27 Games of Thrones
Baseball and maxims go together like nudity and award winning HBO Series. "Dance with the girl who brung ya" "It's a long season" "small sample size" etc. The fact is 162 games is a long season and grant plenty of opportunities to feel hot and cold about one's current team, and the plethora of adages help temper or justify certain expectations or evaluations. Given it's size, it's difficult to examine the season in manageable sections in which one can extrapolate useful information. I've heard that "every team wins 54 games and loses 54 games, it's the middle 54 that count." Additionally, I've heard "go .500 on the road and win series at homes, and you make the playoffs." I prefer to break up the season into 6 sections of 27 games. While not quite a clean month per section, this provides a large enough sample to see the effect on the entire season, while being small enough to avoid an overwhelming wall of numbers. As an illustrative point - If a team were to go 15-12 over each 27 game stretch, they would finish with 90 wins and would certainly be involved in division races and wild card discussions. However, if that same team were to win one less game per set, and go 14-13 each section, they finish 84-78 and may be sub .500 as late as September 20. As Tribe fans know, one game here or there can make a huge difference, for in baseball, you either win or you die.
A Song of Ice and Fire
The 2013 Indians live in the extremes. Losing streaks, winning streaks, 2-out scoring, shut-out innings pitched. There seems to be no category either hot or cold that this year's squad hasn't flirted with leading. Their recent tear through the league winning 18 of 22 has been equaled by stretches of 1-7 and 3-10. They have beaten good teams (Detroit, Oakland) and lost to bad teams (Houston, Kansas City, Chicago White Sox). They are in a 25 game stretch now where 10-15 would be acceptable to most of the Tribe fanbase. Equal parts hot and cold, how do the Indians fare when looking at their season in 27 game segments?
Not that bad, it would seem. If I were to tell you the first 27 game stretch covered Opening Day until the second home series with Philadelphia and Minnesota, immediately after losing 3 of 4 to the Royals, how would you think the Tribe did? In the second series of 27 games, it included 4 game series sweeps of Oakland and Seattle, and taking 2 of 3 at Detroit, do you think it was better than the first set?
Record for 1st 27 game stretch - 14-13
Record for 2nd 27 game stretch: 15-12.
That's right, the Indians were one game better in the second set than the first.
Of course, an extra-inning strikeout instead of a hit and the tables turn, but hindsight is usually better than 20/20.
Winter is Coming
As said, the Tribe is now in a 25 game stretch (4-6 so far) against teams that are all above .500 and are among some of the best teams in the league. Given the fact that despite some hot streaks there are some large holes in the rotation and bullpen, it looks like it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. But, were we to look at the upcoming games as part of the next 27 game stretch, a dream of spring remains. For included in this set are games against Minnesota, Kansas City, the White Sox, and Chris Davis and the other eight Baltimore players. After starting 1-1 in the new set (split the past two games with TB), the Indians simply have to win 1 game from the Yankees, Tigers, and Rangers a piece and two from the Nats, Royals, Twins, O's, and White Sox. That would give them a record for the third set of 27 of 14-13. While this is not an easy task, it's certainly realistic and attainable and doesn't require some crazy streak of Mark Reynolds hitting 18 singles in a row.
Sadly, as fun and improved as this team is, I still don't see a playoff team emerging. 2/3 of the season remain and the rotation has been playing about the best anyone could expect, and it still has problems. The lineup is deeper than we've seen since I was in high school, but some days you wonder if they're trying to get to 2 outs as soon as possible so they can start scoring runs. I predicted the ceiling for this team at the beginning of the season was 84 wins (or 14-13 over six sets of games). My tune is changing, but only slightly, and only in the way Cleveland sports fans are all too familiar. A third set record of 14-13 keeps them on pace for 84 wins, and I think they can hit that record for each of the remaining three sets. However, I think they will have another one or two 15-12 spurts which will bring them a tick closer to 90 games - perfectly setting up some heart-crushing September losses. My goal for this year remains for general all-around health so that this off-season can be spent like the last, only this time adding some desperately needed arms so that 2014 will be a time for wolves.
Sorry about that last sentence, I couldn't really find a good Game of Thrones tie-in other than the cancelled title of the
5th 6th 7th book.