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Injury-Riddled Indians Lose Carrasco Indefinitely, Still Have +2200 Odds to Win 2019 World Series

Carlos Carrasco pitching for the Cleveland Indians.
Carlos Carrasco is the latest Indians starter to find himself on the Injured List. Photo by Erik Drost (Wiki Commons) [CC License].
  • Carlos Carrasco joined Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger on Cleveland’s Injured List
  • Carrasco’s 3.34 xFIP was the 8th-best in the majors
  • With Trevor Bauer underperforming, is it officially time to write off the Indians, whose World Series odds remain 6th-best in the AL?

Not three days ago, my colleague wrote about how the underperforming and injury-riddled Cleveland Indians still had +200 odds to win the AL Central at a certain sportsbook, despite sitting 11.5-games behind the Minnesota Twins at that point.

On Wednesday, the outlook for the beleaguered Tribe got even worse than it already was. In the  middle of a pivotal three-game set with the Twins, Carlos Carrasco was pulled from his start and put on the IL with a “blood condition.” While he’s expected to rejoin the team at some point this year, there’s no timetable for his return as of yet.

Carrasco’s ailment further depletes an already undermanned starting rotation, and seriously attenuates their chances of reaching the postseason, let alone making a run in October.

Odds to Win 2019 World Series: AL Favorites

Team Odds Implied Probability
Houston Astros +290 25.6%
New York Yankees +450 18.2%
Minnesota Twins +750 11.8%
Tampa Bay Rays +800 11.1%
Boston Red Sox +1100 8.3%
Cleveland Indians +2200 4.3%

Yet, Cleveland still has +2200 odds to win the 2019 World Series. But even at +5000, I’m still inclined to fade the Indians.

Fade the Indians in the World Series Futures

The Indians were odds-on favorites to win the AL Central in the preseason thanks to their unparalleled starting rotation. But three of their top-four starters are now out; Carrasco joins two-time Cy Young-winner Corey Kluber and emerging superstar Mike Clevinger on the IL.

That leaves a slumping Trevor Bauer (3.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4.49 xFIP) and sophomore Shane Bieber (3.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 3.42 xFIP) at the top of the rotation, followed by rookie Jefry Rodriguez (4.74 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 4.84 xFIP).

No, wait, Rodriguez is out too.  Now this is just getting ridiculous.

Clevinger and Kluber will be back in the not-too-distant future, which should stabilize the situation. But as already mentioned, Cleveland has dug itself a huge hole in the Central, or rather, the indefatigable excavator that is the Minnesota Twins has dug it for them.

Cleveland will need to make up 10.5 games on the Twins between now and the start of October. While the surprising Twins should regress somewhat, their +106 run differential is an auger of legitimate strength. For context, +106 is one run better than the World Series-favorite Dodgers and one run behind the other-World Series-favorite Astros.

With 102 games remaining as of Wednesday afternoon, the 30-30 Indians would have to go 60-42 (.588 win pct) the rest of the way to finish with a record of 90-72. The 40-19 Twins, meanwhile, would have to go 50-53 in their final 103 games to finish 90-72.

If the Twins play slightly above .500 over the remainder of the season — let’s say three games over — they would finish 93-69. In that case, Cleveland would need to go 63-39 (.617 win pct) to catch them, a daunting task even with a fully healthy rotation, because …

Cleveland Cannot Hit

The struggles of preseason AL MVP contender Jose Ramirez are well documented. Following back-to-back third-place finishes in MVP voting, Ramirez is slashing just .202/.303/.307 this year and has been bumped down to fifth in the lineup.

Terry Francona would probably slide him down further if he had any better options. But he really doesn’t.

The Indians, as a team, are 28th in the majors in Slugging Percentage (.373) and 26th in wRC+ (80). They are walking at a decent rate (10.3%, which is fourth in MLB) but there is virtually no power in this lineup; their 65 home runs are third-worst in the AL, only ahead of the Royals and Tigers.

The league-leading Twins (111 home runs) have hit 70.1% more long balls this year.

Only two Cleveland hitters are performing significantly above the major-league average in terms of runs created: Francisco Lindor (135 wRC+) and Carlos Santana (137 wRC+).

A total of 388 players in the majors have had at least 50 plate appearances this year. Eight Indians sit 277th or worse in wRC+.

The Indians Might Sell at the Deadline

It’s no secret that the Indians are a small-market team. It’s also no secret that management was willing to deal Bauer in the offseason for the right price, and that the team is unwilling to give Lindor the type of money he’s looking for on his next contract.

Unless this team makes up a lot of ground fast, they are going to windup sellers at the Jul. 31 trade deadline. With the potential for names like Bauer and Lindor to be gone, the chances of Cleveland making a deep run in the playoffs become a lot lower.

And that assumes they get in, which is highly unlikely.

The latest FanGraphs projections give Cleveland a 6% chance of winning the division and 26% chance of earning a Wild-Card berth.

Taking that 26% chance at face value (which I wouldn’t, because it factors in preseason expectations that should really be thrown out the door at this point) Cleveland’s 4.3% chance to win the World Series is laughable.

First of all, you can cut the 26% roughly in half since they would almost certainly be in the Wild-Card game, a 50/50 proposition at best for the Tribe. Already, we’re down to 13%.

Then they would likely face Houston in the ALDS. If we generously give them a 49% to win that series, we’re down to a 6.4% chance to reach the ALCS.

Giving them another generous 49% chance to win that series, we are now looking at a 3.1% chance of reaching the Fall Classic.

Chop that in half again and we are left with just a 1.5% chance of winning the 2019 World Series.

In sum, Cleveland at +2200? I’ll pass.

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