The Cleveland Indians are currently in place for the second Wild Card. The Cleveland Indians. They have gone 13-6 in September, and have leapfrogged the Texas Rangers for the second Wild Card. Just last year, the Indians went 68-94, and placed 4th in the American League Central Division. Now, they are making a run into the playoffs, and could be playing October baseball for the first time since 2007. What has happened over this past calendar year that has turned them into a contender?
With a championship-caliber manager in Francona, a team becomes much better and can fulfill their highest expectations. Terry Francona won two World Series with the Boston Red Sox, and was always expected to keep the motor of the team running. Now, he's powering a different motor, but the same success is happening. The Cleveland Indians could be a playoff team.
The Front Office:
Making a big splash in the off-season can finally put the final puzzle piece in place when developing a playoff team. The Indians made two. With the signings of Michael Bourn (.257/.310/.347, 23 SB) and Nick Swisher (.250/.344/.422, 20 HR), the Indians became a much better team, just in the upgrades of two positions. Swisher and Bourn have been a big part to the Indians success, not to mention that they also provide leadership and experience to the mostly unexperienced club.
The Breakout Seasons:
The Indians have had breakout seasons from Jason Kipnis, Justin Masterson, and Michael Brantley. All of them are under the age of 30, and are playing like veterans in this tight pennant race. Kipnis has been a force in the lineup, driving in 79 runs, and leading the team in WAR. Brantley is second on the team in hits, and is able to get on base a ton (.327 OBP, 4th on team). He's been able to change games himself. And, do not leave out Masterson. He has been masterful this season, pitching to a 14-10 record with a 3.52 ERA, as he has anchored this pitching staff.
The Cleveland Indians have a favorable schedule ahead of them, with their final series coming against the Astros, White Sox, and Twins. If they keep playing like they are, who's to say that they won't be playing in that Wild Card game? The Indians have done a great job overall, and look to have a bright future in years to come. They have a lot to look forward to. It starts now.