Rangers Playoff Preview: Scouting the Cleveland Indians

A Rangers-Indians matchup could be really good for LHP Cole Hamels. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
A Rangers-Indians matchup could be really good for LHP Cole Hamels. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Texas Rangers prepare for the eighth MLB Postseason in team history, we will take a look at the first potential playoff opponent, the Cleveland Indians.

With just four games remaining in the regular season, the Texas Rangers already know two things with certainty: They will be playing in the ALDS, and so will the Cleveland Indians. So for the first in this series of potential playoff match-ups, here is a breakdown of what the Indians have to offer in a series against the Rangers.

The Indians’ wins and losses

Following a 12-0 beatdown from the Detroit Tigers, the Indians sit with an impressive 91-66 record, which would give them the third seeding among all American League division winners. While it’s been an up-and-down season for the Tribe, they actually haven’t experienced a losing streak of more than three games this season. On the flip-side, they did have a 14 game winning streak from mid-June until July 1.

They’ve also held the American League Central lead for 105 days, and having already clinched the top spot, that will remain true for an additional five to close out the season at 110. In a division that hosted the defending World Series Champion, the race belonged to the Indians almost all season.

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The Indians’ offense vs. the Rangers’ offense

As a team, they are currently batting .262. Ironically, they’re tied with the Rangers for the number four slot among American League teams. Their 183 home runs as a team places them tenth in the American League. That’s 26 homers behind Texas, who sits in fifth. However, the Indians have outscored the Rangers 758-749 on the year.

On paper, Texas hits the ball better as a team but Cleveland is more efficient offensively. This also shows in their ability to get on base at a .328 clip, compared to .322 for the Rangers. They rank fourth and seventh, respectively. A series between both teams will come down to which team can manage the basepaths better and drive in runners. Texas could potentially get more guys on base, but will they knock them in as well as the Indians can?

The Indians’ pitching vs. the Rangers’ pitching

The Indians boast one of the American League’s best pitching staffs. Considering Progressive Field is one of the league’s more hitter-friendly parks, that’s quite an accomplishment. They have a team earned run average of 3.85, they’ve allowed just 604 earned runs, and opponents are batting just .243 against them. They rank second in the AL in all three categories. Meanwhile, Texas ranks near the bottom in all three

When looking at the season for both teams, it looks like a pretty balanced match-up. But, the numbers change when considering how the teams have fared against each other.

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  • The Indians and Rangers head-to-head

    The season series between the Rangers and Indians hasn’t even been close. Texas has won five of their seven meetings by a combined score of 39-23. In those games, Cleveland batted ten points below their season average and had an OBP that was 15 points lower. In fact, they were below average in most major offensive category against every American League team in playoff contention. Perhaps their inflated offensive numbers came against inferior teams.

    Meanwhile, the Rangers actually didn’t look all that great offensively against Cleveland, either. While they did manage to send ten home runs into the seats, they also batted just .243 with a .290 OBP vs. the Indians. The difference was how Texas pitchers handled the Cleveland lineup.

    For example, Cole Hamels held the Tribe to a .151 team batting average and had an ERA of 1.80 with a WHIP of .733 against them. In the 15 innings he faced the Indians, he struck out 13 hitters with eight hits and three walks. His best performance was on August 25 when he went eight shutout innings and gave up just two hits, with no walks and a game score of 86, his highest on the season against any opponent.

    Believe it or not, lefty Derek Holland also had two strong outings against the Indians this season. He won both decisions while holding Cleveland hitters to a .227 batting average and a .238 OBP. His 1.50 ERA against them is the best ERA he’s had against any single team this season.

    The final take on the Indians

    When you discard the head-to-head results between Cleveland and Texas, things look pretty even. However, looks can be deceiving. Maybe this is one of those instances where one team just “has the other’s number,” but that can be said about many Rangers opponents this season. In any case, this is a good matchup for Texas.

    The Rangers have the advantage in either a Division Series of five games or a Championship Series of seven games. Texas has the horses in the pitching rotation and the bullpen to manage either set, accordingly. Considering the two teams met exactly seven times, that’s a pretty decent barometer for what an Indians-Rangers ALCS would look like.

    If the two meet in the Division Series round, it appears Texas would win in four. If they met in the Championship Series, then it looks to be Texas in six.  Either way, this is a match-up that would be pleasing to Rangers fans.