April 17, 2014

Nick Swisher and Kenny Lofton are both right in MLB playoff debate

Nick Swisher Kenny Lofton Rocky 3

The good news is that the Cleveland Indians are coming off a season in which they made the playoffs! The bad news is that one of the most popular Indians of the past 20 years not only looked to invalidate that in the press this off-season, but might have alienated himself from these new Cleveland Indians in the process. Anthony Castrovince uncovered the tale of playoffs, current Indians leader Nick Swisher and the archetype Cleveland Indians center fielder, Kenny Lofton and it reads a bit ugly for someone like me who always wants everyone to get along. The thought of Swisher and Lofton being at odds when the Indians seem set on potentially doing something good in this new Terry Francona era makes me sad. It’s especially sad to me when I think they’re both right in their own way. [Read more...]

The Indians fan who was kicked out for standing

Indians Panorama Shot 600At the Cleveland Indians Wild Card game last Wednesday night, one Tribe fan was kicked out for standing up during the game.

I’m sure that’s the story that one fan has been telling to anyone who was willing to listen since he was removed from Progressive File late into the Wild Card loss. He’ll also likely be trying to force people to watch the cell phone video footage he took of the police officer who told him to sit down in the first place.

“Can you believe that?” he’ll say. “A cop telling me to sit down at a playoff baseball game!?!? It’s the playoffs!” He’ll feel bolstered by his buddies who will tell him he’s right. They’ll tell him that as a paying customer, if he wants to stand up, he’s within his rights! And for a police officer sitting on the field to intervene in his standing to watch? Well, that’s just garbage.

He would be right, too… if that’s how it went down. I was there sitting close by, so I can tell you what really happened. I’ve thought a lot about this, so I figured I would tell my version of the story. [Read more...]

Starting rotation an unsolved long-term mystery for Indians

ubaldo twinsWhat a season for Cleveland Indians starters. After posting the American League’s 13th best staff ERA back in 2012, the Tribe turned it around magically this year en route to the playoffs, jumping all the way to the AL’s sixth best ERA.

Not many could have predicted that success, probably not even much-applauded pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Yet, after the team’s season ended abruptly last week, it’s worth noting that the composition of the 2014 rotation is now up in the air.

There are two likely-to-be high-priced free agents, one impending free agent after next year and a collection of still-yet-unproven youngsters and inexperienced veterans. Who will step up? What will the rotation look like? What moves are necessary?

Heading into 2013, it was assumed that the Indians would pick up a starter on the free agent market. They did so in the form of $7 million for Brett Myers, but that proved to be a disaster: Myers actually managed to have a -0.6 WAR in just 21.1 innings pitched.

With the below list, I count five likely starters for the Tribe as they begin the season: Masterson, Jimenez/Kazmir, Salazar, Kluber and McAllister. That would be maintaining the same list as this season, provided they can re-sign one of the two free agents.

But Trevor Bauer has to get consistent MLB duty at some point. What will the long-term status be of Carlos Carrasco or Josh Tomlin? Is there anyone else in the minors? And is it actually plausible for the team to re-sign just one of the two free agents? Let’s go name by name.

 

Justin Masterson
Turns 29 in March
Made $5.69 mil in 2013; likely to be $8-10 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2014 season

The de facto team ace is likely to return to starting duties for 2014. He had success out of the bullpen down the stretch, but that was due to his return from injury. The biggest long-term question mark is whether the Indians will be able to afford him past next year. He’s set to make a nice raise through arbitration.

Ubaldo Jimenez
Turns 30 in January
Made $5.75 mil in 2013; likely to receive $10+ mil offer
Free agent eligibility after 2013 season

Jimenez (finally) pitched like an ace over the last few months of the season. That will only make him more difficult to keep in a Tribe uniform. Some will say Jimenez owes the Indians front office for turning his career around, but unfortunately, that’s not how the open markets operate. Assuming he wants it, he’ll get at least four years and $50 million elsewhere.

Scott Kazmir
Turns 30 in January
Made league min. in 2013; likely to receive $6-8 mil offer
Free agent eligibility after 2013 season

The more affordable free agent option for the Indians would be Kazmir. He was a reclamation project this season, signing a deal just to join for spring training before making 29 starts and striking out 162. He’s not an ace, but a guy most organizations would love to have as a strikeout-prone lefty. My guess: $15 million over two years to stay in Cleveland.

