The Indians currently have a run differential of -44, causing doubts in many circles as to whether they can continue winning at even a .500 clip over the rest of the season. I decided to see what would happen if some of this team's poor performers would be replaced by league-average players. Some bad players are already off the team, so what happens if we get league-average performance from their replacements? How much do we have to improve in order to have a positive run dirrerential over the remainder of the season and hopefully also win more games than we lose? I'll look mostly at the pitchers.
There are five pitchers who were removed from the team for poor performance: Jeanmar Gomez, Nick Hagadone, Dan Wheeler, Jairo Asencio, and Scott Barnes. They collectively pitched 146.1 innings, with a 6.03 ERA or 98 ER. If I replace them with league-average performers (using average ERA for starters for Gomez's innings and average ERA for relievers for the other four's), the result is 64 earned runs allowed - a difference of 34 runs. Can Zach McAllister, Rafael Perez, Jeremy Accardo, Esmil Rogers, and Cody Allen perform at league average for the next two+ months?
Let's say we can replace Tony Sipp and his 5.52 ERA with a league-average reliever (whether that would be Tony Sipp himself, improved, or someone else, I don't know). He has allowed 19 ER in 31 innings. A league average reliever would have allowed 13, so that's 6 runs closer to 0. Only 4 to go!
Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe, and Josh Tomlin have allowed 178 ER in 305.2 innings, for a 5.24 ERA. If they were league-average, they'd have allowed a collective 142 runs. That's a difference of 36 runs. Add up all of these changes and we'd have a run differential of +32. This is all before making improvements to the offense, which in spite of being 12th in baseball in runs scored, has looked terrible at times.
But what if we don't aim that high? If we don't change Ubaldo, and just replace Tomlin and Lowe, who have collectively allowed 114 runs, then a league-average starter would've allowed 91 runs. That's a difference of -23 and with the other changes would've given us a run differential of +19. And if we don't replace Sipp's 5.52 ERA in this scenario, we still are +13. That puts us right in line with Oakland (+15), Detroit (+13), and Tampa Bay (+4)*.
As for the offense, the Indians have gotten -12.5 wRAA from 3B, -11.5 from LF and -7.3 from 1B. Hopefully they can find a way to improve those spots. Catcher could also improve with a return to form from Carlos Santana. Rumor has it that they are satisfied with Johnny Damon's production this summer, so they may not make a move to improve there - though it seems like a good idea to add a player who could contribute beyond this season (FREE SORI?).
How much can we reasonably expect to improve?
*All of these run differentials are prior to Saturday's games.