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Looking at The Cleveland Indians First Three Series

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Tonight the Cleveland Indians prepare to take on the Minnesota Twins, their fourth series of the very young season. Before they do, I wanted to take a quick look back at the previous three series. Why? Well, because I think it was a good mix of teams.

So far this year, the Tribe has played the Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers, and the Chicago White Sox. Yes, it's way too early to determine the accuracy of these series in terms of the season, but what I like about them is that it is three tiers of competition: Bad (Astros), Better (Sox), and Good (Tigers).

Rather than reviewing these series in chronological order, let's do a quick recap of them in the order listed above, starting with Bad.

BAD - THE HOUSTON ASTROS

The Houston Astros are not a very good team, though maybe they will start turning that around this year. Last year, the team that had gone to the World Series in 2005, found themselves with 70 measly wins. Not as bad as the 100-loss seasons of the previous three years, but still not good. 70 wins means 96 losses, so it isn't like they made some great leap.

It's very fair to say that they should be improving as a team. They have pretty good power and a nice farm system, but they are likely to finish with less than 80 wins again this season.

The Indians lost the opener 2-0 behind excellent pitching from Houston ace Dallas Keuchel, but held the 'Stros to only 3 runs in the three-game series. A nice job by the Tribe overall. The team hit 4 homeruns - all solo shots - which is nice to see. As good as the Tribe's pitching could be, they are going to need to score runs in the American League. (See: "Good - The Detroit Tigers")

BETTER - THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX

The Chicago White Sox are another team that hasn't played well lately, but they made a splash this offseason, spending money on free agents. (Tribe fans, I know you're not acquainted with the concept, but it's a good thing.) 

They have an excellent pitcher in Chris Sale, and while nobody is predicting postseason for this team, they will be a tough matchup. There's a chance that when the season ends, our beloved team could be looking up at Chicago in the standings. Their bullpen lacks depth, and, as the aforementioned Tigers can atest to, this can be a real problem.

The Indians faced them in a short two-game series, and split the two pretty evenly, losing 4-1 and winning 4-2. The win stopped a 4-game losing streak and was a nice one to get right before they take on the dreadful Minnesota Twins.

GOOD - THE DETROIT TIGERS

If the Indians expect to win the division (do they?), this is the team they are going to have to get past to do it. While the AL champion Kansas City Royals are a hurdle themselves, it's the hard-hitting Tigers that have stood in the way.

The Tigers' starting pitching has taken a blow this season, thanks in part to free agency and to injury, but they still have David Price and they still have that lethal lineup. The Tigers have struggled for a couple of years with an unreliable bullpen. However, they are still a major force in the American League.

The Tribe got swept by Detroit, and failed to hold the Tigers to less than 8 runs in any of the three games they played. The Tribe was able to score some runs themselves - 15 overall - but not enough to overcome that powerful lineup.

CONCLUSION

To look at what the Tribe did over those three series, I think it's safe to conclude - to this point so far - that the team is a "Better" team. They beat the bad team, got swept by the good team, and played evenly with the better team. 

While the Tribe were spring-training darlings, I never thought they deserved it. They still have some question marks in the rotation, and it's the rotation that was the reason for the hype to begin with. 

Can they solidify that pitching and make a run? Of course they can. You can't take three series in the first half of April and project out a season. Did anyone expect the Royals to do what they did last year? Weren't many of us waiting for them to falter as the season wore on, the way they had done for a couple of years before?

Please don't take this article to be some indicator for 2015. That would be very foolish for me to do. It's just looking at three early series against three teams that offer a nice range of talent and comparing the Tribe to them. They are about to take on the Twins, which is a series they should take. If they do, all the handwringing that has gone on to date may ease up as the team would have a record of 5-6, assuming they don't sweep the series. 

But after that, the rest of April is going to be a grind with them, again, facing Chicago and Detroit, and then Kansas City after that. Of the nine games over that stretch, six are on the road. (Note: They do play the Toronto Blue Jays on the final day of April)

That's a heck of a month of baseball to start the season. Six of seven full series will be played against division opponents, and the AL Central division is not a pushover. Nine of twenty games will be against the division winner and against the league winner from last year. Not counting for sweeps, if they win the Twins and White Sox series, and lose the Tigers and Royals series, they will be going into the Blue Jays series 9-11. Right around .500. Not bad in such a tough month. 

I know none of this sounds terribly optimistic, but I am intrigued by this team. The difference between 86 wins and 90 wins is only four games (in case you are awful at simple math), but it's certainly not a crazy assumption to make that they could end the year in the 90-wins range.

In that sense, you could say that this small sample size supports what I think about how their season will end, but it's baseball and anything can happen. I could be sitting here with egg on my face come Labor Day. Which I'll happily do.

Will the Tribe stay in the Better category, or will they get hot and finish in the Good category, as many expected? It's hard to say because it's hard to really know this team, but I do think it will be fun finding out.
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