Corey Kluber
Turns 28 in April
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

As we discussed in Friday’s roundtable, the development of these next two starters are key for 2014. Kluber was a big surprise this season, jumping into the rotation and dominating for three months. But an August injury set him back to end the year. Indians have to hope he can recover that success and stay in the rotation.

Zach McAllister
Turns 26 in December
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

Two full seasons, 46 starts, ERA of 3.99. Another impressive yet relatively inexperienced starter, McAllister also wasn’t great down the stretch. He wasn’t the same pitcher after a six-week injury absence in June and July. He seems to be a fairly reliable No. 4 or No. 5 starter, but won’t be a huge difference marker.

Danny Salazar
Turns 24 in January
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

The up-and-coming Salazar supplanted the guy below as the team’s best pitching prospect. He went from Double-A prospect to playoff game starter in one season, just like 1997’s Jaret Wright. Hopefully Salazar’s next few years are brighter however, thanks to the Indians’ watchful eye throughout the season. No questions asked, just let him go full throttle now.

Trevor Bauer
Turns 23 in January
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

Remember this guy? The perhaps too-eccentric-or-maybe-ground-breaking prospect? He had a 5.29 ERA in four Cleveland starts and a disappointing 4.15 ERA in 22 starts for Columbus. The statistics are brutal: 73 walks, 106 strikeouts and 119 hits in 121.1 innings pitched. Those are Triple-A No. 5 starter stats. I’d assume he stays in Columbus to start 2014. He’s not ready yet.

Carlos Carrasco
Turns 27 in March
Made $0.5 mil in 2013; likely to be $1 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2016 season

All the evidence you need: 9.00 ERA in seven starts, 1.32 ERA in eight relief appearances. With the likely departure of Joe Smith out of the pen, Carrasco can slip into a long-term long-relief role and perhaps some sixth-inning duties. That will keep his cost low and perhaps harness his innate strikeout ability.

Josh Tomlin
Turns 29 in October
Made $0.5 mil in 2013; likely to be $1 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2016 season

The Little Cowboy appeared in only one Cleveland game this season as he recovered from August 2012 Tommy John surgery. He’ll have the offseason to fully recover, potentially returning into a bullpen role as well. It’s also possible that he doesn’t return to Cleveland, considering the lack of available innings.

 

Conclusion: So there you go, nine possible starters and a whole lot of questions still yet unanswered. I’m sure there will be more discussions on available free agent starters over the coming months, just like we had last season. Almost all of these players have had long-ish periods of major league success. Now it’s just a matter of money and composition as 2014 preparation begins soon.

As I shared earlier in the week, my optimism isn’t high. Jimenez’s emergence was a key reason for Cleveland clinching a playoff spot; my odds are probably 75-80% that he’s elsewhere next season. Kazmir would be a nice returning candidate, but who knows how much his value is right now. Then, Masterson’s upcoming availability also casts into doubt how much the Indians are willing to break the bank.

In the end, Bauer and Salazar have to develop as future leaders of a rotation. If that can happen, which certainly is a possibility, then the Indians are in much better shape with a back-end led by Kluber and McAllister. But the young guys could need to step up soon.

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfel

While We’re Waiting… Can Tribe afford 2014 improvements?

“While We’re Waiting” serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Continuing the series on building a Tribe winner in 2014. As I’ve shared, the payroll math isn’t easy: “It’s all about the money. It’s always about the money. In the modern era of sports, no two statements are truer. They especially are true with the Cleveland Indians, an organization that is dedicated to spending what they make, but not running themselves into the red. … In essence, the Indians spent $86.85 million to build the 2013 team. What the 2014 payroll will be remains to be seen, but Indians general manager Chris Antonetti might find himself in a precarious position this winter when consulting his Tribenomics to construct and improve the team for next season.” [Mike Brandyberry/Did The Tribe Win Last Night?] [Read more...]

