So it seems both teams from last year's epic seven game World Series had a bit of a hangover to start 2017. While the Cubs have struggled they simply have too much talent not to be in the thick of things come September, and I think that's the case for Cleveland as well. They entered a series in Houston this past weekend with a record of just 20-19 due to some injuries and some inconsistent play. But Cleveland showed they are still arguably the best team in the American League with a three game sweep of the Astros, who today still possess the best record in baseball.
It's tough to take a regular season series in May too seriously, but the way things are going this could very well have been a potential ALCS preview. If you're an Indians fan you have to be very encouraged not just with the results but with who you had pitching. The Tribe didn't use either Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco this weekend, instead relying on Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and Danny Salazar to pick up the three game sweep. That being said, Houston didn't use Dallas Keuchel this series, but in a hypothetical Indians-Astros postseason matchup I would give Kluber the slight edge between these two aces simply because he's shown how well he can pitch in the playoffs.
An ALCS matchup between these two would be fascinating, not just because of how talented both clubs are, but because of how they use their bullpens. There's been so much written about how the Indians changed baseball last October with their usage of Andrew Miller, and all that is still true. The combination of Miller and Cody Allen make Cleveland as dangerous of a playoff team as...the Astros. He hasn't gotten much national attention for it yet but Chris Devenski is doing for Houston exactly what Miller does for Cleveland. He comes into the game in untraditional spots (any high leverage moment between the fourth and eighth) and can pitch multiple innings if need be. The only difference is that Devenski was a starter so recently that he can go up to four innings if need be. It'll be interesting to see this Fall how other teams approach using relievers, but Devenski is going to be as valuable as Miller...if not more.
As for getting to the playoffs, well the Indians still have some work to do. Their big free agent acquisition, Edwin Encarnacion, is hitting just .207. Carlos Santana has started slow. Francisco Lindor is fucking incredible but he's been a little streaky. Corey Kluber is generally considered a top five starter in baseball but has been hurt. It's been the bullpen (as well as Carlos Carrasco) that has carried the Tribe so far, and that shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Ultimately they should still win the AL Central. None of the Twins, Tigers, White Sox, or Royals have the talent to compete with them. The Tribe are a veteran team who understand their situation, and now have shown themselves they can still compete with the best teams in the league when they need to. The big three AL East teams (Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox) will be in the mix, but right now it's tough to argue against Cleveland and Houston as the premier teams in the American League.