Coming off sweeps to the two worst teams in the AL Central, the Indians are in a bad place. With Detroit and Chicago off last night the Tribe had a chance to make up one paltry game after already pushing themselves to the brink, but they were unable to and now sit 7.5 games behind the Central leading White Sox. The chances of winning the central division are slipping away with every loss.
White-Flag Report: This is going to be a short lived segment of the site that will tell you when the Indians (and you) should give up on the season. While things look bad right now, there is still significant time to come back, if the Indians play with their heads on fire for the rest of the year. The Indians Magic Number is now 51 (yes we're bringing back the Magic Number box), meaning any combination of 51 White Sox wins and Indians losses will lead to their elimination from the division title. With 57 games left, this means the Indians can no longer afford to play .500 (or under it). The Indians have 19 series left ( a couple of them 4 game series), meaning they only have to make up a game every two to three series. Assuming the White Sox continue playing as they have (a .548 winning percent) they will win about 32 more games. They do have one more game left than the Indians, so the Indians will have to win 8 more games with one less attempt. To get another Central Division flag at this point, the Indians will have to win around 40 games out of their next 57. This means if they win every single series for the rest of the season, they would probably take the crown.
Wild Card Update: I haven't mentioned the Wild Cards all year to this point with good reason. There are only five teams in the AL Central, three of which are actively competing for the title. There are currently 9 teams competing for two Wild Cards within 10 games of the leaders. Those 9 teams include both the Indians and Tigers, so unless both teams were to win Wild Cards (not going to happen), the Indians would still have to pass Detroit. There are also 6 teams within 5 games of the Wild Card. This makes the situation very volatile and will probably lead to a lot of disappointed teams at the end of the season who thought they should have made it. With the Indians 6.5 back sitting behind 7 other teams, they are virtually out of the Wild Card race already. Of course if this particular half of the AL starts to lose every game (impossible since they will be playing each other half the time) the Indians could technically win, but don't count on it. The Indians playoff hopes lie in the Central Division where they always have.
Before even thinking about the White Sox, Cleveland has to catch Detroit. The good news is that the Tigers are not as smoking hot as the White Sox have been of late and are just 5 games ahead of the Tribe. With a sweep in this upcoming series (almost a necessity for staying in the race at this point) the Indians would just be two games in back of second place with two more series left against the Motor City Kitties.
I won't go as in depth as normal on the starting pitchers, because you have seen these guys all year. It is also past the point where the Indians can take two out of three against Detroit and be happy, so it is slightly pointless to decide who has the edge in each game. I will however, tell you about the new guys like...
Anibal Sanchez is the newest Tiger starting pitcher, coming over in a big deal from the Miami Marlins. While his numbers for the season look bad, it is simply because stats don't transfer leagues after a trade is made so his 7.50 ERA is solely based on a game against the Blue Jays in which he struggled. While with the Marlins this year, Sanchez threw well with a 3.94 ERA and 110 strike outs over 19 starts. Over his career he was basically always their second best pitcher, behind Josh Johnson, and holds a 3.75 career ERA with the Marlins. He should end up being a very good pitcher for Detroit, but if the Indians can take advantage of his struggles in transitioning to the American League then all the better for them.
August 5th, 1:05 PM EDT: TBD, RHP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA vs Max Scherzer, RHP, 10-6, 4.62
I'm just assuming that Derek Lowe's replacement will be a right handed AAA pitcher. Although it has been posted ad nauseum throughout Lowe and Tomlin's struggles, here is the list of possible replacements:
Jeanmar Gomez: RHP 4-2, 3.54 ERA (AAA); 4-7, 5.18 ERA (MLB)
The first choice would be Gomez who has pitched in the Majors this year with the Indians. He pitched fairly well early in the season, but was replaced by Zach McAllister at the first sign of struggle. Gomez hasn't imploded since being sent down and deserves another chance at the Major League level.
Chris Seddon: LHP 11-5, 3.44 ERA (AAA)
Seddon was a MiLB free agent roster invitee to Spring Training that stayed on with the Clippers after not making the Major League team. Although he was signed as a reliever, he has spent the entire season starting for Columbus and has been their most consistent starter (outside of McAllister and Corey Kluber who are already on the team).
David Huff: LHP, 5-5, 5.15 ERA (AAA)
To finish out the list, we'll include a former Indian who has struggled in his return to the minors. Huff had a below average season in 2011 for the Tribe and was kept out of the rotation this year because of a good Spring by Gomez. Now would be a good time to give Huff one last chance as he is usually good for about 4 great starts immediately after being recalled and it will give the Indians a chance to see if he should be considered as part of the mix in 2013.
*Edit: It's Seddon that will start on Sunday. I'll still leave the rest of this here for future reference.