The Cleveland Indians wrapped up their last home series of the season by dropping two-of-three against the Chicago White Sox. They failed to clinch the American League Central, despite some help from the Kansas City Royals, but they still have a 99 percent chance of completing that goal before the season ends.
One thing the Indians cannot do now is match their franchise-best mark for wins at home. That title still belongs to the 1995 Indians.
The 1995 Indians and the 2016 Indians are very similar teams at home
When Sunday’s 0-3 loss to the White Sox hit the books, it officially ended the Indians’ home season. They finished the year 53-28 at Progressive Field, tied with only the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second-best home record behind the Chicago Cubs’ ridiculous 57-24 mark at home.
The Indians’ best season at home — whether you count home as Progressive Field, Jacob’s Field, Cleveland Stadium, or League Park — remains with the 1995 Indians. That incredible Tribe squad, who made it to the World Series then nothing else happened let’s not talk about it, was 54-18 at home. Of course, they were also great on the road, and just great all-around, finishing the season with 100 wins.
Although they failed to reach the historic 54 wins at home, the 2016 Indians have a lot to be proud of at home this season. The finished with the 10th-highest sOPS+ (OPS relative to the rest of the league’s OPS at home) tied with that 1995 teams’ 120 sOPS+. Both the 2016 Indians and the 1995 Indians finished with 99 home runs at home, as well, although the ‘95 team played a strike-shortened 72 games at home.
The 2016 Indians’ 452 runs scored at home was the most since 2000 when the 90-72 Indians led by the last vestiges of the great ‘90s teams plated 493 runs.
The biggest difference between the 1995 Indians and the 2016 Indians at home is the most depressing — attendance. The Indians’ incredible streak of 455 consecutive sold out games began on June 12, 1995 and lasted until April 4, 2001. According to Baseball Almanac, the Indians average attendance never dropped below 39,000 in that span. In 1995 alone, they averaged 39,483. It’s quite different now, of course. The Indians would kill for two consecutive sellouts, let alone 455 of them — they finished 2016 with an average attendance of 19,650, third-lowest in the majors.
Individually, Tyler Naquin has led the Indians at Progressive Field in 2016. Both in terms of wRC+ (162), and huge, season-changing moments such as his inside-the-park game winner against the Toronto Blue Jays. Jose Ramirez is not far behind with a 155 wRC+. Twenty-five of Rajai Davis’ 41 stolen bases have come at home, as well. Mike Napoli has hit 22 balls out of Progressive Field, Carlos Santana 20. Hell, even Michael Brantley, who played a grand total of 11 games this season, was considerably better in Cleveland, going 7-for-20 with a double and six runs batted in.
The Indians have just found some kind of mojo at home this season.
Playing on the road could spell trouble in October
Outside of Progressive Field has been a totally different story for the Tribe. They sit at 37-37 currently, with seven more road games left to play. Napoli has been abysmal away from home, for instance. His 12 home runs are nice, but he has struck out 114 (!!) times on the road while slashing .204/.276/.383. Of Indians batters with at least 100 plate appearances on the road, only four have wRC+’s over 100: Lonnie Chisenhall (101), Jason Kipnis (103), Tyler Naquin (115), and Carlos Santana (120).
Home field advantage or not, the Indians are going to need to be able to win on the road, whether they play three or four games away from Cleveland in a given series — they need to find a way. And right now, it’s not looking like they will be able to nail down home field advantage for the entire playoffs. The Boston Red Sox are absolutely on fire right now, winning their last 11 games in a row and tying the Texas Rangers at 92-64.
The Indians’ best bet will be to keep winning, have the Rangers come back down to earth, and host them in Cleveland for the ALDS. Catching the Red Sox seems impossible at this point. But, as the brilliant baseball mind of Brad Pitt informed us in Moneyball, the playoffs are a crapshoot. Maybe something crazy can happen and the Wild Card team can knock off the Red Sox in a three-game series to ensure the Indians play more games at home than away in the playoffs.