The Indians have been officially eliminated from playoff contention. It took until the final Friday of the regular season, which isn't bad, and they're going to follow up a winning record with another winning record for the first time since 2001, which is nice. The gap between the Tribe and the postseason is slim, which means there are a lot of things that, if they'd gone just a little different, would have made the difference.
Awful defense is the first thing that pops to mind, because even average defense would have meant an extra 4 or 5 wins. If the rotation had gotten its act together before August, or if the offense had kept its act together once August began...
Those are big, broad problems, but there are more specific ones too, and a more specific problem I find myself thinking about is the team's almost complete inability to beat Detroit in September, caused in large part by allowing a parade of Tigers around the base paths.
In 2013 the Indians finished only 1 game behind Detroit, which is pretty remarkable, considering they went 4-15 against them. Things were different for much of this season, with the Indians going 7-5 against the Motor City Kitties through the end of August, at which point the Tribe was only 2.5 games back heading into a 4-game set between the two teams in Cleveland.
Corey Kluber had his worst game of the season in Monday's opener. On Tuesday though, the Tribe was ahead in the 9th until Cody Allen gave up a three-run homer, leading to another defeat. The best game of Danny Salazar's career on Wednesday gave the Indians a chance to split the series on Thursday, and that game did reach extra innings, but Josh Tomlin and Bryan Price combined to allow 7 runs in the top of the 11th, and that was that.
A week later the teams began a 3-game set in Detroit. The Indians lost Friday, but were ahead by a run in the 8th inning on Saturday, but Bryan Shaw gave up a two-run homer and the Tigers won. The Indians were then head by a run in the 7th inning on Sunday, but Bryan Shaw gave up another two-run homer and the Tigers won again, sweeping the series.
In their 19 games against one another this year, Detroit outscored the Indians 103-87. The Tribe's 87 runs are a very solid total, representing 4.58 a game, well above their average of 4.08 against all other opponents. Unfortunately, 103 runs is a ton, more than the Indians allowed against any other team and more than Detroit has scored against any other team.
Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez killing the Indians is no surprise, because that's juts what they do, but J.D. Martinez posting the kind of numbers he did was another story. Ian Kinsler also did quite well. Here are some numbers for each of those guys against the Indians in 2014:
Divisional play began in 1969, and so baseball's schedules have looked difference since then (no more playing the same team 22 times). That's also the year the mound was lowered, following the video game pitching stats put up the year before.
- Since 1969 a player has hit 7+ home runs against the Indians in a season 26 times. The sluggers Martinez join Jose Canseco & Mark McGwire (1990 Athletics) and Carlos Pena & Delmon Young (2003 Tigers) as the only teammates to do it in the same season.
- Since 1969 a player has hit 10+ extra-base hits against the Indians 66 times. The 2002 Twins and 2011 Royals are the only teams that had ever had three players do it in the same season, but now this year's Tigers had four.
- Since 1969 a player has had 40+ total bases against the Indians 58 times. No team had ever had three players do it in the same season before though, but again, this year's Tigers had four guys do it, and no one squeaked across that line either, they all had 45+ total bases. Since 1969 there'd never even been four players in all of baseball with 45+ total bases against the Indians, much less all on one team.
- Cabrera, Martinez, and Martinez also become the first trio of players in the divisional era to each post an OPS better than 1.000 in 70+ PA against the Indians.
Here's to hoping that in addition to being the first time we see a group of players on one team hit so well against the Indians, it's also the last time. In the meantime, expect your nightmares to be haunted by Tigers for the next few months.