clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Yankees 2015 potential playoff opponent: Cleveland Indians

They might be a long shot to make the postseason, but if they do, the Indians will be extremely dangerous.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

We've spent a lot of this week looking at teams the Yankees could find themselves up against in the playoffs, and while the Cleveland Indians are out of the picture right now, they have enough pitching that they could still manage to find their way in.  With the Yankees still in the top Wild Card spot, let's see how New York could match up against Cleveland in a one-game playoff.

The Wild Card Starter

The Indians just so happen to have reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to send out there in the Wild Card game, meaning the Yankees will have a serious challenge if they end up facing them.  While Kluber hasn't quite matched last season's excellence, he's still been one of the best pitchers in the AL, pitching to the tune of a 3.44 ERA, a 2.90 FIP, and accruing the 10th highest fWAR in the majors at 5.3.  Even Masahiro Tanaka would have his work cut out for him, facing a pitcher as good as Kluber.  If somehow the Yankees managed to avoid Kluber (let's say he had to pitch on the last day or two of the season), the Indians have another terrific option in Carlos Carrasco. This year, Carrasco has a 3.62 ERA, a 2.91 FIP, and has been the 16th best pitcher in the league, according to fWAR.

Advantage: Indians

The Bullpen

Not only can their ace compete with the Yankees, the Indians' pen will also match up well with New York's.  Indians' relievers have the lowest FIP in the league, are fourth in fWAR, give up few walks, and allow very few home runs. Closer Cody Allen has been one of the most valuable relievers in the league, striking out 13.29 hitters per nine and posting a 1.87 FIP, one of the best marks in baseball.  With Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, and Jeff Manship filling out the rest of the bullpen, the Indians have one of the elite relief corps in the game.

Advantage: Yankees...barely

The Lineup

The reason that the Indians, even with their big arms and elite bullpen, are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture is the fact that their offense hasn't shown up for much of the year.  In the first half, they were 21st in runs scored - they've improved a bit since the All-Star Break (they're 16th since then), but it hasn't been enough to catch the Minnesota Twins and the other teams they're chasing.  Top prospect Francisco Lindor finally made it to The Show this year, but it took him a while to get going with the bat.  Still, after struggling in the first half, he's hit .354/.392/.546 for a 157 wRC+ in the second half - yeah, this kid might be for real.  Michael Brantley's turned in another good season, hitting .314/.381/.486, and Jason Kipnis has bounced back since an underwhelming 2014 to hit .301/.372/.444.  Lonnie Chisenhall took a big step back in the first half - managing just a 55 wRC+ after a solid season last year, but he's found himself hitting .309/.377/.447 in the second half.

Advantage: Yankees

The Yankees have the better offense overall, but the Indians have been hotter in the second half.  In a one-game playoff with Kluber on the mound, the Indians have the tools to get ahead and keep a lead.  Even if Kluber can't go the whole game, the Indians pen will give the Yankees few chances to catch up.  While the Indians currently don't have a great chance to make the playoffs, if they do sneak into the Wild Card Game, Yankee fans should at least be a little nervous.