Indians, Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2018

A disappointing and demoralizing ALDS: Top stories from 2018-No. 4

As we have throughout the last several years, WFNY will use the last two weeks of December to discuss the most important stories of the last twelve months. Stay with us as we count down the biggest and most discussed topics of 2018. Our “Best of 2018” rolls on as we start to count down the top 10 stories of the year.

So I have this thing that I do that I am not 100% proud of. I am on Reddit a lot, and I subscribe to tons of different subreddits. Most of them are meme ones that I share with friends, the “dankest” the better, but I am an active lurker on several injury-related subreddits, r/holdmybeer being the main one. As most can attest, “hold my beer” is the phrase most commonly uttered before some sort of stupid human trick fails epically for fake internet points. There’s r/holdmycosmo for female injuries, r/holdmyjuicebox and r/childrenfallingover for kid content, and r/holdmyfeedingtube for those especially damaging incidents. Watching all or most of these with glee as the subject of the GIFs and videos suffer bodily harm is a type of schadenfreude I never thought I would have, especially given my proclivity to being empathic pain wise and having my own PTSD-esque flashbacks to accidents I have suffered through.1

Why bring this up? Because watching the Cleveland Indians careen into the postseason with a rotation missing arguably its best pitcher, a lineup hitting flatter than a crepe in a Tasty video, and a manager that, despite having the weapons at his disposal, refused to change things up in a way as to energize the roster was akin to watching some good ole boy loaded with 13 too many PBRs back up and try to throw himself over a flaming table, only to see him trip BEFORE the table and faceplant in the mud.

What went wrong in 2018 that made the ALDS such a chore to watch as the Tribe got swept by the probably-cheating Houston Astros? Cleveland had the easiest path to the postseason, owners of the biggest division lead (13 games ahead of second place Minnesota) despite also being the owners of the second-worst record amongst division winners (only Atlanta had fewer wins than the 91-win Indians). How did a World Series favorite in the preseason fall so far from grace that the decisive game was a blowout of epic proportions?

One caveat that many will definitely complain about is the fact that not enough moves were not made at the deadline to improve a roster that had many holes. Yes, Brad Hand and Adam Cimber were acquired for Francisco Mejia, a move that shored up the shoddy bullpen for a bit and provided the team with their closer as they enter 2019. Yes, Leonys Martin was going to be a nice addition and played well in the few games he spent with the club before contracting a life-threatening illness. But there were no other moves made to improve the lineup when Martin went down. An injury decimated outfield was forced to play an out-of-position Jason Kipnis, scant-hitting Greg Allen and whatever remained of Melky Cabrera almost every day in two-thirds of the outfield spots.

Even those hitters that were on the roster for the full season were less than helpful once the calendar ticked over to the playoffs. MVP candidate Jose Ramirez was in the midst of .163/.296/.313 slump over his last month and couldn’t buy a hit in the series versus the vaunted Astros pitchers, going 0-for-11 with one walk, one RBI, and three strikeouts. The offense struggled so mightily against ‘Stros that Francisco Lindor and since-departed catcher Yan Gomes were the only two batters to have more than two hits in the entire series. The team that struck out the fewest amount of times in the American League had 30 whiffs in three games. A team that sailed through a regular season on cruise control suddenly drifted into the berm, past the rumble strips, and into oncoming traffic.

The starting pitching wasn’t much better either. Playing the team with the 6th most runs scored and the 2nd highest aggregate wRC+ in the league would be daunting regardless, but Cy Young finalist Corey Kluber struggled in Game 1, giving up three home runs and only striking out two batters in 23 batters faced. For reference, Kluber struck out 26.3% of the total batters faced (TBF for short) in 2018. He struck out 8.6% TBF in Game 1, giving up almost a homer per inning when his average was 1.05 HR/9 over the season.

Game 2 starter Carlos Carrasco faired a bit better but ultimately the game was given up by its bullpen. Once the Destroyer of Worlds and Wills, injury-riddled Andrew Miller didn’t get a batter out in Game 2, walking two and allowing one hit before starter turned reliever for the playoffs Trevor Bauer opened the floodgates and gave up the back-breaking home run to playoff phenom Alex Bregman. It wouldn’t matter due to the only run being scored was from a Francisco Lindor home run, the lone sparkplug in an otherwise dead engine that was the Tribe offense.

By the time the series rolled back around to Cleveland, you almost rather it hadn’t. A disaster series ended in the only way possible: the worst way. Game 3 to forget was what unfolded, as the only pitcher to not give up at least one run to Houston was Andrew Miller who only faced two batters and walked one of them. Starter Mike Clevinger had his now-trademark uneasy game: where at the same time as you felt at any point it would be blown out but after he’s pulled you realize you’re winning and he actually struck out near double digits, only giving up one run. Trevor Bauer was the next man up when he probably should have been kept for a possible Game 4…and promptly gave up the lead permanently. Hand, Cimber, and once-closer Cody Allen all pitched to varying levels of awful as Houston used Game 3 as a warm-up for the ALCS.

2018 was the year of “you win some you lose some” as we got to witness a career year by Lindor and Ramirez, a pitcher come into his own and dominate in Trevor Bauer, a Cy Young caliber season from Corey Kluber, but also saw injuries abound and take a season of development away from Bradley Zimmer, and one of the more depressing endings to a season in recent memory, 2016 notwithstanding. As much fun as watching other people’s demise can be from time to time, this is one subreddit I want to unsubscribe from.

  1. Car crashes while driving and the fact that I was basically a human crash test dummy who watched too much wrestling going up have made my subconscious a nightmare-scape of body parts and crushed metal. []