The Indians are 12-21. We can keep saying it’s early, but when do we have to stop using that excuse, and genuinely worry that this is a bad team?
Fangraphs has the Indians projected to finish the season 68-62, a .523 winning percentage which is good for eighth-best down the stretch (projection systems are notoriously pessimistic about records). But this strong finish wouldn’t even get them to .500; thanks to the 12-21 start, they’d finish 80-82.
80-82 would at least be preferable to what we’ve seen so far. Maybe Corey Kluber doesn’t have to strike out 18 guys a night for them to get a win, but that’s kind of what it feels like for the team that still somehow can’t string two wins together in a row.
So where does this need to be to have a shot? Looking at past playoff teams (since 1995, the first wild card year), the worst few teams to make the postseasons had .500 records at or around the All-Star break. These teams include the 2001 A’s, 2004 and ’05 Astros, and the 2007 Cubs. These teams went on post-break tears to reach the postseason.
Of course, this doesn’t include many years of the two wild card system MLB adopted in 2012. The barrier for entry to the postseason has been lowered, the lowest being 88 wins for last year’s Oakland A’s.
For the Indians to win 88 games, they’d need to go 76-53 from now on, which is equivalent to a 95-win pace for a full season.
Is this a team that can play like a 95-game winner? That’s the question they’ll have to answer. And they have six weeks until July 1, at which point history says they’ll need to be .500 at the very least. At some point, they’ll also need a crazy winning streak (the 2001 A’s went a ridiculous 58-17 down the stretch).
So it’s not time to panic just yet. But a couple more losses and the Indians may be there. The margin for error is razor thin, and gets razor thinner (if that’s a word) with every loss.