‘Twas the night after Wild Card… A WFNY poem

Twas the night after Wid Card
and all round the dish,
not a player was stirring
not even a Swish

The jerseys were hung
by the lockers with care
in hope that a pennant
soon would be there

The children were wiped out
all dressed in their red
while visions of RBI
danced in their heads

With ma in her jersey
and I in my cap,
had just woken up
from a short autumn nap

When out on the lawn
there arose such a clatter,
with runners on base
we hoped for a batter

Up from our seats
we cheered with a crash,
but runners were stranded
without one single bash

The moon on the breast
of the cool morning dew
gave lustre to blog posts
and season reviews

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
The Goon Squad and Tito with some chicken and beer

The little old manager
so lively and slick,
pointed out where we started
and how we got here so quick

For the playoffs were real
with just a few stars,
we filled up Progressive
but we didn’t go far

Now Kipness! Now Lonnie! Now Swisher and Masty
On Raburn! On Carlos! On Yan! and On Brantley!

To the top of the Scoreboard, to the top of wall.
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all.

But come back next season
with a hunger and drive,
to bring back the playoffs,
and win one this time.

A giant WFNY high-five to Ryan MacRaild for the submission.

The Diff: Playoff stats research for the Cleveland Indians

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I recapped some stats from the Indians’ turnaround 2013 regular season. Today, I’m taking stats research questions from my WFNY colleagues with the Wild Card game tonight.

The Diff

Kirk: “How about how often the best team wins it all in baseball? Wild card vs. top division winner success.”

That’s a great question, Kirk. This week, I was planning to write about MLB payrolls, but then realized that was too depressing of a topic. If payrolls don’t matter anyway, then have the low-to-medium-sized payroll Indians struggled for much of the last decade? Either way, my answer to this: The MLB playoffs are an absolute crap-shoot, even despite the incredible payroll imbalance. [Read more...]

Tuesday’s best tweets about the Indians AL Wild Card game

With the Indians hosting the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at Progressive Field, I thought it was worthwhile to parse through all of the best pictures on Twitter on Tuesday to share with you on the site. Here, without further bantering, are my favorite 13 best tweets (almost all pictures) from all separate accounts during the day on Tuesday, all about prepping for today’s big AL Wild Card showdown.

This should be a nice bonus! Don’t forget about these, tweeps. [Read more...]

When a Win is more than a Win

Jason GiambiThrough the course of a baseball season, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the ebbs and flows and rants and raves of each marginal win and losses. In one corner, we have The 162-Game Season; it hails from The Early 1960s and is the long-standing pastime through which hardcore baseball fans consume the triumphs and tribulations of their favorite teams. In the other corner, the three-man team of Social Media, its more gregarious brother Sports Talk Radio, and their cousin Instant Reaction. Their origin is unknown, but it’s widely assumed they were all conceived in the back seat of a Pinto after a hot date between Click-happy Editor and Rating-hungry Program Director. Even the cousin.

With all 162 games in the Pinto’s rear view mirror, and two days off before the first pitch of the American League Wild Card game in Cleveland, it’s time to exhale and take a look back at how we got here—how we got to a place of leverage, doing so by the margin of one single game. A win is a win, but find me a fan who reacted to the Jason Giambi walk-off home run from a week ago in the same fashion they did when the Tribe beat the Phillies by six runs in the very middle of May. Sure, the Giambi walk-off is still very fresh in our minds, but one could pinpoint any one of the 11 walk-off wins as crucial—the Jason Kipnis infield single scoring Drew Stubbs, leading to a 2-1 win over the Washington Nationals still sticks out. Or the botched-but-fortunate home run call against the Oakland Athletics. Or Mike Aviles’ ninth-inning grand slam in Detroit. Or the 1-0 hard-fought win over Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers wherein the only run was scored in the first inning thanks to a lead-off home run from Michael Bourn. Or…

“It’s like the culmination of everything that you’ve gone through, all the ups and downs,” said Terry Francona, the man largely credited with the epic turnaround. “You see guys from different countries, different upbringings, and they’re jumping on the pile and it’s just pure joy.” [Read more...]

WE DID IT!

