The Indians’ injury/ineffectiveness list is getting a little bit ridiculous at this point. The entirety of Wednesday was a summation of the struggles we’ve watched the Tribe deal with all season. Even an incomplete list is simply wild:
- Andrew Miller back on the DL
- Cody Allen somehow the worst reliever in their bullpen
- Outfield in utter disarray, with both the starter and the number one backup center fielder on the DL, and right field just… strange
- Jason Kipnis still not able to hit his way out of a paper bag (maybe it’s changing?)
- Yonder Alonso can’t recapture his amazingness from a year ago
- Catcher as a black hole of offense
- Adam Plutko pressed into service as a regular starter because of rotation woes
- Nobody even talks about Danny Salazar anymore
There’s probably some more stuff I’m missing, but it’s been a blur of misfortune for the Indians this season. And yet, despite it all, they sit with a massive lead in the division, 14 games ahead of the second place Twins as of this writing. The entire season has been about as free of on-field drama as one can be, the only worries and swoons happening in the trainer’s room. It’s the worst kind of good season. This is about as bad as it can get, without getting tragic. Which, in itself, is kind of nice.
The problems are obvious. Right now, some assumed keys to Cleveland’s long run in October are just not there right now. The bullpen is in shambles. The lineup is a bit more top-heavy than one would like. It all looks less then encouraging.
It’s not all bad though. They’re still a pretty competitive team. I don’t think anyone had the Tribe pegged as a front-runner for the championship, and right now they’re certainly not their best. But they’re still a team that can make noise and with a little luck finally grab that elusive trophy. They still have a stacked rotation, some of which can certainly revert to the ‘pen if need be. They still have two of the best players in baseball, and a resurgent Michael Brantley. They still have an elite reliever for those big moments.
It could obviously get much worse. Things we don’t want to consider could befall some of the more important players, or slumps could rear their ugly heads. There are countless things that would elevate this comedy of error and ridiculous bad luck to simple tragedy. And really, that’s where we are, in a throw-your-hands-up-and-laugh, rueful smile sort of situation. They’re dinged and dented up, and probably won’t be fully healthy come October.
But nobody is at 100 percent in the playoffs. Getting close to that is the best you can hope for. And bullpens are silly little things, wrapped up in sample size so much that outside of a handful of pitchers you can’t really tell who is good or not. Just in the past few years we’ve seen Zach McAllister and Dan Otero and Jeff Manship become utterly unhittable for long stretches if not whole seasons, because something clicked for a few months. It’s not something to hang your hat on with the non-Hand types that are healthy in the bullpen at this point, but it’s something to remember. Baseball in October is so weird and unlike the regular season. Adam Cimber could become a hero because he gets three or four ground balls at just the right time.
It’s hard to say “just enjoy this whole silly mess”, because this is stupid. The whole season is stupid. Andrew Miller keeping getting hurt is stupid. The outfield having one not hurt good player is stupid. But hey, it’s just an increasingly obviously pointless regular season. This team, as it stands, going into October will still be fine. Or at least not embarrass themselves. It would just be nice if they were, you know, more healthy, or performing closer to what they’ve shown possible in fits and starts. We’ve still got a month to let things even out, so hope isn’t dead. We just have to wade through the balance of this disappointing, dumb, silly season.