BY JULIA SWAIN
On September 22nd, 2020, the Cleveland Indians clinched a playoff berth in walk off fashion against the Chicago White Sox.
Just five days later – thanks to a hot streak – the Indians clinched the second spot in the American League Central division over the White Sox and the fourth seed in the playoffs.
For a team that did not even make the playoffs last year, this provides a sense of hope that maybe this could be the year that the Indians finally end their seventy-two year World Series drought.
Or does it?
Although the Indians ranked second in the league this year in pitching, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team unfortunately ranked 27th in the league in hitting. This just further proves what everyone has been talking about since the very beginning of this shortened season: The Indians can not hit. Or, at least, it sure seems that way sometimes.
The team has been very hot and cold offensively this year, so going into the playoffs where one cold streak could cost the team a chance to win the World Series can be terrifying. I am sure that the same doubts that may be running through the minds of fans right now may also be running through the minds of players as well. It can be hard to trust a team that just a few weeks ago was barely holding on to a wild-card spot in the American League. That is why it may be wise to wait it out and see how this series goes before one starts talking about getting to the World Series, let alone winning it.
Tonight’s first game of a best-of-three matchup game against the formidable New York Yankees will prove challenging for the Indians, as New York has ranked fifth in hitting this year. Whatever opinion one may have on the Indians offense, statistics, not just opinions, show that the Indians have left a lot to be desired offensively, specifically in the bottom half of the lineup. So, with the playoffs starting, how in the world are the Indians supposed to turn it around on such short notice?
It is pretty obvious that the Indians need help offensively, but in what ways do they need help? Is there even a way to reverse an entire season worth of cold streaks from some of the Indians hitters?
The good news is that the top five hitters in the lineup have been producing, especially as of late. The bad news is that the bottom half of the lineup has been pretty much nonexistent, and been completely unreliable, especially in big moments. While these hitters may not be able to turn into superstars overnight, there are certainly areas hitting wise where they can contribute. Walks, smart baserunning decisions, and working the count further than just a few pitches are all key for the bottom half of the lineup as even the coldest bats can somehow find a way to contribute in these areas.
The top half of the lineup has had some hot streaks in the past, but in order for the Indians to be firing on all cylinders, star shortstop Francisco Lindor must get out of the slump he is in and start producing in the leadoff spot. Additionally, ice cold, Carlos Santana, and fellow slugger, Franmil Reyes, must also begin to do what they do best: hit home runs.
Jose Ramirez, potential American League MVP, has been a bright spot for this team and must continue to flourish if the Indians have any chance of making a run for it.
In short, the offense simply needs to be better if the Indians have any chance in October.
Although the Indians pitching has been fantastic the entire season, Shane Bieber can not do it alone, no matter how good the probable American League Cy Young Award winner has been. He obviously can not pitch a complete game every night, so he needs the help of his bullpen and his fellow starters in order for the Indians to have a chance in games when their bats are simply not enough.
Whatever opinion one may have, there is always at least one naysayer. Especially in our current culture, opinions vary greatly. Indians fans are no exception, as Billy Hreha, a Wadsworth High School junior, has hope that this could be a big year for Cleveland.
“Of course we should [have hope] as this team is better than the team we should have won it all with it,” says Hreha. “I would not be surprised if we won it all.”
Hreha is an example of a fan that has hope for this team, which seems more rare every year that the team does not win a title. He also noted that we have several offensive weapons in Caesar Hernandez, an “RBI machine” as Hreha said, and others that could assist the team in October.
The Indians have a track record of disappointments and I just do not see the team pulling off a World Series victory even if they are able to fix the problems listed above. There are simply too many issues for the Indians to fix in such a short period of time, and I just do not see how they can fix them all in time for a World Series run.
However, in 2020, it seems that anything is possible, so I guess we will have to see where this goes as the playoffs unfold.
The Indians take on the Yankees in game one of three tonight at 7 PM on ESPN.