Bad News for the Indians: It’s Playoff Time

After an exciting final weekend of the regular season, the MLB playoff field is set. And for the Cleveland Indians, despite winning their division by eight games, that’s not a good thing.

Cleveland is joined by the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers as the American League’s postseason representatives. The Tribe has a record of just 9-17 against the four other clubs. At .346, that is the second-lowest winning percentage of any AL team this season against the league’s playoff squads (Kansas City’s is .318).

For the Indians, this has been a common theme over the years. Since MLB added the wild card round in 1995, Cleveland has a cumulative record of just 95-158 (.375) versus intra-league playoff teams – and that’s just during the seasons when they were good enough to qualify for the postseason. No other franchise, in either league, is below .400 in such games.

And it’s not as though Cleveland had a couple of bad years that skewed the numbers. This is their ninth postseason appearance in the last 22 years. In only one of them (1995, when they won 100 games, the second-most in franchise history) were they at least .500 against playoff teams.

Prior to this season, there have been 176 playoff teams during the Wild Card era and a dozen of them (6.8%) entered the postseason with a sub-.350 winning percentage against fellow playoff squads. The Indians alone did it four times. None of the 12 won a World Series.

MLB Playoff Teams’ Worst Intra-League Regular Season Records vs. One Another Since 1995

Team Year Wins Losses Win% Result
Dodgers 2006 8 24 .250 Lost Division Series
Mets 2015 7 20 .259 Lost World Series
Twins 2009 6 17 .261 Lost Division Series
Orioles 1996 11 27 .289 Lost Championship Series
Indians 2007 7 16 .304 Lost Championship Series
Indians 2013 12 27 .308 Lost Wild Card Game
Indians 1999 10 22 .313 Lost Division Series
Astros 1997 11 22 .333 Lost Division Series
Indians 1998 11 22 .333 Lost Championship Series
Mets 1999 10 20 .333 Lost Championship Series
Twins 2002 8 16 .333 Lost Championship Series
Astros 2005 10 19 .345 Lost World Series
Indians 2016 9 17 .346 ???

To make matters worse, the Indians have run into some bad luck recently, losing two of their top three starting pitchers – Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar – for the season (Salazar may return during the playoffs). This is especially detrimental to the team’s chances in 2016, as pitching has been their strength; they finished the regular season with the American League’s best ERA+ (122).

After Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber, their postseason rotation becomes a bit shaky. Josh Tomlin’s 4.88 FIP is 36th in the AL out of 39 qualifying pitchers. Trevor Bauer has had a decent season, but has really struggled after the All-Star break. Since then, he’s just 5-5 with a 5.36 ERA and 1.438 WHIP.

On offense, though their team OPS+ of 94 was just 12th in the league, the Indians did score a lot of runs this year (4.83 runs per game, the second-most in the league). But will that be enough to offset the loss of Carrasco and Salazar?

Of course, even before the injuries, given their lack of success against the other playoff teams – 2-4 against first-round opponent Boston, 2-5 against Texas, 1-5 against Baltimore and 4-3 against Toronto – it was already going to be a long uphill battle for Cleveland to break the longest active championship drought (68 years) in the American League.

(photo by Erik Drost)

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