The Cleveland Indians beat the Detroit Tigers 5-3 on Wednesday to set the American League record for consecutive wins. They are now tied with the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the second longest winning streak in baseball history and just one of three major league teams to win that many games in a row in the last 101 years.
The wins are remarkable on their own, but the Indians’ dominance during this run might be more impressive.
They’ve outscored opponents by 106 runs during the streak, 20 more than the 1935 Cubs and 30 more than the 2002 Oakland Athletics, who held the AL record before Cleveland’s victory over the Tigers. Overall, the Indians now have the best run differential in the majors (plus-222) this season, 51 more than the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team some felt would waltz to a World Series title when they went on a winning streak of their own in July. In fact, we would expect a team with Cleveland’s run differential to have six more wins than the Indians do, whereas the Dodgers should theoretically have two fewer victories than they have now. On Aug. 23, the day before the streak started, the Indians had a run differential of plus-118, indicating the team should have won 75 games at that point, six more than Cleveland had on that date, too.
This is a potent club with strengths across the board. Cleveland’s batters are hitting .305 with 41 home runs and a .939 OPS, creating runs at a rate that is 45 percent higher than the league average after adjusting for league and park effects (145 wRC+). In other words, they have an entire lineup of hitters producing similarly to Kris Bryant of the reigning champion Chicago Cubs.
|Indians during 21-game win streak||0.305||0.939||145|
Cleveland’s pitching has been just as good. Its starting rotation has struck out more than one out of every four batters faced (26.5 percent) with just a 4.9 percent walk rate, giving them a 1.70 ERA and 2.68 FIP, which measures what a team’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if they were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing. The Indians’ bullpen has a 2.15 FIP during the streak, almost a full run better than the relievers for the Boston Red Sox, who are collectively the second-best group of relievers (3.12 FIP) since Aug. 24. To put this in perspective, Chris Sale’s 2.20 FIP leads the majors this season, with the Indians’ own ace Corey Kluber producing the second-best FIP (2.55) in 2017.
|FIP since Aug. 24, 2017||Indians||MLB|
With the playoffs just a few weeks away, the Indians are rounding into clear favorites for the Fall Classic.
The Indians are creating runs at a rate that is 40 percent higher than the league average in September. If they can continue that through the end of the season, they would join the 2011 Texans Rangers and 2011 Detroit Tigers as the only teams since 2002, the earliest data is available from FanGraphs, to hit that well or better to end the season. The Tigers lost to the Rangers in the American League Championship Series and then the Rangers fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
Their pitching is in uncharted territory. Over the past 16 years, no team has had as low of a FIP as Cleveland does (2.28) during the month of September. But this is no fluke. As a group, Cleveland’s entire pitching staff has produced 28.1 wins above replacement, six more than the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Red Sox. If we prorate that to 162 games played, the Indians are on pace to be the most-valuable pitching staff in major league history. Two of the four teams behind them, the 1996 Atlanta Braves and 2003 New York Yankees, made an appearance in the World Series. One other, the 1997 Braves, lost in the NLCS. There were no playoffs in 1994 due to a player’s strike but the Braves won the World Series the following year.
The combination of the two makes Cleveland a worthy favorite to win the 2017 World Series, and FanGraphs puts their chances at 19.1 percent.
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