On August 15th of 2004, two intrepid young maintenance workers in southern Ohio were
shirking their duties working really hard, burning picnic tables and listening to a scratchy broadcast that carried the voice of Tom Hamilton from the corner of Carnegie and Ontario all the way to Wilmington, Oh. One of the young men got injured goofing off working really hard, which led to both of them lying in the grass, listening hopefully as Casey Blake singled in the eighth and one of the few sellouts at the Jake that year made some serious noise, certain the team was about to take the division lead.
Fast forward nine years and Joel and I still work together on occasion, listen to the Indians whenever we can, and muse frequently about our team. Both of us flashed back to 2004 during this recent streak. That Indians team lost that particular game in the 10th and dumped 16 out of the next 20 games to complete the collapse. Coming in to that game, they'd won 10 of 12 and closed from eight games back to within one.
The reason I mention this is because both Joel and I flashed back to 2004 during the run this year. Both teams dipped well below .500 early in the year before charging back into the race, both teams started to put things together in late July/early August, and both teams played in Cleveland (sorry, lost momentum there). Here then, is the 2004 team against this 2013 team in some rudimentary statistical measures.
2004: OPS+ 111, ERA+ 91, run differential (Aug 14th) +33
2013: OPS+ 113, ERA+ 94, run differential (now) +56
Both teams had a shortstop who hit somewhere around league average (Cabrera OPS+ of 98, Vizquel of 98), a catcher that absolutely raked, and an outfield that hit decently but fielded well. This team is certainly deeper than that one, but lacks the offensive punch in the starting nine, relying heavily on Santana and Kip to make up for a couple of holes.
The 2004 team had an utterly dreadful rotation, featuring Jason Davis for 19 starts and ERA+ 80 tossing Cliff Lee for 30 more. Scott Elarton outpitched Kluber and Jiminez, but the top three of this year's rotation are slightly more solid bet. Bullpens are bullpens, but this iteration is probably slightly worse thanks to the efforts of David Riske and Bob Howry.
This is mostly just musing in public form, and not to be taken as anything more than just a few very surface numbers being thrown together. I'm not predicting another collapse, but the teams are built eerily similar. Maybe Francona over Wedge will make the difference.