Why the Indians Missed the Playoffs

image.pngLet’s Go Tribe/USA Today Sports

The 2019 MLB season has come to an end. Despite high expectations, some spectacular performances throughout the season, and 93 wins in total, Cleveland will be left out of this year’s postseason. Being that the Tribe have always been my favorite team, it’s worth taking a look at why they missed this year’s postseason.

1) Lack of Key Wins

Throughout most of September, the Indians hung around on the fringe of the Wild Card, but never got the key wins necessary to take one of those two spots. They also made a push for the division, coming from 11 games out in June to take a brief lead in August over eventual division winner Minnesota. In July, the Twins came to Cleveland and won the series. In September, the Twins came to Cleveland up 3.5 games in the division and won the series. The September 14th doubleheader sweep was the final blow in the division race.

1a) Lack of Needed Wins

Cleveland took advantage of teams such as Kansas City and Detroit during the season, winning an unprecedented 18 of 19 games against Detroit. However, they could not take advantage of the lowly Chicago White Sox, going 8-11 against a 72-89 club and failing to win any of the six head-to-head series. Even more disastrous was their record against Oakland and Tampa Bay, the two Wild Card teams playing on Wednesday. The Tribe combined for a 2-11 record against the two teams, including being swept at Tropicana Field over Labor Day weekend. All other games against these teams were in May, a brutal month to watch in which the Indians went 12-17.

2) Key Late-Season Injuries

The Tribe had a very good chance at a playoff spot in August, but injuries to Jose Ramirez, Tyler Naquin, and Jason Kipnis ultimately hurt the offense when they needed it the most. Jose Ramirez had turned his season around in July and August but suffered a broken hamate bone on August 24th and only returned during the final week of the season. Jason Kipnis had improved his average to .245 before being put on the IL on September 16th with the same injury as Ramirez. Tyler Naquin suffered the most difficult injury of the year after a bounce back season in which he hit .288. Naquin ran into the wall at Tropicana Field and tore his ACL on August 30, an injury that ended his season and puts his 2020 status in jeopardy.

3) Pitching Staff Injuries

After just two starts, Mike Clevinger strained his right shoulder and missed two months with the injury. Clevinger went on to have a great year, but missing most of April and May proved costly in the end. Corey Kluber struggled through April, but pitched his last game on May 1st after breaking his wrist and a series of rehab injuries. Lastly, Carlos Carrasco was sadly diagnosed with leukemia in June. He eventually returned to the bullpen in August but ultimately finished with a 5.24 ERA for the season.

4) Offseason Moves to Cut Payroll

Through trades and simply not attempting to resign players, Cleveland chose to cut payroll in the offseason. Two players, in particular, give me headaches as to how talented this team could have been if the Tribe kept them: Michael Brantley and Yandy Diaz. Brantley was already the Indians’ most consistent hitter in 2018, but Houston signed him for $15 million and Brantley proceeded to hit .311 with 22 home runs and 90 RBI. Diaz was traded to Tampa Bay in return for Jake Bauers in the Carlos Santana trade. Bauers hit just .222, even spending time in AAA Columbus. Diaz hit .270 with 14 home runs in 70 games, all while battling injuries throughout the season. Letting Brantley walk and trading a more than promising prospect in Diaz hurt a lot as a fan and hurt the team on the field.

5) The Twins Were That Good

The Minnesota Twins won the AL Central with a record of 101-61. They hit 304 home runs, just one behind this year’s New York Yankees for the all-time record. The Twins, unlike the Indians, were aggressive in the offseason and their strategy paid off with their first trip to the ALDS since 2010.

Other Notes and What to Expect in 2020

There are many other reasons to digest as to why the Indians will not be playing in October but these are the main ones I saw. Ultimately, there are many positives to take away from the 2019 season, but Cleveland came up just a bit short, a narrative that sticks painfully true to lifelong Tribe fans.

Despite the disappointing end to 2019, the Tribe have a lot to look forward to in 2020. For starters, the starting pitching staff will have a ton of options with Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac each stepping in and playing a huge role with the starting pitching. Corey Kluber will be back and Carlos Carrasco will have hopefull recovered enough from his cancer treatment. Lindor, Santana, Ramirez and Franmil Reyes will make up a solid hitting core next season. Oscar Mercado had a strong rookie year and shows a lot of promise for the future. Daniel Johnson and Nolan Jones are prospects to watch in 2020.

On a sadder note, 2019 is likely the end for one of the longest-tenured Indians, Jason Kipnis. Kipnis first played for Cleveland in 2011. He made the American League All-Star teams in 2013 and 2015 and hit a home run in game 4 of the 2016 World Series at Wrigley Field. The Indians are not likely to resign Kipnis and I wish him the best and thank him for his time in Cleveland.

That’s a wrap on the 2019 Cleveland Indians. In the meantime, enjoy Shane Bieber striking out the side at the All-Star game.

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