The Cleveland Indians Are Now the Favorites to Win the American League Pennant
After decades of pain and suffering, it's finally time for Cleveland sports fans to bask in the light. And the fun isn't stopping with the Cavaliers.
Over the weekend, the Cleveland Indians pushed their chips to the center of the table by acquiring Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees despite a hefty price tag.
Buster Olney reporting Tribe parted with Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield for LHP Andrew Miller.
â€” paul hoynes (@hoynsie) July 31, 2016
Those are two of the top prospects in the game, along with two other young assets, for one of the league's top relievers. Even with the Jonathan Lucroy trade falling through, Cleveland showed it's not messing around this year.
One look at numberFire's power rankings should be proof that the aggressiveness is warranted.
American League Leaders
With all of this weekend's activity in the books, the Indians now hold the top championship odds among all American League teams. Not only do they inch a bit closer to the division title, but they also may have become a team better equipped for October.
Check out the top five A.L. squads below based on their championship odds. nERD is our in-house metric which shows how many runs better or worse a team is than a league-average team over the span of a single game.
|Team||Championship Odds||Playoff Odds||Divisional Odds||nERD|
|Toronto Blue Jays||9.6%||80.2%||47.2%||0.98|
|Boston Red Sox||7.7%||64.3%||26.0%||1.16|
Even though the Boston Red Sox still have a higher nERD than the Indians, Cleveland's superior playoff odds help make them the favorites to claim the pennant. Such a distinction is likely worth a couple of prospects, even if they are as high-caliber as Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield.
Overall, Cleveland is fourth in the power rankings, trailing only the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Red Sox. Cleveland's presence in the A.L. gives them the second-best World Series odds with only the Cubs topping them at 21.6%.
When you look at the rest of the bullpens in the A.L., you can see why this move may make such a dramatic impact. In adding Miller to Cody Allen, the Indians have two relievers with skill-interactive ERA's (SIERA) below 3.00. That makes them one of only five teams with multiple such qualified relievers, and a few of the others don't figure to be factors in the postseason.
|Team||Sub-3.00 SIERA Relievers||Playoff Odds||nERD|
|Boston Red Sox||2||64.3%||1.16|
If the playoffs started today, only the Indians, Red Sox, and Orioles would have multiple top-tier relievers in the postseason. The Texas Rangers -- who would win the A.L. West -- have none, and the Toronto Blue Jays -- the other wild card team along with the Red Sox -- would have just Roberto Osuna. Both of Boston's representatives in Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara are on the disabled list, and Baltimore's rotation doesn't sniff the quality of Cleveland's. This is a difference-making move for the Indians.
Without Miller, the Indians' second-best reliever would have been Dan Otero. However, the team hasn't used him in a set-up role this year and likely wouldn't start to do so just for the playoffs. They've preferred Bryan Shaw in that role, and his 3.66 SIERA is a far cry from the league-leading 1.16 mark that Miller will now bring to the table.
It's hard to fully quantify the value of a bullpen in October, but we've seen previously that relievers do get a significant chunk of the overall work. When you're trotting Miller and Allen out for two innings of every close game, you'll be able to clamp down the opposing offense once the game hits the eighth inning.
With Lucroy off the table, the Indians do still have a need to address the catcher situation. However, they have options on the market prior to today's trade deadline. If they can make a move there, then that will only further solidify them as the favorite in the A.L. heading into the stretch run.