Nick SwisherFor weeks, when implosion after implosion happened……When the bats couldn’t be colder if they were naked in Alaska….When the bullpen went into their slide….when Corey Kluber got hurt….when Detroit treated them like their personal pinata….when Justin Masterson got hurt….I tried to tell you all, wait until September. Just wait. Big things will happen. Nick Swisher, one of the veteran leaders of this now 92-win bunch, told the media this weekend that his team shouldn’t have to apologize for anything. And he was right.

“As a direct quote to everybody else, no one was complaining about the schedule when we lost 94 games last year,” said Swisher. “That’s enough of that schedule stuff for real. No one was talking about the scheduling when we were playing the Yankees, Boston and Detroit. If everybody feels that way, make it an even schedule. Let everybody play everybody the same amount of times so no one can complain about it.” [Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Indians playoff odds before the weekend

It’s officially now a three-team race for the two American League Wild Card spots. With the recent hot streaks by the Rays, Indians and Rangers, all the other would-be contenders have been left in the dust. There are now three games left in the regular season to decide what’s next.

Looking back in the past, here are the days I’ve updated the playoff odds here at WFNY: Sept. 7, Sept. 15, Sept. 16 and Sept. 23. I also featured how the different formulas are composed back in The Diff on Sept. 18. The website Cool Standings, linked below, has some fantastic historical data, too.

Baseball Prospectus: (link)
Rays — 97.8%, 91.7-70.3 final record
Indians — 67.1%, 90.6-71.4 final record
Rangers — 35.2%, 89.7-72.3 final record

FanGraphs: (link)
Rays — 97.2%, 91.8-70.2 final record
Indians — 81.5%, 90.7-71.3 final record
Rangers — 21.3%, 89.6-72.4 final record

Cool Standings (link)
Rays — 94.8%, 91.6-70.4 final record
Indians — 85.8%, 91.0-71.0 final record
Rangers — 19.4%, 89.6-72.4 final record

At first, I was a little surprised to see the Rays having 95-plus percent odds. Then I remembered: Oh, they have a two-game lead over the Rangers and a tie still gets them into post-regular season baseball. The only situation in which Tampa Bay misses out entirely: If they get swept, Texas sweeps and the Indians win at least two, as well. The odds are that, then, are probably close to 5 percent. Makes more sense.

As I’ve shared many times, Baseball Prospectus is the most pessimistic because it continues to rely heavily upon the preseason predictions from the PECOTA system. So the Indians-Twins matchup isn’t as much as a mismatch as this season has indicated on run differential, which is the sole influence in the Cool Standings’ formula. FanGraphs uses a hybrid of both approaches to come up with its odds.

MLB recently re-announced their tiebreaker policy for the American League Wild Card spots. Kirk wrote about the tiebreaker situations a few days back. The Indians formally opted to be “Club A” in the case of a three-way tie for the two spots, meaning they’d host a game in Cleveland on Monday for the right to play in Wednesday’s actual Wild Card game. A possible second tiebreaker game would occur on Tuesday.

[Related: Indians 6 Twins 5: Wahoos win again, but closer problem rears its ugly head]

Closer Jeopardy: Who’s the man for the Indians now?

Josmil Pinto, Chris PerezIt’s not like many fans didn’t see this coming, right? Perhaps not the 89-70 record, but maybe the Chris Perez demise?

Here we are. Three games left in the regular season. The Cleveland Indians are on the verge of the playoffs and, it appears that with last night’s performance, Perez might be out of a closer’s job. Heck, he nearly volunteered it up with an “I don’t want to cost us games” statement, per Terry Francona in his post-game press conference.

So what’s next? Playoffs are on the horizon and it’s fairly unprecedented for a contending team to drop their allegiance to their designated **ninth-inning win-or-die guy** suddenly after game 159. Let’s review all of the options available for Francona and the Tribe as we head into this incredibly dramatic final weekend.

The Hot One: Bryan Shaw
Season stats: 7-3 record, 3.24 ERA, 70 games, 75.0 IP, 60 H, 28 BB, 73 K [Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Minnesota Twins series preview

To finish the regular season, your Cleveland Indians (88-70) head off to dreaded Target Field to take on the struggling Minnesota Twins (66-92). To begin the year, the Twins were one of the more surprising teams in the American League; that hasn’t been the case for the last three months.

