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75 Years and Counting: The Story of the 1985 Cleveland Indians

A weird year

Cleveland Indians

The 1985 Cleveland Indians should not have lost 102 games. Pythagoras suggests that with their 729:861 run differential they should have been more like 69-93. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story. 729 is actually quite a few runs, in fact it’s 31 more than the 92-win 2022 team scored. Their offense was actually solid, hovering right around league average. Unfortunately the best offense in the league was whoever Cleveland was playing that night as they allowed 861 runs, 22 more than the league leading Yankees scored that year and 43 more than the Mariners gave up as the second worst pitching team in baseball. Also in sticking with the 2022 comparison it was 230 more runs than the ‘22 team allowed. Suffice it to say, their pitching STUNK.

But here’s the good news

Joe Carter emerged as a legitimate star. He got off to a slow start, hitting only .232 with 6 home runs in the first half of 1985 but he caught fire in the second half, hitting .294/.325/.472 with 9 home runs and 14 stolen bases in the last 70 games of the year, including a scorching hot month of September that saw him hit 7 home runs, steal 8 bases, and slash .349/.362/.583

The 85 Indians had all of the trappings of a team that couldn’t get an out to save their lives. They were an abysmal 14-29 in one run games and 17-27 in games decided by 5 or more runs. Simply put, they didn’t get many leads, but gave up a lot of them too.

It’s remarkable that manager Pat Corrales kept his job through the season after a 60-102 finish, especially considering how in both of the years he’d managed the team had underperformed expectations. But, Corrales would get one more year and led the club to an incredibly encouraging 1986 season that we’ll discuss in more detail tomorrow.