The Red Sox and Indians entered the 2019 season as popular picks to earn playoff berths. Both teams have been powerhouses in recent years, including in 2018, when the Red Sox went 108-54 en route to a World Series title and the Indians took home their third consecutive AL Central crown. Two-plus months into the season, though, Boston and Cleveland have had to sail through rougher waters than expected. Both teams are just a tad over .500 (the Red Sox are 34-32, the Indians 33-32) and currently sitting outside the AL playoff picture.
Just about everything that could have gone right did for the Red Sox a year ago. Their position players paced the entire league in runs and led the AL in fWAR, and their pitchers were toward the top of the game in ERA and fWAR. None of that’s true this season, however. While Boston continues to enjoy a formidable offense, it’s not the juggernaut it was a season ago. Last year’s AL MVP, Mookie Betts, as well as J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, World Series MVP Steve Pearce and Jackie Bradley Jr. have all seen their numbers dip. Much-improved production from Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez hasn’t been enough to offset the fallen output of that important group.
On the pitching side, ace Chris Sale has come back with a vengeance from a dreadful start, while David Price has also been outstanding. At the same time, though, late-2018 hero Nathan Eovaldi has barely pitched because of an elbow injury (and has struggled when he has taken the mound). Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez’s run prevention has tailed off, though his peripherals are encouraging, Rick Porcello hasn’t been close to his best self and enemy offenses have roughed up Hector Velazquez. Those starters have handed off to a bullpen that has been somewhat shaky in adjusting to life without the departed Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly.
The Indians’ relief unit has taken enormous steps forward since 2018, on the other hand. It’s the rest of their roster that has gone backward. Top starters Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger have either battled serious injuries/illnesses or drastically underachieved. Francisco Lindor is having another great year, but his pal Jose Ramirez has gone from an MVP-level player to someone who can barely lift his OPS over .600. Michael Brantley’s now in Houston, replaced by players who have been incapable of matching his 2018 production. Jason Kipnis has been horrific, and the Indians’ offseason decision to trade Yandy Diaz for Jake Bauers simply hasn’t worked out to this point.
The Indians’ mediocre play has left them a whopping 10 1/2 games behind the AL Central-leading Twins. As a result, the Tribe may have to consider making some difficult decisions this summer as the July 31 trade deadline draws nearer. For now, though, the Indians are very much in the wild-card hunt, behind the surprising Rangers by a game and a half. Boston’s even closer to Texas, which it trails by one and began a four-game series against Monday, but might have trouble overcoming the seven-game advantage the Rays and Yankees have built in the AL East. By the time the regular season wraps up, do you expect the Indians and Red Sox to be part of the league’s playoff field?
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