Overall, the Indians are just 14-19 (.424) at Target Field, which opened as the new home for the Twins in 2010. Obviously that includes last year’s pretty bad record anywhere Cleveland took the field. I wrote more about the team’s struggles in Minnesota after the July 20 game; the Indians have won three of their last four at the stadium since then.

After beginning the year 33-36 (.478), the Twins have regressed mightily. They’re just 33-56 (.371) dating back to June 21, which also was the start of a series against the streaky Tribe. Over these last 89 games, Minnesota has the second-worst record in baseball and the worst offense in the American League (3.48 runs/game).

Among qualified players over this bad stretch, there are only two Minnesota batters with .710+ OPS marks: now-concussed All-Star Joe Mauer (.844) and mediocre starter Brian Dozier (.776). After that, it’s a hodge-podge assortment of up-and-coming youngsters (like Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and Josmil Pinto) and peculiar-fit veterans (led by underperforming near-Indian Josh Willingham).

On the pitching side, you may have heard about the Twins’ odd inability to strike out opposing batters: just 4.90 K/9. For contrast, Cleveland starters have a 8.45 K/9 ratio, second best in baseball. FanGraphs had a phenomenal article about the subject in mid-August. Heck, they’re not just bad at striking out batters; Minnesota’s pitching just ain’t very good.

Tonight’s starter for the Twins is soft-tossing lefty Andrew Albers, a 27-year-old non-prospect Saskatchewan native who two-hit the Indians back on Aug. 12. Since then, Albers is 0-4 in seven starts with a 5.84 ERA. All three of Minnesota’s first three starters in this series have less than 100 career innings pitched. The series finale starter is expected to be veteran Mike Pelfrey, a tall veteran righty with a solid-yet-unspectacular 4.48 career ERA.

[Related: Indians 7, White Sox 2: On Believing, Not Stopping]

Debating Chris Perez’s closer role – Cleveland Indians Roundtable

Shortly after last night’s incredible ninth-inning comeback, former WFNY weekend man Brendan Porath nudged the WFNY staff: Let’s do a roundtable about Chris Perez. So here we are, again, talking about the controversial closer’s role for the rest of 2013. Share your takes in the comments.

WFNY_roundtable

Brendan: So, Jason Giambi delivered one of the most dramatic and enjoyable wins in Indians franchise history. But it promptly overshadowed the continuing troubles with Chris Perez — the Tribe’s shaky (is what we’ll call it) closer. Next time, the stakes may be higher and we can’t repeatedly count on old Jacobs Field magic when there may be other options. [Read more...]

The Diff: Reviewing stats on the surprising 2013 Indians

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote on the varying playoff odds formulations. This week, I’m revisiting many of my stats comments about the Tribe in 2013.

The Diff

Today is Sept. 25 and the Cleveland Indians have over 80 percent odds of making the American League playoffs. Yes, that’s likely as one of two Wild Card teams, but all that matters is just making it into the postseason. Dating back to the advent of the Wild Card system in 1994, home teams are only 316-271 (.538) in the playoffs. That means it’s still very much an incredible toss-up in the probable one-game playoff that would take place one week from today, regardless of location. [Read more...]

“Mission October” a welcomed break from the norm

20130923-205914.jpg

You may not believe this, but there was a nationally televised program wherein a Cleveland professional sports franchise was the subject, and it was littered with positive news and notes from front to back. I know, even I was shocked to have heard. In a day where NFL Network’s “Cleveland ’95″ is soon to be followed up by an ESPN 30 for 30 on the decades of lakefront misery, MLB Productions provided Cleveland fans with a bit of a deviation from what they’ve become used to with their 30-minute episode of “Mission October: Cleveland Indians” as the Tribe, and the city, prepare for a hopeful run at the 2013 postseason.

[Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Indians’ playoff odds over 70 percent

With six games left in the season, the Cleveland Indians have reached a new high watermark in their playoff odds. The three major sites — Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and Cool Standings — all agree that the team’s odds are more than 70 percent.

A week ago, after the previous four-game sweep over the Chicago White Sox, the team’s playoff probability was finally creeping up over 50 percent. With another four-game sweep in hand, the odds jumped up even more over the weekend.

