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Missed Opportunities

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With 100 games left, the Indians are now 9.5 games back of division leader Detroit, 8 games back of defending champ and current Wild Card leader Chicago, with three other teams in between.  Realistically, a 60-40 record is not going to get it done.  It likely will take a 65-35 finish to make the postseason.

Helpfully, this is basically the same team that went on a 64-33 tear last season -- starting with game 59.  Of course no team is likely to go on that kind of tear, ever, but it wouldn't exactly be like lightning striking twice either.  It's worth considering that another team has garnered a reputation for staging improbable charges after May, multiple years in a row.  Last year's Athletics went on a 58-24 run before finally succumbing to injuries.  They went 69-39 in 2004, 80-50 in 2003, 71-26 in 2002.

Would it surprise anyone at all if these Indians turned out to be a lot like those Athletics?  No.  But it remains a long shot.

The Indians created another significant obstacle along the way by slumping over this particular stretch of games, 17-20 since May 1.  That stretch included 15 games against our direct rivals for the division championship (White Sox, Tigers), nine games against terrible teams (Royals, Pirates) and 13 against fairly mediocre teams (Angels, Twins, Athletics, Mariners).

In other words, every single one of these 37 games was an opportunity to gain significant ground in the pennant race, either by dominating a relatively weak team or by defeating a direct rival.  And they blew it.  Here's what the Indians have accomplished, or failed to accomplish, over that stretch of games, from best to worst:

  • Against Chicago, went 5-4 to gain one game.  This must be considered a bare-minimum accomplishment given Chicago was already ahead in the standings.
  • Against horrible teams, went 5-4 -- not what contenders are supposed to do to horible teams.
  • Against mediocre teams, went 6-7 -- looking very much like a mediocre team themselves.
  • Against Detroit, went 1-5, making an incredible contribution to Detroit's playoff aspirations.
It's hard to look at.  Broken down this way, it's clear the Indians could have won, and should have been able to win, six or seven more of these games -- and indeed, they outscored their opponents 201-183 over that stretch.  A record of 20-17 would have been more predictable even given a relatively mediocre string of preformances.  For this particular stretch of games, a run of 25-12 would not have been surprising in the least.

The whys and hows and what-nexts are very much up for debate.  But it's clear that the Indians slumped at the precise moment they should have been surging.  That stretch of opportunity will not arise again on the schedule this season, and overcoming it will not be easy -- even if the 21st Century Indians are very much like the 21st Century Athletics.