Did the Indians blow their best chance to win the World Series last year? Or does this year provide an even better chance?
I’ve always thought that the 1995 Indians were one of the best teams in history to not win the World Series. Upon further review, the 2017 Indians are also in the discussion.
Two monster trucks that blew a tire.
In the strike-shortened 1995 season the Indians had a record of 100-44 (.694). Their longest winning streak was nine games. The 2017 Indians were 102-60 (.630). Their longest winning streak was 22 games, an American League record.
The ’95 Indians had a run differential of plus-233, but they only played 144 games. If you project that out to 162 games, their run differential would be plus-262. The 2017 Indians had a run differential of plus-254.
The ’95 Indians won 20 percent of their games (29 games) by five or more runs. The 2017 Indians won 23 percent of their games (38 games) by five or more runs.
The ’95 Indians had a road winning percentage of .639. The 2017 Indians: .654.
In 1995 the Indians led the American League in batting average (21 points higher than the AL average), OPS (68 points higher than the AL average), ERA (48 points lower than the next-closest team and 88 points below the league average), and they were sixth in fielding percentage.
The 2017 Indians finished second in the AL in batting average (eight points above the AL average), second in OPS (35 points better than the AL average), first in ERA (40 points lower than the next-closest team and 107 points better than the league average), and first in fielding percentage.
The ’95 Indians had six players on the AL All-Star team, the 2017 Indians had five All-Stars. In ’95 the Indians had three players in the top 12 in the MVP voting (Albert Belle second, Jose Mesa fourth, Manny Ramirez 12th) and two in the top four in the Cy Young voting (Mesa secnd, Charles Nagy sixth).
The 2017 Indians had three of the top seven in the MVP voting (Jose Ramirez third, Francisco Lindor fifth, Corey Kluber seventh) and two of the top four in the Cy Young Award (Kluber first, Carlos Carrasco fourth).
The 2017 Indians won their division by 17 games, which sounds like a lot until you consider the ’95 Indians won their division by a ridiculous 30 games. They clinched their division Sept. 8, with a whopping 21 games still remaining in the regular season.
But great as they were, neither the 2017 nor the ’95 Indians could win the World Series. The 2017 Indians never got close, getting bounced out of the postseason by the Yankees in the Division Series.
The ’95 Indians, however, went 7-2 in the first two rounds of the postseason before losing the World Series in six games to the Braves.
The 2017 Indians seemed primed to steamroll back to the World Series for the second consecutive year. They had a sensational finishing kick, ending the season on a 35-4 (.897) run, which included that historic, electrifying 22-game winning streak, and ended after they took a 2-0 lead on the Yankees in the Division Series.
Then the Yankees won three in a row and ended the season of the second-winningest team in Indians history. It also prevented the Indians from facing the Houston Astros. That’s significant, because the Indians were the only team in the majors last year that could handle the world champions.
The Astros had a winning percentage of .167 against the Indians and .615 against everyone else. The Indians were 5-1 vs. Houston last year, 13-7 in the last three years and 24-7 in the last five years.
For the Indians, Houston is doable.
Last year the Indians were one of the great winning machines in American League history, but three dismal days in October ruined a potential season for the ages.
Although the bitterness of that postseason failure still lingers, the Indians can take solace in what history tells us, which is this: since 1991, only three non-Yankees American League teams have made it to the World Series in consecutive years — the Royals (2014-15), Rangers (2010-11) and Blue Jays (1992-93).
So it’s unlikely the Astros will go back-to-back this year, and if the Indians face them in the postseason, the Indians have to like their chances. In winning five of six games from Houston last year, Indians pitchers held Astros hitters to a .220 batting average, .284 on-base percentage and .684 OPS. All three of those figures were Houston’s worst against any major league team.
With all that starting pitching, the 2018 Indians are built for the postseason. Getting there shouldn’t be hard. Staying there could be. But on paper, at least, the Indians look Astros-proof.
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