Here’s where each site stands right now:

Baseball Prospectus: (link)
Rays — 90.1%, 89.9-72.1 final record
Indians — 72.8%, 89.4-72.6 final record
Rangers — 35.0%, 88.1-73.9 final record
Other wild card contenders — 2.1% (best: KCR 85.6 wins)

FanGraphs: (link)
Rays — 87.4%, 89.9-72.1 final record
Indians — 80.3%, 89.4-72.6 final record
Rangers — 29.9%, 80.0-74.0 final record
Other wild card contenders — 2.4% (best: KCR 85.7 wins)

Cool Standings (link)
Rays — 77.4%, 89.5-72.5 final record
Indians — 87.6%, 89.9-72.1 final record
Rangers — 28.6%, 87.9-74.1 final record
Other wild card contenders — 6.3% (best: KCR 86.5 wins)

Last week in The Diff, I featured how these different projection systems operate and why Cool Standings has been the most favorable for the Indians of late. In a nutshell, it’s because that season uses run differential from 2013 alone; the others incorporate preseason predictions from their complicated mathematical systems.

There’s also a very high probability of some ties, as FanGraphs’ site shows most prominently. Kirk had a good breakdown earlier today of what that could mean for the Indians and where they stand if tied with the Rays or Rangers for one (or more) of the wild card spots.

It should be a pretty fascinating race to the finish. The sites see Cleveland winning between 3.4-3.9 of their final six games against two of the AL’s worst teams — Chicago and Minnesota. Winning five mathematically guarantees at least a tiebreaker; winning four should just about do it as well.

[Related: Tribe Weekend Recap: Sweep of Astros has Tribe on cusp of playoffs]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Sweep of Astros has Tribe on cusp of playoffs

Michael BrantleyYou can only play who is on the schedule. Playing those games is one thing. Knowing that you MUST win said games and then actually going out and doing so isn’t easy. Its late September and every single game means so much to your Cleveland Indians, especially when you consider the cluster of teams that are fighting for the two AL Wild Card spots. Everyone knows about the schedule advantage the Indians had with 10 games remaining. But playing them and winning them are two different things. That is what makes this weekend’s four-game sweep of the Houston Astros so impressive.

I was at Thursday night’s 2-1 11-inning win. Every time Houston manager Bo Porter went to his bullpen or his bench or heck, every time I looked up at the lineup, I could not believe what I was seeing. This has to be the worst roster I have ever seen in my 37 years of watching baseball. Anyone who is an Astros die hard or season ticket holder should be appalled by this garbage product ownership and the front office is putting on the field. Trevor Crowe hit third on Thursday night and fifth on Friday night. Doesn’t that tell you all you need to know? Nobody in their lineup scares you. Nobody. Sure, they have Chris Carter and his 29 homers, but he also makes Mark Reynolds look like an on-base percentage machine. He has struck out 204 times this season. The rotation is devoid of an ace and while it has some quality young arms, you also have guys like Eric Bedard toiling in it. After seeing them Thursday night, the Indians had little excuse not to finish off the four game sweep. [Read more...]

Three-Way Wild Card Tiebreaker Scenario

With the close wild-card battle going on between the Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers heading down the stretch, an interesting scenario is emerging as a very real possibility. Tampa Bay and Texas finished their season series earlier this week. With that, should all three teams have identical records after Game #162, the following tiebreaker scenario between the Rays, Indians, and Rangers has solidified.

The first tiebreaker to determine how to proceed is head-to-head record between the three teams. Here are those results.

Cleveland has a 7-5 record (5-1 v. TEX, 2-4 v. TB)
Tampa Bay has a 7-6 record (4-2 v. CLE, 3-4 v. TEX)
Texas has a 5-8 record, (4-3 v. TB, 1-5 v. CLE)

As a result of having the highest winning percentage, Cleveland becomes “Team A”. They would host a wild card play-in game against Team B, Tampa Bay.

The winner of this game would become Wild Card #1 and host the AL Wild Card game on Wednesday, October 2nd. The loser would travel to Texas and play on Tuesday, October 1st. The winner of that game would become Wild Card #2 and travel to either Cleveland or Tampa the next day. The loser would go home.

