|Chicago White Sox||14.8||5.7||2.1|
|Kansas City Royals||15.0||6.6||-0.4|
The Indians’ lineup has a slightly better projected WAR than the Twins, and their starters are miles ahead of the rest of the Central.
Their bullpen? The Twins have a better one, but at least they aren’t the Royals.
Indians Best of a Bad Central Bunch?
This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s what came to pass last year.
The rest of the Central offered little-to-no resistance against the Indians on their run to the playoffs. It showed in their splits.
Cleveland Indians In-Division vs Rest of AL in 2018
|Rest of AL||30-36||-17|
The splits are fine until you get to playoff time. Then it becomes a problem.
Those that don’t want to back the Indians in 2019 can easily point to their 2018 results. It’s very easy to see things playing out in a similar fashion.
2019 American League Playoff Percentages
|New York Yankees||88.0|
|Boston Red Sox||68.0|
|Tampa Bay Rays||47.0|
The one-sided nature of the division does bode well for the Indians’ 2019 American League Pennant odds.
Entering the season, they have the second-highest playoff percentage according to Baseball Prospectus, just slightly behind the Astros. Just get in and see what happens, right?
Entering the season, the Indians have the second-highest playoff percentage according to Baseball Prospectus.
Going off of the playoff percentages, there really only seems to be one spot up for grabs in the AL. That’s the second Wild Card spot. And the Indians should be well clear of that.
Are the Indians a Worthy Wager in the AL?
All indications are, that even if the Indians trade one of Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer, their rotation will still be plenty deep. And those arms will be relied upon with an offence that has undergone a heavy face-lift.
But will it be enough against the AL’s heavy hitters? Likely not.
Imagine being within arms reach of the franchise’s first World Series in more than 70 years, and the owner says, “nah man, winning might be expensive.”
— Blocked by Mike Silver (@BLKbyMikeSilver) March 25, 2019
The Indians are a prove-it team. For them to be worth any money, we’ll need to see how they fare against the rest of the AL first.
And with things so top-heavy this year? They’ll need some help getting past those top three.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.