The 2016 Cleveland Indians shocked the baseball world by ending the first half of the season with a 52-36 record, sitting atop the American League Central. The Tribe currently sits 6.5 games ahead of a powerful Detroit Tigers team and seven games ahead of the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals. This is a look back at the first half of their season.
Indians 2016 Midseason Report
The entire starting rotation has been one of, if not the strongest in the American League this season. Having several starters that have the ability to throw seven scoreless on any given night can go a long way toward a division title. Danny Salazar has come into form this season, ending the first half with a 10-3 record. Couple that with a 2.75 ERA, 10.1 strikeouts per nine and a 1.175 WHIP and one can easily see he has solidified himself not only an integral cog of the AL Central leaders, but the ace of one of the better pitching staffs in baseball. Salazar certainly could end up in the conversation for the Cy Young Award come season’s end.
It’s hard to find huge disappointments on a first place ballclub. For the 2016 Indians, it has to be catcher Yan Gomes. Gomes has played in 68 games and produced a dismal slash line of .166/.201/.315. This is coming off a 2015 season in which he played less than 100 games due to injury.
The good news for Gomes is backup Chris Gimenez is only hitting .133. There isn’t a huge worry he could lose his job, but if Cleveland is going to make it to the postseason, Gomes is going to have to return to his 2014 form of .278/.313/.472.
Midseason Team MVP
Generally MVP awards go to players (hence Most Valuable Player). There are several players that could have a shot at this award for the Cleveland Indians, but this team requires a bit of thinking outside the box. The Midseason Team MVP for the Tribe is none other than manager Terry Francona. Since Tito took over the team in 2013, the Indians have been over .500 in every season under his watch. In the decade prior, they only had three seasons at .500 or better.
The success Francona experienced in Boston (World Series titles in 2004, 2007) will most definitely help this young Indians team if it reaches October.
What to Watch for in the Second Half
The American League Central is a division that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Chicago White Sox, Royals and Tigers are three teams that all have the ability to rattle off 10-game winning streaks. Health is a variable that nobody can predict, but it will have to swing in favor of Cleveland if they plan on keeping this division lead.
Cleveland does play the Minnesota Twins 13 more times in 2016, but the White Sox, Detroit and Kansas City a combined 25 more times. As long as the Indians win the games they are supposed to win, they could make it to October. Either way, they have little room for error going forward. Strong pitching and timely hitting are great when they are both working at the same time, but that isn’t always the case. This division will no doubt be a fight to the finish.