The Indians currently lead Texas for the second wild card by 1.5 games and trail Tampa Bay for the first wild card spot by one-half game. Cleveland would lose a tiebreaker for hosting rights with Tampa and travel south for the wild card game. In turn, they would win a tiebreaker with Texas for hosting rights.

Cleveland is off today, while Tampa finishes its series with Baltimore and Texas opens a series with the Astros.

WFNY Stats & Info: Indians’ historic record vs. .500 or less teams

With last night’s rain-shortened victory that moved the Indians into a wild card spot, they improved their already incredible record against teams with .500 or worse records.

On the season, the Indians are now 48-18 (.727) against such teams. That is by far the best record in baseball — second place is Tampa Bay at 43-20 (.689).

Among the teams that Cleveland has dominated this year, the most noteworthy is the Chicago White Sox (15-2), followed by a number of other 4-1 or 5-2 records against mediocre or worse teams.

Dating back to 1986, here are the best records in this split in MLB:
1 NYY, 1998, 76-22 (.776)
2 CLE, 1995, 74-22 (.771)
3 SEA, 2001, 68-23 (.747)
4 ATL, 1997, 65-23 (.739)
5 ANA, 2002, 67-24 (.736)
5 OAK, 2002, 64-23 (.736)
7 BOS, 2008, 51-19 (.729)
8 LAD, 1988, 48-18 (.727)
8 CLE, 2013, 48-18 (.727)
10 NYM, 1986, 78-30 (.722)

For Cleveland, it’s their best such record following the 1954 season (89-21, .809), the 1956 season (51-15, .773), the 1995 season (74-22, .771), the 1932 season (48-17, .738) and the 1939 season (48-18, .727).

It’s notable that the Tribe does have a surprisingly low number of games against such teams, although they finish the season with eight more such games. That low number could be a factor of the American League this season, the team’s favorable second and a number of teams beating up on the Houston Astros and the AL Central having three solid teams (including Detroit and Kansas City).

Of course, since the Indians are only 84-70 on the season, that would mean their record against plus-.500 teams isn’t that great. It’s 36-52 (.409), which ranks 21st in baseball.

However, there have been playoff teams — including two World Series champions — in the wild card era with similar-ish records against good teams. So while it might be a factor during the playoffs, it perhaps might not.

[Related: Indians nip Astros 2-1, move into Wild Card lead]

WFNY Stats & Info: Ubaldo Jimenez emerging as Indians ace

Yet again, I can’t help but share how amazing Ubaldo Jimenez has been for the Indians over a nearly five-month span.

First, in early June, I wrote about some of his best starts in a Cleveland uniform. Then, again in a stats headline, I wrote about his incredible continued improvement here in early September. Man, did Jimenez remain hot again last night against the Houston Astros.

And, consider: While the Houston Astros are now 51-102 and MLB’s worst team in nearly 60 years against .500+ squads (tweet), their offense isn’t that bad. Entering Thursday, Houston’s 3.92 runs per game ranked fourth-worst and .685 OPS ranked second-worst in the American League. This season, it’s been their pitching that has been their biggest downfall en route to the league’s worst record.

So Ubaldo Jimenez again deserves a ton of credit. With his latest fine outing he now has six consecutive quality starts, a new Indians personal record. Again, here’s a look at the former Colorado Rockies’ career stats in two splits with Cleveland:

First 46 starts with Indians — 13-23, 5.63 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 59.1% strikes, .269 AVG
Last 26 starts since 4/29/13 — 12-7, 2.65 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 62.0% strikes, .240 AVG

There is no doubt about it: From one of MLB’s worst regular starters from 2011-onward, he is now emerging as the owner of the AL’s second-best ERA over a near five-month span in a baseball season. The strikeouts are among the league’s best too, and thanks to decreasing walks and hits, he’s not letting up many mistakes either. He’s not the over-poweringly dominant starter he once was in the National League, but boy, Jimenez is very close to ace-quality.

As many have shared before, he’s lined up to be Cleveland’s fifth-to-last starter of the regular season. That would line him up perfectly for the team’s first post-season game, whether it be a one-game wild card playoff or a one-game tiebreaker situation. At this point in time, based on how he has pitched, it would seem that’s what the team and front office would actually prefer. How could have one ever guessed that?

[Related: Royals 7 Indians 2: Defense does Tribe in]