If you have been watching the Cleveland Indians this season, there may have been streaks that made you upset, or even angry. Fan is the root word of fanatic, we get it, it’s okay to be an irrational fan. However, even the most fair-weather of fans, the kind of fans who only get angry when the Indians lose and are nothing but smiles when they win, have not had many long stretches of being upset this season.
That’s because the Indians have done something kind of remarkable.
In 2016, there have been 295 four-game losing streaks, taking into consideration when the streaks overlap (i.e., when a team has a five-game losing streak, that’s technically two four-game losing streaks nested inside each other). The Indians have accounted for exactly zero of these. They are the only team to do so this season, and if they can keep it up throughout the remainder of the regular season, they will be the first team to not go on a four-game losing streak over a full year since the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers.
As for the Indians themselves, you have to travel all the way back to 1918 to find a Tribe team that did not lose four games in a row, and they only played 127 games. The 1948 World Series team had five such losing streaks, the 1954 team that won a franchise-record 111 games did it once. Even the 1996 Indians — considered to be the best overall Indians team by FiveThirtyEight’s ELO ratings — had a four-game losing streak in late May and early June of ‘96.
And it is not like the Indians have not come close, either. Through their 145 games played this season, they have had seven three-game losing streaks:
- April 29 - May 1 (Phillies)
- May 21 - May 23 (Red Sox & White Sox)
- May 29 - May 31 (Orioles & Rangers)
- June 13 - June 15 (Royals)
- July 22 - July 24 (Orioles)
- August 1 - August 3 (Twins)
- August 23 - August 25 (Athletics & Rangers)
The closest the Indians came to dropping four in a row was that second three-game losing streak. The third loss of that disaster came during the first game of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox.
Even the Chicago Cubs, the odds-on favorites to win the World Series, have already had four four-game losing streaks this season. The biggest threat to the Indians in the American League, the Boston Red Sox, have had one and only one four-game losing streak from July 25 to July 28 between the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels.
So, how did the Indians end up like this? The idea of stopping a losing streak brings to mind the old cliche about a pitcher being a “stopper.” Early on in the season, the running joke (reality?) was that Josh Tomlin was acting as the Tribe’s stopper. And that holds true, looking at the box scores of games following these three-game losing streaks.
Josh Tomlin stopped the bleeding the first two times, defeating the Tigers and White Sox on May 3 and May 24, respectively. In those two starts, he combined to throw 14.0 innings with 11 strikeouts no walks and just four earned runs.
After that, it was a mix of just about everyone — Bauer stopped the streak in late May by defeating the Rangers, and again in mid-June with a seven-inning, nine strikeout domination of the White Sox. Danny Salazar was on the mound for the July streak-stopper, but he was far from the reason the Tribe won at four innings with four runs allowed. The final two stops were by Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber.
Combined, Tribe starting pitchers had a 3.19 ERA and a 2.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Good, but not exactly carrying the load in terms of preventing a dreaded four-game losing streak. The real hero in these games was the offense. Indians batters scored 49 runs over these seven stopper games, including the 12-run domination of the Rangers in late August.
This, of course, does not mean the Indians are destined to win the World Series, or even help their odds in a playoff race. But if you have noticed a lack of being angry for long periods of time this season, this is the perfect explanation for it. Every time the sky has fallen in Cleveland it was quickly yanked by up. I may have also just doomed the Indians to be swept by the Tigers in their upcoming four-game series, and I fully accept the blame if it happens.
Streak data collected via the Baseball-Reference Play Index.