If you missed it, the Cleveland Indians have been the biggest underachievers in the Majors in 2006. Losers of 3 straight and 8 of their last 10, a team some were predicting for the World Series are now 14 games behind the first place Tigers. If that wasn't a big enough hill to climb, the AL Central also has the defending champion White Sox 12.5 games ahead of them as well. At this point I don't think the Indians will have any cliffhanger opportunities like 2005, as the mountain climber doesn't seem to have any yodel left.
Sure Cleveland came back from a similar deficit in 2005, but this year the White Sox are more talented and experienced. Add to this there was no version of the 2006 Tigers in front of them and it's looks bleak for the Tribe's divisional hopes. Even if one of these AL Central teams falls apart, the Indians have 5 other solid teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, A's, and Rangers) vying for just one Wild Card spot. The Indians are at least 6 games behind each one of these squads in the win column.
As the Baseball Prospectus Annual discussed in its chapter breakdown about the 2005 team, "the Indians finished with the fourth-largest discrepancy between their record in one-run games and non-one run games in Major League history."
The Bill James' Plexiglass Principle generally demonstrates that it's a pretty safe bet that the Indians would be on the plus side of the one-run ledger, after such bad luck in the category during 2005. Well, the Indians are proving to be a strong exception, as they have been even worse, going 4-10 in one-run games so far this season. And if you thought they were just bad in one-run games, they are 3-7 in 2-run games. While the common wisdom among sabermetricans is that managers don't make a big difference in their team's outcome, I think it's time for the Indians to consider getting rid of manager Eric Wedge.
I'm sure some would point to these factors as the big reasons for the Indians poor play.
The starting pitching has been a disappointment. Correct.
The bullpen has been abysmal. Fair enough.
The defense is far from championship quality. No doubt.
Yes, these factors point directly to the Indians failure, but considering the high-quality roster that GM Mark Shapiro has built, something else seems to not be working as well. All 4 years under Wedge, the Indians have underperformed their Pythagorean percentage. Combine this with the team's putrid record in close games and it would seem like their skipper should be the fall-guy.
While the Indians are still a fairly young team and have a strong farm system, the Tigers, White Sox, and Twins look to be competitive clubs for the next couple of seasons as well. Last season, the Indians were statistically the best team in the American League, but fell apart the final week of the season and didn't even make the playoffs. This year should have been their redemption, but instead they already look to be eliminated in June. It's time for the Indians to make a move.
Ken Holtzman for a Day
When's the last time a pitcher had a better overall day than Jon Garland had on Sunday? Garland gave up only one run, in baseball's top scoring park. He gave up just 4 hits over 8 innings and stopped the Reds streak of 16 straight games of having at least one homerun. As impressive as that was, Garland also had a sacrifice bunt and a homerun.
Has anyone ever figured out why the A's start off so poorly and then are able to put together extremely long winning streaks, year after year? I still think the AL West champion will be lucky to win more than 85 games this season, though.
The staff with the best 1-2 starting pitchers? The Twins, with Santana and Liriano. If they get anything out of the 3,4,5 spots, Minnesota will be a playoff contender again in 2007.
I finally watched a whole quarter of a NBA playoff game tonight and was "rewarded" with an overtime bonus. Despite having almost everything one could ask when it comes to drama, I still was left empty. Miami, with a couple Gary Payton exceptions, was basically playing clear-out for Dwyane Wade every time it had the ball. Dallas wasn't much different, with Jason Terry working the isolation, supplemented by only occasional appearances by Dirk Nowitski and Josh Howard.
The league has improved its team play the past couple seasons, greatly benefited by the Phoenix Suns example, but the playoffs continue to be same type of grind it out, foul shot laden basketball. Not helping the NBA excitement level is the broadcasting team of Mike Breen and Hubie Brown. These guys are both solid, but they just have the demeanor and style of a local broadcasting crew. Marv Albert and Doug Collins are still the gold-standard when it comes to NBA broadcasting, with color analysts Steve Kerr and Tom Tolbert both superior to Brown.
With all the bedlam that went on during the game, plus the controversy surrounding the suspensions of Maverick's players, all the ingredients seem to be there for a great NBA Finals. Outside of the brilliant clutch play of Wade there just isn't a lot to be enthusiastic about, unless you are from Miami or Dallas. Hey, but it could be worse. Carolina and Edmonton in the Stanley Cup Finals. I would choose even World Cup (NSFW or NSFH)soccer over that pairing.