As we head into the All-Star Break, Guardians fans might be left with mixed feelings.
On one hand, this young team is in the thick of the playoff race, far exceeding most preseason expectations.
On the other hand, the Guardians have left a lot to be desired.
The club finished 10-16 in its last 26 games before the All-Star Break, 2.5 games behind the Twins in the AL Central.
Despite sending three players to the All-Star game, including a starter in Giménez and an almost-starter in José Ramirez, the team lacks consistency.
Here are three takeaways from the Guardians’ first half as the club gets a rest before the second-half home stretch:
1. Playoffs In Sight
On May 29, Cleveland was seemingly adrift, a full 7.5 games out of the AL Central race, sitting third behind the Twins and White Sox.
One month later, on June 23, the Guardians had climbed into first place in the AL Central.
Four days later, they were in second place behind the Twins.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the Guardians, to say the least.
But despite the team’s recent scuffling, the Guardians are still squarely within the playoff picture.
The Guardians are projected to win 82 games at the mid-season mark, per 538.
— 216 Baseball Podcast (@216BaseballPod) July 19, 2022
They also have a 29% chance of making the playoffs and an 18% chance of winning the division.
That’s because the AL Central is a fairly weak (or “well-balanced” if you prefer) division.
The Twins are only expected to win 85 games and the White Sox 86, leaving plenty of room for the Guardians to get hot and flip those odds.
Whether they’ve played consistently in a manner that merits a trip to the October Classic is another question.
But are there any teams that really want to play the Guardians come playoff season?
Cleveland is seemingly the ultimate wildcard.
Sure, Ramirez could be a non-factor at the plate and the pitching could cough up six runs by the third inning.
But if everything comes together as it did in June, this team is a tough out.
If the Guardians get hot again at the end of the season, no one will want to play them.
2. Run Production Problem
José Ramirez is second in the league with 75 RBIs.
The leader — New York’s Pete Alonso, with 78.
So why do the Mets have a top-ten offense while the Guardians’ offense is middling, at best?
One problem is run production.
Ramirez accounts for over 20% of the Guardians’ run total.
Cleveland’s 371 team RBIs are the 17th-best in the league, fewer than the Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, and Colorado Rockies.
None of those three teams are likely playoff contenders.
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) July 16, 2022
Even worse: the Guardians have just a plus-five run differential.
Ramirez has just 13 RBIs over the team’s last 26 games; unfortunately, the Guardians can’t count on other players (aside from maybe Giménez) to step up and consistently drive in runs.
When Ramirez goes quiet, the Guardians don’t win.
3. Pitcher Purgatory
Emmanuel Clase has been strong this season.
Both have been above-average pitchers, per 538.
But most everyone else has been average or far below.
And Zach Plesac is giving up over nine hits per game with a 4.02 ERA.