2017 Indians are simply amazin'
A little more than a half century ago, after New York City was blessed with an expansion baseball team known as the Metropolitans (a.k.a “Mets”), veteran manager Casey Stengel was asked to summarize his new team’s talent. Casey paused for a moment and then dead-panned, “Amazin’. Simply amazin’.” He was trying to take the high road, of course, but the message was clear. Especially since earlier in the season – after surveying his roster – he’d already uttered the infamous, "Two hundred million Americans, and there ain't two good catchers among 'em" line.
Oddly enough, I thought of Casey’s description when speaking with friends about the Indians recent – maybe you heard about it – winning streak. In just the last year and a half, the Tribe has totally redefined what constitutes a significant winning streak – at least in Cleveland. Not too long ago I thought 10 consecutive victories was a pretty good run, and I still do, in fact.
But when the Indians rattled off 14 straight in late June/early July of last season, establishing a new team record for consecutive victories, I looked at it as a record which would last years – possibly decades – simply based on how many years had passed since the previous record had been set. After all, too many things need to go right for a team to go on an extended winning streak, as they just had a year ago with the 14 consecutive. Lightning couldn’t strike twice, could it? Not a chance.
That is, unless they’re really, really good, apparently.
It’s especially impressive considering how frustrating the team was the first half of the season, when the Indians looked incapable of winning more than a few in a row – and that would be in a good week. The starting pitching was under-performing, the offense was feast or famine, and mostly famine at that. Taking control of a mediocre division even appeared to be asking too much of the 2017 Indians. My spring prediction of 96 victories appeared to be a pipe dream.
So what was it that turned the Tribe around, so much so that they went on an unimaginable run as the season was winding down? Many folks point to the trade which brought us Jay Bruce, the power-hitting lefty the Tribe obtained from Casey’s beloved Mets just before the tremendous stretch of great baseball began. To be sure, Bruce has helped tremendously. Left-handed power is just what the doctor ordered to balance the power right-handed hitter Edwin Encarnacion brings.
However, as any baseball purist will tell you, pitching is the name of the game, and Cleveland pitching has been nothing short of phenomenal the second half of the season. Corey Kluber has been Corey Kluber, which means he’ll get some Cy Young votes this year. Carlos Carrasco has been almost as good, and it would come as no surprise if he got some votes as well.
Trevor Bauer, who I predicted would win 17 this year, pitched through mid-May as though he’d be lucky to win 7. He’s been awesome the second half and is a good bet to eclipse my prediction. The surprise has been Mike Clevinger. You get pitching from your No. 4 starter like you’ve been getting from Clevinger and you have one nasty pitching staff. Add in Josh Tomlin, who – like Bauer – has rebounded from a terrible start, and you’re set. The relief pitching has been stellar, so it looks as though the Tribe is peaking at the right time, no?
Sort of wish the playoffs started next week, don’t you? Amazin'.
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!